Palestine: The Lost Land

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Palestine: The Lost Land

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”… Nelson Mandela.

Many people use this comparison between the Palestinians and South Africans. Both witnessed the same violence to leave their homeland; being replaced with colonising populations fuelled by racist ideologies. Both populations fought for their right to stay. South Africans found their way to liberty while Palestinians did not!

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Years of Resistance

After many years of resistance, the Israeli plan to uproot the people and land of Palestine failed. Palestinians are still there. Israel controls the borders, the land and even the water supply. It removed as many traces of Palestinian culture as possible and replaced them with a new face of Israel. It changed location names from Arabic to Hebrew. It did everything and anything to change the identity of the land, even triggering a debate as to who are the true original inhabitants of the land – which still rages today. All these actions are crashed with the resistance of Palestinians; having resisted by keeping their Arabic identity intact despite all the efforts to wipe them out. They are armed with patience and determination.

To have more insight of this issue, let’s go back in time to provide an understanding of some events of the past that are still shaping the present.

History of the land

First, let us tackle the above argument of original inhabitants of the land. Many references acknowledge that the Arab Canaanites who migrated from the Arabian Peninsula were the first inhabitants of this region (2500 BC). People relied on the use of Semitic names of cities like Jericho (meaning the moon) which counted as the oldest city in the world and Acre which was known as Akkaw (meaning hot sand) and other cities. Its worth mentioning, the Arabian Peninsula has long been accepted as the original Urheimat of the Semitic languages by majority of scholars. [1][2][3]

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1900 BC, Abraham lived in Palestine and gave birth to Ismael and Isaak. Then, Isaak gave birth to Jacob. The descendants of Jacob are known as Israelites. They ruled part of the land of Palestine for four centuries. Accordingly, arabs have been there by almost 400 years. With all these facts, the claim of original inhabitants is tackled thoroughly. On the other hand, the name of Israel was intentionally used to represent the right of existence of the current state of Israel while many Judaism groups deny this abuse, they admit that it’s used for political reasons.

This land has witnessed many violent conflicts and change of authorities from Muslims to Byzantines, after which came the Crusades. The longest period of authority was held by the Muslims, which lasted for 12 centuries. During this period, the existence of other religions was allowed without any restriction. By contrary, we can see the ethnic cleansing actions which are taken by the state of Israel against Muslims and Christians which has limited even the most basic of human rights, to such things as complete simple religious practices or travel freely.

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Israel is Not The Victim 

Many people don’t know how this state is created especially in the west. With the power of the Jewish lobby in many countries controlling the media ‘message’.  Israel has worked hard to frame itself as the victim.

Let’s discuss briefly – without going in too deep into historical details – the creation of this state.

The Creation of Israel 

In modern history, many Jewish settled in Western Europe where they were given all the rights of citizenship and they could reach high political, economical and social positions. While in the Eastern Europe where the majority of Jewish population were living, they couldn’t cope with the changes of Russian regimes and were involved in many resistance groups.

This involvement resulted in the trigger of aggressive procedures against Jews which called afterwards “anti Semitism”. Jews faced the same aggressive procedures in other places in Europe. As a result, the Zionist movement was created. The second wave of pogroms was during the period of 1903 to 1906 in Eastern Europe. At this point, the Jews tried to find a way out. Accordingly, high level of immigrations to Western Europe, South America and North America took place. Administrators of these countries became overwhelmed by a large influx of immigrants to their lands.

  Isla de Pascua

On the other hand, much of the public was disaffected by the inability of the Jews to assimilate into their newfound societies. Meanwhile, it became more difficult to get the Jews employed. For instance, in Britain, the Alien Act was introduced which argued that alien immigrants caused overcrowding and tensions in working class communities, thereby threatening law and order. Other efforts were exerted, in 1904, the fourth Zionist congress decided to establish a national home for Jews in Argentina.

Two years later, the decision changed to Palestine.

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Sykes-Picot to Nakba

In 1916, a secret agreement between the governments of UK and France with the assent of Russia called “Sykes-Picot agreement” took place after World War 1 defining their proposed sphere of influence and control in the Middle East after defeating the Ottoman Empire. Zionists found this as an opportunity to create a state for Jews in Palestine.

The Balfour declaration in 1917 stated that “British government views with favour the establishment in Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people“. It stated also “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

The west found this as a great opportunity especially during the weakness of Ottoman Empire in that time.

After that, Jewish immigration increased dramatically when the mandate for Palestine was approved by the League of Nations in 1922. On the other side, the Palestinians fight began. Different conferences were held by Palestinians to express opposition for Balfour declaration. The British facilitated Jewish immigrations and started selling lands to them. Large scale Jewish settlements were established and extensive Zionist agricultural and industrial enterprises developed during the British mandatory period.

The Palestinians acknowledged the risk of being minority due to these actions, and declared a general strike and stopped paying taxes as a protest. This is when the violence started. Palestinians fought to keep the identity of their land.

The British responded by increasing their military forces, imprisonments of Palestinians without charges, curfews and house demolitions. British authorities attempted to confiscate all weapons from the Palestinians. This, and the destruction of the main Arab political leadership in the revolt, greatly hindered their military efforts in 1948. At the same time Zionist groups such the Irgun, the Lehi, the Haganah and the Palmach targeted civilians’ areas to force the Palestinians to leave their homes. Immigration of Jews is escalated during World War 2 (September 1939) while the British government restricted the immigration of Jews to Palestine in that year. Accordingly, Zionist groups targeted British forces in Palestine to force British government to open the immigration of Jews.

Exhausted by the violence, Britain decided to withdraw from Palestine in 1947 and called the United Nations to make recommendations. One year later, the creation of the state of Israel is declared by the Zionists. For Palestinians, 1948 marks the ‘Nakba’ or the ‘catastrophe’.

Ironically, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that designated Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination in 1975.

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The blame game

With all these facts Palestinians are blamed for not acknowledging the right of the existence of the state of Israel.  British politician George Galloway has said  ”what right did Britain have to grant Jews somebody else’s country?”

The one place in the entire world that Jews were neither discriminated against, nor subject to pogrom was the Muslim world. When Christianity came back to power in Andalusia in the western extinct of the Islamic empire, Jews have left with the Muslims because they feared the Christian anti-Semitism would be unleashed in the wake of the departure of the Islamic civilisation in the west.

The cost for anti-Semitism pogroms against Jews in Europe was not paid by the European countries. Instead, it was, and still is paid by the innocent people of Palestine.

 Weaam Mostafa Bayaa is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt.

[1] Gray, Louis Herbert (2006) Introduction to Semitic Comparative Linguistics
[2] Courtenay, James John (2009) The Language of Palestine and Adjacent Regions
[3] Kienast, Burkhart (2001) Historische semitische Sprachwissenschaft.