I believe that human nature gravitates to the truth by default. However, there are many ways that truth can be clouded and warped, particularly when popular opinion and truth no longer align. Mankind’s nature might be to gravitate to truth, but it simultaneously runs from it. It’s paradoxical, but so is human nature.
But I think it’s high time for the world to learn some objective truth. No good ever came from running from it. The same is true regarding the conflict in Israel. Despite my small, insignificant voice, which is likely lost in a sea of many loud and vitriolic voices, I feel that it is important to present some basic facts which even purported intellectuals fail to mention.
For brevity’s sake, I will focus primarily on one Pro-Palestine argument I constantly hear:
“Palestine is occupied.”
In order to fully comprehend present-day conflicts, one must always look to history for guidance and explanation. There is no isolated incident in the grand scheme of things; there is a definite pattern and backstory for each and every event. The same is true of the modern day conflict in Israel. So, let me address this point. To do that, I want to take the word Palestine and examine it closely.
This tiny piece of land has certainly changed hands throughout history, but for centuries it was recognized as Judea, or the Kingdom of Judah, until Emperor Hadrian called it Palestine for a short time:
“…before 135 A.D., the Romans used the terms Judea and Galilee to refer to the Land of Israel.
…”It was not until the Romans crushed the second Jewish revolt against Rome in 135 A.D. under Bar Kochba that Emperor Hadrian applied the term Palestine to the Land of Israel. Hadrian, like many dictators since his time realized the propaganda power of terms and symbols. He replaced the shrines of the Jewish Temple and the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem with temples to pagan deities. He changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitalina, and changed the name of Israel and Judea to Palestine. Hadrian’s selection of Palestine was purposeful, not accidental. He took the name of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Philistines, Latinized it to Palestine, and applied it to the Land of Israel. He hoped to erase the name Israel from all memory. Thus, the term Palestine as applied to the Land of Israel was invented by the inveterate enemy of the Bible and the Jewish people, Emperor Hadrian.”
Palestine was also the name of this region under the British Mandate, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. It was only sometimes referred to as Palestine under the Ottoman Empire, and was more commonly viewed as “Southern Syria.”* After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, had you asked almost anyone – Jew or non-Jew – what Palestine referred to, you’d get one of two answers:
“The region of land under British rule” or “The Holy Land (Israel).”
And when the Zionist movement was really flourishing in the early 1900s-1930s, you would exclusively hear the word “Palestine” as an allusion to Israel. The word did not connote a land belonging to Arabs, like the modern usage of the name implies. It was the name of the land under British rule, and more popularly recognized as Israel, the land of the Jews, the Promised Land. The name Palestine as we know it today was invented as part of a ploy to uphold grievances against the Jewish people, and the people who are now called “Palestinians” are largely Egyptian and Saudi.
“In March 1977, Zahir Muhsein, an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said in an interview to the Dutch newspaper Trouw: ‘The ‘Palestinian people’ does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel.’”
While some modern “Palestinian” Arabs do indeed have ancestral roots in the land, the majority of them moved to Israel from surrounding countries at the encouragement of various Arab leaders to undermine the creation of the State of Israel. The Jewish people, on the other hand, despite many exiles, have maintained a consistent presence in the land since the 2nd millennium BCE. A census of Jerusalem in 1844** found that Jews constituted the majority at 45.9% of the population. There had, of course, been waves of immigration – particularly from eastern Europe and Russia – prior to this date. However, the sustained presence of Jews in the region has been well-documented for over 3,000 years. How can a land be occupied by its own natives, or descendants of natives?
Furthermore, the international community recognized and accepted the creation of the State of Israel – in 1917, with the Balfour Declaration; in 1922, with the League of Nations Mandate of 1922; and in 1947, with the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended the establishment of two separate states. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 recognized both a Jewish state and an Arab state (see photo below). The Jewish side accepted; the Arab side did not.
So let’s reconsider that idea again: is “Palestine” an occupied territory? First of all, the name “Palestine” as we know it today is purely modern and has no historical precedence. Let’s rephrase it: Is the land on which the Palestinians live occupied? But wait, who are the Palestinians? They’re mostly Egyptian and Saudi. Do you mean Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Nevermind, moving on to the next part. Is this region occupied? Well, how can it be? That is a statement working under the assumption that there is a native population being subjugated by a higher power who are defying rule of law and have taken over. The first problem: Jewish people are native to this region, some directly and some indirectly. The second problem: the Jewish people have already appealed (more than once – and have been approved, more than once) to the international community for a Jewish state. An occupier does not ask for permission to occupy. The third problem: Israel has repeatedly accepted smaller land portions, only to be thrown into battle, followed by an expansion of territory and ceding of said territory in the name of peace.
You see, the real conflict in Israel is not that we are “occupiers” and that Palestine must be liberated from us. The real conflict is that despite many attempts at a two-state solution before and since the creation of the State of Israel, Arab leaders have again and again rejected peace treaties, instead calling for the complete annihilation of the Jewish State.
For those of you who are Pro-Palestine, I understand the sympathy for the “Palestinians” (or rather, Arabs living either under the Palestinian Authority or the State of Israel). Many of them are caught in the throes of war and terrorism. But so are the Israelis, and to make a statement such as, “Palestine is occupied” or “Free Palestine,” I ask you: who is occupying them? From whom do they need to be freed? Do they need to be freed from us, the Israelis? Or do they need to be freed from the violence and manipulation of terrorist organizations and deceitful, radical Arab leaders?
This conflict, like any in the history of the world, is not simple. It is not cut and dried.
So before you answer, think. And before you judge, learn.
* Please note that I am not dismissing the historical origin of the word Palestine, which is derived from the Biblical word Philistine, and has no correlation to the modern usage of the word. The original Philistines were of Greek origin, and have nothing to do with Arabs.
**I found this census elsewhere, but could not relocate it, so I had to use Wikipedia, which I never use as a primary source.