03 February 2003

Welcome Home

I always say. Do the research!! Todays events are only the reflection of yesterday. In the next few articles the issue of the Palestinians and the Palestinian refugees will be addressed. These articles will be based in fact and not emotion. In order to be an honest researcher, put away what you have learned off of the evening news and do some thinking from facts.

The beginning of the Palestinian issue begins way back during ancient Roman times. When the Romans conquered the Jews in 70 CE (Common Era aka A.D.) and destroyed the Temple, the Romans still had problems with the Jewish People. The Jewish People were not willing to give up their Land without a fight. So finally in 135 CE, the Romans had had enough. They wiped out the stronghold of Masada, and gave the Holy Land the new name of “Palestine”, named after the Greek Philistines of Bible fame, and scattered the Jews across the known world. This new “slave name” was created to break the connection that the Jews had with their homeland and to destroy the Jews as a People. As 2000 years of history has shown us, Rome is gone and Israel is back. However, the “slave name” stuck. Although the Jews were the original “Palestinians” we now seem to have a “new” Palestinian people.

It’s time to skip ahead in history to post-WWI. The Ottoman Empire picked the wrong side and its Empire was split up among the victors of the War To End All Wars. Part of the Empire was called “Palestine” or Greater Syria, which included what is now Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The Palestine Mandate was the area given to Great Britain to administer. The Mandate included what are now the countries of Jordan and Israel.

Up and through this time of post World War I, there were small communities of Jews living in the Land. The Jews had never even attempted to establish another homeland anywhere in the world. At the same time, the Land of Israel had waited for them. The Land had exchanged hands many times over the centuries, from the Romans, to the Muslims, to the Crusaders, and to the British to name a few. Amazingly enough, no nation had ever established a capital city or independent country in the Land and it was always part of larger empire.

At this time, the majority of Arabs in the area considered themselves Syrian. Who considered themselves “Palestinians”? Strangely enough, both Arabs and Jews considered themselves “Palestinians”. Both people had this identification stamped in their passports. (From Time Immemorial, by Joan Peters) Since both pre-state Jordan and Israel were part of the Palestine Mandate they were free to travel back and forth between parts of the Mandate.

Now things get complicated. In 1917, the British promised the Jewish People a homeland in all of the Palestine Mandate - Jordan and Israel. There was even Arab support for this plan. Faisal Ibn Hussein, son of Hussein the Sharif of Mecca and King of the Hejaz, (and great grandfather of the current King of Jordan), was recognized as the legitimate leader of the Arab world after WWI. He was also the official head of the Arab delegation to the 1918 Paris Peace Conference, which most nations attended. Faisal recognized Jewish Palestine in London in February 1919 when he signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement with Chaim Weizmann, the officially recognized head of the Zionist delegation to the peace conference. Weizmann would later become the first president of Israel. This agreement formally recognized the Balfour Declaration, which called for the creation of a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine.

On March 8, 1919, Faisal sent a letter to Harvard Law School Dean and later Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter which shows the attitude that Faisal and most Arabs of his generation had toward Zionism. “Dear Mr. Frankfurter, ...We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement...We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home...We are working together for a reformed and revived Near East, and our two movements complete one another...The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist; our movement is national and not imperialist; and there is room in Syria for us both...People less informed and less responsible than our leaders and yours, ignoring the need for cooperation of the Arabs and Zionists, have been trying to exploit the local difficulties...I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us...”

What went wrong? Tune in next week.

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