Israel Part 1: Who Are the Real Occupiers?

As we begin 2017, the Jewish people are faced with possibly the biggest betrayal they have faced by the US in the entire relationship between the two allies. President Obama, in one of his last moves as POTUS stabbed the State of Israel in the back by ordering UN Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain in a UN Security council vote condemning Israeli Settlements in Judea and Samaria, known to the Palestinians as West Bank.

President Obama's relationship with Israel has always been one of contempt, taking multiple opportunities during his presidency to undermine the world's only Jewish state. He and his administration have tried to balance their disdain for Israel by assuring their commitment to the alliance between the two nations.

This is a clever tactic used by Obama and his Administration to sway the public just enough to convince everyone that they are actually dedicated to preserving the State of Israel. In reality they are in league with the Palestinian cause, as we have seen with the recent UN move. With Hillary Clinton's loss this November, and Obama's legacy in tatters, his administration has tried to create as many roadblocks as possible before Trump inherits the mantle of power. Obama's move strengthens and continues the notion that Israel is occupying land that rightfully belongs to the Arab Palestinians.

However, if one stops listening to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) propaganda and actually takes the time to do some research on the Holy Land, they will begin to realize who the real occupiers truly are. Here's a hint: it’s not the Israelis.
     
Many Americans continue to ponder over the never ending debate regarding the status of the conflict the Jewish state faces with Palestine. Early in my life, as I heard arguments from both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate. I became so frustrated with the idea of there ever being a solution to the conflict. I also saw both sides as extreme, and disassociated myself with the issue entirely. When I came back to the discussion years later, I revisited the arguments. In a nutshell, The Israelis argue that they deserve a right to exist in their ancestral lands, and the Palestinians argue that the land was taken from them in the 1947 war in which nearly 700,000 Arab Palestinians were driven out.

While this is true, nearly everyone on the Palestinian side leave out key facts that seem to defeat their entire argument. The most puzzling thing for me was why do those arguing in favor of Palestine only go back as far as the dawn of the 20th century? Was it always Arab Palestinian before that? The answer is no, and that is what rapidly changed my perspective on the conflict. I began to research the history of the Jewish people and the emergence of Israel, and to my surprise, found out that those in the Pro-Palestinian camp were telling half truths, and only going back in history as far as it was convenient to their argument. The history speaks for itself.

Nearly 3,000 years ago, the first Jews, or Israelites settled in what is called Mount Zion, modern day Jerusalem, establishing the first Jewish communities. These communities grew into the first Kingdoms of Israel and thrived for centuries only to be conquered by the Babylonian Empire, the ancient Persian Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Ptolemaic Empire, until finally the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire. Under the rule of these empires, the Jews were treated horribly, ostracized, and persecuted. In the year 636 A.D., a new empire, Rashidun Caliphate, took over.

The Jews, having been treated as second class citizens under the Byzantines at this time, were initially open to their new rulers, who “liberated” them. However, over time Islamic rule turned out to be just as cruel, if not more so than the previous empires. The Muslim caliphate implemented upon the Jews what they did to every newly conquered people, the jizya. This was a religious tax that all non-Muslims, or Dhimmi, in Muslim controlled lands must pay. It was used by the Caliphate to assert their dominance over newly conquered territory. Those who did not pay were forced to convert if they did not wish to face death or expulsion.

Prior to the creation of the Rashidun Caliphate in 632 AD, there were no Arabs or Muslims in what we know today as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt or any of the regions north of the Arabian Peninsula. Among other ethno-religious groups, there were thriving Jewish communities all across the Middle East and North Africa Region. As the caliphate spread, most of the native inhabitants fled their homelands, and Arab Muslims became the dominant majority in the region through high birth rates. Those that decided to stay were forced to pay the jizya, which according to scripture, has no set price. This means the Muslim rulers of the lands could use the tax as a weapon to force the natives to capitulate to their rule. Because of this, the number of native Jews drastically shrunk, and many fled to Christian lands for safe haven. These Jews became known as the Ashkanazi.

The remaining Jews, known as Mizrahi or Sephardim, continued to pay the jizya, but remained a minority in their own lands. This continued under the Ottoman Empire until the late 1800s, when the jizya was lifted, and the leaders began to adopt more liberal policies towards religious minorities. At this time, many Ashkanazi Jews started to migrate back to their ancestral homeland and establish communities, where many of the Arab descendants of the caliphate still resided. This tension grew as more Jews began to migrate.

This tension, at its peak under British rule, became so hostile that the British abandoned the region after failing time and time again, trying to compensate both parties. The straw that broke the camel's back was the UN Partition Plan for Palestine, which called for a partition of the British Mandate into Jewish, Palestinian, and internationally controlled areas. The Jews grudgingly accepted this, while the Palestinians were unwilling to accept any type of territorial division. This led to the the outbreak of the 1947-48 Palestine War.

Known as the War of Independence to the Israelis and the Nakhba, or catastrophe to the Palestinians, this led the emergence of Israel as an independent state on May 14th, 1948. Following Israeli independence, the once large Jewish communities that lived under Muslim rule in many Middle Eastern countries were forced out through violent means.The existence of this new Jewish state flew in the face of Arabs who still wanted to assert their dominance over the region, and saw the Jews as a threat to their area of control. 
    
Since the emergence of the Israeli state, numerous conflicts have arisen between Israel and its neighbors. During these conflicts, there have been terrible actions committed on both sides. This piece isn't meant to be a justification of every action committed on behalf of the Israeli state. Every country has flaws, and every country has blood on its hands. However, we must dispel the notion that Israel and the Jews are “occupiers” when history shows that the contested land is the native homeland of the Jewish people, and it is rightfully theirs.
    
As rational human beings faced with historical evidence, we have to ask ourselves: Who are the real occupiers? The Jews, whose lineage traces back to Israel for 3,000 years, or the Palestinians, who are the descendants of conquering Arab invaders and wrongfully claim the title of Palestinian, as if they are direct descendants of the ancient Philistines, an extinct society. The Arabs not only drove the Jews out of their native lands, but every other non-Arab culture that resided in the Middle East.

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