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September 11, 2016 2:23 pm

We Never Left: The Jews’ Continuous Presence in the Land of Israel

avatar by Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin

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The Temple Mount. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Temple Mount. Photo: Wikipedia.

Early in his first term, President Obama told the whole world in his speech from Cairo: “It is easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding.”

This was gravely misleading.

Israel was not “created and founded,” artificially and out-of-the-blue, in 1948 — but rather, Israel re-attained its independence that year as the natural fruition into statehood of the once-sovereign homeland of the Jewish people, who — over almost two millennia of continuous foreign invader and empire rule — never deserted that home, despite all attempts to eradicate them.

And that is the case we must make.

The argument for Israel is typically made on the legal side — the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Conference of 1920, the Palestine Mandate, UN Security Council Resolution 242. These are critical, yes, but not enough to counter the pervasive, but wholly false, sentiment that Jews stole Arab land.

Many Americans, both hostile and friendly to the Jewish homeland, wrongly believe that “the Romans exiled the Jews.” This shows how deep-seated and widespread this vast misperception of an almost-2,000-year separation of Jews from the land of Israel is among the American public.

For example, former President Carter in the “Historical Chronology” of his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, writes: “135 [CE]: Romans suppress a Jewish revolt, killing or forcing almost all Jews of Judaea into exile.” President Carter’s introductory “Palestine Historical Chronology” doesn’t mention Jews again until 1917, suggesting a Jewish absence of 1,782 years.

A 1922 Congressional Record Statement, favorable to the Jewish homeland, thought this misperception was true:

Palestine of today [1922], the land we know as Palestine, was peopled by the Jews from the dawn of history until the Roman era. It is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.  They were driven from it by force by the relentless Roman military machine and for centuries prevented from returning. At different periods various alien people succeeded them but the Jewish race had left an indelible impress upon the land.

Today it is a Jewish country. Every name, every landmark, every monument and every trace of whatever civilization remaining there is still Jewish. And it has ever since remained a hope, a longing, as expressed in their prayers for these nearly 2,000 years. No other people has ever claimed Palestine as their national home.  No other people has ever shown an aptitude or indicated a genuine desire to make it their homeland.

Historian James Parkes explained why it is so important to remind the world that the Jews never left Israel: “The omission [of the fact of continual Jewish presence in the land] allowed the anti-Zionist, whether Jewish, Arab or European, to paint an entirely false picture of the wickedness of Jewry in trying to re-establish a two-thousand-year-old claim the country, indifferent to everything that had happened in the intervening period.”

But is it true that the Jews never left Israel? Yes, it is:

Talmudic Age: The Romans did not exile the Jews. Post-revolt synagogues dotted the land. The misnah and Palestinian Talmud were written. The Romans recognized the Patriarch as the community’s head until the fifth century.

The Muslim Dynasties: The Jews were still there.

Crusader rule: The Jews fought at Jerusalem, and held the Crusaders off — alone at Haifa — for a month.

The Mamluks: the Jews were still there — in their four holy cities and elsewhere.

The 400 years of Ottoman Turk rule: The Jews were still there, becoming Jerusalem’s majority during this time.

Parkes is indeed right that we grievously err in not making it clear that Israel, far from being “founded” in 1948, has been the Jewish people’s uninterrupted homeland during and since biblical times. (Instead we self-deprecatingly talk about “Jewish settlements” in “East” Jerusalem and “the West Bank.”)

And that is what fighting “anti-Israel media bias” is all about: countering the media’s effect on Western public opinion about Jewish and Arab homeland equities in Israel.

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  • Yaakov,

    You mislead when you say “some left voluntarily, but many left under duress.”

    More accurate is that “most Arabs left either voluntarily or under duress by the Arab League and by Arab leaders.”

    • Shoshana

      it is true that many arabs left Palestine volontarly, this was its name at the time, it is also true that the Haganah, the jewish army did displace some villages who were active in fighting the army and the jewish citizen.The fact of today is that in Israel of today, the arab population represents 25% of it. I want to emphasise that they are a 100% citisen equal to the jewish population, they have official political parties represented at the Knesset(the parliament). I do have a hard time to understand why Israel is still an issue of discussing its legitimacy. Israel”s creation is not the result of any decision of any international organisation.
      To those who question the “historical right” of the jews,1- No, the jews as such were NOT assimilated,they ere kept aside by the different nations and even when they tried to assimilate, wich started really only during the 19th century and the first half of the
      twentiest century, and as we sadly know it didn’t last long..
      The jews NEVER forgot their past. but the sionists were a minority, and only by the end of the 19est century and mainly the first half of the twentiest did they really start to be actively sionist, and they were for a long time a minority.
      I feel I have to notice here that the first country who gave full equallity to the jews was France, at their revolution in 1878, they specified: equality as individuals with their own religion, NOT as a people wich is understandable

  • Dani

    Poor Israel! There are more tan 4,000 peoples in the world, close to 200 independent countries, hundreds of religions of all sorts, different types of settlements and ways to live in someone´s own land or sombody´s else but the only single nation, the only single people, the only single state and the only sigle religión against which all and everyone points an accusatory finger is always Israel. Why?
    Leave us alone, leave us to live in peace.

  • So much of the above is inconsequential argument.
    Hashem uses people to bring about his prophecies. Some times they know they are being used, most times they do not. When the UN re-established Israel it was people who determined that this had to happen, regardless of their self interests, people decided and it happened. let us also not forget that the prophets who Hashem used to predict that it would happen were people also.

    • Hamanslayer

      Daniel — another misconception. The UN did NOT “re-establish Israel.” The UN had a partition plan for two states, one Jewish, the other Arab. There was no name chosen by the UN for either state. This partition plan was never implemented.

      When Ben-Gurion and the heads of the Jewish Agency for Palestine (usually known just as the Jewish Agency) declared Israel an independent state, they were not quite ready to do it but were pressured into it by Menahem Begin, head of the Irgun, who insisted that if the Jewish Agency did not do it, he and the Irgun would declare the new state…

      The majority of members of the UN recognized the newly declared state — but they did not create it!

      • I don’t know as to Begin, but on pages 262-63 of “So Far,” Meyer Weisgal recounted that Ben-Gurion urged him to contact a leader at the other end of the spectrum, Chaim Weitzmann, for his opinion.

        Weisgal wrote that he made the phone call: “‘Dr. Weitzmann,’ I said. ‘I have a very important question to ask you. Can you hear me? It is urgent. B.G. wants your opinion now about an immediate declaration of independence.’ His answer, in Yiddish, was clear and short. ‘Vos warten zey, die idioten? What are they waiting for, the idiots?'”

    • Shoshana

      there is a saying in frensh, I shall translate it:”help youtrself, Hashem will help.”
      Aide toi, le ciel t’aidera

  • OBAMA like HILARY never had nor ever will have 100% the interest of Israel at heart!!!

  • Dani Renan

    I just want to add that Jews remained a majority in the country until the Abbasid Khalifate, based in Baghdad, (about 800 CE).

    Also Jews were were 50% of population of Gaza before Napoleon’s invasion. The other 50% were Christians.

    There were small Jewish communities in Gaza, Sch’em, Tulkarm, Qalqila, and the larger one in Hevron, in which Jews had resided since Medieval times. But after the 1929 riots, they were evacuated by the British, and not allowed to return since the Brits could not guaranty their safety. With the exception of Hevron all these cities are still Judenrein.

  • ibn batuta

    Only the almighty can resolve the Israel-Palestinian crisis.The good news is that it sooner or later be resolved by divine intervention.

  • This is a ridiculous and very unsuccessful approach.
    There is moral justice in the founding of the Jewish state, despite the fact that some Palestinians were hurt.
    but it is ridiculous to try establish the moral right of Israel’s existence on the fact that we lived here a few thousands of years ago, or because God supposedly promised the land to Abraham.
    One cannot seriously try establish the historic right of the Jews to the land of Israel. If the people who lived here before the Jewish conquest of Canaan (according to the old testament) were to come and demand the land – would it be handed over to them because of THEIR historic right ? Did historic right only start when the Jews conquered Israel ? And in the thousands of years that have passed since the exile of the Jews – OTHER people have lived here for those thousands of years, even if a minority of jews also remained. So do these other people have no historic right after living here for thousands of years ? If historic right is only a right of the Jews, then it is NT an historic right at all.
    Thre IS moral justification for Israel’s existence – we should prove that in terms that other fair-minded people can accept, rather than clinging to the dubious “historic right”.
    The Jews were the largest, longest refugee problem in the world. Israel is the solution to that problem (which is now ignored and forgotten, since it IS solved). The damage to some Palestinians Arabs displaced is real, but is offset by the expulsion of an equal number of jews thrown our by force from their homes in Arab countries, and offset too by the fact that far more good was done to the Jews than the hardship done to the Arabs. Jewish refugees were assimilated, not held by their fellow jews and the UN in camps to perpetuate political aims – as was done to the Arab refugees be their own fellow arabs. Tweo years after Hitlers concentration camps, jews were still in their camps, not allowed to0 return tothe homes they were torn from by Hitler and the Antisemite civilians – and THAT is why we have morality in the establishment of a Jewish home of refuge for the Jews. and, the poetic justice is, that Israel is the place where the Jews finally stood up0 and said “If you want to kill Jews, you must come well armed because this is where the Jews fight back”.
    THOSE are the reasons we a just in having our state – not because we lived here two thousand years ago.

    • Both arguments are valid and real. There is no need to choose one over the other.

    • Hamanslayer

      Paul, your bottom line has validity, but your argument against the 2,000 years claim is false. The Canaanites (and Jebusites and Hittites etc.) are no longer there and had ceased to exist more than 3,000 years ago.

      The 2,000 years and the continuity arguments are valid for the very reason that regardless of numbers, or of where Jews found refuge over the years, we have never given up our claim to this land — and no one else made a claim to it (as a national home, not as farm properties of some)over the years until terrorist Arafart started to in the 1950’s. That is after the Jews declared their independence.

      Even the American Indians (Native Americans, as is politically correct to say)who still maintain their identity, have not come out with claims for the land they lost to the Republic of the United States of America. Were they to do so, I am not sure what arguments you could use against their claims.

    • Jack Klaber

      I did not read your whole post. I stopped after reading your hypocritical and utterly hypothetical question if we the Jews of Israel (you obviously are only a Jew by birth) would give back the Land of Yisrael to the Canaanites if they would come back.
      Yes, absolutely!! We would give the Canaanites back their land on the following conditions:
      The Canaanites left their land because they were forced to leave after losing a centuries long war and revolt to a superpower who conquered their land and forced their culture, religion and rules on the Canaanites. They destroyed the Canaanite capital (which is??), main religious temple (anything known about it??) and took all the religious relics from that temple to their foreign homeland (physical proof absolutely necessary!!).
      Then the Canaanites must proof that they remained true to their religion, language and culture during all the time they were expulsed until the date they claimed their homeland back. They have to show that in their culture their homeland was the centerpole of their daily life and they turned to the direction of their homeland several times a day during praying (praying for return to their homeland). They have to proof that each and every Canaanite who wanted to get marry could only be pronounced married after he made a solemnly vow to put his capital in his homeland at the top of his joys and he is willing to loose his right arm if should forget it.
      Do I have to continue or is it even clear to you that there is simply no way that there is a nation on this planet that can claim the rights to their land as strongly as the Jews can to their Homeland, the Land of Israel!!!

      • Jack,

        I read Paul’s whole post. He doesn’t at all detract from the Jews’ right to Israel, merely differs in his argument: he says “let’s not try arguing about historical ties, let’s rather say ‘after the way the nations of the world have treated us we now have our own land and we are here to stay'”. I for one find that pretty sound!

    • Frans Horbach

      The simple fact is that 20% of Israel’s population is Arabic. Their “historic” rights, if any and to the extent relevant, are respected. At the same time one should consider the fact that after WWI Arab migrants from different regions of the former Ottoman Empire were drawn to Palestine attracted by new economic opportunities as a consequence of the British presence.

    • Shoshana

      All this talking about who decided, who declared the recognition of Israel as a legitimate country, is nonsense because without some fifty years of jewish :hityashvut”= creating new settlements(sorry, my english is not perfect). with the help of the european jewish connunities, they bought land at the high price, and created kibbutzim and towns(Tel Aviv, Rehovot and others)in a semi- deserted land wich they transformed into the florishing country of today.It does not really matters who eventually decided to give us legitimate recognition

  • Hillel

    Its about bloody time someone made that point. We should all be making that point day in day out. No more of this self deprecating BS that we were gone and now we’re back. Feeding the argument for the likes of antisemites like Jimmy Carter.

  • hanokmim II

    You can try fighting anti-Israel bias that way, but it’s a little late for that, and the arabs have been pushing their phony narrative quite successfully for over 40 years. The only way to secure Israel for the foreseeable future is to soundly defeat all of its enemies and to viably threaten all those, even outside of the Middle East, who contribute to the arab war machine. That means all arms or nuclear parts deliveries to arab countries are legitimate targets of Israel, and perhaps the manufacturing plants themselves.

  • Johanne

    Jesus Christ is Jewish, the land of Israel is his.

  • Shlomo

    Yes. Israel was founded in 1948. Trying to argue otherwise is idiotic.

    Do Arabs get to claim Spain and Italy because they lived there hundreds of years ago? Do Germans get to claim the parts of Poland that were Germany for thousands of years? Do Greeks get to claim Anatolia as a homeland?

    Seems that only ‘God’s chosen people’ get to have this right. Jews also have a continuous presence dating back thousands of years in Egypt, Arabia, and Iran. Do those belong to the European Jews who founded Israel too?

    The idea that a Jew from New York has more right to the Middle East than AN ACTUAL MIDDLE EASTERNER whose family has lived in the region for centuries is ludicrous.

    • Frans Horbach

      The Israeli Jews and Arabs ARE ACTUAL MIDDLE EASTERNERS. All those Arab migrants who came to Palestine from whatever region of the former Ottoman Empire or the Arabian Peninsula who claim a right and justification for the destruction of the legitimate sovereign state of Israel and the murder of Jews, have forfeited any “historic” rights. And explain what right and justification the Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Jemen and their allies, had when they attacked Israel with the goal to annihilate her? What “historic” rights are you referring to?

    • Israel was not “founded,” as though out-of-the-blue, in 1948, but declared its independence that year. It was instantly invaded by several neighboring Arab states, and, in its War of Independence, not of “Creation and Founding,” its homeland army of homeland Jews, Haganah, which became the Israel Defense Force, threw back that invasion.

      More indigenous Middle Eastern Jews, mostly absorbed by Israel, fled vast Muslim lands than Arabs fled tiny Israel.

      Every ruler of the land of Israel between the Romans’ final defeat of Jewish Judaea and modern Israel’s independence – Romans-Byzantines, Muslim dynasties, Crusaders, Mamluks, Turks – was a foreign invader. The State of Israel is the land’s next native state.

  • POPULATION of Palestine aka The Land of Israel:
    Before the name change to the State of Israel, “Arab/Palestinians” were the same Arab people living in the area called Palestine aka the Land of Israel. By the 1940s, the vast majority of Arab-Palestinians (Muslims, Jews, and Christians) were immigrants or descendants of those who immigrated after 1870, since the land was so VERY sparsely populated in the mid 1800’s and desolate. “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
    [Note the mere 2 year period of residence for claiming refugee status: Arab Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine aka the Land of Israel during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” Of all the refugees, they are the ONLY ones to perpetuate the status to all partrilineal descendants. The Arab League has instructed its members to deny them citizenship.]
    Since the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in year 70 AD (after 12 CENTURIES of the Children of Israel in the Holy Land), there have continuously been some of the Jewish family and communities living in the Holy Land, and whenever possible this included the heart of the Holy Land, Jerusalem.
    Jews had been a constant presence in the Holy Land, long before there were Zionists; largely poor, they were largely concentrated, in separate Jewish quarters, in the towns of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberius. A few were merchants and shopkeepers, some were petty craftsmen, and some spent their days praying and studying, living off contributions from abroad. The newcomers, the Zionists, were to concentrate, not on merely living (or dying) in the Holy Land, but on making a living, with the distinct idea of re-forming an autonomous Jewish community in the ancient Jewish homeland.
    Overall the Jewish population, like the population in general, had remained fairly stable from the earliest days of Ottoman rule until the 19th century. The introduction of stable Turkish government, and their promoting Jews to return to their homeland and revive its desolation into a producing land; and the Christian influence from outside, and in particular the abolishment of the laws discriminating against non-Muslims, led to a disproportionately larger growth of Jews in the Holy Land. According to Ben-Aryeh, the pre-eminent student of 19th century geography, Jews increased from 28,500 in 1800’s to about 65,000 by 1880, his figures including Jews who were not Ottoman citizens.
    By the mid 1800’s, the land was VERY sparsely populated.
    1857: British consul, James Finn, reported “The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population.”
    1859: British Consulate report: The Muslims of Jerusalem do not exceed a fourth of the entire population.
    1867: Charles Wyllys Elliott, president of Harvard University, wrote: “A beautiful sea lies unbosomed, among the Galilean hills in the mist of that land once possessed by Zebulon and Naphtali, Asher and Dan. Life here was one idyllic… now it is a scene of desolation and misery.”
    1867: American author Mark Twain visited the Holy Land, and wrote about it in his book “The Innocents Abroad”: “…[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds -a silent mournful expanse….A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action….We never saw a human being on the whole route….There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” “There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation.” “One may ride ten miles hereabouts, and not see ten human beings.”
    1874: Reverend Samuel Manning wrote in his book, “Those Holy Fields” But where was the inhabitants? This fertile plain which might support an immense population is almost solitude.”
    Starting in 1878, enormous waves of Muslim immigration began arriving in what was essentially an empty territory. The Ottoman Sultan launched a resettlement policy to bring foreign Muslims, mainly from Circassia & Algeria.
    ⇨Unlike Arabs, when Jews immigrated to the Holy Land, it was the indigenous people returning.⇦
    1921- : Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States, said on May 17, 1939, “The Arab immigration to Palestine since 1921 was much greater than Jewish immigration.” It was the British who turned a blind eye while hundreds of thousands of Arabs crossed the border into Palestine aka the Land of Israel.
    1922 – 1947: Arab population increased the most in cities with large Jewish populations that had created new economic opportunities. The non-Jewish population increased 290 percent in Haifa, 131 percent in Jerusalem and 158 percent in Jaffa. The growth in Arab towns was more modest: 42 percent in Nablus, 78 percent in Jenin and 37 percent in Bethlehem.
    1934: The governor of the Syrian district of Hauran, Tewfik Bey El Hurani, admitted in 1934, which in a single period of only a few months, over 35,000 Syrians from Houran had moved to Palestine aka the Land of Israel.
    1939: Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister and a veteran of the British Mandate in the Holy Land, noted in 1939 the Arab illegal invasion: The Arabs have crowded into the country by over two hundred thousand and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all worlds Jewry could lift up the Jewish population.
    June 1948: The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs, in the 12 years in-between 1932-1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. – Robert F. Kennedy visited the British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, one month before Israel declared its independence, and reported this for the Boston Post.
    “The Arab Palestinian people have no national identity. I Yasser Arafat, man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.” -Yasser Arafat.
    “The Arab Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of an Arab Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.” –Arab PLO executive committee member, Zahir Muhsein, 1977.
    The late military commander of the Arab PLO, as well as member of the Arab PLO Executive Council, Zuhair Muhsin. Said the following to James Dorsey in a 1977 interview in the Dutch newspaper “Trouw” – There are no differences between Jordanians, Arab Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Arab Palestinian identity….yes; the existence of a separate Arab Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of an Arab Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.
    “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”
    – Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, to the UN Security Council
    “There is no such country [as Palestine]! ’Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Arab Palestine in the Qur’an. Our country was for century’s part of Syria.”
    – Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, a local Arab leader, to the Peel Commission, 1937
    Zuheir Mohsen uniquely both an Arab PLO leader and an official in the ideologically Pan-Arabism Syrian Ba’ath party at the same time. As such, he stated that there were no differences between Jordanians, Arab Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese”, though Arab Palestinian identity would be emphasized for political reasons. This originated in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “Between Jordanians, Arab Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of ONE people, the Arab nation. Look, I have family members with Arab/Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Syrian citizenship. We are ONE people. Just for political reasons we carefully underwrite our Arab Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Arab Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Arab Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of an Arab Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.”
    “There is no Arab Palestinian nation! There is an Arab nation, but no Arab Palestinian nation. This was invented by the colonial powers. When are the Arab Palestinians mentioned in history? Never!” – Azmi Bishara, Arab Palestinian intellectual and former Arab Knesset member who fled to Qatar to avoid prosecution for aiding the enemy.

  • It’s also been shown in genetic studies that palestinians, particularly in the West Bank, have similar or the same DNA as jews, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim/Mizrahim.
    Tsvi Misinaia has written a book and numerous articles on his findings that as many as 85% of palestinian are of jewish or samaritan descent – and many know this, but are fearful of radical islamists and pro-palestine groups.
    The Roman Wars against the judean rebels didn’t empty the land of all jews, only the royal families, nobility, temple priesthood and many scribes. The farmers and workers were left to the land to continue the agricultural/trade industries, pay roman taxes and contribute goods to the roman state. These farmers eventually converted to Christianity and later, Islam – BUT, in their minds, they never left the lands that God gave them.

  • Yaakov

    Yes, Jews have had a continuous presence in the land, although, obviously, many did leave. That is why the Babylonian Talmud is more influential than the Jerusalem Talmud.

    However, the narrative that Jews “stole the land” relates to the emigration of Arabs at the time of the establishment of the State and the subsequent confiscation of their land. Some left voluntarily, but many left under duress. Those who were legitimate property owners have not been compensated for their losses.

    There are many narratives, but the only legitimate one is the honest and evenhanded one.