Friday, May 7, 2021

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

By Barry Leonard Werner

Let's talk about the claim that the Israeli Jews are colonialists who invaded and took Palestine away from the Palestinians. 

The Roman Empire turned Judea, which was the country of the Jews, into a Roman province in 6 CE. Judea staged major revolts against the Roman Empire twice. The second revolt, in 132–136 CE, started well. Then the Roman Empire brought in six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions and exiled the Jews from their land. The Roman Empire also changed the name of the land to Syria Palaestina because Palestina was the name of an ancient biblical enemy of the Jews. Although the Roman Empire eventually allowed Jews to return, the land continued to be called by its new name. To Christians and Jews, the land was also called the Holy Land. 

There was never an Arab country called Palestine. The land now called Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire until WWI. The lands in which Arabs lived in the Ottoman Empire had no country-like divisions except Egypt, a country with a long history. 

After WWI, the British had the Mandate to administer the Palestine area, and the Jews there called themselves Palestinians. In 1948, when Israel became a state, the Jews called themselves Israelis, and only the Arabs called themselves Palestinians. 

The Jews were not colonialists who invaded to take Palestine away from the Palestinians. Consider the history. 

Before 1800, the land we call Palestine was so poor it could support very few people. The Ottoman Empire didn't even bother to count the number of people living there. Many of the people were Bedouin nomads, and it would have been too hard to count them even if the Ottomans tried to. 

In the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire realized they had to ask Europeans to help them modernize. Part of the deal was to allow Europeans to live in the Holy Land for the first time since the Crusades. Most Europeans who came to the Holy Land were Christians, and they built grand churches and monasteries. Some of the Europeans who came were Jews.

By the mid to late 1800s, the economy of Palestine grew considerably. Many Arabs from around the Ottoman Empire came to work for the Europeans. The few Arab families who lived there before 1800 and the many Arab families who moved there to work for the Europeans after 1800 now call themselves native Palestinians with a Palestinian history that goes back thousands of years. The people who claim that the Israeli Jews colonized Arab Palestinian land recount history starting at around 1900 when the Arab population of Palestine was greater than that of the Jews. 

Jews were experiencing horrible pogroms in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, during the same time Europeans were rebuilding the Holy Land. (Pogroms are violent, often government-inspired, attacks on Jews intended to kill them and intimidate them into leaving. The history of antisemitism in Europe is a whole other story.) European Jews, with the help of Christians, established the Zionist movement in the late 1800s to rescue the Jews of Europe and give them refuge in their ancient homeland, the Holy Land. 

It is important to emphasize that the Zionists were politically progressive. The Zionist program specifically stated that they did not intend to harm the Arabs living there. The Zionists believed that if European Jews moved to Palestine, it would bring prosperity to everyone. Palestine had a lot of sparsely inhabited land that could support the immigrants and the local Arabs if they restored the land. The Zionists expected the Arabs to welcome Jewish immigration, and indeed, some Arab leaders agreed with that idea. But, the main body of the Arabs turned to leaders who violently opposed further Jewish immigration. 

Two groups opposed Zionism. One group was the Muslim religious extremists, who believe that only Muslims should rule because Muslims had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Muslim religious extremists believe God gave them the right to dominate non-Muslims. They opposed the idea of Jews coming to Palestine and becoming a ruling majority. 

The other group, the Arabists, believed that only Arabs are allowed to rule because Arabs had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Arabists are racists against non-Arabs. (There is a long history to this form of racism.) Since the Arabists were willing to allow Christian Arabs to rule alongside Muslim Arabs, the Christian missionaries in the Middle East supported the Arabists. The Christian missionaries considered the movement to be a legitimate form of Arab Nationalism. (Nationalism was a progressive concept in Europe in those days. The Ottoman Empire had allowed Christian missionaries to convert Christian Arabs to Western forms of Christianity in the 1800s.)

First, the Arabs united behind the Arabists, especially under President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. But when the Arabists failed to destroy Israel, they united behind the religious extremists, like the Muslim Brotherhood. The religious extremists were also unable to destroy Israel, but they are still trying. The PLO has its roots in Arabism, and Hamas has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. But even the PLO uses religious rioting as a political tool. 

Radical Islamists claim the Jews of Isreal are responsible for the violence in Palestine and ask the Muslims of the world to defend them from the Jews. But in reality, they want the Muslims of the world to help them kill the Jews. 

Radical Islamists are trying to take over the Muslim world. Their version of Islam is not the same religion as that of most Muslims of the world. It leads to such perversions as ISIS and Boko Haram. They are spreading their influence in Africa and Asia and recruiting Muslims worldwide into their jihad. The Western world recognizes their authority over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and even wants to officially recognize a state for them, thinking that this will satisfy them. 

Radical Islamists have a lot of money. Wealthy religious fanatics in the Persian Gulf region and other rich religious fanatics worldwide support them. One way they use their wealth is to make persuasive propaganda videos targeting Muslims worldwide. 

Radical Islamists seek out Muslims whether they go to their mosques or not. They send texts and videos to the Muslims they know and to their children to persuade them to join the global jihad. They give gifts to poor people, and poor Muslims run to them for help. That makes it easy for them to persuade poor Muslims to accept their ideas. 

Unless the moderate Muslim community makes a united effort to stop the extremists, the extremists will recruit jihadis and turn the Muslim world into an enemy of the non-Muslim world. 

The Islamists are also trying to get the non-Muslim Western world to support their jihad against the Jews. They falsely claim that Palestine is an ancient Arab Palestinian country and that the Jews are colonialists who invaded and took their country. And they falsely claim that Israel is an apartheid country, like South Africa used to be. These false claims play to the politics of the Western world, where some people see every global problem as a consequence of Western colonialism. 

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