Early History of the Region

Before the Hebrews first migrated there around 1800 B.C., the land of Canaan was occupied by Canaanites.

"Between 3000 and 1100 B.C., Canaanite civilization covered what is today Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and much of Syria and Jordan...Those who remained in the Jerusalem hills after the Romans expelled the Jews [in the second century A.D.] were a potpourri: farmers and vineyard growers, pagans and converts to Christianity, descendants of the Arabs, Persians, Samaritans, Greeks and old Canaanite tribes." Marcia Kunstel and Joseph Albright, "Their Promised Land."

The present-day Palestinians' ancestral heritage

"But all these [different peoples who had come to Canaan] were additions, sprigs grafted onto the parent tree...And that parent tree was Canaanite...[The Arab invaders of the 7th century A.D.] made Moslem converts of the natives, settled down as residents, and intermarried with them, with the result that all are now so completely Arabized that we cannot tell where the Canaanites leave off and the Arabs begin." Illene Beatty, "Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan."

The Jewish kingdoms were only one of many periods in ancient Palestine

"The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years...Then it fell apart...[Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David's conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule." Illene Beatty, "Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan."

More on Canaanite civilization

"Recent archeological digs have provided evidence that Jerusalem was a big and fortified city already in 1800 BCE...Findings show that the sophisticated water system heretofor attributed to the conquering Israelites pre-dated them by eight centuries and was even more sophisticated than imagined...Dr. Ronny Reich, who directed the excavation along with Eli Shuikrun, said the entire system was built as a single complex by Canaanites in the Middle Bronze Period, around 1800 BCE." The Jewish Bulletin, July 31st, 1998.

How long has Palestine been a specifically Arab country?

"Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Almost immediately thereafter its boundaries and its characteristics—including its name in Arabic, Filastin—became known to the entire Islamic world, as much for its fertility and beauty as for its religious significance...In 1516, Palestine became a province of the Ottoman Empire, but this made it no less fertile, no less Arab or Islamic...Sixty percent of the population was in agriculture; the balance was divided between townspeople and a relatively small nomadic group. All these people believed themselves to belong in a land called Palestine, despite their feelings that they were also members of a large Arab nation...Despite the steady arrival in Palestine of Jewish colonists after 1882, it is important to realize that not until the few weeks immediately preceding the establishment of Israel in the spring of 1948 was there ever anything other than a huge Arab majority. For example, the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314."Edward Said, "The Question of Palestine."

How did land ownership traditionally work in Palestine and when did it change?

"[The Ottoman Land Code of 1858] required the registration in the name of individual owners of agricultural land, most of which had never previously been registered and which had formerly been treated according to traditional forms of land tenure, in the hill areas of Palestine generally masha'a, or communal usufruct. The new law meant that for the first time a peasant could be deprived not of title to his land, which he had rarely held before, but rather of the right to live on it, cultivate it and pass it on to his heirs, which had formerly been inalienable...Under the provisions of the 1858 law, communal rights of tenure were often ignored...Instead, members of the upper classes, adept at manipulating or circumventing the legal process, registered large areas of land as theirs...The fellahin [peasants] naturally considered the land to be theirs, and often discovered that they had ceased to be the legal owners only when the land was sold to Jewish settlers by an absentee landlord...Not only was the land being purchased; its Arab cultivators were being dispossessed and replaced by foreigners who had overt political objectives in Palestine." Rashid Khalidi, "Blaming The Victims," ed. Said and Hitchens

Was Arab opposition to the arrival of Zionists based on inherent anti-Semitism or a real sense of danger to their community?

"The aim of the [Jewish National] Fund was `to redeem the land of Palestine as the inalienable possession of the Jewish people.'...As early as 1891, Zionist leader Ahad Ha'am wrote that the Arabs "understood very well what we were doing and what we were aiming at'...[Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, stated] `We shall try to spirit the penniless [Arab] population across the border by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country...Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly'...At various locations in northern Palestine Arab farmers refused to move from land the Fund purchased from absentee owners, and the Turkish authorities, at the Fund's request, evicted them...The indigenous Jews of Palestine also reacted negatively to Zionism. They did not see the need for a Jewish state in Palestine and did not want to exacerbate relations with the Arabs." John Quigley, "Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice."

Inherent anti-Semitism? - continued

"Before the 20th century, most Jews in Palestine belonged to old Yishuv, or community, that had settled more for religious than for political reasons. There was little if any conflict between them and the Arab population. Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880's...when [they] purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who had cultivated it." Don Peretz, "The Arab-Israeli Dispute."

Inherent anti-Semitism? - continued

"[During the Middle Ages,] North Africa and the Arab Middle East became places of refuge and a haven for the persecuted Jews of Spain and elsewhere...In the Holy Land...they lived together in [relative] harmony, a harmony only disrupted when the Zionists began to claim that Palestine was the 'rightful' possession of the 'Jewish people' to the exclusion of its Moslem and Christian inhabitants." Sami Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest."

Jews attitude towards Arabs when reaching Palestine.

"Serfs they (the Jews) were in the lands of the Diaspora, and suddenly they find themselves in freedom [in Palestine]; and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination." Zionist writer Ahad Ha'am, quoted in Sami Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest."

Proposals for Arab-Jewish Cooperation

"An article by Yitzhak Epstein, published in Hashiloah in 1907...called for a new Zionist policy towards the Arabs after 30 years of settlement activity...Like Ahad-Ha'am in 1891, Epstein claims that no good land is vacant, so Jewish settlement meant Arab dispossession...Epstein's solution to the problem, so that a new "Jewish question" may be avoided, is the creation of a bi-national, non-exclusive program of settlement and development. Purchasing land should not involve the dispossession of poor sharecroppers. It should mean creating a joint farming community, where the Arabs will enjoy modern technology. Schools, hospitals and libraries should be non-exclusivist and education bilingual...The vision of non-exclusivist, peaceful cooperation to replace the practice of dispossession found few takers. Epstein was maligned and scorned for his faintheartedness." Israeli author, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, "Original Sins."

Was Palestine the only, or even preferred, destination of Jews facing persecution when the Zionist movement started?

"The pogroms forced many Jews to leave Russia. Societies known as 'Lovers of Zion,' which were forerunners of the Zionist organization, convinced some of the frightened emigrants to go to Palestine. There, they argued, Jews would rebuild the ancient Jewish 'Kingdom of David and Solomon,' Most Russian Jews ignored their appeal and fled to Europe and the United States. By 1900, almost a million Jews had settled in the United States alone." "Our Roots Are Still Alive" by The People Press Palestine Book Project.

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