Friday, October 15, 2010

Israel and Arabia

There's something I hear a lot that I'd like to clear up.

The Jews and Arabs haven't been at war for thousands and thousands of years.

When the Roman empire forced the Jews out of the Jordan Valley two-thousand years ago, they had experienced problems with the Persians and Babylonians to the East, and they had problems with Egypt to the west, and extensive problems with the Philistines (who were gone before the first century C.E.) also to the west.

The Arabs, though, were a pretty quiet neighbor for the Jews for most of their history.  The Arab peninsula is a massive territory with some of the world's greatest deserts.  In the centuries before the Roman Empire, most Arab people were nomadic and tribal.  They traded with Israel, but never went to war with them.

Likewise, there is no evidence that the Arab people considered themselves descendants of Abraham until the prophecy of Muhammad in the sixth century.  They were very likely aware of the Jewish God "I Am" before this, but didn't consider it had anything to do with them.

When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the seventh century, it had been ruled by the Christian Byzantine empire (and briefly by the Persians) since the expulsion of the Jews by the Romans.

The Muslim belief in Jerusalem's part in Muhammad's night journey began in the century after his death.  There is no record of his mentioning it in his lifetime.  Many historians doubt that Muhammad wanted a focus by Muslims on any city other than Mecca, and the focus on Jerusalem began only after his death.

Regardless of Muhammad's intentions, most Jews found themselves with more liberty in Palestine under Muslim rule than under Christian Byzantine rule, so it kind of worked out for them.

The conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims began with the 19th century idea that Jews should return to the Jordan Valley, without the prophesied messiah, and make it their home again.

You've heard it said "you can never go home again" and that axiom applies seems to apply in a much greater degree when trying to return to one's homeland.  The Jews met almost immediate resistance and alienation from the Arabs both in and around the Jordan Valley.

What happened next will be debated for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Rebuffed by the local Arabs, the Jews hunkered down, and redoubled their resolve to stay in Palestine rather than returning to Europe or North America.

They had pretty good reasons for not returning to Europe.  As the Nazi party grew, more and more Jews sought refuge in Israel.  Americans, for their part, supported this action.  I've never been quite convinced American support for Israel in those days wasn't to prevent their coming here instead.

The rest of the conflict is in your history books.

I can't promise not to write about history here from time to time.  It's a special interest of mine.

I included it in this blog about SecondLife because the Arab/Israel conflict occasionally lights up the SecondLife blogosphere and there's almost always a comment about how this conflict has gone on for thousands of years and it's just not true.

This conflict is about a hundred years old and hopefully won't get a whole lot older.


  1. discuss
    The Balfour Declaration of 1917 (dated 2 November 1917) was a formal statement of policy by the British government stating that

    "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."[1]

    The declaration was made in a letter from Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, a Zionist organization. The letter reflected the position of the British Cabinet, as agreed upon in a meeting on 31 October 1917. It further stated that the declaration is a sign of "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations."

    The statement was issued through the efforts of Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, the principal Zionist leaders based in London; as they had asked for the reconstitution of Palestine as “the” Jewish national home, the declaration fell short of Zionist expectations.[2]

    The "Balfour Declaration" was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine. The original document is kept at the British Library.

    The anniversary of the declaration, 2 November, is widely commemorated in Israel and among Jews in the Jewish diaspora as Balfour Day. This day is also observed as a day of mourning in Arab countries still today.[3]

  2. @stickboom ....Thank you! So many have never heard of that "Declaration".
    The decisions made in the early part of the 20th century have created many of the problems we all should seek to resolve todaqy.

  3. There are a million theories about why Balfour chose this path, everything from the free masons and Illuminati to aliens.

    I think he misjudged how the people in Palestine would respond to it (and possibly how many there were) as well as the area around.

    There may also have been some sentiment that it was better having the Jews there than in England or the U.S. which is where they were going as eastern Europe became less and less hospitable toward them.


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