- Category: History
- Published: Tuesday, 05 August 2014 12:39
- Written by NAF
- Hits: 402
Here is a short history of Israel and Palestine from the ancient to the modern in bits and pieces. This is sourced almost entirely and often verbatim from Syed Iqbal Zaheer\'s \"A Short History of Israel\". This is kept purposely short to allow even those not used to reading to get a bird\'s eye view of this history that has affected and continues to affect human beings even today. This is being serialized in parts on email, WhatsApp and Facebook. This page is an archive of those parts.
For those who can read a short book, I would recommend them to read the whole book. It has been published in India by the Iqra WelfareTrust, Queens Road, Bangalore. It may be available online here.
Sources used by Syed Iqbal Zaheer:
The history from Abraham to Jesus is based primarily on the Bible. For history of the Prophet Muhammad\'s (peace be upon him) period authentic Islamic sources have been consulted. Western sources have been used for the remaining sections of the book. For recent events (recent means mid nineties), reliable newspapers and magazines have been used such as the scholarly Journal of Palestine Studies.
FROM ABRAHAM TO JESUS
In the beginning
It was to Abraham that God first made the promise about the land of Canaan - modern day Palestine: \"To your descendants I will give this land\" (Genesis 12:7). Abraham had a wife Sarah and an Egyptian maid Hagar. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael and ten years later Sarah to Isaac. Sarah out of jealousy had Hagar banished to Shur (present day Sinai according to Jewish and Christian sources but according to ancient Arabs and later confirmed by the Qur\'an Arabia proper).
Isaac remained in Palestine. He took Rebekah as his wife who gave him two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob was the favourite of God who when once God came down to earth, almost defeated Him in a wrestling match and earned the title \"Israel\" - God\'s warrior. His children became the twelve tribes that came to be known as the Israelites. Once during a journey as Jacob lay down for a nap, God appeared to him in a dream and said: \"I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac, the land on which you lie, I will give to you and your descendants\".
This and others of this sort in the Torah, according to the Jews, are the promises made by God to Israelites for the land of Palestine as their central and eternal place of dwelling. And this is in essence where Israel\'s history begins: about 4000 years ago.
Note: The author has avoided placing the invocations of peace and blessings on Hebrew prophets (which is a custom in Islamic writings) since they are hardly recognizable as Prophets through the translucent Biblical glass. All kinds of abhorrent things have been alluded to them in the Bible. For their true life, works and character, one will have to go to the Islamic sources.
So, what exactly were the boundaries of this \'promised\' land?
\"And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea of Philistines and from the wilderness to the Euphrates: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand and you shall drive them out before you.\" (Exodus, 23:31)
This area includes Sinai, Iraq up to Euphrates river, lower half of Lebanon and eastern parts of Jordan (although according to the more \'knowledgeable\' Jews this includes Madinah, Syria and Iraq also).
What was to be done with the people in those areas? According to the verses above, they were to be driven out. But when the Israelites reached there after escaping from the Pharaoh, they killed all the males (Numbers, verse 7) and enslaved the women and children. But when they went to Moses, instead of denouncing their senseless slaughter, he was angry for exactly the opposite reason:
\"Have you let all the women live?\" (verse 15). \"Kill every women who has known man by lying with him, but all the young girls... keep them alive for yourself.\" (Numbers, 31:17,18)
The Israelites though unabashed persecutors of their Prophets were sometimes obedient to them. They carried out the orders faithfully!
Moral: One would have thought that people who had suffered so much under the Egyptian Pharaoh would be nice to other people. Instead when they reached Palestine, they killed all the men and most women (this is what the Bible says and this is what inspires them). This unholy history was repeated during the formation of the modern state of Israel as we shall see later (persecution under Hitler and killing of Palestinians after reaching Palestine as is happening even now).
Save Alive Nothing
Later the rules were changed a little. All those living outside the promised land could be offered peace. If they accepted, all males and females would become slaves. If they fought, all males would be killed and women and children enslaved. As for those living inside the promised land:
\"But in the cities of those people that the Lord your God gives you for as an inheritance you shall save alive nothing that breathes.\" (Deuteronomy, 20:16)
Everything was killed including animals.
\"When Israel had finished slaughtering all the people of Ai (a town somewhere in Palestine)… And all who fell that day, both men and women were 12000.\" (Joshua, 8:24,25)
City after city, dwelling after dwelling the holy injunction was carried out in letter and spirit.
\"And Joshua took Makkedah and smote it and its king with the edge of the sword, he utterly destroyed every person in it.\" (Joshua, 10:28)
\"And he smote it (Libnah) with the edge of the sword and every person in it.\" (Joshua, 10:29, 30)
\"And Joshua smote it (Lachish) with the edge of the sword and every person in it.\" (Joshua, 10:31,32)
\"And Joshua smote it (Haram, King of Gezer) and his people until he left none remaining.\" (Joshua, 10:33)
And likewise for other cities. In this sea of blood were laid the foundations of the first kingdom of Israel about 3400 years ago.
But, the land taken with such bloodshed and massacre could not keep the Israelites united. Soon they became divided politically and religiously. At the same time, far from accepting defeat, the original inhabitants, the Philistines, Canaanites, Amalekites, Midianites, Ammonites and even desert dwelling Arabs regularly made incursions into Israeli occupied territory. The Philistines especially proved to be hard nuts to crack.
By 1000 BC the Israelites were a completely transformed people. Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Moses, had now become \"the God of all gods\" (Deuteronomy, 10:7). Magic became rampant. Prostitution was widely practiced.
At this stage according to the bible, the Prophet Samuel and king Saul appeared. They managed to restrict the influence and strength of the Philistines and paved the way for the great Prophet and king David. While he founded a powerful kingdom, the next king and Prophet Solomon provided the commerce. The famous Temple of Jerusalem was built by him.
But the later generations were ungrateful even to David and Solomon. While the empire built by them was torn to pieces by their descendants, the historians of Israel charge the Prophets with rape, murder and even idolatry.
There was much truth when Jesus appearing nine centuries later, addressed them thus: \"O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things.\" (Mathew 12:34)
Politically the Israelites became divided into the Kingdom of Israel and Judah who often fought each other. This anarchy provided splendid opportunities to Canaanites, Assyrians and Philistines to nibble away territories. The Assyrians dealt a deadly blow in 8 BC when they carried away 10 of the 12 Jewish tribes as slaves who never returned. The remaining Israelites assimilated with the people of the Fertile Crescent.
It was fit in the eyes of Yahweh therefore that the Jews should lose their independence. This happened in degrees until in 598 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and captured Jerusalem. When Jews revolted he dealt the blow that was the severest. He destroyed Jerusalem altogether. Not a wall was left standing. The temple of Jerusalem was razed to the ground. The Torah was burned. The King\'s sons were put to death and his own eyes pulled out in public.
The appearance of a Prophet and a king helped a little allowing them to return to Jerusalem. The Torah was rewritten, the high priest reappointed. But things could never be the same. The wound inflicted by Nebuchadnezzar was too deep and too large to be healed. It left a permanent scar on the Israeli psyche. The belief that they were a chosen people had a suffered a great setback. They listened to their priests in half belief.
The appearance of more Prophets hardly helped the situation. They persecuted some and killed some. This is how they treated Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, John the Baptist and others. The ownership of Jerusalem meanwhile passed from Babylonians to Greeks to Seleucids, to Jews for a short while and finally to Romans some 60 years before Christ. It would remain with them until the appearance of Muslim armies at its gates 700 years later.
Here\'s a summary of the summary of Israel\'s history from Abraham to Jesus. Remember this is according to the Bible.
Israel is the title of the Jacob who was given the promise by God about 4000 years ago that the land covering modern day Palestine would be for him and his children. But his children, the Israelites, migrated to Egypt and eventually ended up as slaves of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses was born among them and he managed to free his people and deliver them to the promised land.
But the Israelites never really followed him or other Prophets. According to the Bible, Moses and later Joshua were ordered to kill all the people that were living in the promised land. A large number of people were massacred. Thus the foundations of the first state of Israel were laid in a sea of blood about 3400 years ago.
But the Israelites degenerated over time, fighting against each other, sometimes even killing their own Prophets and practicing idolatry, magic and prostitution. The Philistines and other communities they had displaced kept fighting back. Later Prophets appeared who managed to reduce their influence. They were followed by David and Solomon, two of the biggest Prophets and Kings of the Israelites in history. Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem.
Later the kingdom degenerated and divided into two parts, Israel and Judah. The Assyrians attacked them and carried away a large number of them as slaves who never returned. Later Nebuchadnezzar attacked them and destroyed Jerusalem completely including the Temple and killed many. This left a deep scar on their psyche. With the coming of the later Prophets, situation improved somewhat. But Jerusalem changed hands until 60 years before Jesus, it came under the control of the Romans.
FROM JESUS TO MUHAMMAD (PBUH)
After Palestine became a province of Roman Empire, the Jews did not suffer much loss initially. In fact, they were free to practice their religion, follow their personal law, and even had some political autonomy when one of their men (Herod the Great) ruled over them. It was, however, the appearance of a new Prophet, Jesus, son of Mary, that ushered in a really new phase in their history.
They asked him for signs, he produced many. They called him a sorcerer, jeered at him and rejected him. But he began winning converts and attacking their rich and priestly classes for their corrupt ways:
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too... Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.\" (Mathew 23:25,26,28)
All this was more than they could bear, so they decided to do away with him. He had this to say about their past and future:
\"So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?\" (Mathew 23:31-33)
Here\'s a brief account of what happened in the final stages of Jesus\'s life.
\"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.\" (Mathew 27:2)
But they didn\'t have the power to do it themselves, so:
\"When they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor.\" (Mathew 27:2)
The Governor, however, after some questioning wasn\'t convinced:
\"Then said Pilate to the chief priest and to the people: I find no fault in this man.\" (Luke 23:4)
But, the Jews continued their accusations. The Governor was in a dilemma. If he dismissed the case, they would stir trouble and he would be questioned by the king in Rome. But if he hanged the accused he would be hanging an innocent soul.
He offered to release Jesus as a part of the custom of releasing a prisoner on Passover (a Jewish feast). But they instead said, they would rather have Barabbas (a robber and murderer) released, not Jesus.
\"When Pilate saw that he would prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Then answered all the people, and said, \"His blood be on us, and on our children.\" Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.\" (Mathew 27:24-26)
The Qur\'an does not agree with the end of the story of Jesus\'s life as narrated in the Bible. It says: \"They declared: We have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah! They did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared so unto them...\" (Qur\'an 4:157)
To the annoyance of Jews, disappearance of Jesus however did not mean the disappearance of Christianity. Christians after some initial hesitation threw their doors open to non-Jews. Their growing numbers led to the persecution of nascent Christian groups. With the establishment of a separate Church the cleavage between them was complete.
The struggle against Roman rule continued in the meanwhile. Finally in 70 CE they revolted. The Roman Governor was now Titus and he besieged Jerusalem and the Jews took shelter behind its strong walls. After some fighting the city was captured. Jews were slaughtered in thousands and the city was razed to the ground. The Temple was burned, never to be rebuilt again.
Later the Qur\'an reminded them of this and warned of the future in verses 4-8 of chapter 17.
The revolt of 70 CE (Common Era) was not the last. In 135 CE they organized themselves for the last time. After crushing the revolt the Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem altogether. Emperor Hadrian built a new pagan city on the ruins of Jerusalem and gradually evicted Jews from the whole of Palestine allowing them to enter only once a year to weep by the Temple remains.
The Christians in the meanwhile were growing in number. Taken as a Jewish sect they too were occasionally persecuted by the Romans. But they survived by moving to new grounds and winning converts until early in 4 CE they achieved a major breakthrough: conversion of Roman Emperor, Constantine I. By the end of the same century Christianity had become the state religion of the most illustrious empire of its time and with that the ecclesiastical power began to shift from Jerusalem to Rome.
By 7th century CE, Christianity having overcome paganism in Roman Empire began moving Westward. While it easily overcame older religions in Europe, it faced a resolute resistance from Jews who had settled in Europe after being expelled from Palestine. Unable to persuade them to fall into the mainstream, Christianity began to persecute them. In Spain, the practice of Judaism was altogether prohibited until the arrival of Muslim armies in 8th century CE.
Recap: Jesus to Muhammad (pbuh)
After Palestine became a part of the Roman Empire, the Jews did not suffer much loss initially. It was the appearance of a new Prophet, Jesus, son of Mary, that ushered in a really new phase in their history. They asked him for signs, he produced many. They called him a sorcerer, jeered at him and rejected him. But when he began winning converts and attacking their rich and priestly classes for their corrupt ways, they decided to do away with him. Inciting the governor Pontius Pilate against him accusing him of treason against Roman rule, they managed to get him crucified, according to the Bible. The Quran however, does not agree with the crucifixion part.
To the annoyance of Jews, disappearance of Jesus however did not mean the disappearance of Christianity. Christians decided to preach to the non-Jews and their numbers increased.
The Jews revolted against Roman rule in 70 CE. The governor Titus put down the rebellion with an iron fist slaughtering thousands and destroying the Temple, which was never rebuilt again. But this revolt was not the last. The Jews revolted for the last time in 135 CE. This time the Romans after putting down the rebellion expelled Jews completely from the whole of Palestine.
Taken as a Jewish sect the Christians too were sometimes persecuted by Romans. But they survived by moving to new grounds and winning converts until early in 4 CE they managed to convert the Roman Emperor Constantine I. By 7th century CE, Christianity having overcome paganism in Roman Empire started moving westwards into Europe converting most people; except the Jews. Frustrated and with a historical enmity they began persecuting them, completely outlawing the practice of Judaism in Spain until the arrival of Muslim armies in 8th century CE.
FROM MUHAMMAD (PBUH) TO MODERN TIMES
The Call of Muhammad
When they were expelled from Palestine, some of the Jews opted to go to Arabia settling in various places, most notably in Madinah in anticipation of a new Prophet who would lead them to victory. The new Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), appeared in 610 CE but to the great disappointment of the Jews not in the Israeli but the Ishmaeli line: the Arabs. He called them in the most tender ways reminding them of the favors that God had bestowed upon them (see Qur’an 2:40 as an example).
What was the reply of the Jews? Scorn and ridicule of course. Disappointed at their attitude, the Prophet asked them next of only one thing: peace. They agreed. But the treaties of peace were not to be honored. The Children of Israel, the heirs of the Prophets, the bearers of Holy Scriptures, the believers in One God opted to side with the pagans of Makkah against a Prophet who invited them to One God.
At last the Prophet had to expel them from Madinah and then from Khyber as punishment for their repeated treacheries. They chose to go further north to Syria. But scarcely had they settled there that Muslim armies surrounded it (638 CE) and captured it from Romans. Umar, the second Caliph of Islam, in recognition of the sanctity of the city traveled to Jerusalem, in person, to receive the key from the Bishop. Later, a shrine (Dome of the Rock) and a mosque (Masjid al Aqsa) was built there around the ruins of the Temple of Solomon.
Quickly the Muslims established their rule, culture and religion in the whole of Palestine winning over almost all Christians, pagans and even some Jews. But the fall of Jerusalem into Muslim hands was a severe blow to the Jews. Frustrated they slowly began shifting to Europe.
In Their Diaspora
It was not long before the Jews discovered that they were not wanted in Europe. Persecutions in various forms began and they took refuge in Spain then under Muslim rule (early 8th century). Here the Jews enjoyed a period of peace and tranquility that they were denied for centuries. Fair minded Jews have always admitted that their 500 year long stay in Muslim Spain can, in many respects, be considered the golden period of their history.
But when the Muslims were expelled from Spain in the 13th century, Europe took to persecution of the Jews again. The Jews were completely expelled from Britain then France and the whole of 14th century saw their massacres in Spain. In 1496, Portugal expelled them.
Things began to improve for the rich Jews in Western Europe in the 19th century. The masses however continued to be discriminated against and assigned to ghettos. Things were gradually worsening for them when the man who would put Nebuchadnezzar and Titus to shame appeared in Germany. What exactly were the causes that gave Hitler the insatiable hatred of the Jews is not known. Perhaps it was their unfair trade practices. Whatever the reason the Germans began the task of exterminating the Jews.
Major part of their wealth was confiscated by the government. Their citizenship was taken away and they were required to wear yellow badges. They could not attend public schools, engage in business or frequent any public place. Finally the Jews were collected and sent to concentration camps. Nearby huge gas chambers were built. Those who tried to escape to the other European countries were denied entry. Many returned to Germany to be fed to the gas chambers. Most conservative estimates put the death toll at around 300,000.
This is how Europe treated the Jews at the height of its enlightenment.
The Zionist Plan
The desire to return to Palestine had always occupied the Jewish mind since the forced exile by Titus in 70 CE. With the relentless persecution of the Jews by the European peoples the desire became a need.
Their intellectuals started closely and anxiously watching the ageing and foreseeable breakup of the Turkish Empire. If the British, French and Russians were prowling around Turkey like hungry wolves around an aged lion, the Jews were not far behind.
In 1897, a man called Theodor Herzl called for a Jewish conference in Basle to work together for a national homeland for the Jews. Various places were proposed such as Argentina, Kenya and even Nebraska. But the extremist core of the Zionists including Herzl stuck to Palestine.
With the Turks losing control and French and British armies taking their place, the Jews started clamoring more and more for a homeland. They let no occasion slip when they would not suggest to the colonists that with the withdrawal of French and British, all exercises to break up Turkish and Muslim unity would be waste if they did not install a friendly people like the Jews firmly in the heart of the Middle East: Palestine. On its part, Europe had found the final solution of the Jewish problem.
The greatest hurdle in this regard was that the Palestine that everyone spoke of was not an empty stretch of land. A survey in 1917 showed that it was inhabited by 700,000 people: 92% Arabs and 8% Jewish. Of the total land area, the Jews owned less than 1% at the beginning of the century.
The Western Deceptions
Implementation of the plan started early. Emigration of the Jews was covertly encouraged and assisted. Various Jewish organizations in Europe and USA provided financial support to the migrating artisans and peasants. They purchased lands at higher than market prices from owners who were not Palestinian and did not understand the local problems. When local populations did not sell, they were terrorized by Jewish guerrilla groups that had sprung up.
With British gaining power over Syria and Iraq, a Jew and Zionist Sir Herbert Samuel was appointed the High Commissioner of the Palestine province. He started the revival of the Hebrew language and culture on one side and expulsion of Arabs through high taxation, confiscation of lands or on pretexts of land development schemes on the other. The numbers of Jews in Palestine started increasing. In 1918 they were 56,000 and by 1948 they had grown to 540,000.
While this was happening, another game was being played out on the Arabs. The French and the British had entered the Arab world promising help to the nationalist Arabs in their struggle against the Turks. But they would not move out after the defeat of the Turkish armies. To the alarmed Arabs a promise was made in the well-known Hussein-McMahon agreement in 1915 that Great Britain would acknowledge the independence of the Arab countries in every sense of the word.
At the same time, the British issued another statement through Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary - that the British will support the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. In effect, through the Hussein-McMahon agreement and Balfour Declaration they had carried out perhaps the greatest deception in history - of mortgaging the same piece of land to two different people.
In the 1920 Winston Churchill assured Arab leaders that Britain had no intentions of turning Palestine into a Jewish state. However, the same great ‘statesman’ made the following remark elsewhere: \"If, as may well happen, there should be created in our lifetime by the bank of the river Jordan a Jewish state... an event will have occurred … in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire.\"
In 1916 France, Russia and Britain signed the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement by which the area that is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine was to be divided between France and Britain who would assume direct control of the lands. In return Russia was to get some parts of Turkey.
For political short-sightedness or outright sell-out the British installed Hashimi King of Syria, Faisal bin Hussain signed an agreement in 1919 with the Zionist Chaim Weizmann which provided for large scale emigration of Jews into Palestine in return for a promise that Zionists would use their influence to hasten up independence of the Arab lands.
While many of them were being mercilessly slaughtered in Europe, the Jews were slowly migrating to the United States and gaining control of their traditional business - banking and later the information and propaganda tools, press, TV and radio. With this they came to control the corridors leading to the Senate Hall.
Between the first and second World Wars they threw their weight with the allies against the axis powers. When Britain ran short of funds during its war with Germany, the Jews were well disposed to negotiate for loans. For all these services, they named only one price: an independent Jewish state in Palestine.
In 1947 the British presented the case of Palestine to newly founded United Nations Organization. A resolution was hurriedly passed there partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. All Western countries including Russia voted in favor in the count of 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions.
With the announcement of the Plan a reign of terror was let loose on the Arab civilian population. The Begin-led Irgun and the Stern Gang terrorist organizations went on a killing spree of the most horrid kind. The most ghastly act was the massacre of men, women and children of the village of Deir Yassin in April 1948. Stern Gang terrorists lined up the residents against the wall and shot them in cold blood. Surviving women and children were stripped naked and paraded in open trucks.
The town of Haifa was attacked at midnight. The Palestinians who managed to flee were met on the way by roaming Jewish gangs and were cut down in hundreds. The Zionists were ruthlessly driving as many Arab inhabitants from strategic and important areas so that before the British withdrawal on May 14, 1948 some 300,000 Arabs had already been made refugees.
General fighting broke out between Palestinian and Jewish groups. The Arab leaders decided too late to send in forces and that too half the numbers that their military chiefs recommended. They were poorly trained and poorly equipped while the Jews with a foreknowledge of events to follow were better prepared and equipped. Fresh supplies of arms began coming in from Czechoslovakia. The Arabs were routed on all fronts.
Israel proclaimed independence midnight May 15, 1948. Ten minutes later the US announced its recognition. Soviet Russia was next.
TO BE CONTINUED...