Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When Arabs Went to Palestine

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                          
In 70 CE, the Romans burned down the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem besides the city itself.  Jewish independence had come to an end.  The Jewish population at that time was at least 5 million to 7 million, with the higher number claimed by Josephus's figures.
60 years later, the Jewish General Bar Kokhba faced a depleted  Jerusalem of only 3 million according to the figures of Dio Cassius.  He fought from 132 to 135 to take it back and was killed.  The Romans had never faced such strong forces before.  There were no Arabs there.
Arabs lived in Arabia made up of 1,027,000 square miles or 2,630,000 square kilometers and today is broken up into the states of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, Trucial Oman on the Persian Gulf, Muscat and Oman, and South Yemen.  They stayed there until the 7th century when Mohammad died in 632.
Arabs then emerged from their desert country with a new goal of conquest in order to spread Islam.  They established an empire that over 100 years extended over 3 continents, from the Atlantic Ocean to the border of China.  The Arabs, led by the Sasanians in 614 by Khosrow Prviz, sacked Jerusalem and thus  conquered Palestine from the Byzantines who had stepped in to fill the void. Actually, the Sasanians were rulers of the Persians (Iranians) heirs of the ancient Achaemanean Empire.   The Byzantines were the Eastern Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople, Turkey AKA Istanbul,  and held Palestine until the year 637, 5 years after the death of the Islamic leader. In 1165 Benjamin of Tudela found 2,000 Jews and 500 Karaites living there.  The Turks captured it in 1453.  The Jewish population had grown to 90,000 by 1919 but was reduced to 20,000 by 1990 by WWII and the creation later of Israel.

 Emperor Justinian (527-565) besides including elaborate anti-Jewish laws in his Code, issued a decree in 553 which interfered with the conduct of the synagogue services.  Heraclius is reported in about 614 to have issued an edict ordering the conversion of the Jews.  The practice of Judaism was formally forbidden by successive emperors;  Leo in 723, Basil 1st from 873 to 874;  Romanus Lucapenus in 932-936, and so on.  On each occasion, Jewish life reestablished itself, and in 1170, Benjamin of Tudela found Jewish communities throughout the Empire.  He emphasized that in Constantinople itself, Jews were treated with contempt.  Jews remained in the Byzantine Empire until the last group was conquered by the Turks in 1453, but continued to live in Constantinople.

Let's face it.  The Byzantine Empire was absolutely horrible for the Jews.  Then the Arabs took over.  Their headquarters was in Damascus, Syria.  The Arabs were from the Omayyad dynasty and their rule lasted a little over 100 years.  They in turn were overthrown in 750 by their bitter enemies and antagonists, the Abbasids who ruled for 200 years.  The Abbasids were dominated 1st by the Persians, then by the Turks.  Finally,  they were defeated by the Fatimids, who were Arabs that were not accustomed to governing anything.
During all this period, those subjected to these strangers ruling them had to learn Arabic which became the dominant language.  They were also forced to convert to Islam.  Those that converted did so because they had been suffering from social and economic discrimination if they didn't.  The Arabs called this period THE GOLDEN AGE OF ARABIC CULTURE.

All they really brought to people was what they had set out to bring;  Islam.  People learned to translate from their original language to Arabic.  Great volumes on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy were simply translated materials into Arabic and thus claimed as originating from Arabs.  At least the Romans had brought aquaducts of which some still stand.  If some Arab sought a higher form of learning in those days, they had to go to Damascus or Egypt.  It wasn't offered in Palestine, which was always considered the backwater of any of the empires.  Jerusalem, where the Moslems built their Temple over the Jews' 2nd Temple, never achieved any political or cultural status.  The people there were useful only for forking over taxes to the rulers.

In the early Arab period, Arab immigrants from Arabia were encouraged, and later  given the Jewish lands.  When the Crusaders came to Palestine after 460 years of Arab and non-Arabic Moslem rule, they found an Arabic-speaking population.  The people were from at least 12 different races apart from the Jews and Druzes.  They were  practicing 5 different versions of Islam and 8 of Christianity.

The Persians and the Turks of the Abbasid empire; and the Berbers and the Egyptians of the Fatimid empire; none had an interest in Palestine except for what they could extract from it for their treasuries or their imperial armies.  

The Christian Crusaders were followed by the Mamluks in 1250.  They had divided the land to administer.  All the people were being exploited and the administrators were hostile and indifferent.  Arabs had no part or direct influence in the Mamluk regime anymore than Jews had.  They were just conquered subjects.
Turks changed Arabic-style Turkish alphabet  in 1928 to ABC style.  
When the Ottoman Turks took over, nothing changed for the Arabs.  The Ottomans even replaced Arabic with Turkish as the language of the country.  Arabs hated the Turks just slightly less than the heavily taxed Jews.  Because the Arabs came from a rugged desert and were familiar only with sand, they had no respect for soil and what it could do.  They caused the land to become devastated.  They in turn were helped by the Turks, Persians or Egyptians and Crusaders and by the invading hordes of Mongols or Kharezmians.  The revolts of chieftains, civil strife, and inter-tribal wars that went on in this land ruined it..
Camel Caravan


Bedouin of today in Negev where about 200,000 live

Today Bedouins serve in IDF and make excellent trackers.  
Arabs that were Bedouins, like the Hashemite tribe of Jordan, would raid upon communities and destroy land.  The land was depleted and eroded over the 15 centuries of constant misuse.  Bedouins destroyed the land more than ever during the Abbasids and Fatimid eras.  Palestine was one big wasteland.  Time went by and the Bedouins continued to raid others, plunder their livestock, destroyed crops and plantations, and were a plague to farmers.  This started in the 13th century and grew worse under Ottoman mis-rule.  Bedouins camped along the countryside where they would attack people on the highway who were traveling, especially attacking  caravans carrying merchandise, or on pilgrim cavalcades.

They are no longer nomadic.  "Today, many Bedouin call themselves 'Negev Arabs' rather than 'Bedouin', explaining that 'Bedouin' identity is intimately tied in with a pastoral nomadic way of life – a way of life they say is over. Although the Bedouin in Israel continue to be perceived as nomads, today all of them are fully sedentarized, and about half are urbanites.  They now keep sheep and goats.  " Ishmael Khaldi, who has a master’s degree in Political Science from Tel Aviv University and serves in Israel’s Foreign Service, describes his own people, the Bedouin. “The Bedouin are more tribal than nationalistic,” Khaldi adds. It’s that deeply ingrained tribal culture that has allowed the Bedouin to survive centuries of nomadic existence, but it’s also the trait that presents barriers to their continued well -being in modern Israel."

It is my opinion that Hamas must be made up of such descendants of hostile Arab Bedouins, as their only skill seems to be attacking Israelis.  Fatah, too, for where is a farmer among them who values land?  Arabs on the whole were not educated city-folk, but wild  hot-tempered tribal people, easily stirred up by their leaders such as the Sherif of Jerusalem who was against Jews.  He had led many riots in the 1920s.

In 1785 the land was described as ruined and desolate country.  Pilgrims and travelers continued to report on its poor condition and barrenness.  Again in 1835 Alphonse de Lamartine wrote that he and his group saw no living object outside the gates of Jerusalem.  All was silent, like a tomb of a whole people.  1867 was when Mark Twain visited the land who saw and felt a rich soil that was full of weeds.  He didn't see any human being after traveling a great stretch to Tabor.He saw hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere, even the olive and the cactus were rarities.  He stated that he thought Palestine would never come to life again.  He wrote:

   "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes.  Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.  Palestine is desolate and unlovely."   Mark Twain.

So, now tell me again about this country called Palestine that the Arabs demand to "return to" and create their own state and still be against Israel?  What state-the state of weeds and mosquitoes and swamps?  Jews have returned after 2,000 years, yes, but they were kept out by the prevailing powers.  WWI's defeat was their chance and the Arab's defeat once again.  If they wish, they could always live in the other 48 Muslim  states in the world. For Jews, there is only one Jewish state, and that is Israel.   They all could have had their own state in 1948 when offered half of the Jewish land but THEY REFUSED IT.  They had entered Palestine when the Jews started returning and building in the late 1880s looking for work.  They called themselves Syrian Arabs.  They didn't just come from Syria, either, but from all the neighboring lands.

Now we have ISIS creating an empire out of Iraq and Syria, but what an empire called Islamic State!  They're busy killing off Muslim sects they don't approve of,  the Sunni, as they are Salafists, and any Christians found in the area.  Then we now have Russians in Syria killing off anyone not Alawites as they are propping up the Syrian President Assad.  In reaction to the bedlam, the Palestinian Arabs led by Fatah and Hamas leaders are copy cats-trying to start a 3rd round of an Intifada.

Resource;Battleground, fact and fantasy in Palestine by Samuel Katz
2nd edition, Middle East, past & present by Yahya Armajani, Thomas M. Ricks, Textbook for college


  1. Please read and edit for clarity and over use of "they" which creates ambiguous sentences. Also add needed details. You are attempting a sketch of two millennia, which is over ambitious in my opinion for such a short essay.

  2. Yes, I'd call it a quick overview of that history. Maybe it will whet a reader's interest and cause them to read more about this long period. It's a lot to take in, I agree. My purpose was to show that many people had held the land but hadn't done anything with it except take taxes and that the present day Palestinian's claim of being the natives of the land is not true.

  3. The LORD will only bless that land when His people are there upon it. was ruin for anyone else and only for spite have they held it.
    but the desert has bloomed once again with the jewish people at home there, and will never be a God-forsaken place again because israel is home to stay.
    I got this understanding from the Bible. God is a covenant keeping Father.
    people came and went-------God remains..........

  4. I agree, Andre. The land only came back to life with people who loved it and knew they were supposed to be there. No one else cared about it at all. Hope everyone reads "From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters. She sure opened up my eyes. I had a lovely argument with Noam Chomsky about this book. She is one terrific researcher!