[Paleopsych] Larry Auster: How Strong Is the Arab Claim to Palestine?

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Mon Aug 30 14:00:37 UTC 2004

How Strong Is the Arab Claim to Palestine?

[If you have any response to this, I will pass it on to Auster and see 
what he has to say. I'll use your name unless you say otherwise. I fail to 
see what business all this squabbling among insignificant countries is to
the United States, though.

[How should atheists regard rival disputes over holy mandates?

[Given that George III was not the legitimate king of England and could, 
therefore, not have ceded the American colonies after the American 
Revolution, are we Americans still British subjects? And if so, just who 
is our king or queen. Certainly not Betty Windsor!]

    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 peopleperhaps 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 peninsulaincluding Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt,
    Tunisia, and Algeria, as well as the entity now formally under the
    Palestinian Authoritywere 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
    [3]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
    17^th 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 ownersis 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 1964sixteen
    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.

    [4]Lawrence Auster is the author of [5]Erasing America: The Politics
    of the Borderless Nation. He offers his traditionalist conservative
    perspective at [6]View from the Right.


    3. http://www.netanyahu.org/chalislegtru.html
    4. mailto:Lawrence.auster at att.net
    5. http://www.aicfoundation.com/booklets.htm
    6. http://www.amnation.com/vfr

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