Countering the lie that ‘Israelis are Western colonizers’
Across the West, Muslims and their socialist allies claim that Israel is a Western colonizer. That’s a lie. Here’s a very slimmed-down history of the last 4,000 years.
The original indigenous people of the land we now call Israel were the Canaanites. When the Jews migrated to that land roughly 4,000 years ago, tribal warfare ensued, and the Canaanites lost. Since then—for around 4,000 years—the Jews have had a continuous presence in Israel. They are the indigenous people with a claim to the land older than any other living people. In ancient times, they held that land despite wars with and occupations by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks.
Finally, in 70 A.D., the Romans fully conquered Israel, erasing its identity as a nation. To symbolize that conquest, Rome renamed the land Palestine after the Philistines whom the Jews had destroyed in David’s time. In subsequent centuries, Christians, Persians, Umayyad Muslims, Abbasid Muslims and, eventually, Ottoman Muslims invaded the land and ruled as imperialist colonizers. Through it all, Jews continued on the land.
During the Ottoman period, Israel was a barren wasteland riddled with malaria and yellow fever. The Jews were eventually joined by two Muslim tribes: the Druze, whom Muslims consider heretics, and the Bedouins. Beginning in the early 19th century, Muslim refugees from other lands came, too. Pierre Van Paassen, a Protestant minister and journalist, knew the region intimately in the first half of the 20th century. His book The Forgotten Ally, much of it based on events he witnessed and people he knew, fills in some of the erased facts in the region’s history, including how the modern “Palestinians” came there.
Image by Israel’s Voice.
Those who came included Algerians who left North Africa after France’s conquest in 1830; Circassian immigrants from the Russian Caucasus, whom the Turks settled in Syria-Palestine in the second half of the 19th century; and Senussi Muslims from Tripoli who trickled into Syria-Palestine after WWI to escape persecution in their own land. These people did not own the land where they settled and lived in unimaginable squalor.
Two things changed this backwater dynamic. First, in response to (a) the Dreyfuss Affair in France, when an innocent Jewish military officer was accused of treason for crimes known to have been committed by a French noble, and (b) the pogroms in Eastern Europe. Theodor Herzl said that the return to the Holy Land was the only way for Jews in the diaspora (the lands outside of Israel) to survive.
Zionism was born. Many answered the call. Jews bought the land from Ottoman landowners (who lived in Istanbul, Paris, London, etc.), and the idealists headed off to turn the swamp into a land of Milk and Honey.
Second, the Ottoman Empire collapsed when Germany (with which it had allied itself) lost WWI. In 1916, anticipating victory, the French and British entered into the Sykes-Picot agreement, divvying up the land between them. While France would get what’s now Syria and Lebanon, Britain would get the southernmost edge of that territory, which is now Israel.
In 1917, Arthur Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration supporting Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people. This wasn’t just a Protestant religious commitment. It also took a swipe at Germany’s ally.
When Germany lost the war, the Sykes-Picot agreement went into effect. “Syria-Palestine” became “British-mandate Palestine” (“BMP”).
At the time, according to Pierre van Paassen, the Arabs were thrilled with the Jewish presence in BMP. Energetic, European-educated Jews brought the benefits of modern agriculture techniques, modern medicine, and education to the downtrodden people in this backwater. Even the man who would become Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi, the king of Syria, in 1920, announced that “We Arabs…look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement.”
How did that British and Arab sympathy collapse?
Van Paassen writes that it started when Britain shipped into the BMP the lower tiers of bureaucrats from across its Empire. These men, according to van Paassen, were antisemitic and recognized that the energetic Jews and grateful Arabs were a threat to their power. They encouraged the Arabs to view the Jews as their enemy. Additionally, in an era newly desperate for oil, Arabs had the oil. European countries knew on which side their oil was buttered.
In 1925, the League of Nations recognized that Palestine and Transjordan (modern Jordan) were successor states under international law. Palestine was to have been the Jewish state; Transjordan was the Muslim-Arab state. Both the British and the Arabs, however, refused to recognize Palestine’s status as a Jewish state.
When Hitler rose, Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and a radical Arab nationalist and violent antisemite, made common cause with the Nazis. He and Hitler plotted the complete annihilation of Jews in BMP. What happened, instead, was that, following the Holocaust, Jews poured into BMP. Eventually, the world was forced to acknowledge the Jews’ historic right to their indigenous homeland. As of 1948, the Jews got a new infusion of citizens when the Muslim world (the most aggressive colonizing force on earth) evicted roughly 900,000 Jews, many of whom had lived in those lands from times predating Jesus.
In the 76 years since then, Arabs have regularly attacked Israel, and Israel has repeatedly rebuffed those attacks. In each case, the Arabs engaged in the savagery we see today: mass rapes, kidnapping, torture, beheadings, body mutilation. Arabs just never did so on such a glaring, shocking scale and never before had the ability to share their “triumphs” on social media. Arabs fight wars as they did 1,400 years ago and as humans did in the Stone Age. There are no “rules of warfare.”
One final point: In the last forty years, Israel has also repeatedly been willing to cede land for peace, including handing Gaza over to the Arabs in 2005. That has made no difference. As the Hamas Charter makes explicit, the goal is now and has always been the eradication of the indigenous Jewish population.
Tell that to the next socialist who claims that Jews are the colonialists. They are the indigenous people who have been oppressed by millennia of colonialism, most recently by the Muslims and the British.
Here’s a helpful video about Islamic colonial expansion: