To the Editor:
Perhaps a short review of the history of the Middle East is in order.
The Jews have been organized as a religion and have lived in stable agricultural settlements in the Middle East for thousands of years. When the Roman conquerors showed up about two thousand years ago, they renamed Judea as “Palestine” in an attempt to erase the Jewish domination of the region.
Over the last two thousand years many different groups have invaded and dominated the region. Among these invading groups were the Romans, the Byzantines, the Persians, the Arabs, the Oomayyad Caliphs of Damascus, the Abbassid Caliphs of Baghdad, the Fatimid Caliphs of Cairo, the Byzantines (again), the Seljuq Turks, the Christian Crusaders, the Mameluk Sultans of Egypt, the Mongols and most recently the Ottomans in 1517.
After the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918, the League of Nations awarded Britain the Palestine Mandate, which encompassed the region bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Two years later, the British split off the region east of the Jordan River, which comprised about eighty percent of the original land area of the Palestine Mandate, called it Transjordan, and bestowed it to Emir Abdullah idn Hussein and his descendents to rule. It should be noted that this new country, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, was largely peopled by native Palestinian Arabs. Thus was born the first Palestinian state back in 1920.
After World War II, the new United Nations organization authorized the creation of a Palestinian state and the Jewish state of Israel from the remaining western portion of the Palestine Mandate. The neighboring Arab countries: Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, decided to militarily oppose this U. N. action. They told the resident Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes after which the Arab armies would “drive the Jews into the sea.” They almost succeeded, but finally the Israelis won their war of independence and were firmly established their new country in the Middle East. When you start a war and then lose, you may lose some or all of your original territory. Thus, in 1949, the Arab Palestinian refugees were confined to Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank areas.
Again in 1967 and 1973 the Arab countries attempted to invade and destroy Israel. They failed again. In the 1940s the Arab countries refused to take in the Palestinian refugees, although there was room for additional settlers and immigrants in Syria and Iraq. The Arab countries much preferred to keep the Palestinians in refugee camps, festering on the borders of Israel.
The Arabs have a long tradition of antipathy towards the Jews and of treating the Jews as second-class citizens. The Muslim religion sanctified this prejudice into its religious text, the Koran. In that writing, the Muslims were given explicit permission to raid Jewish settlements and to steal from Jewish homes. Please see Joan Peter's brilliant book, “From Time Immemorial” (Harper & Row, 1987) for extensive documentation of this and other information.
In the late 1940s, as Israel was being created, the Jews were being forced to flee from Arab countries in the Middle East. Jews fled from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Aden. In Saudi Arabia, the Jews had long since been killed off or driven out. The Jews were forced to leave their homes, their businesses and much of their personal property without any compensation. To date there has been no movement towards compensation to the Jews who were forced to leave the Arab countries in the late 1940s.
Perhaps it is time for the Palestinians and other Arabs to grow up and recognize Israel’s legitimate right to existence in the Middle East. It is time for Palestinian schools to put Israel on their maps. Hatred is a dead–end street. It is time for Palestinians to start to build their own society and stop trying to destroy that of their neighbor.
– James K. Sayre