Middle East History - 2 Views


Opposing Viewpoints

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

- Thomas Paine

Letter From Israel: A Short Take on a Long History

by Sylvana Foa

Have you heard the one about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Chairman Yasir Arafat finally sitting down to negotiate?  Sharon opened with a "biblical" tale.  "Before the Israelites came to the Promised Land and settled here, Moses led them for 40 years through the desert.  One day, miraculously, a stream appeared.  They drank and then decided to bathe.  When Moses came out of the water, he found all his clothes missing.  'Who took my clothes?' Moses asked.  'It was the Palestinians,' replied the Israelites."

"Wait a minute," interrupted Arafat.  "There were no Palestinians during the time of Moses!"

"All right," smirked Sharon, "now that we've got that settled, let's start talking."

Jaffa - "If the lie is big enough and told often enough, it will be believed," Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels once said.  What worked for Goebbels evidently is also working for Arafat.  The blatant lies and vicious propaganda emanating from the Arab world have gotten out of hand.  Anti-Semitism is out of the closet.  Jews are murdered in Canada, their graves are desecrated in Italy.  It's time to sort through the spiteful drivel.

No, Charlie, despite what you read on a zillion Arab Web sites, Jews do not use the blood of Arab children to bake their holiday bread.  Yes, Harriet, the Jewish Temple did exist in Jerusalem.  I know Arafat insists it didn't and his excavators are busy destroying all arch├Žological record of it.  But next time you visit Rome, go check out the Forum and you'll find its story carved in the ancient stone of Titus's arch.  Let's start at the beginning.

First, who really owns the land encompassing what is now Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority?  The answer is so well documented it could be the subject of future UN resolutions - the Canaanites.  They established the Land of Canaan here around 2000BC, so they have first dibs.  Unfortunately for them, there isn't a single Canaanite left on earth.

Abraham, the Father of the Jews and a figure revered by Islam, led a band of Hebrews from Mesopotamia and began the conquest of Canaan in 1741BC - that's 3,743 years ago.  Those first Israelites were joined in about 1290BC by the Jewish slaves led out of Egypt by Moses.  After many years and a lot of help from Joshua, the Israelites finally defeated the Canaanites and old King Saul united the country in 1100BC.  King David added Jerusalem in 1000BC, and King Solomon built the First Temple around 956BC.  The land was plagued by raiders like those guys dubbed the Philistines, "Sea Invaders," who came out of the Aegean and snatched a nice chunk of the coast.  Remember Goliath?  He was a Philistine and King David made mincemeat of him, but the Philistines were a nuisance for many years.

Big trouble loomed in 586BC when the Babylonians (nasty ancestors of the nasty Iraqis) invaded under King Nebuchadnezzar II.  They sacked the lavish city Solomon had built in Jerusalem and tore down the First Temple.  The Babylonians rounded up all the Jews they could catch and deported them to Babylonia as slaves.  That "Babylonian Exile" lasted a mere 50 years and the Jews returned to build the Second Temple.

For the next 1,000 years, everyone and his brother grabbed a piece of the territory - Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  The Roman reign was particularly benevolent.  They destroyed the Second Temple in 70AD and killed an estimated 1.1 million disobedient Jews, including one named Jesus.  The Romans also maliciously renamed the area Palaestina, after the Jews' old enemy, the Philistines.  The Christian Byzantine Empire took over in 300AD and held on for more than 300 years.  During that era, the Muslim Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570AD.

Muhammad's followers believed in conversion, big time, and swarmed around the Middle East giving everyone a fair choice - become a Muslim or die.  These Arabs stormed Palestine in 638AD.  Do the math.  The Arabs got to the region 2,379 years after the Jews.  So, who is occupying whom?

The Arabs considered Palestine unimportant and ruled from Damascus and Baghdad.  You could call them benign except for the massacres and the fact that they were uncomfortable with trees - so they cut them all down, turning the once fertile region into a more familiar desert.

With all the hoopla about Jerusalem, check out the Muslim holy book, the Koran.  The Koran mentions Mecca and Medina countless times but never once speaks of Jerusalem.  On the other hand, there are 811 references to Jerusalem in the Bible.

Christian Crusaders arrived from Europe in 1099 and ousted the Arabs.  In subsequent years, the land switched back and forth between invaders, and in the turmoil Jews began filtering back from their scattered exile.  Many came from Spain, whence they were expelled in 1492.  In 1516, the non-Arab Ottoman Turks conquered Palestine and held sway until after World War I, when the British took over.  We really have no idea how many Jews and how many Arabs there were at the time - mainly because both groups hid from the Ottoman census takers to avoid taxes.  But we do know that there were probably fewer than 350,000 people, the majority Arab, in the whole region (including what is now Jordan) when Mark Twain made a pilgrimage in 1867.

In his travelogue, Innocents Abroad, Twain wrote, "One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings...  Nazareth is forlorn ... Jericho the accursed lies a moldering ruin today," Twain said, adding, "There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere."  But the population was growing.  More Jews arrived from Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1880s, either fleeing oppression or following the Zionist dream.  And Arabs from neighbouring countries flocked to jobs created by Jewish immigrants.

Take a deep breath, because now the plot thickens.

In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration and promised "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People."  The British then turned around and gave over 77% of Palestine to the Arab Hashemites, for what later became Jordan.  The remaining 23%, west of the River Jordan, was supposedly for the Jews.  But in 1947, the UN voted to partition that 23% of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.  The Israelis accepted the plan and in 1948 proclaimed the establishment of their state.  Neighbouring Arab nations, however, rejected both the partition and the idea of a Jewish state and launched a massive invasion of Israel.  They were defeated, and at the end of the 1948 war Israel held all of Western Palestine except the West Bank, which was captured by Jordan, and Gaza, which was seized by Egypt.

In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel again defeated Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, gaining control not only of Gaza and the West Bank, but also of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights.  The big question is: Where were the calls for a Palestinian state during the 19 years Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt held Gaza?

A 1978 peace accord signed with Egypt returned the Sinai to Cairo, but the Egyptians seemed relieved to leave Gaza with Israel.  In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan officially renounced all claims to the West Bank.  As far as Israelis were concerned, the land, won in a defensive war, belonged to them.

But even after all the nauseating terror of the last 23 months, the majority of Israelis are willing to give Palestinians the West Bank, Gaza, and half of Jerusalem for their state.  We just wonder if they are willing to let us keep ours.

Source: villagevoice.com 31 July 31 - 6 August 2002

The Long Take on Palestine

Pre-Historic Era: Some archeologists believe that they have found human remains in parts of what was to become Palestine that date back to 600,000BC.  There is extensive evidence that settled agricultural communities were established in different parts of Palestine as early as 10,000BC.  Copper and stone tools and other artifacts have been found near Jericho, the Dead Sea and Bi’r As-Sabi’ dating to 5,000 - 4,000BC.

(3,000 - 2,000BC) Canaan in the Early Bronze Age: A great urban civilisation existed in what was then called Canaan.  Canaanites shared a cultural tradition derived from Mesopotamia and the civilisation identified with the city of Ebla, in northern Syria.  The Canaanites controlled Palestine west of the Jordan River and parts of Phoenicia (coastal Lebanon) and southern Syria.  During this period, they acquired the use of iron and the practice of alphabetic writing.  The alphabet was transmitted to Greece and became the basis of Western writing systems.

(2,000 - 1,000BC) Migrations to Canaan, Abraham, Moses and Period of Turmoil: A variety of nomadic groups entered Canaan around 2200BC, many of them refugees from neighbouring lands experiencing turmoil at the time.  About 1800BC, the most famous of the migrants, Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim), was fleeing religious persecution in his native Mesopotamia; he migrated to Canaan with some followers.  Unlike most other migrants, Abraham was a monotheist and did not adopt the polytheistic religion of the Canaanites.  During his long life, Abraham visited Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula many times and took one of his sons, the Prophet Ismail, there to live.  Abraham died and was buried in the city of Hebron (Khalil) in Canaan.  His descendants from his second son Isaac (Prophet Ishaq), led by grandson Jacob (Prophet Yacub, also known as Israel) and son Joseph (Prophet Yusuf), however, migrated to Egypt during a terrible famine.  At the time, Egypt was led by the Hyksos, a group of mostly Semitic peoples.  The Hyksos had recently subdued the Pharaohs and welcomed the children of Jacob as well as other Semitic peoples into Egypt.  The Egyptians rose against and expelled the Hyksos around 1560BC and the children of Jacob, who had enjoyed a privileged status under the Hyksos rule, began being subjected to increasingly oppressive living conditions under the Egyptian Pharoahs.  Around 1250BC, Moses (Prophet Musa) led the children of Jacob, or the Israelites, out of Egypt and into the Sinai Peninsula and areas east of Canaan.  Moses’ successor, Joshua, invaded Canaan around 1200BC.  About the same time, the Philistines, a non-Semitic people who had been driven from their homes in Crete, also invaded Canaan from the Mediterranean.  For the next 200 years, there was heavy fighting in the area among the Philistines, Canaanites and the Israelites; the latter came to be known as Jews or Hebrews after they made common cause with other Semitic tribes who adopted their monotheistic faith.

(1000 - 927BC) Kingdom of Israel: About 1000 BC, Saul (Talut) was able to unite the Jews and his successor David (Prophet Dawud) was able to defeat the Philistines, Canaanites, and other peoples in the area and establish the Kingdom of Israel.  While the Philistines, Canaanites and other religious and ethnic groups were subjugated by Israel, they remained in the land; thus was established a multinational state.  For a brief period, David expanded his Kingdom northward through much of Syria to the Euphrates River.  David died in 965BC passing power to his son Solomon (Prophet Sulieman) who built the first Jewish temple in Jerusalem and added to the wealth of the Kingdom by expanding its trade networks, establishing contacts as far south as Yemen.

(927 - 539BC) Jewish Disunity and Assyrian and Babylonian Conquest and Rule: After Solomon’s death in 927BC the united Kingdom of Israel broke into two parts when 10 northern tribes refused to accept the principle of hereditary succession within the family of David.  The two states were Israel in the north and Judah (which included Jerusalem) in the south.  Neither state was particularly strong and both were had internal religious and political strife.  In 722BC, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, who forcibly resettled thousands of inhabitants to Mesopotamia.  In 586BC, Judah was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, leader of the Babylonian Empire, the successor to the Assyrians in Mesopotamia.  The Jewish religious and political elite were transported to Babylon after the conquest and the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.  The region was thenceforth usually part of a greater empire.  When the Persians conquered Babylon under the leadership of Cyrus the Great in 539BC, Jews were given privileged status and permitted to return to Palestine, though most chose to remain in Mesopotamia.

(539 - 168BC) Persian and Greek Rule: Under Persian rule, Jews in Palestine were permitted to pursue their religious observances and to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.  However, they remained a minority in Palestine and internal squabbles kept them weak and divided.  They did not attempt rebuilding the Temple until 15 years after being given permission and funding by the Persians.  In 333BC, Persia was conquered by the Macedonian Greek leader Alexander the Great, who established a huge empire that included Palestine.  In 323, Alexander died and his empire was divided.  Palestine was subsequently ruled alternatively by the Greek Ptolemies, based in Egypt, and the Greek Seleucids, based in Syria.

(168 - 63BC) Revolt against the Greeks and the Maccabean Period: As the Greek empire came under increasing pressure from the Romans in the second century BC, the Seleucids, under leader Antiochus Epiphanes, attempted to spread Greek culture throughout their domain.  In 168 BC, they rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to Zeus.  A Jewish group called the Maccabees, with Roman encouragement and support, responded with a violent rebellion that by 140BC enabled them to kick the Seleucids out of Palestine and establish a new Jewish state led by the Hasmonean dynasty.  The Maccabees instituted an 80-year reign of terror during which they forcibly converted non-Jews in areas that came under their control and oppressed Jews who did not belong to their sect.  Open Jewish revolt against the Maccabees was met with violent suppression and bloody massacres; this resulted in a stalemated Jewish civil war.  The Romans, allied with the Maccabees from the beginning, had by this time replaced the Seleucids in Syria.  Asked to arbitrate the internal conflict, the Roman General Pompey came down from Syria in 63BC and took over the country, making it into a Roman province.

(63BC - 395AD) Roman Era: The beginning of the Roman era was more a period of Jewish-Roman cooperation than conflict; the Jews enjoyed substantial autonomy, especially in religious matters.  In fact, one of the early Roman Governors of Palestine was Herod, a Jew, who had married a Maccabean princess and was thus seen by many as a continuation of the old Hasmonean line.  During Herold's reign, Jesus (Prophet Issa) was born in Palestine.  Followers of Jesus were persecuted by the Romans at the instigation of Jewish leaders who considered him a Jewish heretic.  Conflicts that had divided Jews before the Roman conquest had continued, and, while many Jewish parties counselled continued cooperation with Rome, others considered Roman rule intolerable.  In 66AD a Jewish group called the Zealots began a bloody seven-year rebellion.  The Romans retaliated by destroying the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  After the revolt, the Romans restored autonomy to the Jews - who again revolted in 132AD.  The Bar Kochba revolt led to heavy Roman casualties, though the Romans were able to suppress it after three years.  During that revolt, the Romans killed and enslaved thousands of Jews; after it was put down, they passed a decree forbidding Jews from entering Jerusalem.  Even before the revolt, Jews outside Palestine far outnumbered those within it.  Afterwards, many Jews who had remained in Palestine left, leaving Jews as a small minority in the area.  Meanwhile, throughout the Roman Empire, Christianity was spreading.  This was seen as a challenge to the Romans.  While most followers of Jesus had already been forced to leave Palestine because of persecution, Christians began being persecuted throughout the Empire about 160AD.  (continued below...)

Long Version Palestinian History Continues...

Under pressure of severe persecution, Christians divided into sects; however, their numbers continued to grow.  In 313AD, Constantine, contender for power in the Roman Empire at a time of political discord, changed the situation by issuing an edict that Christians under his rule would be given freedom.  In 323, Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire.  He set himself the task of strengthening the Christian Church, building numerous churches and frowning upon what he considered heretical sects and schisms.  He hoped to gain unity in his empire through a united Christianity.  In 330, he formally converted to Christianity and moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople.  In 383, Christianity was declared the imperial state religion.

(395-638AD) Byzantine Rule with Brief Persian Interlude: The Roman Empire formally divided in 395; Palestine became part of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople.  Under Byzantine rule, Palestine, as the birthplace of Jesus, acquired a significance lacking in the earlier Roman attitude toward the area.  Many Christians in Palestine did not, however, escape persecution since most of them belonged to sects that the state considered heretical.  Persecution of Jews was even more severe.  While, over the centuries, the Romans had stopped enforcing laws instituted at the time of the Bar Kochba revolt which restricted Jewish practices, the Byzantine Christians looked upon the Jews of Palestine as the people who had rejected Jesus.  They passed strict laws limiting Jewish practices.  Some laws directly interfered with internal affairs of the Jewish community, something the Romans had never done.  In 615, the Persian Sassanid dynasty, during its extended war with Byzantine, briefly occupied Palestine as well as Egypt and other parts of North Africa.  During this Persian rule, Jews were given control over Jerusalem.  They revenged the centuries of Byzantine persecution by burning churches and killing thousands of Christians.  By 622, the Byzantines, led by Heraclius, regained Palestine and other areas through a number of surprising victories against the Persians.  After they regained control of Palestine, the Byzantines increased their suppression of both Jews and what they considered heretical Christians.  Like the Romans before them, they reinstituted strict edicts banning Jews from living in Jerusalem.

(638 - 750AD) Early Islamic and Umayyad Rule: In 638AD, Omar ibn al-Khattab, the Second Caliph of Islam, peacefully entered Jerusalem after having defeated the Byzantines in a number of battles in nearby lands.  Most of the followers of Islam at that time were Arabs, a Semitic people, racially and linguistically related to the northern Semitic tribes out of which came the Canaanites and the Hebrews, all of which had originated in Mesopotamia two to three thousand years earlier.  The Arabs were those Semitic tribes that had continued to inhabit the desert; those in Palestine at the time were from other tribes that had long ago settled down to urban or rural life.  The majority of people in Palestine were still Semitic, though only a minority were Jewish.  In the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras, only the thin layer at the peak of power had been assimilated into the cultures of those great empires - the vast majority had maintained separate cultural and linguistic traditions.  More importantly, as followers of Islam, the Muslims considered themselves the natural successors of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all the other Prophets and thus, for them, Palestine was of extreme religious significance.  The Jews and even most of the Christians, especially the Monophysites (perhaps the largest non-Byzantine Christian sect in Palestine), welcomed the Muslim conquest.  These Jews and Christians had been severely oppressed in the aftermath of the wars with Persia and welcomed Muslim promises of tolerance.  Jews especially enjoyed more freedom under Muslim rule than elsewhere in the world as Muslims in Palestine (and elsewhere) granted Jews and Christians considerable autonomy to make and enforce their own religious, judicial, and social rules.  A number of Christians and Jews held important posts under the various Muslim Caliphs.  Muslims removed the restrictions the Romans and Byzantines had placed on the right of Jews to visit and inhabit Jerusalem.  Despite this tolerance, or perhaps because of it, the native inhabitants of Palestine were gradually Arabized and Islamized.  In 661 the Umayyad dynasty was established and the center of Islamic Civilisation moved from the Arabian Peninsula to Damascus, a city close to Palestine.  During the Umayyad period, Palestine enjoyed an era of unprecedented prosperity and the Dome of the Rock and Masjid Al-Aqsa were built at an area in Jerusalem that Prophet Muhammed had described as the third most sacred area on the earth and from which he had earlier ascended to Heaven during his Nightly Journey (Isra’ and Mi’raj).  By the end of the Umayyad dynasty in 750, the vast majority of inhabitants of Palestine had converted to Islam, though a small minority maintained their Jewish and Christian faiths.

(750 - 1099AD) Abbasid Rule with Fatimid Intercession: The Abbasid Caliphate replaced the Umayyads in 750 and moved the capital from Damascus to Baghdad.  At that time, the Islamic state stretched from Spain to beyond India.  But after a century of Abbasid rule, the state began gradually fragmenting.  For brief periods of time, Palestine came under the rule of nearly autonomous governors, most notably in the 870s when the Egyptian governor Ahmad ibn Tulun brought Palestine under his sphere of influence.  In 972, the Fatimids, an anti-Abbasid dynasty begun in North Africa that had conquered Egypt in 969, took control of Palestine.  The Fatimid rulers were Ismaili Shi’is, but during their rule very few people in Palestine or elsewhere adopted their beliefs.  While there were notable instances of Fatimid persecution of Sunni Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians, these periods were rare and brief.  In 1055, the Seljuks, a Turkish group renowned for military skill and strict devotion to Sunni Islam, came to dominate the Abbasid court in Baghdad.  The Seljuks took Syria and Palestine from the Fatimids and restored Abbasid rule over those areas in 1071.

(1099 - 1187AD) Crusader Occupation: Taking advantage of the fragmented Abbasid state, Christian Crusaders from Western Europe took Jerusalem and surrounding parts of Palestine in 1099, subjecting much of its citizenry, Muslim, Jewish, and Eastern Christian, to a bloodbath.  On the day the city was taken, 70,000 Muslims who had surrendered were slaughtered on the grounds of the Noble Sanctuary housing the Dome of the Rock and Masjid Al-Aqsa.  The Crusaders established Jerusalem as a Christian city from which Muslims and Jews were forbidden to live.  They transformed the Dome of the Rock into a Christian Church and used Masjid Al-Aqsa as a stable for their horses.  While many of the Fatimids initially welcomed the Crusaders, hoping they would aid them against the Seljuks, the Europeans invaded Egypt in 1117, which led to a period of intense turmoil within the Fatimid dynasty.  In 1154 Nur al-Din Zanji, a strict Sunni from Kurdistan, garnered a powerful military force in Syria and fought the Crusaders.  While some of the feuding Fatimi rulers allied with the Crusaders, others allied with Zanji, who had come to Egypt in 1169 specifically to oust the Crusaders.  The Fatimi caliph at the time appointed Zanji vizier, or leading minister.  A year later Zanji died; he was replaced as vizier by his nephew, Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi.  In 1171, with the support of the Egyptians, Salah al-Din declared allegiance to the Abbasids, bringing a quiet end to the Fatimid era.  Salah al-Din then set out to unite the entire Muslim world.  He required all rulers in what had become a fragmented Islamic world to sign a truce swearing to keep peace among themselves.  After that, he concentrated on removing Crusaders from Palestine.  He won a major victory against them in 1179 at Marj Uyun.  In 1187 Salah al-Din dealt a crushing blow to the Crusaders at the Battle of Hittin.  After that, he quickly liberated the rest of Palestine, including Jerusalem.  The Crusaders retained only a thin strip of land from Tyre to Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast.

(1187 - 1516AD) Ayyubi, Mongol, and Mamluk Rule: Salah al-Din died in 1193, but Palestine and Egypt continued to be ruled by his family, the Ayyubis, who remained nominally loyal to the Abbasids.  In 1250, the last Ayyubi leader was killed by the Mamluks, a military regiment made up of Turkic-speaking forces that ultimately usurped power from their enfeebled political masters.  The leader of the Mamluks, Baibars, had won a number of victories against repeated Crusader attempts to reestablish a foothold in the region before he formally took power from the Ayyubis in 1250.  But the Abbasid dynasty was soon crushed by a new force from the east, the Mongol horde which, under the leadership of Hulagu, destroyed Baghdad in 1258.  The Mongols occupied vast areas of the Islamic world until Baibars defeated them in Palestine at the Battle of Ayn Jalut near the city of Nasira in 1260.  From then until 1516, Palestine remained under Mamluk rule out of Cairo, which by that time had replaced Baghdad as the economic, political, and intellectual capital of the Muslim world.

(1516 - 1832AD) First Period of Ottoman Empire: Not only did the Mongols destroy Baghdad in 1258, decimating the Seljuks, but they also drove a number of Turkish tribes from their homelands in Central Asia.  These Turks quickly embraced Islam and settled in Anatolia, on the traditional battle line between the Islamic world and the Byzantine Empire.  While Egypt, Palestine, and Syria had come under control of the Mamluks, a number of Turkish ghazi emirates or military principalities were established to the north of Syria with the aim of fighting the Byzantine Empire.  The most successful of these emirates was that of Osman (or Ottoman) which defeated the Byzantines on a number of occasions.  In 1453, the Ottomans successfully captured Constantinople bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire and establishing a growing Islamic state that soon reached far into Eastern Europe.  By this time, Mamluk rule had begun weakening.  This led to turmoil at the heart of the Islamic world.  In 1516, the Ottomans quickly took over Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and the Hijaz from the Mamluks, and moved the centre of the Islamic world from Cairo to Istanbul (the City of Islam) as Constantinople was renamed after its capture.  While the Mamluks remained as regional governors in Egypt under Ottoman suzerainty, Palestine was incorporated into the province of Syria.  The Ottomans continued expanding into the Muslim world and into Europe, establishing the largest Islamic state that had yet existed.  The huge multinational state was an epitome of tolerance and a model of administrative efficiency.  The Ottomans established a centralised administrative framework by which the sultans maintained effective control over extraordinarily diverse peoples in their vast empire.  An important part of this framework was the millet system - essentially a division of the empire into a communal system based upon religious affiliation.  Each millet was relatively autonomous, ruled by its own religious leader, and retained its own laws and customs.  The religious leader, in turn, was responsible to the sultan or his representatives for such details as the payment of taxes.  There was also a territorial organisation of the empire: at the upper level was a unit called the muqata'ah, under control of a noble or administrator who kept a portion of the state revenues derived from it.  This amount varied with the importance of the individual noble or administrator; he could use it as he saw fit.  Such rights were also given to some administrators or governors in place of, or in addition to, salaries, thus insuring a regular collection of revenues and a reduction of record keeping.  This system of administration and tax collection led to the establishment of a number of prominent families who served as local notables throughout the empire; in Palestine the most famous such families were the Khalidis, Nusaybas, Alamis, Husaynis, and Nashashibis.  The Ottoman Empire, however, began a slow decline when indifferent sultans neglected administration.  In a series of 18th-century wars, the Ottomans lost substantial territories.  Through administrative paralysis, local governors became increasingly independent; eventually, revolts broke out.  Various reform movements failed; with the invasion of Egypt in 1798 by the French General Napolean Bonaparte, it became obvious that the once-powerful empire was weak (though Bonaparte’s incursions into Palestine were quickly repulsed).

(1833 - 1840AD) Muhammad Ali's Occupation: The 3-year French occupation of Egypt ended in 1801 with a humiliating defeat, but left Egypt in a turbulent state.  The Mamluks, the Ottomans, and the British (who had played a role in the defeat of France) all tried to put different candidates into power as governor of Egypt.  Finally by 1805, Muhammad Ali, leader of an Albanian wing of Ottoman forces in Egypt, was able to consolidate power.  With French backing, he gradually broke away from Ottoman control and set up what was essentially an independent state.  At times, he even went to war against the Ottomans to expand the amount of territory under his rule.  For a brief period (1833 - 1840), Muhammad Ali occupied Palestine, Syria, and parts of Lebanon, a region which he placed under the governorship of his son Ibrahim.  Seeking European support and aware that the local Muslim population remained loyal to the Ottomans, Ibrahim undertook a policy of favoring local Christians for administrative posts.  The Ottomans could not match Ibrahim’s modernised army.  In 1839, he seemed on the verge of marching into Istanbul.  The British distrusted the pro-French Muhammad Ali; they intervened in 1840 to help the Ottomans push Ibrahim out of Syria and Palestine.  Muhammad Ali’s descendants continued to rule Egypt, although European influence increased dramatically over the years; Britain took full control in 1881.

(1840 - 1914AD) Late Ottoman Period: Ottoman weakness was shown by the fact that they needed British help to remove Ibrahim from Syria; they were also forced by the British and other Europeans to allow European traders and government consuls to maintain Ibrahim’s former policies of favouring Christians in economic and administrative posts.  These policies were later expanded; Europeans began demanding extraterritorial legal rights (known as capitulations) over the Christian communities throughout the Ottoman Empire; European traders began hiring Christians to represent them, selling cheap European goods that undermined local markets.  These policies led to tension between Muslims and the increasingly wealthy Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire.  These tensions were more prominent in Syria and Lebanon than in Palestine, where Muslims, local Christians, and Jews had had cordial relations throughout Islamic rule.  That changed in the late 1800s with the birth of the Zionist movement in Europe.  This called for Jews to escape persecution in Europe by colonising Palestine and establishing a Jewish state in its place.  The first Zionist colony (Petach Tiqva) was established in Palestine in 1878 and from 1882 to 1903 25,000 Zionists migrated to Palestine to escape persecution in Russia and Poland.  The Zionists had the financial backing of the French Baron E de Rothschild, a scion of the wealthiest European banking family, and organisational support from the Jewish Colonisation Association (JCA).  In 1897, the First Zionist Congress in Switzerland issued the Basle Program "calling for a home for the Jewish people in Palestine" and established the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) to achieve that goal.  A second wave of approximately 40,000 illegal Zionist immigrants came to Palestine from 1904 to 1914, more than doubling the number of Jews in Palestine.  While the Ottomans realised the danger of allowing Zionists to settle in Palestine and passed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine in the wake of the establishment of the Zionist movement, Jews circumvented these by acquiring the protection of foreign consuls under the capitulations laws.

(1914 - 1920AD) World War I and British Military Occupation: Three months after World War I started on 1 August 1914, Russians, British and French all declared war on the Ottoman Empire.  The British and French almost immediately began secret negotiations as to how they would divide the Empire between themselves.  On 2 November 1917, the British signed the Balfour Declaration formally promising Zionist leaders that they would view with favour the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine despite the fact that Jews constituted less than 8% of the population of Palestine at the time.  Palestine served as an important staging area for Ottoman troops resisting British incursions from Egypt throughout much of the war.  In December 1917, the British General Edmund Allenby occupied Jerusalem and subsequently the rest of Palestine.  The war led to the impoverishment of wide sectors of the Palestinian population, to malnourishment, and disease.  On 30 October 1918, the Ottoman Empire capitulated and signed the Armistice of Mudros, leaving all of Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq under direct British occupation.  Syria, nominally ruled by Faysal ibn Husayn, son of the guardian of the holy places in Mecca (who had led a British-backed revolt against the Ottomans), was under indirect occupation.  Lebanon was under French occupation.  Turkey, which avoided direct occupation, was established as a strictly secular state and the Caliphate was abolished.  The Palestinians and the Arabs had clearly hoped that an independent state comprising Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and perhaps the Arabian peninsula (increasingly coming under the control of the British-subsidised Ibn Saud), would be established - probably under the rule of Faysal.  This was the recommendation of the American-sponsored King-Crane Commission, a group sent to the region in 1919 specifically to ascertain the wishes of the peoples living there.  However, the British and the French refused to relinquish their control.  In late 1919, the British withdrew from Syria after agreeing to allow the French to take direct control over the area.  In March 1920, before the French were able to occupy Syria, the Syrian National Congress, including representatives from Palestine (most notably Hajj Amin al-Husseini), proclaimed Faysal king of a united Syria.  At the San Remo Conference April 1920, however, British and French decided to give mandatory rights to the French in Lebanon and Syria and to the British in Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq.  The Balfour Declaration was included in the obligations for mandatory power in Palestine, thus binding the British to establish conditions whereby Jewish immigrants would be assisted in their path toward ultimate dominance.  The French invaded Syria in May; by July, they occupied Damascus, sending Faysal to Palestine.  The British later made Faysal king of Iraq and his brother Abdullah king of Jordan.  On 1 July 1920, the British military administration in Palestine was dismissed; a civil administration led by ardent British Zionist Herbert Samuel was established.  The British Mandate over Palestine was officially approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

(1920 - 1947AD) The British Manfate: During the British Mandate, Jewish immigration into Palestine increased dramatically; so did land holdings.  More than 400,000 Jews immigrated into Palestine during the Mandate, increasing their percentage in the overall population from about 8% in 1920 (the vast majority of those being recent immigrants) to about 30% at the end of the Mandate.  The percentage of Palestinian land owned by Jews increased from 1.7% in 1920 to about 6% in 1947.  The economic situation for the vast majority of Palestinians deteriorated throughout the British occupation.  Over 90% of Palestinian Muslims were farmers whose economic livelihood was decimated by British exploitation.  According to the terms of the Mandate, Palestine could not create tariffs against members of the League of Nations.  This allowed countries with excess surpluses to dump both agricultural and industrial goods in the Palestinian market, a frequent practice after the onset of the worldwide Depression.  Agricultural production in the Palestinian sector dropped dramatically during the Mandate as imports increased.  Peasants plunged further and further into debt and were increasingly forced off the land.  Jews, on the other hand, had access to external capital that poured into the area from wealthy American and European Jews.  Politically, Zionists had formal representation in the Mandate government, something Palestinians never enjoyed.  Even more importantly, Zionists wielded considerable influence through their ability to influence British policy via their Zionist representatives in London.  In addition to Zionist political and economic prerogatives, the British, especially during the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, organised and armed a Jewish military while Palestinians were prohibited from owning weapons.  Organised Jewish terrorist attacks on Palestinian buses, markets and places of worship began in earnest in 1937; after World War II these expanded to include targets such as the King David Hotel.  Palestinians resisted the British occupation and the Zionist incursion; thousands were killed or executed during the Mandate.  Hajj Amin al-Husayni quickly emerged as the unquestioned leader of the Palestinian resistance; he was forced into exile in 1937.  Throughout the Mandate, the Palestinians maintained a consistent refusal to admit that any part of Palestine should be given to the Zionists.  But Hitler’s extermination of millions of Jews during World War II (1939-1945) increased international sympathy for the Zionist cause.

(1947 - 1949AD) The British Withdrawal and the Establishment of Israel: During World War II, the international Zionists moved headquarters from London to the United States, which emerged from the war as the most powerful economic and military power in the world.  After the war, Zionist terrorist attacks in Palestine accelerated, making occupation increasingly expensive for the British.  British attempts to stem terrorism were criticised by the US, which increasingly pressured the British to accede to all Zionist demands, including the issuance of 100,000 new immigration certificates for European Jews.  Facing such pressure, in February 1947 the British declared they would hand over the Palestinian issue to the newly-established United Nations.  In August, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) called for an end to the British Mandate and the creation of procedures leading to the independence of Palestine.  The majority of UNSCOP members advocated partitioning Palestine into Palestinian and Jewish states.  Before the UN voted on the proposal, the Brits declared they would withdraw from Palestine on 15 May, thus ending the Mandate unilaterally.  On 29 November, after strong American pressure, the UN voted to partition Palestine, a plan rejected by the Palestinians.  Hostility between Palestinians and Jews increased after the vote.  The well-armed Jewish troops organised during the Mandate period began a war of terror in the cities and established military control over the areas granted to them under the UN plan.  The Palestinians began organising forces, but they were short of weaponry and lacked the kind of coordination that would enable them to mount sustained resistance.  The Zionists undertook a major offensive in early April 1948, including a massacre at Dayr Yassin on 9 April.  By 14 May, Zionists controlled all areas granted to them by the UN.  One day before Britain formally handed over power in Palestine, they declared the state of Israel.  Within hours, the US recogised this new state.  After the British withdrew, fighting units from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia entered Palestine but, lacking coordination, were outmanœuvered by Israeli forces.  Jordan, with the most powerful army, did not undertake sustained offensives; they preferred to establish defensive perimeters around areas they coveted.  The Jordanian leader, King Abdullah, had in fact been in contact with Zionist leaders since 1947.  He had expressed to them his support for partition of Palestine with Jordan taking control of the Arab section.  Sharing similar aims with the Zionists, little actual fighting took place between the two armies.  During the war which lasted from May until July of 1948, Israelis were able to substantially expand their holdings beyond what they had been granted by the UN.  When Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden, first UN mediator to try to bring an end to the hostilities, challenged some of the Zionist assumptions, he was assassinated by a Zionist terrorist group.  His successor, Ralph Bunche of the United States, negotiated a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the Arab states in July 1949.  This agreement enabled Israel to keep the territories they had taken by force and placed the remaining parts of Palestine under Jordanian and Egyptian control.  Before the negotiations had started, King Abdullah had formally proclaimed the unity of Arab Palestine (usually referred to as the West Bank) and Jordan.  During this war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been forced from their homes.  Of the 860,000 Arabs living in the parts of Palestine under Israeli occupation, only 133,000 remained.  Of the rest, 470,000 had entered refugee camps in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, then held by Egypt.  The remainder were dispersed into Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan proper.

(1949 - Present) Israeli Oppression and Expansion: While Israel’s existence is largely due to the UN, Israel has consistently refused to adhere to dozens of UN resolutions passed over the years which called for peace, the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, and the establishment of permanent boundaries.  Israel has in fact expanded its borders dramatically over the years, most notably when they undertook a surprise attack on Jordan and Egypt in 1967, thus occupying the rest of historic Palestine, including the city of Jerusalem.  Israel also invaded Lebanon in 1982 and has continued to occupy a swath of Lebanese territory until the present say.  The Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation has suffered from persecution and a violent occupation regime that seems intent on continuing to colonise and Judaize all parts of Palestine.  In 1987, the Palestinian people began a sustained revolt in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that came to be known as the Intifada.  The revolt lasted until 1993, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiated a secret peace deal with Israel that called for limited Palestinian autonomy in unspecified parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in return for formal Palestinian recognition of Israel and PLO help in suppressing continued Palestinian resistance.

Intifada 2000: On 28 September 2000, Ariel Sharon, an Israeli right-wing politician and an indicted war criminal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, visited Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) with an escort of 2000 armed guards.  Sharon's visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, one of the holiest Islamic sites, ignited the recent clashes that have killed hundreds and injured tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Source: angelfire.com/rant/truthaboutpalestine

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