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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Right to Exist?

It has become fashionable in recent years, particularly, I note with some sadness, in Britain, to question the right of the Jewish people to a homeland or to the land centred on Jerusalem. The arguments against it range from "there is no ethnic difference between Jews and Arabs" to "there were no Jews in Palestine before 1890." The first is questionable, especially in the light of the genetic diversity of the Jewish diaspora, and the second is patently false. There is a third "proof" often advanced, which suggests that there were Jews in 'Palestine' but that they were a tiny minority. The 'proof' for this comes from Ottoman Turk records which are deeply questionable in themselves, since, again contrary to modern propaganda instilled belief, Jews and Christians were not "free" to practice their religion. They were heavily taxed for refusing to become Muslim and a raft of laws forbade land ownership or circumscribed its being sold, inherited or developed. The laws also proscribed their holding certain positions of authority and the public practice of worship - and forbade attempts, on pain of death, to 'convert' Muslims.

Modern Israel is often described as a 'rogue' or an 'apartheid' state ruled by 'terrorists' or as the creation of 'Zionist Terrorists.' What is probably closer to the truth is that modern Israel is the creation of centuries of genocide which culminated in the Holocaust of 1936 - 1945, plus British double dealing between the Jews (oranges and fruit) and the Arabs (Oil, oil, oil ...) which culminated in the war of 1947 - 48. The UN boundaries recognised in the final 'Peace' settlement included the 'West Bank' and 'Gaza' which were carved out of the settled boundaries by a sneak attack from Jordan and Egypt before the ink had even dried on the UN Treaty, and the Jordanian Amed Forces were, at the time, under the Command of British Officers ...

Clearly, there is a great deal of mistrust on all sides here, and some very deep seated grievances. But what is the 'historic' fact here? As I was reminded yesterday in an excellent article in the Huffington Post, there is a huge amount of archeological evidence for the Jewish claim to the land as their historic home. Even post 70 AD, the Jews remained in 'Palestine' - which, as a Roman Province, included Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and a part of the Sinai. The modern boundaries are a result of French and British 'diplomacy' post the First World War when they carved up the Near East to suit their own ambitions and alliances with various tribal leaders as the Ottoman Empire was dismembered.

The truth is that the Jews never left. Yes, their leaders and nobility were expunged - much as the Russians did in Poland during 1940 and post 1945 - but the ordinary folk kept their heads down and carried on. Under the Romans, under the Byzantines, under Saladin and eventually under the Ottomans. They have survived this way for millenia, since the same thing was done to them by successive conquerors including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians and the Greeks. They have always suffered for the fact they stand, as one writer has put it, "in the cross-roads of history" and the proof of their presence lies in the names they have developed, in the records of those who have done business with them, conquerored them or passed through on their way to somewhere else.

Recently I read of a new 'school' of archeologists who want to 'downgrade' David and Solomon, Israel's two greatest Kings, to 'tribal chieftain' status and play down their place in history. The reasons are, apparently, that by so doing they can undermine centuries of Jewish belief and de-legitmise Israel's right to exist. After all, if Jewish history can be deconstructed by writing Solomon's 'kingdom' out of history, you write the Jews out of it as players in the region. I suspect that a lot of what drives that is 'sympathy' for the 'Palestinian' people (who are really the creation of the post-1960s politics of the Cold War - they were simply refugees before Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organisation) and a desire to undermine religion - even if that means playing into the hands of genocidal extremism among the Arabs.

I suspect too, that there are some very political arguments for not allowing anyone to properly examine the archeology of the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem - or any of the other sites of historic importance to the Jews. After all, it just might turn up evidence that would blow the whole Arab claim, plus a number of more recent pet arguments against Christianity, out of the water completely. That said, I would not wish to see any of the 'holy' sites completely destroyed or disrupted by digging, but, sooner or later, someone will have to undertake a full and proper survey of some of the many sites and objects we suspect may be there, but are not accessible at present. The famed Al Aqsa Mosque stands on the site of the Holy of Holys - the Sanctuary of the Temple, rebuilt by Solomon and again by Herod. We know that much, because the Knights Templar built the original structure that became the much more ornate mosque after the Islamic conquest.

We know too, that there are other sites, now occupied by Christian churches and shrines, which stand where Jewish synagogues once stood. A prime example is the 'great' mosque in Damascus, originally a Christian cathedral Basilica built on the site of the synagogue in which St Paul is reputed to have preached. We also know that the Byzantines found the Jews living in and around the Holy Land a nuisance, but, for the most part, left them to their own devices. So, to say they 'weren't there before 18??' or whatever is patently false. That there was an influx of immigrant Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe following the Russian Pogroms (justified by the creation of that vile book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, by the Tzarist Secret Police) in the 1890s, and we also know how they were forced to pay exorbitant bribes to the Ottoman governor and then down the heirarchy to every petty official and bureaucrat. It even continued under the British 'Protectorate' Mandate post 1919.

One thing no one can do to a Jew is patronise him or her. Perhaps that is why so many so-called 'Liberals' hate them. The Jews are a pragmatic people, they have at least 2,500 years of practice at surviving oppression, suppression and hatred. It has made them strong, it has given them steel backbones and it has made them self-sufficient. We could learn a lot from them ourselves. You can't patronise someone like that - but you can patronise those who have made themselves victims by their own ceaselessly self inflicted injuries.

So the modern propagandists make the Jew once again the 'vile, evil, greedy and oppressive Jew' and the 'Palestinians' the 'poor downtrodden victims.' The problem is that the real evidence simply doesn't support it. And the truth will, in this instance, eventually triumph.

2 comments:

  1. You make several good points there, but the truth is that history is a) patchy and b) written by the victors, which in the current era have rarely been the Jews. Gaza is the ancient homeland of the Philistines and I think that there is one of the only continuous lines back to biblical times, all others are relatively tenuous. On the comments about David and Solomon, the same discussions now take place regarding Alfred (the Great) and Harold, among others, no doubt important and influential but hardly monarch of all of Britain. There were few truly great cities in the avcient time, I suspect even Babylon was less impressive than history and Hammurabi would have us believe.

    In terms of the building of the post-war state, and I agree that the British involvement was largely disgraceful, I would love to see some evidence of lineage of the Jews populating modern Israel as I was under the impression that the majority were Ashkenazi Jews with Germanic origins, and Yiddish as their mother tongue rather than Hebrew.

    Often the Ashkenazi Jew is talked of as a brand of Jewry that is sometimes suspected of being an invented cult adopting the Iberian Sephardic rites as a philosophy and having little or no connection with the Biblical Jews. The original 12th century records suggest that only 2-3% of Jews were of the Ashkenazi school, whereas in 1931, 92% of European Jews were Ashkenazi: not tightly linked to the Holy Lands in that case. Additionally, all of the Victorian (Fagin in Oliver Twist) and National Socialist caracterisation of “The Jew” tend to portray the Ashkenazi type rather than the Solomonic type, taken to racial extremes in the choice of female Israeli soldiers whose principal purpose is recruitment of young men who would otherwise never consider the Tzahal other than as conscripts. Certainly the cartoons of the period show features that are not in any way similar to the Persian or Iraqi features that would have been similar to the blood-types of biblical times in Israel and Judea after the return from the captivity in the time of Cyrus.

    All in all it is an almighty mess, created mainly by the power and growth of two contrasting early 20th century revolutions; one led by T E Lawrence, the other by oil. Before then, there was no such thing as "Arabs". Even today, those referred to disparagingly as “sand Arabs” are essentially nomadic and have little true historical stake in any particular area of land. (With the obvious exceptions of places such as Mecca.) There is little doubt in my mind that the Jews do have that historical link, however, who are “The Jews”?

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  2. Interestingly the 'Ashkenazi' are problably, according the National Geographic Genographic survey, genetically closer to the Persian/Palestinian genepool than is generally believed, and probably represent the descendents of the Roman diaspora and purges. The Sephardic tradition is very much alive and well, especially in the diaspora and, despite the more obvious imagery of the Ashkenazi practices thriving in Israel itself.

    Who are the Jews? I think you'll find the answer is a complex one. As the Talmud says, a man may have many fathers, but only one mother. Therefore, to be a 'Jew' one has to be born of a Jewish mother. Yes, you can 'convert' to Judaism, but you are a 'visitor' and not a full Jew. That comes only from birth. They also maintain very good geneological records. I have several friends who can trace their ancestry to points in history we westerners are delving into the realms of fantasy and invention for. In one sense, they are a 'religious' group, but in a much deeper sense they are the descendents, as you well know, of the twelve tribes - and though, through the centuries and their exile they have gained 'new' genes by intermarriage with non-Jews, they are still the descendents of those twelve tribes - and that shows in the genes.

    Are the people now in Gaza really the descendents of the Philistines? I think that is debateable and possibly not proveable since we don't really have a record of 'Philistine' genes, but we do have a long record of Jewish ones. It is, as you say, an almighty mess.

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