CHAPTER I--INTRODUCTION

Arab-Palestinian Narrative | Jewish-Israeli Narrative

For over 60 years since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been constantly under both military and political attack by Arab nations as being a usurper of Palestinian land and a foreign intruder into dar Islam- the domain of Islam - (a more geographical and physical term than “the world of Islam” which is conceptual.) From a secular and political perspective, even as early as the1920’s, the Arabs developed an expressed opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine , particularly where such settlement might have brought about a Jewish majority and political ascendancy over the indigenous Arab population. Perhaps the best expression of this opposition was given in the 1947 Anglo-American Committee's Report, summarised below, commissioned by the British and American governments following the conclusion of World War II when the full extent of the Holocaust was beginning to be realised.

 

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Arab-Palestinian Narrative

 

The fundamental structural elements of the Arab perception of its case encompass the following assertions to which a brief response is given and expanded later:

·         Palestine was and is a country which the Arabs have occupied for more than a thousand years, and any Jewish historical claims to the land are rejected.”

o        Response:

§         Jews, too, have maintained an unbroken contact with Palestine since their involuntary dispersion 2000 years ago by the Romans and have never severed their connection with it.

§         There is no justification for rejecting a historical claim if that claim has been maintained uninterruptedly since the dispersion.

·         “The British Government, in issuing the Balfour Declaration   (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/balfour.htm ) was disposing of something that did not belong to it.”

o        Response:

§         The text of the Balfour Declaration and its issuance received prior approval of the American and French governments

§         Contemporaneously with the issuance of the Declaration in 1918, Britain had conquered Palestine and in accordance with the laws of war pertaining at the time, she would have been entitled to protect her interests there. Were it not for American involvement, she would have utilised the territory for her own uses. In the absence of outside investment she would have been left in deficit to manage an under-populated territory incapable of being financially and economically independent – as Palestine was under Ottoman rule. In the circumstances and with the agreement of the Allied powers she legitimately promoted demographic and capital inflows while protecting the civil rights if the existing inhabitants.

·         “The Mandate was in conflict with the Covenant of the League of Nations from which it derived its authority.” (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/leagcov.htm). 

o        Response:

§         Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant recognises that some territories were almost ready to stand alone, while others needed further “tutelage.”

§         Sub article 1 relates to those territories which are inhabited “by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” The Syrian and Iraqi ( Mesopotamia ) mandates fell under this head.

§         In contrast, subarticle 4 refers “certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized. The Palestine mandate
falls under this provision.

·         “The part played by the British in freeing the Arabs from Turkish rule after World War I did not empower Great Britain, France or the other Allied Powers to dispose of “their” country.”

o        Response:

§         Rather than constituting a pre-existing aspiration, Arab independence was in fact a new vision following the Ottoman defeat - a by-product emerging from the deliberations and fiats of the victors. In the process of securing her interests Britain permitted and even encouraged Arab self-determination but only in those areas where British interests were not compromised

§         Britain ’s intention in going to war with Germany and her ally Turkey did not specifically encompass freeing the Hashemites or any other Arab tribe from Ottoman rule.

§         In any case Britain did not agree to recognise Hashemite interests extending into Palestine and Hussein, Hussein, King of Hajaz at the time, deferred his claim to Palestine until the conclusion of WW I. 

·         “Turkish rule was preferable to that of the British rule, if the latter involved their eventual subjection to the Jews.”

o        Response:

§         Arab preference for Islamic rule over that exercised by a dhimmi people (see later for extended discussion) presupposes that Islamic hegemony is justifiable.

§         Past experience has shown that Jewish and Christian inhabitants in Arab lands under Muslim rule have not been treated as equals in the exercise of their civil and religious rights and their holy places have been desecrated.

§         In contrast, the Jewish State of Israel permits freedom of worship and respects almost all sites claimed by Islam and other beliefs as Holy Places  

·         “The Mandate was and is a violation of the Arab right of self-determination since it forced upon the Arab population within its own territory an immigrant non-Islamic and foreign people whom they did not desire and would not tolerate. In short they regarded the Mandate as a Jewish invasion of Palestine .”

o        Response:

§         The Arab position presuppose that no other peoples in the Middle East have a right of self-determination

§         Jews living in Arab lands also have an equal right of self-determination which the Arab majority in the Middle East unjustifiably refuses to recognise.

§         The Husseini Arab leadership’s hatred of Jews generally, and as foreign interlopers to Palestine particularly, is racially prejudicial and is unsupportable in international law.

·         Palestinians assert that the promises made to the Arabs by Great Britain in 1915 in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, and the later assurances given to Arab leaders by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman concerning Palestine, had been understood as recognition of the principle that Palestinian Arabs should enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by the populations of the neighbouring Arab states. Thus the emergent opposition to the idea of a Jewish National Home predated the issue of the Mandate in 1922 and again before the 1942 Biltmore Program expressed its support for a Jewish State. (See Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, Chapter VI, paras. 2 and 3 http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/anglo/angch06.htm)

o        Response

§         Refutation of this argument is presented at length in Chapter II.

§         Suffice it to say here that the conclusions drawn from the Hussein-McMahon correspondence by the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular do not coincide with the evidence. (see Isaiah Friedman, Palestine : A Twice Promised Land The: British, The Arabs and Zionism 1915-1920, Transaction Publishers, Edison , NJ 08837 ,  2000)

·         Since by 1947 all the surrounding Arab States had been granted independence, Palestinian Arabs argue that they were just as advanced politically as were the citizens of the nearby States, and the suggestion that self-government should be withheld from Palestine until the Jews had acquired a majority was outrageous

o        Response:

§         Arab political advancement is inconsistent with the evidence on the ground:

§         Government is tribally autocratic not democratic (see later).

§         Self-government remains government by elites and is unaccountable to the general population.

§         Sexual equality remains undeveloped and the exercise of other internationally acknowledged human rights is suppressed.

§         The Jewish majority in the State of Israel recognises, as a matter of principle, the equality of the Arab population. That it is not always implemented in practise, is to be regretted.

§         Immediately following Israel ’s declaration of Independence in 1948 five Arab armies invaded the territory lying to west of the Jordan River . Israel, acting in self defence, succeeded in retaining the area designating by the United Nations as the territory of the Jewish State, but also encroached on some of the territory designated for the Palestinian Arab state. The balance became occupied mainly by Jordan , and small areas by Egypt and Syria .

·         After 1948, but before 1967, the Palestinians added one further claim in addition to those mentioned above. Those Palestinians who had fled, been driven out, or otherwise dispossessed of their lands located in what subsequently became the State of Israel as a result of the War of Independence (Israeli nomenclature) or "al-Nakba", the "catastrophe" (Palestinian Arab nomenclature) have the "right of return" to their original homes.

o        Response:

§         The United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 does not support a right of return as the exclusive remedy available to Palestinian refugees. Compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are alternative possibilities

§         The Resolution refers to refugees who wish live at peace with their neighbours. The desire for peaceful co-existence has not been manifested in practice by the refugees or their leadership.

·         Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Palestinians assert further that the following Israeli acts are illegal and contrary to international law:

·         the military occupation by the Israel Defence Forces of  the previously held Palestinian - Jordanian land;

·         the taking of that land by Jewish settlers; and

·         the annexation of East Jerusalem (and the Golan Heights ) by the State of Israel. 

Israel rejects the assertion of illegality in her above actions and the detailed response to these claims forms the major part of this book

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Jewish-Israeli Narrative


Israel ’s frame of reference and perception of the conflict is different from that presented by the Palestinians. She claims that the Jewish people, whom she represents in part, has had an unbroken connection with ‘Eretz Yisrael’ - the Land of Israel from before the rise of Christianity and Islam, notwithstanding their exile by the Romans in the first century.

"Judea capta est,"  inscribed on the arch of Titus ("Judea has been captured")  memorialises the Roman victory over the Jews, their majority forced into exile, taken into slavery and later dispersed throughout the Roman Empire for over two millennia. Throughout this period, they were denied both freedom of national self-expression and the claim of their “right of return” to re-establish a patrimonial sovereignty in their homeland.  For the remnant in Palestine , there followed subjugation and suffering under the oppressive yoke of successive conquerors: Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke and Ottoman. The Jewish remnant was a spent force, militarily and politically, but it nevertheless maintained a physical and spiritual continuity in and with the Land.  Acting as caretakers, Jews maintained a vigorous religious presence, mainly in urban centres throughout the country (see Chapter II below), praying for the “return unto Zion”, a day on which Jewish national sovereignty would be, prophetically, restored as it had been under the previous Babylonian exile. That day was to come on November 29, 1947 when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181.

 
Until the eighteenth century, the Jewish people in the Diaspora were seen both as a religion and as a nation.

·       As a nation they made attempts to return to the Land but were frustrated by conflicts from emanating from without.

·        As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen.

However, civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be anything other than second-class subjects.

It needed the sixteenth century reformation in Christianity and the rise of the nation state in the eighteenth, for Jewish religious imperatives to be redirected and asserted towards the possibility of reviving the notion of a Jewish State in Palestine . However, religious motivation from within was insufficient to meet the economic and political challenge. It required the addition of European anti-Semitism later in the nineteenth century to motivate secular and emancipated Jews to organise politically - in a decentralised movement, meeting centrally at its annual congresses - to advance their political objective for matters.

The emergence of the possibility of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State came to materialise as a consequence of World War I which saw the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and World War II which saw the decline of the British Empire. As central power became less effective, so burgeoned the demand for self-determination and the illegitimacy of colonialism backed by American democratic ideals.

In the political restructuring of Europe and the Middle East following the conclusion of WWI, the articulated voice of the Jewish people made itself heard among the nations as did the voices of the Arabs. Although both Zionists and some Arab leaders saw the possibility of working together in regional co-operation, the Great Powers had their own interests in the Middle East to consider:

·         America wanted political stability in the region, secure access to oil and to replace Britain as the Great Power;

·         France sought to protect what was left of her commercial and cultural interests despite the fact that she played no significant part in the war for control of the Middle East ;

·         Britain maintained her belief in a continuing need to be able to control – a little or no cost to herself - the Suez Canal to ensure a secure passage to India , access to the Iranian and Syrian oil fields and her commercial interests in the Far East .
Co-incidentally she also had an interest in containing the expansion of French influence in the region. 

For the Allies, an independent and unified Arab Middle East did not bode well if they were to achieve these diverse and conflicting objectives.  To the extent that Jewish interests coincided with those of the Great Powers generally, and of Great Britain in particular, they were accommodated, but in so doing they were played off against Arab tribal sensibilities and Islamic religious principles.

 

Israel ’s contemporary claim to legitimacy is premised on:

·         an uninterrupted physical, spiritual and cultural connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel since before the second century – as expanded in Chapter II;

·         involuntary dislocation and dispersion  of the majority the Jewish people from the land since the second century;

·         the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I which gave the impetus to the rise of both Jewish and Arab nationalism;

·         the victory of the Allies over the Central  powers and the disposition of the conquered territory in accordance with a new regime introduced into international law – mandate or trustee territory;

·         the Balfour Declaration expressing its support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine .

·         The Treaty of Sevres 1920, under which Turkey ceded its sovereignty over Palestine and accepted the Balfour declaration with its incorporation into the Mandate as an international agreement. This formed a constituent part of the Middle East post war settlement between the Allied and Central Powers in which Turkey , Britain and the United States participated and in which both Jews and Arab expressed their interests.

Notwithstanding attempts by the British mandatory power to frustrate the clear objectives of the Mandate, and despite the fomentation of Islamic 
religious opposition against the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish people succeeded in creating a viable political and economic entity.


British financial investment and a colonial style of government coupled with an infusion of Jewish capital, migration and labour brought a higher standard 
of living to the Palestinian population – both Arab and Jewish -  than that enjoyed in the neighbouring states.


However, the economic advances in Palestine attracted Arab immigration from outside of its borders.  Rather that regulating such Arab migration, the British Administration, contrary to the terms of the Mandate, placed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine which prevented the creation of a Jewish majority in cis-Jordan – Palestine;

·         Arab violence fomented by anti-Zionist elements in the British Administration, and the continued demographic Jewish imbalance made more favourable to the Arabs by British immigration policy ultimately led to violence between Arab and Jew.

·         The Mandatory found its solution in a proposal to partition the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River between Arab and Jew while retaining certain strategic locations to itself.

·         The Jews accepted the Mandatory’s partition proposal but the Arabs rejected it.


World War II intervened, creating the Holocaust.

Although this tragedy gave a big impetus towards partition, British policy remained steadfastly against any change in its Palestinian immigration policy, 
with the result that Jews became actively obstructive to continued British rule, both civilly and militarily:

·         Britain , unable to control the violence directed against her Administration, referred the matter to the United Nations General Assembly;

·         The Assembly recommended in Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

·         Again the Jews accepted the proposal, but the Arabs rejected it.

 

Britain decided to surrender its mandate. Ion the process of the British military withdrawal, armed conflict broke out between Jews and Arabs with the British Administration publicly taking a more or less neutral stand while surreptitiously assisting the Arabs.

 

On the day following the final British withdrawal on May 14, 1948:

·         The Jewish population of Palestine declared themselves as the self governing state of Israel in accordance with the UNGA Resolution and the major powers (excluding Britain ) accorded her international recognition.

·         The Arab Palestine failed to follow the same course.


Instead,

·       contrary to international law, five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State but failed to eliminate her;

·       Jordan became an occupying power of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria including Jerusalem ) and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.

In the process,

·         between 600,000 and 800,000 Arab Palestinians left or abandoned their homes on the advice of the Arab leadership, or for fear of Jewish brutality which failed to emerge, while a number Palestinians were driven out in the military confrontation between Jewish forces and the Arab armies;

·         the Jewish population living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank (Etzion Block) and Gaza were killed or evicted; and

·         the surrounding Arab states evicted, without compensation, their Jewish population which numbered over 800,000 in consequence of the establishment of the Jewish state.

A humanitarian problem was thus created:

·         the majority of Palestinian Arab refugees found themselves languishing in camps located in the Jordanian controlled West Bank and Egyptian controlled Gaza or in camps located in Jordan , Lebanon and Syria .

·         Apart from Jordan , Palestinian Arab refugees were neither offered citizenship nor otherwise  absorbed by their host states.

·         The new State of Israel absorbed all the Jewish refugees driven out from the Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, and those Jews evicted from the Arab states.

The United Nations ultimately arranged a cease fire between the belligerents:

·         Israel organised itself as a civic society within the cease fire-lines as determined in Armistice Agreements made between herself and the invading 
states- Jordan , Lebanon , Syria and Egypt respectively, while reserving her claims over the territory held by Jordan and Egypt .

However:

·         the Armistice Agreements were constantly breached by Arab terrorist infiltration emanating out of Jordan and Egypt ; and

·         Egypt breached international law and the Armistice Agreement with Israel by blockading the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping intermittently from 1948 until 1956, thereby prevented free access to the Israeli southern port of Eilat , as well as closing the Suez Canal to all shipping bound for other Israeli ports. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign+Relations/Israels+Foreign+Relations+since+1947/1947-1974/FREEDOM+OF+NAVIGATION-+INTRODUCTION.htm ;

·         The blockade was broken by a joint British, French and Israeli attack on the Suez Canal in 1956 in response to Egypt’s nationalisation of the international waterway. As part of the withdrawal arrangements, UN peace-keeping troops were stationed along the Egyptian border with Israel while the maritime nations gave their undertaking to support Israel should Egypt seek to re-impose its blockade.

In 1967,

·         Egypt re-imposed its maritime blockade in the Straits of Tiran and closed the Canal to Israel shipping;

·         the maritime nations failed to implement their guarantee,

·         the UN removed its peace-keeping force; and

·         the armies of Egypt , Syria and Jordan were poised in offensive mode against Israel which was threatened with annihilation.

Israel ’s appeals to the Security Council were in vain and on June 5, 1967 she executed pre-emptive self defensive strikes against Egypt, and Syria and retaliated against Jordanian attack, in what later became known as the “Six Day War.”

·         Israel overcame the immediate threats facing her and gained control and occupation of

o        the previously held Jordanian positions on the West side of the Jordan River including Jerusalem ;

o        Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip and Egyptian sovereign territory in Sinai;

o        Syrian sovereign territory in  the Golan Heights

·         The Arabs rejected Israeli offers of peace at the Khartoum : “no negotiation; no recognition and no peace.” 

·         The United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 242 which was accepted by both Jews and Arabs. Unfortunately the terms of the Resolution have been interpreted differently by the parties.

With intensive American support, extended peace negotiations took place between Israel and her adversaries in the 1980’s and a cold peace reigns between Israel and Egypt which regained all of  the territory it lost in 1967.
A slightly warmer peace pertains with Jordan which relinquished in favour of the Palestinians all its claims to the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River .

 

In taking military control of the West Bank and Gaza, over which no state has exercised legitimate sovereignty since the Ottoman defeat in 1920, Israel has the best claim to title based on the Treaty of Sevres 1920, Article 95; Palestine Mandate 1922, Article 8 and on the UN Charter, Article 80.

·         Based on the above international agreements and also consistent with the laws of belligerent occupation Israel, has also erected a number of military outposts in the West Bank territory to maintain the peace as well as establishing a number of civilian settlement blocks in the West Bank. Some of 
these have been erected on land owned by Jews prior to 1948 and others on undeveloped and unoccupied public or waste land owned by the 
Ottoman government in 1918.

·         While not illegal, a significant number of settlements have created a political obstacle to peace.

Following secret direct negotiations between Israel , led by Yitzhak Rabin, and the PLO, headed by Yassir Arafat, the parties succeeded - with Norwegian and American assistance – to agree the Oslo Accords in 1993 which included

·         mutual recognition of the opposing party;

·         an undertaking by Israel for a transfer of civilian powers to a Palestinian Authority, the members of which were to be chosen by Palestinians within the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza in free and democratic elections;

·         an interim arrangement on Palestinian self government by the Palestinian Authority for a period of five years; and

·         an undertaking to commence negotiations on a number of “Final Status” issues within three years of the commencement of the interim 
agreement- from which such issues had specifically been excluded. 

 

The Accords provided for and resulted in:

·         recognition by Israel of Palestinian aspirations and of the PLO as representing the Palestinian population in negotiations;

·         PLO recognition of Israel as having a legitimate existence;

·         An undertaking by the PLO to cease violence and to resolve its conflict with Israel by negotiation;

·         the admission into Gaza and the West Bank from their exile in Tunis, of the PLO political leadership and military of elements of  its organisation in 
the form of a “strong police force” to maintain the peace and suppress terrorism in Palestinian self governing territory;

·         a withdrawal and redeployment of Israeli forces from a large proportion of the Palestinian urban territory it captured in 1967; and

·         Palestinian self rule exercised over approximately 95% of the Palestinian population;

Unfortunately the parties have been able to resolve the political issues which appear to remain outstanding between them- sovereignty over Jerusalem
the extent of territorial; adjustments secure borders and the “Right of Return” of Palestinians refugees. Neither has there been a cessation of Palestinian violence.  In 2000, final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO broke down and the Palestinians resorted to armed attack on Israel’s civilian population waged by suicide bombers recruited, trained, armed and operationally directed by Hamas, an organisation linked to the Muslim Brotherhood 
and Fatah, one of the militant wings of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.
 

To counteract these attacks Israel has:

·         initiated targeted killings against the Palestinian terrorist leadership;

·         temporarily re-entered a number of  Palestinian cities in 2002 to eliminate  terrorist nests and destroy bomb building factories;

·         attempted to prevent the smuggling of weapons and armaments through subterranean tunnels between the Gaza Strip with Egypt; and

·         commenced the erection of a terrorist security barrier situated mainly on  previously held Arab land on the West Bank beyond the 1948 Israeli-Jordanian cease fire lines, the route of which has been adjusted many times to minimise the personal and economic hardship to Palestinians.

 

The barrier has dramatically reduced Israeli civilian casualties but its erection has brought international condemnation and an adverse advisory non-binding opinion issued by the international Court of Justice (ICJ). The opinion has, however, been subjected to serious professional criticism as being politically motivated and based on incorrect factual information. The ICJ opinion is inconsistent with a number of rulings made by the Israel Supreme Court based on detailed and actual facts on the ground.

 

International intervention in the search for a resolution to the conflict has been renewed as part of a global concern over continuing instability in the 
Middle East generally which has given rise to fears of an interruption or even a cessation in oil supplies to the West and the bringing into question by 
certain Middle Eastern powers of Israel’s very legitimacy. 

The United States , under its own auspices and those of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia initiated a new peace proposal – “A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (Road Map) in 2003. Thus far, the initiative has failed to produce any concrete results towards a rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians. 


In order to reduce continuing military confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants, Israel took unilateral action and withdrew her military occupation and civilian settlements completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the physical infrastructure and economic assets in the form of extensive greenhouses available for Palestinian use.

 

Palestinian elections held in 2005 brought victory to the Hamas party, whose declared political and military objectives are the elimination of Israel as an independent Jewish State. Since then an internecine conflict has been carried on between Hamas and Fatah for control over the Palestinian Authority, its assets and political largesse funded from abroad.

 

The Gaza Strip, now completely controlled by Hamas, is currently (2008) being employed both for smuggling weapons and ammunition from Egypt contrary to the Oslo Accords and as a staging area for the launching of short and medium ranged rockets directed against Israel civilian targets located inside Israel ‘proper’ i.e. well within the ‘green’ 1948 cease fire line.


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It is difficult to find a logical historical starting point in an examination of the legal and political issues arising from this long-standing conflict.

Since much of the Palestinian argument settles around the "illegality" of Israeli action and Israeli "legitimacy" as a sovereign Jewish state, the material contained in this resource book will centre on these issues. They must, however, be examined against the backdrop of the political, social and economic components of the situation to which they gave rise. 

·         At the local level most of the conflict revolves around Israel ’s purported expulsion of Arabs who claim to have held land in Palestine from "time immemorial.”

·         Regionally, especially after 1967, Israel 's presence in the Middle East is viewed as a destabilising factor. Its democratic government and society – with the freedom of expression and religion- is very different to that of its neighbours and presents a threat to the more or less autocratic secular and theocratic Arab governments in the Middle East which are still tribally constituted.

·         Globally, both from a secular and religious perspective, which is now beginning to express itself far beyond the confines of the Middle East ,

o        the  commercial demands by Western states, particularly America , for a politically free and stable access to Middle Eastern controlled oil must be ensured; and

o        expansionist Islam is unable to accept the existence of a Jewish state asserting sovereignty over territory considered as part of Islam’s hegemony and the fact that some of its religious adherents are placed under the "domination" of a dhimmi people (inferior “protected”) is anathema.

The Revd. Dr. James Parkes (1896-1981), one of the most remarkable figures in British Christianity in the twentieth century 
(
http://www.soton.ac.uk/parkes/about/jamesparkes.html ) has taken a different view from that described above and looks at the centrality of 
Palestine – the Land of Israel - from the religious perspectives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He concludes that the connection between the 
Jewish people and the Land of Israel lies at the core of Judaism, whereas in Christianity and Islam it is more peripheral. (James Parkes, A History of 
Palestine from 135 A .D. to Modern Times,
Victor, Gollancz, London , 1949; also  Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine, Penguin Books,  Harmondsworth, Mddx,1970)

In Parkes’ opinion, Palestine owes its unique position in the international political arena because the members of three world religions - Judaism, 
Christianity and Islam - are concerned in its destiny despite the fact that most of their respective adherents do not dwell in the country. Nevertheless, Palestine (the historical Roman name applied to the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast) has an unequalled prominence in Judaism which placed, and still continues to place, an emphasis on its physical occupation different from that expressed in Christianity and Islam:

 

·         For Muslims, the issue is not Palestine as a Holy Land, but Jerusalem as a Holy City - third holiest shrine in Islam - where according to Muslim 
belief, it was to and from “the furthest mosque” that Muhammad was miraculously transported in order to make his ascent into heaven.

”Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque”. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan 
min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa
.)

 

However, the Koran makes no specific reference to Jerusalem . Only some considerable time after Mohammad’s death, and for political reasons, 
did Islam link the “furthest mosque” to Jerusalem .

In contrast, Jerusalem (and its synonym, Zion ) appears 823 times in the Jewish Bible and in the Christian New Testament, Jerusalem is mentioned 154 times and Zion 7 times.  (Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem , Middle East September 2001
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84#Aqsa  )

In Islam, the central emphasis of religious practice is on the submission of the individual to the will of Allah. The Koran is not the history of the Arab people; all Muslims are equal, whatever their colour, nationality or country.

·         For Christians, Palestine is the Holy Land in which Jesus Christ lived his earthly life. In this sense it is unique and has no rival. But Christianity is neither tied to any particular geographical area nor to any particular people. Its central religious emphasis is on personal salvation and on the “second coming” of the Messiah –Jesus - marking the end of the world and the final judgment. Apart from pilgrimage, Christianity is disconnected with the Land; 
there is no religious obligation to settle there as there is in Judaism.

The New Testament contains the history of no country; it passes freely from the Palestinian landscape of the Gospels to the Hellenistic and Roman landscape of the later books and in both it records the story of a group of individuals within a larger environment.” ( Parkes, p.172)

·         For Jews, Palestine is a Holy Land in the sense of being a Promised Land where the destiny of and self-determination for the Jews is integral. 
They have an intense relationship with the Land going beyond that of either of the other two religions. Throughout the centuries Judaism has espoused the idea of settlement and repatriation of its adherents and possesses an all-pervading religious centrality possessed by no other land. The essential objective of the Jewish Messiah is seen in the restoration of the Jewish people from all the lands of its dispersion to the Holy Land-Palestine-Israel.

The central emphasis in Judaism, however, was and is the divine revelation of a way of life to be lived by men in community in this world. It relates 
to the whole life of a people on earth - domestically, socially, commercially, and its relations with other peoples (pre-modern ‘international’ relations) - as much as with its religion and its relations with its God.

Jewish laws and customs are based on the land and climate of Palestine ; its agricultural festivals of  Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost or 
Feast of Weeks) and Sukkoth (Tabernacles), follow the Palestinian seasons. Its post-biblical historical festivals are linked to events in Palestinian 
history, such as the joyful rededication of the Temple at the feast of Hanukkah and the mourning for its destruction on the ninth day of  the month 
of Av in the Jewish calendar.

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism places much less emphasis on life hereafter than do Christianity and Islam and retains its central spiritual, 
physical and political existence in the geographical actuality of Palestine Israel.

 

During the period of the exile from Palestine and its dispersion from the second to the eighteenth century, the Jewish people were recognised as both 
a religion and as a nation.  As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a Nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen. However civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be other than second-class subjects.

 

In their dispersion Jews built up a double religious life:

o        their loyalty in the lands of their sojourn was governed by the general principle that 'the law of the land is law';

o        Although religious observance in each community had to adjust Biblical and Talmudic law to the actualities of life under different rulers, nevertheless 
a continuous correspondence between communities and outstanding rabbis of the day ensured the continuity of traditional Jewish customs and ordinances as far as circumstances allowed.

But behind these local adjustments, Jewish religious interest still centred on the Bible, on the Mishnaic code and on Talmud whose integral fulfilment could only take place in the Land of Israel. (Parkes p.173)


For other more secular observers of the Middle East , the resolution to the conflict was to be found in the return of land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. However some have concluded that this is merely an interim stage in a longer process. The real conflict is still one of Islamic fundamentalist ascendancy.

Professor Benny Morris views the conflict thus:

“It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn't merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a "worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine" and declared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.

…Those currently riding high in the region-figures like Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iran 's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-are true believers who are convinced it is Allah's command and every Muslim's duty to extirpate the "Zionist entity" from the sacred soil of the Middle East .

For all its economic, political, scientific and cultural achievements and military prowess, Israel , at 60, remains profoundly insecure -- for there can be no real security for the Jewish state, surrounded by a surging sea of Muslims , in the absence of peace.”

(Benny Morris, From Dove to Hawk, Newsweek, May 8, 2008, http://www.newsweek.com/id/136085)

 


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It is against both a secular and religious backdrop that the resource material presented here has been prepared. It demonstrates Jewish historical 
attempts to attain peace with their Arab neighbours and emphasises, within a historical and political context, the legal aspects of these attempts and the factors which have thus far frustrated their attainment.

 

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