Why The Return To Zion? The Jewish Connection To The Land of Israel


Dr. Alex Grobman is a Hebrew University trained historian. He is a former director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the author of a number of books, including Nations United: How The U.N. Undermines Israel and The West, Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? and a forthcoming book on Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a Jewish State.

Not long after the establishment of the State of Israel, Abba Eban, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, remarked, “The peace on Israel’s borders may be no more than the peace of a quiescent volcano; and the crisis of state in its immediate external relationships remain unsolved.” 1

Given the intractable nature of this conflict, many ask why the Jews have been so tenacious in their desire to reconstitute the Jewish state in the land of Israel. What is it about this land that has inspired their love of Zion through centuries of exile?

Culturally, during the 18 centuries of Jewish life in the Diaspora, the connection to the land of Israel played a vital role in the value system of Jewish communities and was a basic determinant in their self-recognition as a group. Without the connection to the land of Israel, the people who practice Judaism would simply be a religious community, without national and ethnic components. Jews were distinct from the Muslim and Christian communities in which they lived because of their religious beliefs and practices and the eternal link to the land of their forefathers. That is why Jews considered themselves — and are seen by others — as a minority living in exile. 2

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel explained: “For the Jews and for them alone [the land of Israel] was the one and only Homeland, the only conceivable place where they could find liberation and independence, the land toward which their minds and hearts had been uplifted for a score of centuries and where their roots had clung in spite of all adversity. . . . It was the homeland with which an indestructible bond of national, physical, religious and spiritual character had been preserved, and where the Jews had in essence remained — and were now once more in fact — a major element of the population.” 3

The Jews did not publicly challenge the occupation of their land by the empires of the East and West. They did so in their homes, sanctuaries, books, and prayers. Religious rituals were instituted to remember the destruction of the temple and the subsequent exile. During times of joy and sorrow, Zion is always part of a Jew's thoughts and liturgy. At least three times a day, observant Jews pray for the redemption of Zion and Jerusalem and for her well-being. 4
When the Muslims invaded Palestine in 634, ending four centuries of conflict between Persia and Rome, they found direct descendants of Jews who had lived in the country since biblical times. Rabbinical leaders there continued to argue about "whether most of Palestine is in the hands of the Gentiles," or "whether the greater part of Palestine is in the hands of Israel."

Such a determination was essential, since according to halacha [Jewish law] if Jews ruled the country, then they were obligated to observe religious agricultural practices in one way, and in another if they were not in control. 5

As Muslim hegemony prevailed, major Arab contributions to history originated in Damascus, Mecca, Cairo, and Baghdad. Little came from Jerusalem, indicating the low regard the area held for its captors and its minimal occupation by 16 nations. Similarly, while the land of Palestine was two percent of the Arab-controlled land-mass, to the Jewish people it was forever the fount of their religion, their homeland. 6

In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine in 1947, David Ben-Gurion, later Israel's first prime minister, pointed out that more than 3,000 years before the Mayflower left England for the New World, Jews fled from Egypt. Jews even slightly cognizant of their faith know that every spring Jews commemorate and remember the liberation from slavery and the Exodus from Egypt to the land of Israel. Those who observe the seder (the Passover meal and retelling of the exodus from Egypt), end it with two sentences: "This year we are here; next year we shall be in [Jerusalem] the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we shall be free.”7

Though bound to its religious foundation, a Jewish State also means "Jewish security. Even in countries where he seems secure, the Jew lacks a feeling of security. Why? Because even if he is safe, he has not provided his safety for himself. Somebody else provides for his security. The State of Israel provides such security."8 There Jews will be “free from fear, dependence, not the objects of pity and sympathy, of philanthropy and justice, at the mercy of others. We believe we are entitled to that as human beings and as a people.”9 To the Arabs who opposed the Jewish return, Ben Gurion, said that the “the closer and more quickly we draw together, the better it will be both for us and for you. The Jewish people and the Arab people need each other in the fashioning of their future as free people in this part of the world.”10

1. Aubrey S. Eban, “The Future Of Arab-Jewish Relations,” Commentary (September 1948), 199.
2. Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, New York: Basic Books, Inc. Publishers, 1981), 3.
3. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israel: An Echo Eternity (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1967), 57.
4. Ibid.55, 61-67.
5. Yaacov Herzog, A People That Dwells Alone (New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1975). 33; Ibid. 57. While Jewish settlement in recent times began in 1881, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, Palestine was probably the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Benjamin of Tudela, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Judah Halevi were there from the 12th century and Nachmanides from the early 13th century. Rabbi Estori Ha-Parhi, author of Kaftor va-Ferah, demonstrates how, since biblical times, Jews have lived on the land continuously.
6. Heschel, Israel: An Echo Eternity, 59.
7. The Jewish Case Before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (Jerusalem: The Jewish Agency For Palestine, 1947), 63.
8. Ibid. 68.
9. Ibid. 65.
10. 10. Ibid. 75.

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Fahrettin Tahir - 10/17/2009


If you watch "Lawrence of Arabia" you will see the British helping Arabs to revolt against the country whose citizens they were. Lawrance promises them an independent Arab Kingdom. When the fighting (by the Arabs) is done, the British do the winning. No Arab Kingdom. The Arab lands are converted into colonies. Even today, nearly 100 years later the oil money is of little good to the Arabs but is wasten on buying useless stuff from the USA or directly invested in the USA. In doing this they were cheating the Arabs for which the Arabs were very angry when it was too late.

In the years immediately before WW 2 it became clear that Jews had no future in Western and Central Europe. There were no murders yet but people could see that coming. jewish nationalists themselves would have liked their people moving into Palestine which they had for 2000 years seen as their home, given to them by God.

For the British to settle the Jews in Palestine would have meant losing the Arabs in the coming conflict. This would have been very stupid from their point of view. They already had Hitler and Stalin as enemies and wanted to avoid further antagonizing anybody.

If you take a look at a map of the world in 1938 you will see that most of it was divided among The countries which were later the winning coalition of WW2. They were not simply little Britain or Holland, they were enormous empires. It these empires had really wanted to help the Jews they could easily have done so by settling them virtually anywhere on the planet. They did not do so.

My feeling is that Moslems fail to understand the extent of anti semitizm in the western world, taking their professions of human rights etc at face value. This makes them unable to understand the desperation which has for a very long time been an integral part of the Jewish experience.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/16/2009

Mr. Tahir
I thank you for a well intentioned, though often misinformed, recapitulation of history that I take as it comes; presumably well intentioned!
However some of the advise you proffer are far from being original or novel to us while others, such as the implied "live and let live" ( so to speak; not a quote) disclose an abysmal ignorance of what ISRAEL really IS and what ZIONISM is al about.

Nevertheless a sentence in your piece intrigues me:
"They might not have wanted to provoke the Arabs whom they had previously cheated by settling them
in Palestina, but that left millions of square miles elsewhere."; particularly that part about :
" the Arabs whom they had previously cheated by settling them in Palestina,"!

Would you care to elaborate on that historical revelation?

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/16/2009

Omar, I would not begin the tragedy with British colonial rule. There are several other points I would prefer.

One would be the prosecution of the Jews under the Nazis. If they had been allowed to live in peace there would not have been enough immigrants to make Israel possible.

We are talking about a point where the allies of WW 2 had divided up the World among them. If they had not made imperialism the rule Nazis who wanted to do the same would have been unthinkable.

Of course the allies could have taken the prosecuted Jews and settled them someplace in their empires. 10 million Jewish immigrants from Europe would have had a place somewhere say in the British empire at that point with 500 million inhabitants. They might not have wanted to provoke the Arabs whom they had previously cheated
by settling them in Palestina, but that left millions of square miles elsewhere.

They had previously cheated the Arabs by promising them money and independence if they fought against the Ottoman empire in WW 1 and then turned the Arab lands into colonies to be brutally exploited.

In 1914 the Arabs had been Moslem subjects of the Moslem empire and living in a democracy. Yet they preferred to serve the British. They might have made a different decision. This would hav saved them a lot of suffering.

Another point would be the failure of the Ottoman industrialisation policy in the 1840'ies. The succesful indusrialisation would have left the Ottoman empire a super power, which might have given prosecuted Jews asylum, as it it 400 years previously without forcing Palestinians out of their homes.

The industrialisation policy failed for two reasons. One the British forced a liberal import regime by which native products were taxed more than British products, which ruined all native production. This at a time when the USA had I believe 44% import tax.

Two any goverment inevstment led to widespread corruption by people who used any chance for stealing government property.

The road to the future for the Arabs could be to start with 170 years delay but they do not seem to understand how important this would be.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/16/2009

Translation, Elliott: 'Umar can't respond to your facts.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/16/2009

'Umar, if you believe that the Israeli universities are founded and funded by crimes against Palestinians, 'Umar, it's just another conspiracy theory which absolves Arabs and Muslims of their own grotesque misjudgments and failures.

Look in the mirror. There you will see where the Palestinian problem comes from, there you will see where the suffering comes from. Fahrettin told you as much, long ago.

Ridiculously comparing Israelis to Nazis is merely a psychological tactic aimed at stabbing the Jews in their deepest wound. It's sadistic and sadly self-revealing, and gets you nowhere with thinking people.

Proof that the problem is on the Palestinian side: Zionism would not have to change as an ideology to accept the existence of a Palestinian state. But Palestinian ideology, the death-cult ideology you support, would have to undergo a total change in order to accept the existence of Israel, with all its accomplishments--accomplishments not only larger than those of the Palestinians, but larger than the entire Arab/Muslim world combined, with its billion people and trillions of dollars of oil wealth.

The shame of the Arabs and Muslims lies right there. You can't live with that shame, 'Umar, that failure of intellectual or even economic accomplishment despite the huge advantages of population and money the Arabs and Muslims enjoy. Because you can't live with the shame, you blame others, you must blame others. You blame the Jews. Look in the mirror for the source of the failure instead, 'Umar.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/16/2009

" Umar, there is so much more to say, but too little time."

None of which, Mr. Green, denies, belies, negates nor nullifies the historical facts that I noted which boils down to: except for Britain and the British mandate over Palestine there would have been NO Israel in Palestine.

Interestingly you keep bringing to attention small points of little historical importance patently to avoid responding to the cardinal points I made.
That is admission enough of their veracity for all HNN readership to note!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/16/2009

There is absolutely no way, or good reason, to deny neither the technical capabilities of Israel nor the excellence of its universities.

How does that, though, absolve it from the crimes it committed and goes on committing is unclear.

If any thing it is science and knowledge at the service of aggression and evil; not unlike Nazi Germany who had an outstanding record of scientific achievements when it embarked on the abominable Holocaust!

arthur m. eckstein - 10/16/2009

Fahrettin is clearly right that all that oil wealth could allow the Arabs to catch up culturally and educationally to the rest of the world, but they are too busy hating the Jews.

According to the Chinese rankings of world universities, there is not a single university in an Arab or Muslim country that was in the top 200 in 2007--this with all that oil wealth and a billion people to work with. Meanwhile, Israel alone had three universities in the top 115 in 2007--Israel, with its tiny population of 6 million.

That's another problem that 'Umar won't face. He'd rather blame the Jews, the West, *anyone* other than the obvious candidates for this educational disgrace.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/16/2009

The big issue, the big historical fact that disproves British favoritism for the Jews/Zionists in Israel was the 1939 White Paper which severely curtailed Jewish immigration into the Jewish National Home when the Jews most needed a home. In 1939, the White Paper set a quota of 15,000 Jews per year for the next five years. What makes the British even worse is that the UK did not allow even this small quota to be filled. So less than 75,000 Jews came into the country with British authorization in that 5-year period. Omar ought to check the book, Four-Front War, by William Perl, in order to get a different view of Brit policy.

Further, `Umar, did you know that many Jews believed the opposite of what you do? That is, they believed that the so-called "Arab Revolt" of 1936-39 was in fact a "Revolt by Leave", which is also the title of a book by Horace Samuel. In other words, the British deliberately allowed and encouraged the Arab Revolt.

By the way, Umar, did you know that Nuri Said arranged a meeting for Haj Amin el-Husseini with Colonel Newcombe, a British rep, while Husseini was in Iraq ca. 1939-1940?
Did you know that Anthony Eden, Brit foreign secretary, was actively encouraging the Arabs to form the Arab League?

`Umar, there is so much more to say, but too little time.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/16/2009

They would let the Arabs do pogroms, then the Jews to organize the Haganah, then tell the Egyptians to make a war, then betray their military plans to the Israelis, then condemn Zionizm and so on and so on the whole time stealing the oil the Arabs could use to catch up with the rest of the World but are not because they are too busy hating the Jews.

That game is called divide and rule.

The only way around that it to make peace with your neighbors.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/16/2009

The Haganah was illegal under the British. The British never would allow an independent Jewish defense force, no matter how many pogroms Arabs might carry out.

The Haganah organization was an underground organization, a secret organization; its few weapons factories had literally to be underground, i.e., secret, also, and lack of weapons was a weakness of the proto-Israelis right up to 1947-1948. Lots of Haganah people were arrested by the British.

That the organization flourished meant that it had great popular support among the Yishuv; it doesn't mean the British didn't oppose it and try to suppress it.

As usual with 'Umar, everything complex becomes simple: it's all a conspiracy. And those who refuse to see the conspiracy are of course "stupid." Sigh.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/15/2009

But the Hagana thrived and flourished under British rule to the point of becoming, virtually, a sanding army!
Or was that achieved unknown and opposed by the British?
People are not as ignorant and as stupid as you imply Prof!

arthur m. eckstein - 10/15/2009

To be absolutely explicit about the Husseini family (from which the Nazi follower Amin al-Husseini came), and the lack of Palestinian self-determination, which so concerns 'Umar: to many Palestinian Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s it was *they*, the Husseinis, who were denying people self-determination. The Husseinis were ferociously anti-semitic, and they brutalized any Palestinian Arab notable who disagreed with them.

('Umar, on the other hand, sees them--including the Nazi-like Amin al-Husseini--as heroes.)

On the negative impact of the Husseinis for other Palestinians, see D. K. Fieldhouse, Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914-1958 (Oxford University Press, 2006), and Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (University of California Press, 2008).

Not that I expect 'Umar to read these books.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/15/2009

Despite 'Umar's depiction of the Haganah as some sort of Zionist-British conspiracy (above, #147545), the Haganah was illegal under British rule.

Sigh. Well, facts never interest 'Umar anyway.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/15/2009

Do you deny the ethnic cleansing done by the Arabs in 1947 or do you not deny it, 'Umar? If you don't deny it, then you will have to admit that the Arabs were the first to resort to it, not the Jews. Do you deny it? Yes or no?

Do you deny that Jewish immigration into the Mandate in the 1920s was only about 100,000 people? (There was a larger immigration into the Mandate in the 1930s because of Hitler). Do you deny that the Arab standard of living in the Mandate by the late 1930s was much better than the Arab standard of living in any of the surrounding countries, and much better than it had been under Ottoman rule? Do you deny that a large Arab immigration into the Mandate was occurring as a result? Do you deny that the largest increases in Palestinian Arab popuation in 1925-1940 occurred close to Jewish population centers, which would argue against the Palestinian contention that the Zionists were dispossessing Arabs? Not even Norman Finklestein denies this.

Do you deny, 'Umar, that one reason there was significant collaberation between Palestinian Arabs and the Jews was out of hostility to the Husseini family's iron and violent grip on Palestinian politics, so that their opponents--oppressed and under threat--worked with the Jews rather than the Husseinis?

It's all much more complicated than 'Umar wishes it had been.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/15/2009

Art & Fahrettin,
I just learned today that Mussolini was once [for how long?] a British agent. The recently published memoirs of Sir Samuel Hoare, prominent in British policy in the 30s and 40s, have just recently been published. In 1917, when the UK wanted to keep Italy and Russia in WW I, they paid Mussolini, earlier a prominent socialist journalist, 100 pounds per week to write articles advocating that Italy stay in the war.

I have not had a chance to read the details. But I'm sure that everyone would want to know:
When did he stop being a British agent, if ever??

omar ibrahim baker - 10/15/2009

NONE of which, in both # 137446 &137447 denies or negates, any of the The DETERMINANT historical FACTS of the issue nor nullifies the conclusions drawn therefrom!

Good enough as an admission coming as it does from the Prof!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/15/2009

Mr Fahrettin
Your words above, with no NEVER, are a far cry from :
" Turkey would never have risen to become a power again without the reforms they inspired and helped make."
I appreciate your reconsideration.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/15/2009

British contribution, as part of a strategic British-Jewish/Zionist understanding ,to the establishment of the Zionist colony, Israel, in Palestine could be summed up as being the decisive contribution that actually led to the success of the Zionist project.
The following are the , hopefully indisputable, it’s most salient features::
1-The Balfour Declaration

2-Allowing and enabling Jewish emigration that mutilated the demographic composition of Palestine against the will and opposition of the Palestinian people

3-Giving the Jewish community, drastically augmented in numbers because of 2 above, a free hand to establish and empowering the Jewish Agency to act as an independent administration of Jewish affairs in Palestine ; practically a government in "exile",so to speak.
4- Enabling the Jewish community to raise, train and maintain what was, practically, a standing army: the Hganah; the future backbone of the Israeli army.( While at the same time Palestinian Arabs were executed by hanging for the possession of a rifle!)
5-Consistently denying the Palestinian people, because of its Arab majority, any kind of meaningful public representation such as general elections or a SELF DETERMINATION plebiscite.
6- Quelling the Palestinian uprising of 1936-39.

The factors above could be summarized as: providing legal cover, letting in the Jews, allowing them self administration, allowing them a crucial self defense and aggression capability, incapacitating their adversaries politically then militarily and materially.
(What more does it take for an alien conqueror to win and for a colony be established??)

The history of modern Palestine is replete with historical minutiae liable to be interpreted several ways; most of the above is a demonstration of that.

BUT except for the six decisive factors noted above there would have been no Zionist colony in Palestine today nor in 1948.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/14/2009

I agree with everything you have written above, Fahrettin.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/14/2009


Britain has no friends nor foes, just interests. They would let anybody bleed, if it brought them any advantage.

Hitler was very happy that nobody wanted to give the Jews he was prosecuting asylum. It was confirmation of the rightfulness of his hate.

They all stood by silently.

arthur m. eckstein - 10/14/2009


The British did not support the Zionists after 1929. Yes, they put down the Arab Rebellion of 1936-1939,for their own strategic benefit, but the 1939 British White Paper, which blocked Jewish emigration into the Mandate, was the death-warrant for hundreds of thousands of European Jews (also done for their own strategic benefit).

Did the British supply officers to the proto-Israeli armed forces? Obviously not! But the best Arab force in the 1947-1948 fighting was the Arab Legion (= Jordanian Army), which had been trained by Glubb Pasha (Lt.-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, KCB, CMG, DSO)--and he was its commander until 1956. British armored cars stood by silently when Palestinian militia killed Jewish 80 doctors and patients in 2 buses in April 1948--burning them alive. This is the Mt. Scopas Massacre--whose existence has never been acknowledged by 'Umar, though I have repeatedly asked him to research it.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/14/2009


So the British would never support both sides at the same time, if that brought them some advantage elsewhere?

A. M. Eckstein - 10/13/2009

The real question, Elliott, is: has 'Umar read it? The next time he brings up the British-Zionist "conspiracy" against the Palestinians, put it to him.

Not that we can expect him to read it.

A. M. Eckstein - 10/12/2009

I agree with Fahrettin that such a policy would be very short-sighted. The AKP is not a friend of progress, or modernism--Fahrettin's convinced me of it.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/12/2009

Until now they do not appear to have defined a policy towards Turkey.

My impression is Western countries want changes in the treaties which define Turkey and Cyprus and prefer the AKP government who seems to promise them things in return for support against secularists.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/12/2009

Omar, the jews were a key factor. However Turkish nationalist theory knows no ethnic groups, only Turks.

One of the leading people who invented this theory was Tekin Alp.

Actually Tekin Alp was born In Saloniki as Marcel Raphael Samuel Cohen.

On their own, the Jews would not have been able to do anything. But they had a critical contribution that begs to be remembered. As do the Turks and other Moslems who readily accepted their contribution.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/12/2009

Exactly, Art.

Then, what some don't want to acknowledge is the British commitment to the Arab side in that war. Oddly, Muhammad Hassanein Heykal, the Egyptian journalist, claimed that Britain pushed Egypt into that war, although the Egyptian prime minister of the time, Nuqrashy Pasha, did not want war with Israel.
Have you had a chance to read Meir Zamir's in HaArets last year on the sub rosa British-Arab alliance??

A. M. Eckstein - 10/12/2009

'Umar might come off as more of an adult if he learned to take some responsibility on the Arab side for what happened.

That includes the ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1947, when the Arab side was victorious, as deliniated by EG--long before the offensive of the proto-Israelis in May 1948 that led to many Palestinians fleeing and some being expelled. (It seems to me that 'Umar by adopting a certain phraseology tries to deny what was happening to Jews in 1947. Do you, 'Umar, deny it happened? Yes or no?)

A. M. Eckstein - 10/12/2009

Every bit of land owned by Jews in 1947 was sold to them voluntarily by Arabs.

When they were attacked, they defended themselves. The result of the Palestinian Arab attack was that what became Israel gained more land than under the UN Declaration. And whose fault was that?

And while 750,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced by the war of 1947-1948, on the other hand 850,000 Middle Eastern Jews fled or were expelled by Arab governments after the war, and most ended up in what had become Israel. It was a population-exchange, unfortunate in many respects and in which the Jews came off worse in terms of (a) numbers, and (b) property lost without compensation; but it was a population-exchange nevertheless, and similar to what happened when Pakistan split from British India against the wishes of 2/3 of the Indian population.

arthur m eckstein - 10/11/2009

In addition, Elliott, rather than 1947-1948 being some sort of colonial war of conquest, as 'Umar and his like would like to believe, the Palestinian Arab side was successfully on the offensive in the first months of the war, the proto-Israelis on the increasingly desperate defensive, and people in the American govt feared another Holocaust. On April 4, 1948, the British High Commissioner in the Palestine Mandate, General Sir Alan Cunningham, told his govt at home that the Arab side was winning decisively. Cunningham was a very experienced military man.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/11/2009

Green & Co keep coming back with stories and episodes, some of which may be true, BUT keep avoiding the determinant FACTS of the issue; these are:

1- The post WWI 10%, of total population, Jewish community in Palestine augmented its presence to something in the 40% in the 1945s by gaining entry against the express will of the indigenous Palestinian population.

2-Jews were allowed entry into Palestine by mandatory Britain against the ceaseless opposition of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous Palestinian population; then 80% Arab of total

3-The Balfour Declaration promising the Jews a homeland in Palestine was reached through close consultation and an agreement between, then chairman of the Zionist Organization ?, Chaim Wiesman and British Secretary of State Lord Balfour, at the request of the former, without any consultation with any representatives of the Palestinian people's Arab majority then 80% of total.

4-The Palestinian people , with an 80% Arab majority , was NOT represented neither at the San Remo nor at the League of Nations conventions which dealt with Jewish emigration into Palestine

5- From the outset of British mandatory power over Palestine with relentless Jewish/Zionist prodding and encouragements Britain, to preempt any form of public representation and expression of majority will, consistently refused to allow the Palestinian people any form of elections or of a SELF DETERMINATION process .
British-Jewish/Zionist denial the people of Palestine their democratic rights was meant to fore stall its inevitable outcome: total Palestinian rejection of any Jewish emigration to establish a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.

5-At no time prior to the 1947-8s did Jews own more than a tiny percentage, estimated at 5.6 % ,of the total area of Palestine.
( For concrete figures about land ownership refer to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine_(mandate)#Land_ownership)

These facts add up into two self imposing conclusions:

a-Having gained entry into Palestine with full disregard for and against the express will of its indigenous population post WWI Jewish emigrants into Palestine were alien colons embarked onto establishing a colony.
As such they are no different from the French in Algeria or the Afrikaners in South Africa!

b-Their presence was never accepted nor legitimized in any way by the majority of the Palestinian people as evidenced by land ownership data!.

Elliott & Co always shy away from confronting these DETERMINANT and irrefutable historical facts and prefer to dwell on episodes that are, in a historical perspective, no more than superfluous trivia!

Elliott Aron Green - 10/11/2009

In response to Per F and to `Umar in #137377:

The Israeli War of Independence was started by the Arab side, not by the Jews or Zionists. From December 1947, Arab irregular forces under the leadership of the Husseinis and the Arab Higher Committee were attacking Jewish urban neighborhoods and rural communities throughout the country, notably in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In this early stage of the war, the Arab side succeeded in driving Jews out of their homes in south Tel Aviv, certain quarters of Jerusalem, and elsewhere in the country. For instance, Arab forces succeeded by the end of December 1947 in driving the Jews out of the Shimon haTsadiq [Simon the Just] quarter of Jerusalem, around the Tomb of Simon the Just, north of the Orient House and the American Colony Hotel. One family held out in Shimon haTsadiq, finally fleeing in January 1948, between the 8th and 10th of the month. So ethnic cleansing of Jews was Arab policy from the start of the war.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/11/2009

`Umar, re your #137397,

Arab-Muslim conquerors usurped the Land of Israel and foreclosed the possibility of Jewish self-determination in the Jews' homeland. The conquerors also oppressed, exploited, humiliated the Jews as dhimmis. Yes, this happened long ago and the European Christian Crusaders contributed to reducing the number of Jews in the Land by their massacres in the first dozen years of their rule [from 1199 to about 1211]. So, the Jews are not really alien to the Land, and traditional Jews never gave up the aspiration of Return, which was acknowledged by the San Remo Conference and the League of Nations in 1920 and 1922, respectively.

art eckstein - 10/10/2009

When you are finished with the comments for this entry, close the window to return to "Why The Return To Zion? The Jewish Connection To The Land of Israel".

Re: Israel in a Historical Perspective (#137399)
by A. M. Eckstein on October 9, 2009 at 12:56 PM
If Palestinian opposition to the Jews was overwhelming, how do you explain all that selling of land to the Jews, 'Umar?

I suggest you actually read a book on this subject:
Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948.

Cohen’s central thesis is that despite the growing nationalist rhetoric and political mobilization against Zionism during this period, a significant number of Palestinians from all regions, classes, and religions collaborated with the Zionist movement in a variety of ways.

However, 'Umar, I realize perfectly well that it is asking far too much actually to ask you to read something scholarly and related to complex historical realities.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/10/2009

The Prof inquires # 137399:
"If Palestinian opposition to the Jews was overwhelming, how do you explain all that selling of land to the Jews, 'Umar?"
To which question I reply:
1- Palestine had a Jewish community that was, up to the Balfour Declaration and the unveiling of Zionist designs, an integral part of the Palestinian people and was accepted as such by the Palestinian majority, 80 % Arab then.
There was no reason, then, to refuse selling a Palestinian Jew a piece of land.
The Balfour Declaration changed all that of course!

2-However since the Prof asks the question would he care tell his readers HOW MUCH land did Jews own pre 1948 as a percentage of the total area of Palestine and how much Palestinian Arabs did own??

Available figures indicate the following:

Land ownership of Palestine by district as of 1945
District Arab owned Jewish owned Public and other
87%(Arab) 3%(Jewish) 10%(other)
15% <1% 85%
44% 34% 22%
75% 4% 21%
42% 35% 23%
96% <1% 4%
47% 39% 14%
84% <1% 16%
84% 2% 14%
87% <1% 13%
52% 28% 20%
99% <1% 1%
77% 14% 9%
68% 18% 14%
51% 38% 11%
78% 17% 5%
Data from the Land Ownership of Palestine[87]

[edit] Land ownership by type
( For a comprehensive review of the issue go to : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine_(mandate)#Land_ownership)

A. M. Eckstein - 10/9/2009

If Palestinian opposition to the Jews was overwhelming, how do you explain all that selling of land to the Jews, 'Umar?

I suggest you actually read a book on this subject:
Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948.

Cohen’s central thesis is that despite the growing nationalist rhetoric and political mobilization against Zionism during this period, a significant number of Palestinians from all regions, classes, and religions collaborated with the Zionist movement in a variety of ways.

However, 'Umar, I realize perfectly well that it is asking far too much actually to ask you to read something scholarly and related to complex historical realities.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/9/2009

Neither 10 nor 14 nor 18 % Jewish would have made Palestine a Jewish homeland with a Jewish majority and several millions Palestinian Arabs denied the right to return to their homeland; as things stand now!
That was only achieved by DENYING the Palestinian people his right to SELF DETERMINATION and ,then, Great Britain allowing Jewish emigration AGAINST the express will and unfailing opposition of the indigenous Palestinian Arab majority.

Jews emigrating into Palestine in the 1920s against the express will of the overwhelming majority of its indigenous population, 80% Arab pre forced Jewish entry, were alien colons pure and simple embarked on establishing a Zionist/Jewish colony; just like the French in Algeria and the Afrikaners in South Africa.

Things developed, short term, differently but will end, long term, similarly.
That I promise you!

A. M. Eckstein - 10/9/2009

Moreover, the demographic reality of *current* Israel is that at least half the Jewish population is from the Middle East itself. They are Middle Eastern Jewish refugees, and descendants of refugees who fled or were expelled by Arab/Muslim governments between 1948 and 1960.

These Middle Eastern Jewish refugees are recognized officially as refugees by the UN--having the same status as Palestinian Arabs. That's not a "colonial" situation.

The number of Jewish refugees was about 850,000. This is 100,000 *more* refugees than the Palestinian nakbah. The only difference is that these expelled Jews did not attack their neighbors first, as the Palestinians did.

Thus what occurred when the British Mandate was broken up in 1947-1948 and in the early history of the Israeli state was a population transfer,--an ugly one but no different from the even uglier one that accompanied the division of British India into two states in exactly the same period.

In India, the scale of refugees generated by the division was, however, 10 times that of the Palestinian and Jewish Nakbahs combined, and the number of accompanying deaths was 50 times greater.

As the historian Polybius said 2,200 years ago: "We learn from comparisons."

Elliott Aron Green - 10/9/2009

Umar, you say that Jews were 10% of the population of the country after WW One. Maybe so. But BEFORE WW One, Jews were about 14-15%. The Jewish percentage went down because the Ottoman Empire deported about 1/3 of the Jewish population in the country.

There is also a moral problem. First, there was no palestinian people before the 1950s. The Arabs insisted that they were Arabs and that the country was part of Syria [bilad ash-Sham]. One of their newspapers was called al-Suriya al-Janubiyya [southern Syria].
Second, the Jews had been unjustly forced out of the country by Romans, Byzantines, Arab and other Muslim conquerors, while many Jews in the country were killed in the country over the centuries by Arabs and other Muslims, and the Crusaders massacred most of the sizable number of Jews in the country at the time of the Crusader conquest.

Those Jews who immigrated to the country were exercising their right of return. You oppose that right which was, however, acknowledged by the San Remo Conference and the League of Nations.

arthur m eckstein - 10/8/2009

There was hardly any collusion in immigration betw the British and the Yishuv in the way Omar suggests. The British allowed immigration, but did nothing officially to encourage it, and throughout the 1920s it was small. In the 1930s it increased and in 1939 they forbade it, thereby condemning tens of thousands of Jews to death at the hands of the Nazis. Omar's Zionist-British conspiracy is an illusion.

As for self-determination, every bit of land owned by Jewish owners in 1947 had been sold to them voluntarily by Palestinian Arabs. No one forced them to sell one bit of it.

Omar's definition of "self-determination" for Palestinians, to judge form his comments on Oslo, is evidently the destruction of Israel. This proves my point about where the problem of peace lies.

The basic problem can be put another way as well. For the Israelis to live with a Palestinian state would require NO change in Zionist ideology, which does not oppose a state for the Palestinians but simply wants a state for the Jewish people. For the Palestinians to live with Israel WOULD require a major change in Palestinian ideology. Omar has abundantly illustrated this point. And there is where the problem of achieving peace lies, as Omar again abundantly illustrates.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/8/2009

Mr Tahir
Your statement:
" Turkey would never have risen to become a power again without the reforms they inspired and helped make."
begs for substantiation and is liable to be rejected by a majority of Turks.
Not only for the "never" in "never have risen" but also for implicitly belittling the impact of indigenous Turks.
I propose you reconsider!

Anti Semitism is always bad news for all decent people.
It takes a perverse psychosis to deem it good news or accuse others of harbouring it!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/8/2009

The Palestinian people was denied his inalienable rightto Self Determination
, by Jewish/Zionist/British collusion, immediately after WWI before the onslaught of Jewish emigration that mutilated the demographic population composition of Palestine .

That is the crucial era that transformed the 10 % Jewish population, immediately post WWI ie the 1919s , into the 40 % of the 1940s!

The advent of Jewish emigration AGAINST the express will and despite the total opposition of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population of Palestine, the Palestinian Arab population, the 80% of total, was the first act of premeditated aggression against Palestine committed by the Zionist movement and its Jewish colons!

AND that is when seeds of the present conflict were sown!

SELF DETERMINATION counts most, as an expression of public will, and is a crucial decisive factor during transitory periods when major decisions are called for about substantial future/history making changes such as allowing in Jewish emigration.
That is precisely the era in which the Palestinian people were denied it by Jewish/Zionist/British collusion: pre massive Jewish immigration that mutilated the demographic composition of Palestine and ultimately laid the grounds for Jewish national claims.
The Prof is certainly aware of that; his references to the 1950s, 1990 s is just an attempt to build on the assumed ignorance of his readers about the genesis of this historical conflict.

The Prof wallows further in his attempt to build on the assumed ignorance of the general HNN, not New York Post !, reader by making the doubly misleading statement :
“But since 1993 the Palestinians could have had their own state at any time. All they had to do was agree to live in peace with the Israelis. “

Which is doubly misleading not only re 1993, presumably a reference to Oslo (a patent fallacy per se ), but equally by trying to annul the decisive factor of HOW and WHEN did Jews started coming to form a major component in Palestine and of HOW and WHEN were the Palestinians DENIED their right to SELF DETERMINATION .

That both do coincide almost to a day is patently not a coincidence but certainly a question of direct cause and its predetermined and preplanned effect .
He knows that too but assumes that the learned readership of HNN do NOT!

Elliott Aron Green - 10/8/2009

how is the current US president treating the Erdogan government?

arthur m. eckstein - 10/8/2009

The Palestinians have the right of self-determination; they could have had their own state at any time since 1993; in fact, they could have had it in 1948, as in the original UN decision of 1947, which paralleled the division of British India because one religious minority group wanted it. It was Jordan and Egypt that took it away from then in 1948--and NO ONE protested. Jordan annexed the West Bank officially, and it appeared that way on world maps for 20 years and it was not an issue. Egypt annexed Gaza and it appeared that way on official maps for 20 years and no one protested. That wasn't the Jews' fault, Omar.

But since 1993 the Palestinians could have had their own state at any time. All they had to do was agree to live in peace with the Israelis.

The problem of peace therefore lies not with the Israelis but with the Palestinians. They have consistently refused peace. And the only way to justify that stance is to present a version of history that practically no one here at HNN believes is accurate.

You ought to listen to Fahrettin, Omar--the Palestinians have the choice, after 60 years of useless suffering, of making the deal; you should make the deal and move on. The Turks did, despite a very significant percentage of their population being refugees from the Balkans.

But the Palestinian record of political decision-making is appalling: they backed Nazi Germany in World War II, the totalitarian USSR in the Cold War, bloody Saddam Hussein in 1990 (leading to the expulsion of 300,000 Palestinians from Kuwait by angry Kuwaitis after the allied victory--and NO ONE talks about THAT), the Saddam again in 2003. It is a record of misjudgment that is hard to match.

But people like Omar, rather than take responsibility for a record of political misjudgment that is hard to match over the past 80 years, instead prefers to blame everyone else. Take some responsibility, Omar. The Palestinians have been actors in history, not mere victims, but their actions have been consistently self-destructive. A responsible person would try to end that cycle.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/8/2009

The interesting thing about Zionist rationale, as amply demonstrated above, is its total contempt for and deliberate flouting of two cardinal history, human progress, making factors:
a-the significance of the elapse of time in the historical context of human progress
b- the principles that guide civilized human relations of each successive historical era as a result of evolving human standards and practices.

Re a :
Humankind actually DID pass through an era in which it was a standard and universally “acceptable” practice for the “stronger tribe to displace and supplant a weaker tribe to control better pastures etc”.
Israel’s mode of birth” dislocate, dispossess, disfranchise and subjugate the indigenous population and supplant it with incoming aliens” is the modern, 20th century, version of the “stronger tribe … “ practice.
That this practice is of an era of the past, that humankind did outgrow it that such action came to be known, in modern times, as “colonization” seems not to have escaped Zionism as much as to have been deliberately ignored and flouted in Zionism’s search for a Jewish “homeland”!

Re b:
A cardinal principle that came to gauge civilized/”progressed”, as distinct from barbaric/retrogressive, practice in modern times is respect for the will of the majority of the people inhabiting a land and the implementation of the principle of SELF DETERMINATION to determine that will.

Israel was established in Palestine with complete contempt for and total contravention of both factors that, substantially, mark out human progress.

As a matter of undeniable historical truth Jews came in into Palestine as colonists intent on colonizing the land .Their entry, as with all colonists through out history, was achieved AGAINST the express will and unflinching OPPOSITION of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population of the land .
To consolidate their power and confirm their status as ALIEN colonists Jews, in collusion with mandatory Britain, denied the indigenous population of the land their inalienable right to SELF DETERMINATION.

As such Israel’s establishment in Palestine is the outgrowth of a retrogressive doctrine, Zionism, and a throwback to the practices of old, deemed “ barbaric” by modern standards, times.
As a colony Israel came into being by denying the Palestinian Arab people, 80% of total population, his inalienable right to SELF DETERMINATION.

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/7/2009


In 1917 50 000 Jews were left homeless by the fire after having spent the 400 years after the flight from Spain in peace. Alas by the standards of what else was going on in 1917 that was only a minor atrocity, which was never cleared, especially since both sides in the war wanted Greek support.

They deserve to be remembered for their role in the most succesful modernisation process ever in a Moslem country. Turkey would never have risen to become a power again without the reforms they inspired and helped make.

Unfortunately times seem to be changing. Islamists have taken over Turkey and by now control half the press. They are now confiscating the other half. The prime minister said he was using the tax laws as the FBI has once done against Al Capone. He seems to think opposition to him is a kind of gangsterism.

In the number Turks with anti semitic views has risen to 76 %. They seem to be guilty of having helped modernize Turkey. Goverment controlled newspapers turn the middle eastern conflict into Jews killing children for fun.

I am sure this is good news for one special participant in discussions here.

The Jews of Saloniki deserve to be remembered

Elliott Aron Green - 10/6/2009

Actually, Per, we claim that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, as attested in all the ancient Greek and Latin pagan literature, as well in early Christian writings. We also say that the Jews are a people, or, if you like, an ethnic group, not merely a religion. This was agreed up until modern times by Jews themselves, by Christian writers --Western and Eastern-- and by Arabs and other Muslims. It is also supported by DNA studies. You really ought to get over the tendentious --not to say fanatical-- influence of Shlomo Zand.

By the way, according to Martin Luther, whose theological views have long been official in all Scandinavian countries, as far as I know, Judaism is not really a religion. So what does that leave us as, then?
I also remind you that the German philosopher Kant, who underwent some Lutheran influence, called the German Jews: "The Palestinians who live among us." Maybe we can have Omar and Kant get together to thrash this issue out.

`Umar, in the Greco-Roman world, during the Hellenistic period through the heyday of the Roman Empire, our country was called Judea [IVDAEA]. The name was only officially changed to "Syria Palaestina" by Emperor Hadrian after the Jewish uprising led by Bar Kokhba [132-36 CE, approx]. Hadrian changed the name as part of his imperialist suppression of the Jews.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/6/2009

Fahrettin, there is good reason to suspect Greeks for burning down the Jewish quarters of Saloniki in 1917. But, as you say, the perpetrators were "unknown." Has the 1917 Salonika fire ever been thoroughly and properly investigated?? Did the government of the time, Greek as you say, properly investigate the fire's causes?

Fahrettin Tahir - 10/6/2009


Marx states that of about 15500 people in Jerusalem about 8000 were Jews.

In Thessaloniki, then also Ottoman Empire, there were 36 000 Jews out of the total population of 70 000.

In the Ottoman Empire subjects irrespective of religion could live wherever they wanted thanks to the legal owner, the Sultan.

The Ottoman Empire went down, western civilization took over. Ever since then people spend their energies trying to kick their neighbors from whatever place they happen to be living.

In Thessaloniki the Greek minority took over the city by force in 1912, then in 1917 unknown people burned the Jewish quarter to force them out.

Hitler got the survivors.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/6/2009

And those real people, the indigenous Palestinian Arab population of Palestine were there much longer, much more recently and were an overwhelming majority of the total population.
It is really funny that the only "evidence" they can come up with is Mark Twain , though noted for his literary skill was certainly neither a geographer nor a historian, or from an obscure diplomat while ignoring the more solid and much better researched and documented solid figures as in the KING CRANE 1919 commission report to President Wilson.
According to the KING CRANE report the post WWI population of Palestine was composed of:
-Arab (Moslem and Christian): 80%
-Jews: 10%
-Others: 10%
( http://www.hri.org/docs/king-crane/syria.html).

Per Fagereng - 10/5/2009

The fact remains that there were real people, call them what you will,who were driven from their homes in 1948.
Don't they have any rights?

If, say, an army of Swedes or Chinese claimed their religion entitles them to my home I would fight them tooth and nail. I might even become a "terrorist."

Mike Schoenberg - 10/5/2009

Just one question. Were the Jews the original Native Americans of the Middle East and if so great-if not let us not forget that everyone in the US came from somewhere else i.e. invaded this land.

Elliott Aron Green - 10/5/2009

Donald, you mentioned Jewish majorities in several places in the Land of Israel as long ago as 150 years. This is a good time to point out that this was true in Jerusalem back in 1853 according to the French historian and diplomat Cesar Famin, in a book published that year which was paraphrased in 1854 by Karl Marx in an article for the New York Tribune [4-15-1854].

Elliott Aron Green - 10/5/2009

Omar likes to beat that old horse of Jews getting undeserved privileges because they are said to be a chosen people. We might be able to listen to that argument if it were not that Muslims, with whom Omar identifies, did not arrogate to themselves all sorts of special privileges over non-Muslims in all Muslim states, a situation that exists in acute form in Iraq, Pakistan, and Egypt, among others, to this day.

We might use Omar's words about his own Islam. To wit, Islam "claims special status and extra rights and privileges for the" MUSLIM vis a vis the NON-MUSLIM subjects of the Muslim state [called dhimmis in Muslim law].

Among the rights and privileges bestowed on Muslims by Shari`ah is the right to humiliate non-Muslim, the dhimmi, to force him to pay tribute every year under penalty of death, to prevent him from building a house of worship higher than a mosque, to blare the muezzin's call from the electrical loudspeaker installed in the mosque's minaret at five o'clock in the morning, thus disturbing the sleep of both Muslims and non-Muslims [Note the religious equality at least in this feature of life], as I can testify as an inhabitant of Jerusalem living relatively near three mosques. Without the electric loudspeakers, my sleep and my wife's would not be so much bothered.

I could go and on Omar, but that would be tedious. Just let me remind you of the Zionist verses in the Quran, such as 5:12, 5:20-22, and others.

David Zohar - 10/5/2009

Assuming that the Jewish people, like any other people, have "an inalienable right to self-determination", their re-establishment of Jewish soverignty in their ancestral homeland was just and proper.

That Jewish homeland was invaded by Arabs from the desert in the 7th century and is now claimed in part or whole by Arabs who oddly call themselves Palestinians,( even though they are not descended, apparently, from the ancient Palestinians or Philistines who were themselves Greek invaders from the sea.)

The unfortunate clash between these two rival claims can only be settled by peaceful negotiation, not by more war.

Friends of Jews, or of Arabs, or of both, are called upon to support peace

Donald Wolberg - 10/5/2009

Mr. Baker seems to have a need to create history with tales of "indigenous" peple, "rights" and a sloppy set of notions about "history." There never was a time that Jews were not present in the the area, and indeed were in the majority in areas for more than 150 years as docmented by missionaries and others including Mark Twain. It is odd that Mr. Baker does not mention the domination of the "indigenous" peoples by the Ottoman Turks, a non-Arab dominating population, nor does he see the creation of the current situation a responsibility of King Husseinand his entry into the 1967 war, that resulted in the current situation, or Mr. Arafat's attempt to take over Jordan.

History for Mr. Baker appears to be the myths he seeks to create at the moment, and that is not history.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/5/2009

Jewish historical attachment to Palestine is a fact that led to the colonization of Palestine and the establishment of Israel therein!

Two questions there from need be asked:
1-Would Judaism survive as a religion and would the Jews remain a "people", as distinct from a religious community, without a homeland in Palestine ?
2-Would a Jewish homeland in Palestine afford the Jews the prosperity and security they crave ?

Should the answer to question (1) be a NO, as most ardent Zionists are expected to weigh in, their answer would be an affront to and a repudiation of Judaism as a “divine” , as distinct from a national/political= worldly, message .

The only possible reconciliation between Judaism’s “divinity” and its need for a “land” would , unfortunately, evoke that precept of Judaism that claims special status and extra rights and privileges for the JEW vis a vis the GENTILE!

Where else would they be able to exercise those “divinely” bestowed communal prerogatives except in a land over which they predominate militarily ; as they presently do in “Israel”. Witness, inter alia, the “Israeli” Law of Return where the discrimination between Jew and Gentile are “legally” enshrined!

Should the answer to question (2) be a YES, as most ardent Zionists are expected to weigh in, their Yes would be in flagrant contradiction of the dictates of both history and geography.
Both the former , history i.e. Israel’s mode of birth (dislocation, dispossession, disfranchisement and subjugation of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population and sup plantation with alien colonists) and the latter factor, geography ( an island in the midst of a hostile Arab/Moslem ocean), would preclude the possibility of “Israel”, as a Zionist nation/state, ever being accepted in its environment as an indigenous, legitimate entity!

A possible reconciliation between Israel’s regional rejection and its continued existence, as a Zionist nation/state, would be through a perennially regionally predominant power that militarily imposes its existence on a rejecting environment!

Neither modes of reconciliation neither bode well for Israel nor can achieve both prosperity and security and, if anything at all, both presage its ultimate doom as a Zionist nation/state.