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How Strong Is the Arab Claim to Palestine?-Exactly who has the right to claim "I had it first?"
FrontpageMagazine ^ | 8-30-04 | Lawrence Auster

Posted on 08/30/2004 5:34:58 AM PDT by SJackson

There is a myth hanging over all discussion of the Palestinian problem: the myth that this land was "Arab" land taken from its native inhabitants by invading Jews. Whatever may be the correct solution to the problems of the Middle East, let's get a few things straight:

§ As a strictly legal matter, the Jews didn't take Palestine from the Arabs; they took it from the British, who exercised sovereign authority in Palestine under a League of Nations mandate for thirty years prior to Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. And the British don't want it back.

§ If you consider the British illegitimate usurpers, fine. In that case, this territory is not Arab land but Turkish land, a province of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years until the British wrested it from them during the Great War in 1917. And the Turks don't want it back.

§ If you look back earlier in history than the Ottoman Turks, who took over Palestine over in 1517, you find it under the sovereignty of the yet another empire not indigenous to Palestine: the Mamluks, who were Turkish and Circassian slave-soldiers headquartered in Egypt. And the Mamluks don't even exist any more, so they can't want it back.

So, going back 800 years, there's no particularly clear chain of title that makes Israel's title to the land inferior to that of any of the previous owners. Who were, continuing backward:

§ The Mamluks, already mentioned, who in 1250 took Palestine over from:

§ The Ayyubi dynasty, the descendants of Saladin, the Kurdish Muslim leader who in 1187 took Jerusalem and most of Palestine from:

§ The European Christian Crusaders, who in 1099 conquered Palestine from:

§ The Seljuk Turks, who ruled Palestine in the name of:

§ The Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad, which in 750 took over the sovereignty of the entire Near East from:

§ The Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus, which in 661 inherited control of the Islamic lands from

§ The Arabs of Arabia, who in the first flush of Islamic expansion conquered Palestine in 638 from:

§ The Byzantines, who (nice people—perhaps it should go to them?) didn't conquer the Levant, but, upon the division of the Roman Empire in 395, inherited Palestine from:

§ The Romans, who in 63 B.C. took it over from:

§ The last Jewish kingdom, which during the Maccabean rebellion from 168 to 140 B.C. won control of the land from:

§ The Hellenistic Greeks, who under Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. conquered the Near East from:

§ The Persian empire, which under Cyrus the Great in 639 B.C. freed Jerusalem and Judah from:

§ The Babylonian empire, which under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. took Jerusalem and Judah from:

§ The Jews, meaning the people of the Kingdom of Judah, who, in their earlier incarnation as the Israelites, seized the land in the 12th and 13th centuries B.C. from:

§ The Canaanites, who had inhabited the land for thousands of years before they were dispossessed by the Israelites.

As the foregoing suggests, any Arab claim to sovereignty based on inherited historical control will not stand up. Arabs are not native to Palestine, but are native to Arabia, which is called Arab-ia for the breathtakingly simple reason that it is the historic home of the Arabs. The terroritories comprising all other "Arab" states outside the Arabian peninsula—including Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, as well as the entity now formally under the Palestinian Authority—were originally non-Arab nations that were conquered by the Muslim Arabs when they spread out from the Arabian peninsula in the first great wave of jihad in the 7th century, defeating, mass-murdering, enslaving, dispossessing, converting, or reducing to the lowly status of dhimmitude millions of Christians and Jews and destroying their ancient and flourishing civilizations. Prior to being Christian, of course, these lands had even more ancient histories. Pharaonic Egypt, for example, was not an Arab country through its 3,000 year history.

The recent assertion by the Palestinian Arabs that they are descended from the ancient Canaanites whom the ancient Hebrews displaced is absurd in light of the archeological evidence. There is no record of the Canaanites surviving their destruction in ancient times. History records literally hundreds of ancient peoples that no longer exist. The Arab claim to be descended from Canaanites is an invention that came after the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the same crew who today deny that there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Prior to 1964 there was no "Palestinian" people and no "Palestinian" claim to Palestine; the Arab nations who sought to overrun and destroy Israel in 1948 planned to divide up the territory amongst themselves. Let us also remember that prior to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the name "Palestinian" referred to the Jews of Palestine.

In any case, today's "Palestine," meaning the West Bank and Gaza, is, like most of the world, inhabited by people who are not descendants of the first human society to inhabit that territory. This is true not only of recently settled countries like the United States and Argentina, where European settlers took the land from the indigenous inhabitants several hundred years ago, but also of ancient nations like Japan, whose current Mongoloid inhabitants displaced a primitive people, the Ainu, aeons ago. Major "native" tribes of South Africa, like the Zulu, are actually invaders from the north who arrived in the 17th century. India's caste system reflects waves of fair-skinned Aryan invaders who arrived in that country in the second millennium B.C. One could go on and on.

The only nations that have perfect continuity between their earliest known human inhabitants and their populations of the present day are Iceland, parts of China, and a few Pacific islands. The Chinese case is complicated by the fact that the great antiquity of Chinese civilization has largely erased the traces of whatever societies preceded it, making it difficult to reconstruct to what extent the expanding proto-Chinese displaced (or absorbed) the prehistoric peoples of that region. History is very sketchy in regard to the genealogies of ancient peoples. The upshot is that "aboriginalism"—the proposition that the closest descendants of the original inhabitants of a territory are the rightful owners—is not tenable in the real world. It is not clear that it would be a desirable idea even if it were tenable. Would human civilization really be better off if there had been no China, no Japan, no Greece, no Rome, no France, no England, no Ireland, no United States?

Back to the Arabs

I have no problem recognizing the legitimacy of the Arabs' tenure in Palestine when they had it, from 638 to 1099, a period of 461 years out of a history lasting 5,000 years. They took Palestine by military conquest, and they lost it by conquest, to the Christian Crusaders in 1099. Of course, military occupation by itself does not determine which party rightly has sovereignty in a given territory. Can it not be said that the Arabs have sovereign rights, if not to all of Israel, then at least to the West Bank, by virtue of their majority residency in that region from the early Middle Ages to the present?

To answer that question, let's look again at the historical record. Prior to 1947, as we've discussed, Palestine was administered by the British under the Palestine Mandate, the ultimate purpose of which, according to the Balfour Declaration, was the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. In 1924 the British divided the Palestine Mandate into an Arabs-only territory east of the Jordan, which became the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, and a greatly reduced Palestine Mandate territory west of the Jordan, which was inhabited by both Arabs and Jews.

Given the fact that the Jews and Arabs were unable to coexist in one state, there had to be two states. At the same time, there were no natural borders separating the two peoples, in the way that, for example, the Brenner Pass has historically marked the division between Latin and Germanic Europe. Since the Jewish population was concentrated near the coast, the Jewish state had to start at the coast and go some distance inland. Exactly where it should have stopped, and where the Arab state should have begun, was a practical question that could have been settled in any number of peaceful ways, almost all of which the Jews would have accepted. The Jews' willingness to compromise on territory was demonstrated not only by their acquiescence in the UN's 1947 partition plan, which gave them a state with squiggly, indefensible borders, but even by their earlier acceptance of the 1937 Peel Commission partition plan, which gave them nothing more than a part of the Galilee and a tiny strip along the coast. Yet the Arab nations, refusing to accept any Jewish sovereignty in Palestine even if it was the size of a postage stamp, unanimously rejected the 1937 Peel plan, and nine years later they violently rejected the UN's partition plan as well. When the Arabs resorted to arms in order to wipe out the Jews and destroy the Jewish state, they accepted the verdict of arms. They lost that verdict in 1948, and they lost it again in 1967, when Jordan, which had annexed the West Bank in 1948 (without any objections from Palestinian Arabs that their sovereign nationhood was being violated), attacked Israel from the West Bank during the Six Day War despite Israel's urgent pleas that it stay out of the conflict. Israel in self-defense then captured the West Bank. The Arabs thus have no grounds to complain either about Israel's existence (achieved in '48) or about its expanded sovereignty from the river to the sea (achieved in '67).

The Arabs have roiled the world for decades with their furious protest that their land has been "stolen" from them. One might take seriously such a statement if it came from a pacifist people such as the Tibetans, who had quietly inhabited their land for ages before it was seized by the Communist Chinese in 1950. The claim is laughable coming from the Arabs, who in the early Middle Ages conquered and reduced to slavery and penury ancient peoples and civilizations stretching from the borders of Persia to the Atlantic; who in 1947 rejected an Arab state in Palestine alongside a Jewish state and sought to obliterate the nascent Jewish state; who never called for a distinct Palestinian Arab state until the creation of the terrorist PLO in 1964—sixteen years after the founding of the state of Israel; and who to this moment continue to seek Israel's destruction, an object that would be enormously advanced by the creation of the Arab state they demand. The Arab claim to sovereign rights west of the Jordan is only humored today because of a fatal combination of world need for Arab oil, leftist Political Correctness that has cast the Israelis as "oppressors," and, of course, good old Jew-hatred.

Lawrence Auster

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Israel
KEYWORDS: cuneiform; exodus; godgavethislandtome; thisismyland
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1 posted on 08/30/2004 5:34:59 AM PDT by SJackson
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Yehuda; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; ...
If you'd like to be on this middle east/political ping list, please FR mail me.
2 posted on 08/30/2004 5:36:01 AM PDT by SJackson (You'd be amazed the number of people who wanna introduce themselves to you in the men's room J.Kerry)
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To: SJackson

Last sentence summed it all up pretty well for me. But then again I'm a gentile neocon, so go figure.

3 posted on 08/30/2004 5:37:33 AM PDT by SirLurkedalot (God bless our Veterans!!! And God bless America!!! Molon Labe.)
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To: SJackson

ill have to read this later

4 posted on 08/30/2004 5:37:52 AM PDT by escapefromboston (the real Green Lantern Returns!)
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To: SJackson
The above matters not. The Palestinian murderers gave $$$$ to the DNC.

5 posted on 08/30/2004 5:38:49 AM PDT by Diogenesis (Re: Protection from up on high, Keyser Sose has nothing on Sandy Berger, the DNC Burglar)
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To: SJackson

Already here but thanks for the ping regardless.

6 posted on 08/30/2004 5:39:28 AM PDT by SirLurkedalot (God bless our Veterans!!! And God bless America!!! Molon Labe.)
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To: SJackson

Excellent find! Thanks, S!

7 posted on 08/30/2004 5:45:17 AM PDT by NYC GOP Chick (Kerry is a Sitzpinkler!)
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To: SJackson

Add to all this that much of the 'Palestinian' lands were acquired by a rather conventional means. The Jews bought it. And they bought it often from absentee-landlords who were, mostly, Arabs. Then when the 'Palestinians' were displaced they tride to move to the nations of their 'brother' Arabs. Innstead of being welcomed as part of the family, they were treated as second class citizens, or worse--they were often not allowed to work, not allowed to own property and often, not allowed to stay. So they migrated back to Palestine. The Arab world doesn't give a damn about the Palestinian's real plight. They just want Israel to disappear.

8 posted on 08/30/2004 5:55:58 AM PDT by newheart (The Truth? You can't handle the Truth. But He can handle you.)
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To: SJackson

Bookmarked - thanks!

9 posted on 08/30/2004 6:07:27 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (Bush took less time to find Saddam that Hillary did to find the Rose Law Firm billing records!)
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To: SJackson

Excellent review and analysis.

10 posted on 08/30/2004 6:08:32 AM PDT by Paul_B
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To: SJackson
The article does not go into the origins of Palestinians. Aren't they the descendants of the Philistines, the seafaring warring people who helped destroy the Egyptian empire (I forget if it was the middle kingdom or not).

The article does raise a very important issue. At what point of history do we go to to assert "squatter" rights? Specially since we really don't know how human migration took place over the centuries. If evolution is true, then we all should move to Africa. And if the Bible is true, then we all should move to Iraq.

Impractical, and therefore we have to deal with reality as of today.
11 posted on 08/30/2004 6:11:15 AM PDT by razoroccam (Then in the name of Allah, they will let loose the germs of war (
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To: SJackson
A few indisputable facts:
1)During World War I the British were at war with the Ottoman Empire.
Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire.
2)When Britain defeated the Ottoman Empire, the British had the legal and historic right to carve up the Empire in any manner they pleased.
Such is and always has been the right of the conqueror.
3)The British, rightly or wrongly, promised the Jews a home in Palestine; this promise was embodied in the Balfour Declaration. This was a promise they had a right to fulfill after they took control of Palestine. 4)The British promised Emir of Mecca that he would receive Aleppo, Homs, Homa, and Damascus if he assisted the British with the war against the Ottoman Empire.
As anyone knows who looks at a map, these are four cities in Syria.
The British were deliberately vague as to whether the promise entailed control of the cities alone, the cities and their environs, or the provinces of which the cities were the capitals.
The implication the Arabs chose to make of this pledge is meaningless, since they were not the "promising" party, nor did they have the power to compel the British to interpret the promise in a manner favorable to Arab desires.
In any event, this was a personal promise made to the Emir and not to the "Arabs," who did not exist as any sort of clearly defined ethnic group since society in the Middle East was tribal and not national.
5) It is true that Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speaks of the "self-determination" of peoples, but this document did not bind the British,nor did they recognize it.
In any event the United States was never at war with the Ottoman Empire, so any pronouncement made by Wilson bound the United States and not those countries at war with the Ottoman Empire.

The Arabs feel they have a right to "Palestine",but this right rests on nothing more than the Arab conquest of the area from the Byzantine Empire.
As is known by any student of history, a territory that you conquer is yours as long as you have the force to keep others out.
12 posted on 08/30/2004 6:17:55 AM PDT by quadrant
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To: quadrant

History is what it is.

The history of those who over the past centuries who sought to take the claim of that piece of real estate is never ending.

There is always differing arguments as to who "legally" holds the claim, yet few actually have taken the time to lay out what was written would be. Some use the "Bible" to stake a claim, others uses their own "good" books. Interesting little thing about all these happenings, they have happened just the way it was written all those centuries ago.

Some might have the burning desire to find out "WHAT" is next!

13 posted on 08/30/2004 6:26:54 AM PDT by Just mythoughts
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To: SJackson

anyone have that map of Israel in the Arab world? always very instructive when discussing how Jews are "occupying" Arab land.

14 posted on 08/30/2004 6:32:23 AM PDT by montag813
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To: SJackson

Bump for later.

15 posted on 08/30/2004 6:34:28 AM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: quadrant
As is known by any student of history, a territory that you conquer is yours as long as you have the force to keep others out.

So you don't believe in property rights? Why are you on FreeRepublic?

Either the pre 1948 inhabitants of Palestine had property rights to the land they inhabited regardless of the outcome of any war (you are familiar with the Geneva Convetion, aren't you?), or no one has such rights, and the right to property exists only at the sufference of the State (sounds pretty communistic to me, but then we are discussing the defense of an obviously communistic state in Israel, where the government "owns" 95%+ of the land).

This is fundementally what the argument is about, even more than over sovereignty - the dispossesion by force of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from their houses and land in 1948 and since 1967, and their reoccupation by Israelis under the color of law.

If you don't believe me, ask any Palestinian whose family lost their property whether or not they would like it back, or have preferred to have kept it, and whether that is their primary beef. It would be mine too if someone stole my home, and all I was left with was the clothes on my back.

16 posted on 08/30/2004 6:42:11 AM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
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To: SJackson
This is kind of long...but I guess I've been saving it for something like your question.

by Dr. Manfred R. Lehmann
The Moslem "claim" to Jerusalem is based on what is written in the Koran, which although Jerusalem is not mentioned even once, nevertheless talks (in Sura 17:1) of the "Furthest Mosque": "Glory be unto Allah who did take his servant for a journey at night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque."
But is there any foundation to the Moslem argument that this "Furthest Mosque" (Al-Masujidi al-Aqtza) refers to what is today called the Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem? The answer is, none whatsoever.
In the days of Mohammed, who died in 632 of the Common Era, Jerusalem was a Christian city within the Byzantine Empire. Jerusalem was captured by Khalif Omar only in 638, six years after Mohammed's death.
Throughout all this time there were only churches in Jerusalem, and a church stood on the Temple Mount, called the Church of Saint Mary of Justinian, built in the Byzantine architectural style. The Aksa Mosque was built 20 years after the Dome of the Rock, which was built in 691-692 by Khalif Abd El Malik. The name "Omar Mosque" is therefore false.
In or around 711, or about 80 years after Mohammed died, Malik's son, Abd El-Wahd - who ruled from 705-715 - reconstructed the Christian- Byzantine Church of St. Mary and converted it into a mosque. He left the structure as it was, a typical Byzantine "basilica" structure with a row of pillars on either side of the rectangular "ship" in the center. All he added was an onion-like dome on top of the building to make it look like a mosque. He then named it El-Aksa, so it would sound like the one mentioned in the Koran.
Therefore it is crystal clear that Mohammed could never have had this mosque in mind when he compiled the Koran, since it did not exist for another three generations after his death. Rather, as many scholars long ago established, it is logical that Mohammed intended the mosque in Mecca as the "Sacred Mosque," and the mosque in Medina as the "Furthest Mosque." So much for the Moslem claim based on the Aksa Mosque.
With this understood, it is no wonder that Mohammed issued a strict prohibition against facing Jerusalem in prayer, a practice that had been tolerated only for some months in order to lure Jews to convert to Islam. When that effort failed, Mohammed put an abrupt stop to it on February 12, 624. Jerusalem simply never held any sanctity for the Moslems themselves, but only for the Jews in their domain. [DR. MANFRED R. LEHMANN is a writer for the Algemeiner Journal. Originally published in the Algemeiner Journal, August 19, 1994.]

17 posted on 08/30/2004 6:59:35 AM PDT by Khurkris (Proud Scottish/HillBilly - We perfected "The Art of the Grudge")
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To: montag813

18 posted on 08/30/2004 7:01:18 AM PDT by Alouette (My son, the Learned Youngster of Zion)
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To: SJackson

God gave this land to his chosen people.

It doesn't matter who "was there first".

19 posted on 08/30/2004 7:14:41 AM PDT by BenLurkin (Who was Madame Binh's messenger boy?)
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To: Hermann the Cherusker
Of course, I believe in property rights, but the Arabs were enemy combatants; that is, thousands served in the Ottoman armies. Thus, the British were free to dispose of Arab properly in any manner they pleased.
Just as Southerners discovered after the Civil War, the victorious power has the right to dispose of your property in any way he deems fit.
France discovered learned this after the Franco-Prussian War when Germany annexed Alsace-Lorraine.
Germany learned the same lesson after WWII, when it was forced to cede East Prussia to Poland.
In any event, the Arabs living on the land were for most part tenant farmers without any ownership rights.
Almost of the land in "Palestine" was owned by absentee landlords who lived in Damascus, who were only too willing to sell the land to the Jews. In fact, so willing were these landlords to sell, that the Zionist organizations lacked the funds to purchase all that came on the market.

The state must guarantee property rights, but for rights to have meaning there must be a guarantor. As the world exists now, the guarantor is the state. If the state no longer exists nor has no power to protect its citizens, then rights become a tenuous matter.
If you doubt this, visit You'll see maps depicting how the Western part of the United States is to be carved up into a new state called Aztlan.
Believe me, should the United States lose a major war and be occupied by a hostile power, the demands to create this new state will be made and made vociferously.
If Aztlan is ever created, you can be certain its rulers will not look kindly on the property rights of non-Hispanics.

The Geneva Convention is just that, a convention among states. There was (and is) no state called Arabia. As I said, the British promise was given to the Emir of Mecca alone and not to the Arabs.

I agree that the dispossession of Arab property by the Israelis is regrettable, but this unfortunate situation could have been avoided, if the Arabs had been willing to allow the Jews to settle in Palestine.
In fact, Arab hostility to Jewish settlement is the one constant fact in the history of the area.
Of course, Arabs want their property back, but they abandoned it in the first place or they sided with the invading Arab armies.
Might does not make right, but it makes fact. Facts may be unfortunate, but they are real.
20 posted on 08/30/2004 7:30:51 AM PDT by quadrant
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