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A Primer on the Middle East - The Arab and Israeli Conflict
What Are They Really Fighting Over? By Scott Rohter, October 2011
The Carthaginians, the Phoenicians, and the Philistines are not the only ancient people to have disappeared from history. The Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Canaanites, the Hitites, the Minoans, and even the ancient Egyptians have all disappeared from history too. The people who occupy Egypt today are mostly the descendants of desert dwelling Arab tribes who were transplanted there after the Muslim conquests of North Africa in the 7th Century. These Arabs are not related in any way to the ancient Egyptians, who prior to their defeat by the armies of Mohammed had developed a civilization there without equal which lasted for over five thousand years. The ancient Egyptians were not a Semitic people like Egypt's present day inhabitants are. They were a Hamitic people descended from Ham just like the Philistines and the Phoenicians were. The Arabs who live there today are not related ethnically, culturally, linguistically, or even historically to the ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians have for all practical purposes disappeared from history just like the Philistines have, and their culture, language, and civilization has disappeared with them. We can only read about them in history books.
Now if you pay close attention you might actually learn something else that you didn't know about the conflicted history of the Middle East. The Jews are Hebrews. The word Hebrew is an English word which comes from the ancient word Ebrim, or Evrim. The Hebrews moved into the area occupied by the Philistines and the Canaanites, and over the next few centuries they subdued these heathen tribes and created their own civilization and culture there which thrived for over a thousand years until they were first conquered by the ancient Babylonians and later by the armies of Rome. After being conguered by the Babylonians they were forcibly removed from their land, but they eventually returned and rebuilt their little Jewish kingdom and their ancient civilization under the reign of King Darius of Persia.
After their return, the Jews enjoyed almost another thousand years of near sovereignty until another foreign invader came along in the form of the Roman Empire. Then the Jewish people were subjugated once again, but this time after a very bloody rebellion against Rome they were ultimately and brutally defeated, and many of the people were killed. This bloody rebellion left approximately one half of the population dead and the rest of the inhabitants of the land were either enslaved or driven out for almost two thousand years. Only in the mid twentieth century was this ancient injustice corrected with the creation of the modern-day State of Israel.
As a further punishment for their open rebellion, the Romans renamed the Jewish land on of all of their maps, which had previously been known for thousands of years as Judea and Samaria. Instead, the Romans re-named it Philistia, or Palestina, to further punish the Jews. They did this to try to forever sever the connection between the land and its Jewish history and inhabitants. They named it after the Jew's chief rivals, the historical Philistines. There were not very many Philistines left mind you, just as there were not many people who identified themselves as Phoenicians or Canaanites. But nevertheless the name change took hold, and ever since then the name of that general area of the world has always been referred to as Palestine after the ancient Philistines thanks to Rome. Palestine is the English translation of the Greek word Palestina or Philistia, and it comes from the Hebrew word Pelesheth.
The Jews ancient Biblical homeland which was forcibly taken away from them by the legions of Rome was finally restored to them in part in 1948. However it is much smaller than their ancient homeland, and part of their land is still occupied by Jordan and Syria and the so called Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The new name that was chosen for their new country that was reborn on just a small part of their ancient Biblical land was Israel. This name was specifically chosen to embrace all of the returning children of the Patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. He was the father of the Jewish people and the grandson of Abraham, who is also the father of all the Arab people which are my distant cousins.
One terrible consequence of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was that in the 7th century when Mohammad lived, there were not many Jews or Christians living in the land, nor Biblical scholars around to help mentor the young Arab prophet. As a result, there were frequent misunderstandings and a lot of distrust that developed between the three competing cultures and religions which has survived today and led to an almost permanent state of hostility between Islam, and the other two Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Judaism. If we could only just learn how to live together for now, until we can see more clearly.
The story of the struggle between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is not just a clash between different cultures and religions. It is also a competition over land and precious water resources. There is not enough of either in this parched region of the world. It is a struggle over learning how to share these two vital resources. Muslims control a vast swath of the world's territory. It is composed of 21 different countries which is larger than the entire United States of America. It is larger than China and almost as large as Russia. It stretches from Mongolia on the east, to Spain on the west, and from Bulgaria on the north, to Nigeria on the south. It includes Indonesia and other islands in the Indian Ocean as well. There is already a country that is home to the Arabs of what used to be called Palestine. That country is Jordan and it contains part of their traditional tribal homeland. Arabs are desert dwelling people that have always lived in the desert and not on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean or along the Jordan River.
Seventy percent of Jordanians are so called Palestinian Arabs. It is more logical to change the name of Jordan to Palestine, then it is to divide and destroy the tiny little nation of Israel. The logical boundary line between Palestine and Israel should be the Jordan River, not some random line drawn over hill and dale right through the heart of Israel in the West Bank just in order to comply with unreasonable United Nations demands. No Arabs need to be displaced from the immediate vicinity. They don’t even have to be re-located more than fifty miles until we can all learn how to get along and live together in peace.
Why can’t the Arabs of the Middle East find some room in their hearts to welcome back their cousins to their rightful place in the land? Why can’t they make room in their hearts as well as in one of their twenty-one different countries to accommodate a few more Arabs? It seems rather selfish to me, and stingy of them considering the fact that Arabs occupy such a vast swath of the earth’s surface and control such a large amount of the world's natural resources that they can’t even find room for a small, non-Arab, non-Muslim presence in their midst, and allow such a small country as Israel to exist in peace as a sovereign nation.
Arabs should try to be a little more like the patriarch Esau who welcomed back his cousin Jacob after a long absence, rather than continue to be the same bunch of Jew-haters that they have been for tha last sixty-five years. After all, they actually did move in and occupy someone else's land after they had been displaced. They took over something that really didn’t belong to them after the Roman conquest of Judaea and Samaria and the world wide Diaspora of 70 A.D. No matter how long they continue to claim that Palestine belongs to them, the real history tells a different story.
Just to make my point even more clear please try to comprehend this. My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Rubinsky which means that she was a Polish Jew who traced her ancestry back to the tribe of Rueben. Today the land that once belonged to the tribe of Rueben is now occupied by Palestinians in what is present day Jordan. Israel isn't asking for Jordan back. On the other hand the Israelis should at least be able to have a country with a defensible border that exists on one side of the Jordan River and is not divided in two parts. The Jews need a country just like any one else that is not fragmented or cut in half by unreasonable United Nations demands just in order to please my very wealthy and greedy oil-rich cousins.
"A journalist has no better friend than the truth." - Scott Rohter