Stated in the simplest terms, the Palestine problem is the story of a people who have been living peacefully in their own homes and on their own lands for generations. Then came total strangers across the seas, turned the Moslem and Christian inhabitants out of the country, and occupied their homes, fields, farms, orchards and groves, and laid hands on all their worldly possessions, claiming them as their own.
Whereas some of these strangers may have been hapless victims of European terror and injustice, the majority are pawns in a political and totalitarian movement. They are being concentrated in Palestine, not because they are in need of a refuge or a haven, but in order to fulfill the political aspirations of a major ideological movement called Zionism. Why Palestine should have been chosen to expiate for European crimes against the Jews, and why the Arab world should be compelled to give up a part of its homeland to satisfy the political aspirations of a foreign movement intent on establishing a 'state' in another people's homeland, is difficult to comprehend and impossible to accept.
Palestine has seen many invasions throughout its known history, but not since the first Hebrew invasion of some 3,500 years ago has a similar situation of massacres, mass expulsions and total dispossessions arisen in the Holy Land.
These invaders of the twentieth century, having achieved their objective and anxious to consolidate their usurped holding, repeatedly call upon the community of nations to ensure that their Arab victims should leave them alone to live in peace in their own country, in their own homes, and on their own lands - to quote from statements of Israeli representatives before the United Nations. This expression of ownership of other people's property was also voiced by the Israeli Prime Minister in Parliament. Following the treacherous attack on the village of Sammu' in the Hebron hills of Jordan on 13 November 1966, Levi Eshkol called on the Arab "to let Israel live in peace in her territory, as she lets you live in peace and tranquility in yours."(1)
To the Palestine Arabs, such utterances are not only ludicrous but preposterous! The homes, the land, and the property the Israelis now live and work in and call their own are not theirs at all, never were and never will be no matter how long they may continue to occupy them. The Arabs are confident that in the end, right will overcome wrong, and Palestine will once again revert to its rightful owners.
By their constant repetition of specious arguments, the Zionists have been able to influence world opinion that their claim to Palestine outweighs Arabs rights. This claim - on the basis of which the Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate, and the United Nations Partition Resolution were framed - rested on the argument that the special religious and spiritual significance which Palestine has for Judaism gives world Jewry an exclusive right to the country; and that all they are now doing is simply to return 'home' from their long 'exile.'
Palestine has a religious and spiritual significance for the Christians and Moslems of the world no less sacred than its significance for Judaism. The Temple may have been in Palestine, but so was the Sermon on the mount and the Crucifixion; and to Islam, Palestine contains holy shrines which are next only to Mecca and Medina. But this does not give either the Christians or the Moslems of the world territorial rights to the exclusion of the indigenous population! In the secular and political senses, a land can only belong to the people who inhabit it, whatever religious or spiritual significance it may mean for certain communities living outside it.
To reinforce their fantastic argument, the Zionists have the audacity to plead 'Biblical' authority. They quote the Covenant with Abraham and the Old Testament prophecies of a Jewish 'return' to Palestine. They deliberately ignore two main factors: (1) that the Covenant-if it had any legality in the twentieth century at all- does not apply only to the adherents of the Jewish faith; and (2) that the present-day Jews have no proof of physical descent from the early Hebrews to entitle them to proffer claims of inheritance.
Many misguided Christians swallowed the Zionist argument at its face value instead of stopping to think that from the Christian point of view, the Old Testament is completed by the New Testament, and that any promises allegedly made to the Hebrews in the Old Testament were conditional on their accepting the New.
A number of Christian scholars and authorities, concerned at the way Holy Scriptures were being interpreted, have pointed out that the words 'the seed of Abraham' inevitably include Arabs, both Moslems and Christians, who claim descent from Abraham through his son Ishmael; that the promises made to the patriarchs have been annulled by national apostasy; that the so-called 'return' has been fulfilled and it cannot be fulfilled again; that the promises apply to all mankind; that such terms as 'victory' and salvation,' in their true Biblical meaning, connote religious and spiritual achievements, not the conquest or degradation of political enemies; and more specifically, that such terms as 'Israel,' the 'new Israel,' or the 'Israel of God,' in the New Testament apply to the Ideal Christian Church, or to a body of true believers in the religious sense. These authorities state further that even without the specific statements of the New Testament with regard to the spiritual and religious nature of the promises to Israel, the Old Testament alone in its truest sense, and in the hands of its truest interpreters, points to a spiritual kingdom for all mankind and not to a political Israel that occupies territory and homes belonging naturally to another people and reduces some of its inhabitants to second-class citizenship. Judaism, like Christianity, they explain, has had a continuous history since Biblical times; and best insights of this continuing tradition also lead towards an Israel of the spirit and not of the flesh. Thus, no true Christian, believing in the New Testament, could possibly confuse the modern Israel, brought into being by political machination and military power accompanied by ruthless deprivation of the native inhabitants, with the Israel of God of Christian faith. These two Israels contradict one another completely.(2)
The Arab case-if a case needs at all to be made-in essence stems from the principle that the only title which any people has to its country comes from birth and long and continued possession. It is these that give the British their right to Britain, the French their right to France, and the Americans their right to America. This is a criterion which the common acceptance of mankind has set up as a universal principle. It is recognized as the basis of the integrity and security of all nations; and no just international order can be established in the world on any other foundation.
If such a formula can apply to a new country like America with its four-hundred-and-fifty years of history, how much sounder in comparison is the right of the Palestine Arabs to their country which dates back to the dawn of history? The Palestine Arabs of today - Moslems and Christians - are not, as is popularly believed, exclusively the descendants of the Islamic desert conquerors of 1300 years ago; they are, in fact, mainly the descendants of the original native population - Philistines, Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc. They were there when the early Hebrews invaded the land in about 1500 B.C., survived the Israelite occupation, retained possession of a large part of the country throughout the Israelite period, and remained in the land after the Hebrew 'dispersion,' to be intermingled first with Arab conquerors in the seventh century, then with the Crusaders in the eleventh century, and continued their occupation and possession of the land in their new arabized character until the Zionist invasion of 1948. Such long and uninterrupted possession of a land is the only moral basis in the civilized world of any people's right to their country.
At any rate, no matter in what manner the Arab inhabitants came to be in Palestine, whether as descendants of the Islamic conquerors or of those who came before or after them, the fact remains that they were there and own and occupy the land. That is enough to give them unfettered title to the land of their birth.
Another factor which is often lost sight of when discussing the case of Palestine is that, according to the principle of self-determination, which is the accepted principle of international justice, the affairs of a country must be governed by the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants, not by strangers to the land. Any attempt by outsiders to over-ride the wishes of the majority is aggression.
The actions of Britain after World War I in forcing upon the Arab majority in Palestine a political situation they were opposed to; of the United States after World War II in assisting the Zionist movement to achieve its aggressive aims in Palestine; of the United Nations in denying the Arab majority its right to a plebiscite or in referring the matter to the international Court of justice for an expression of opinion before recommending partition; and of the Zionist minority in expelling and dispossessing in 1948 the Arab majority and seizing authority, all these constitute acts of aggression of the greatest magnitude. They are contrary in every way to the principle of international justice, self-determination and democracy, for which the world conscience is answerable. The fact that the Arab majority is temporarily out of the country, does not derogate from their full rights to their homeland property, nor does it confer on the invaders any rights seized by force of arms. Hence, it is only a matter of time when an adjustment of the situation will take place despite all the present forces of repression.
(1) "Jerusalem Post," 21 November 1966.
(2) For a full analysis of the 'Divine Promise' by five Christian and one Jewish authorities in religion, see "Palestine and the Bible," published by the Institute for Palestine Studies.
Palestine: How it all Started