A common misperception is
that the Jews were forced into the diaspora
by the Romans after the destruction of the Second
Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.
and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned
to Palestine demanding their country back.
In reality, the Jewish people have maintained
ties to their historic homeland for more than
3,700 years. A national language and a distinct
civilization have been maintained.
The Jewish people base their claim to the land of Israel
on at least four premises: 1) God promised the land to the patriarch
Abraham; 2) the Jewish people settled and developed the land; 3) the
international community granted political sovereignty in Palestine to
the Jewish people and 4) the territory was captured in defensive wars.
The term "Palestine" is believed to be derived
from the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the 12th Century B.C.,
settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain of what is now Israel
and the Gaza Strip. In the second century A.D., after crushing the last
Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judea (the southern portion
of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish
identification with the land of Israel. The Arabic word "Filastin"
is derived from this Latin name.
The Twelve Tribes of Israel formed the first constitutional monarchy in Palestine about
1000 B.C. The second king, David, first made Jerusalem the nation's
capital. Although eventually Palestine was split into two separate kingdoms,
Jewish independence there lasted for 212 years. This is almost as long
as Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the
Even after the destruction
of the Second
Temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life
in Palestine continued and often flourished.
Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem
and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the
11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah,
Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea.
Many Jews were massacred by the Crusaders during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two
centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated
to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities
in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere
during the next 300 years. By the early 19th century-years before the
birth of the modern Zionist movement-more
than 10,000 Jews lived throughout what is today Israel.
When Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in large
numbers in 1882, fewer than 250,000 Arabs lived there, and the majority
of them had arrived in recent decades. Palestine was never an exclusively
Arab country, although Arabic gradually became the language of most
the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. No
independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine. When
the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University Prof.
Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American
Committee in 1946, he said: "There is no such thing as 'Palestine'
in history, absolutely not." In fact, Palestine is never explicitly
mentioned in the Koran, rather it is called "the holy land"
Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view
themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of
Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris
Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:
We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it
has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with
it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical
In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni
Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel
Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition
of Palestine: "There is no such country [as Palestine]!
'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented! There is
no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries
part of Syria."
The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to
the United Nations submitted a statement
to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said "Palestine was part
of the Province of Syria" and that, "politically, the Arabs
of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate
political entity." A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the
chairman of the PLO, told
the Security Council: "It is common knowledge that Palestine is
nothing but southern Syria."
Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World
War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement
until after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel's
capture of the West Bank.
Israel's international "birth certificate"
was validated by the promise of the Bible; uninterrupted Jewish settlement
from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour
Declaration of 1917; the League
of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration;
the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel's admission to the
UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and,
most of all, the society created by Israel's people in decades of thriving,
dynamic national existence.