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The Israeli-Arab
Peace Process and
Bible Prophecy

An open letter from Christians to Christians

Chapter 2

Historic Rights—
An Overview of History

With the exception of the 70 years' Babylonian desolation/captivity, the Jewish people have lived without interruption in the Land of Israel as a nation until A.D. 70-135—ending a period of over seventeen hundred years. The Jewish population of Israel peaked at two and one-half million before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the massive slaughter and expulsion of Jews for the Second Dispersion. 15

If the Jews have a God-given right to the Land, why were the Jews expelled from the Land of Israel by the Romans? Why was the door to "Palestine," as renamed by the Romans, generally shut to Jews for so many centuries? Jesus gave the reason for this dispersion. Shortly after presenting himself to Israel as king (in fulfillment of Zechariah 10:9), he indicted Israel because they killed the prophets and failed to accept him. Jesus said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:37). 16 Similarly, Zechariah predicted that the LORD would render "double" (Hebrew mishneh, "an equal portion") because they did not turn to Jesus, their "stronghold." Israel would need to experience a period of disfavor equal to their period of favor from the Lord (Zechariah 10:12).

Regarding that equal portion of time in the disfavor of God, Jeremiah predicted that God's "recompense [for] their iniquity and their sin double" would be accomplished before the current massive regathering of the Jews to their Land (Jeremiah 16:14-18, especially vs. 18). The opening of the doors of the Land to the Jews can be pinpointed at 1878 when, by the diplomatic skill of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli at the Berlin Congress of Nations, Britain was given a protectorate over Palestine. Disraeli had approached the Congress with the intention of achieving that control over Palestine fully expecting a mass immigration of Jews to reach "one million strong, speaking one language, and animated by one spirit to achieve autonomy and independence."17 This turn of events finally eased restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase in Palestine.

Also at this time, Jews established the first agricultural settlement— Petah Tikvah "Door of Hope"—in the ancient Land of their ancestors.18 Here the reclamation of the Land by Jewish immigrants began. 19 This regathering beginning in 1878 actually marked the first tangible sign of God's favor returning to the Jewish people.

Jeremiah prophesied that the Land would be restored to the Jews after it had become "desolate without man and without beast" (Jeremiah 33:10-16). Again, how do we know that this promise of restoration to the Land was not fulfilled with the return from Babylon? Jeremiah, after all, wrote before the 70 years' desolation. Vss. 15,16, predicted a permanent restoration that will culminate in the Messianic Age. "I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David. . .Jerusalem shall dwell safely." Jerusalem did not dwell "safely" after the temporary restoration from the 70 years' desolation/captivity. This permanent restoration was to occur after the Second Dispersion—which Jesus prophesied would be worldwide (Luke 21:24).

From A.D. 70 until the current regathering, God intended that the Land of Israel would become barren of man and beast. Why? The Land then could receive a mass influx of Jewish immigrants at the prophetic time. No nation would be able to establish itself in Palestine during the interim period. But here we are faced with a credibility gap between the Bible and the Arab Palestinian claim. The Bible speaks of a massive dispersion of Jews followed by centuries of a minimum of inhabitants until God's regathering of Jews back to their Land. However, the Arab Palestinians claim that from the conquest of the Land by the Arabs (A.D. 640-1099), a thriving Palestinian culture developed. Which of these two views of history do the facts affirm?

The Record of History

Although the expulsions of Jews after A.D. 70 and 135 were massive, devotion to the Land of Israel caused some to linger just outside the borders, wait for quieter times and keep coming back. One of the so-called Early Church Fathers, Origen, during his stay in the Holy Land from A.D. 231-254, observed that the Jews were still a majority in the Land at that time. After the Roman Empire embraced Christianity in the fourth century, a systematic dispersal of the remaining Jews began. However, between A.D. 614-617, the Jews actually controlled large parts of the Land: 20

Another large-scale uprising [of Jews in Palestine], supported by an invading Persian army, was so successful that for three years the Jews seem to have exercised control over large parts of the country including Jerusalem and Tiberias (614-617).

After this interlude of three years, the Persians were defeated and Jerusalem returned to the Byzantine Christians. 21

Arab Conquest

Consequently, the population of the Land was a "quilt" of minorities when the Arabs acquired it in their conquest of Byzantine Syria in A.D. 640. This quilt of people whose Land was dubbed "Palestine" by Imperial Rome was composed of Jews, Samaritans, dissident-Christians and the largest grouping-Syrian Orthodox Christians-none of whom were Arabs.

Although the Arabs ruled the Land from A.D. 640 to A.D. 1099, it is questionable that they ever became the majority of the population. The historian James Parker wrote: 22

During the first century after the Arab conquest [A.D. 670-740], the caliph and governors of Syria and the Land [Palestine] ruled entirely over Christian and Jewish subjects. Apart from the Bedouin in the earliest days, the only Arabs west of the Jordan. . .were the garrisons.

In A.D. 985 the Arab writer Muqaddasi complained about the large majority Jewish population in Jerusalem and added, "The mosque is empty of worshippers. . ." 23 Although Al-Hakim, Caliph of the Arab Empire (A.D. 996-1021), ordered all non-Moslems in Syria and the area called Palestine to convert to Islam or be expelled, he later rescinded some of the restrictions and so the Arabs remained a minority. The noted Arab historian Dr. Philip Hitti observed that after almost four centuries after the Arab conquest (about A.D. 1070), the Christians (non-Arabs) in Syria, including Palestine, were still fully as numerous as the Moslems and that the Moslems were by no means all Arab.24

The Crusader rule (A.D. 1099-1291) in the Land was followed by the non-Arab Moslem rule of the Mamelukes (A.D. 1291-1517). The Arab historian Hitti observed that there was a large exodus of Arabs during this period.25 The Arab historian Ibu Khaldun wrote in A.D. 1377, "Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel extended over 1400 years. . . . It was the Jews who implanted the culture and customs of the permanent settlement."26 Nearly 300 years after the Arab rule in the Land, the noted Arab historian Khaldun (called one of the greatest historians of all time by Arnold Toynbee) observed that the Land still was permeated with Jewish culture and customs. In A.D. 1400, nearly 300 years after Arab rule, there was still no evidence of Palestinian roots or established culture.

During the period of the Mamelukes as a consequence of the Black Plague, the population of the Land west of the Jordan River dwindled down to 140,000 to 150,000 Moslems, Christians and Jews. 27 After the Turkish conquest in 1517 a census for tax purposes tabulated 49,181 heads of families and single men liable to tax. Professor Roberto Bacchi calculated that in the years 1553-1554 there were 205,000 Moslems, Christians and Jews. From his travels in 1785, Francois Comte de Volney's figures would leave less than 200,000 for the total population of the land of Palestine.28 Both Dr. Philip K. Hitti and Alfred Bonni agree that the total population was less than 200,000 in A.D. 1800. 29,30 Some estimate the total population of the Land at 150,000 by 1850. This total population would include Jews, Christians and Arabs.

Then Jewish funds started to flow into the Land by 1856 when Sir Moses Montefiore purchased Land outside of Jerusalem to teach agriculture to the Jews in the Land.31 From about 1878, Edmond de Rothschild began to actually finance the establishment of Jewish agricultural colonies. At this time in history, an uninterrupted stream of Jewish funds and Jewish immigration commenced to pour into Palestine. This influx of resources resulted in an economic upswing that attracted Arabs from surrounding countries. Since the Land was at that time under Turkish Moslem rule, Arabs throughout the Middle East had unrestricted access to Palestine. By 1918 the Arab population increased to 560,000.32 In spite of restrictions on Jewish immigration, Jews and Arabs continued to pour into the Land until the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. Clearly, Jewish financial investments and immigration—together with laborious cultivation of the land—had put the Land of Israel on the economic map.

Arab Conquest or Desolation?

What conclusions can be drawn from the foregoing overview of history? The Jews lived in the Land of Israel for seventeen hundred years virtually uninterrupted until the Roman destruction of its national polity in A.D. 70. At this point, Israel's population of over two and one-half million was abruptly decimated by massive slaughter and expulsion. But as late as A.D. 617, Jews controlled Jerusalem and a large portion of the Land. After that time, even though Arabs conquered the Land, they were only a minority. Then through the centuries of Christian Crusader rule and the Mameluke period, the Land was still dominated by Jewish culture and customs until A.D. 1400 even though the Arabs eventually became a small majority. Because the Prophet Jeremiah had forecasted that during the Second Dispersion the Holy Land would be forgotten and desolate, the Land especially during the Turkish rule drifted into relative obscurity. . .the backwaters of Syria. Thus, for centuries the total combined populations of Moslems, Christians and Jews was less than 200,000. Compared, therefore, with the Jewish population peak of over a couple million, the Land did become relatively "desolate of man and beast" as the Prophet predicted.

The Holy Land

Significant Dates

Historic Events

1,700 years to Roman destruction of Jerusalem, AD 70 Jewish national entity with judicial system, commerce, etc., majority of time. Population of 2 million
AD 70 - 135 Rome began its attempt to destroy or exile 2 million Jews
AD 614 - 617 Jews controlled large parts of the country
AD 640 -1099 Arab conquest, but not majority population
AD 1099 - 1291 Crusaders' rule
AD 1291 - 1517 Non-Arab Moslem Mamelukes' rule
AD 1517-1917 Land drifted into relative obscurity under Turkish rule
AD 1856 - 1948 Influx of Jewish funds and cultivation of Land attracting immigration of Jews and Arabs

The Palestinian Claim

The Palestinian claim that the Land for centuries sustained a thriving Palestinian culture is not authorized by the facts of history. Yet the world community has given this claim a receptive hearing. PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat in his speech before the U.N. in 1974 declared, "The Jewish invasion began in 1881 . . . Palestine was then a verdant area, inhabited mainly by an Arab people in the course of building its life and dynamically enriching its indigenous culture."

What happens when this claim is compared with the personal observations of the following recognized authorities? In 1738 Thomas Shaw observed a land of "barrenness…. from want of inhabitants."33 In 1785 Constantine Francois de Volney recorded the population of the three main cities. Jerusalem had a population of 12,000 to 14,000. Bethlehem had about 600 able-bodied men. Hebron had 800 to 900 men.34 In 1835 Alphonse de Lamartine wrote, "Outside the city of Jerusalem, we saw no living object, heard no living sound. . .a complete eternal silence reigns in the town, in the highways, in the country . . . The tomb of a whole people." 35

In 1857, the British consul in Palestine, James Finn, reported, "The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population." 36 This historic observation is a remarkable confirmation of the Biblical predictions that during Israel's "double" period of time of punishment and dispersion, the Lord would cause the Land to become desolate of man and beast (Jeremiah 33:10; Zechariah 10:12; Jeremiah 16:14-18). No wonder by 1857 it was just waiting for "a body of population"! In the Lord's providence this needed body of population—the Jewish people—began to return after 1878 at the end of their Scriptural period of God's disfavor.

The most popular quote on the desolation of the Land is from Mark Twain's THE INNOCENTS ABROAD (1867), "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies….Palestine is desolate and unlovely…. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land."

The records of history confirm the Biblical predictions that during the Jewish dispersion and "double" of God's disfavor, the Land of Israel would become desolate awaiting the return of the Jewish people when its period of disfavor ended in 1878. The records of history simply do not confirm today's Palestinian claim of Palestinian roots and culture in a "verdant area" since the Arab rule of the land (A.D. 640-1099).

Southern Syria vs. "Palestine"

The Romans had changed the name of the Land of Israel to "Palestine." But from A.D. 640 until the 1960s, Arabs referred to this same Land as "Southern Syria." Arabs only started calling the Land "Palestine" in the 1960s. Until about the eighteenth century, the Christian world called this same Land, "The Holy Land." Thereafter, they used two names: "The Holy Land" and "Palestine." When the League of Nations in 1922 gave Great Britain the mandate to prepare Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people, the official name of the Land became "Palestine" and remained so until the rebirth of the Israeli State in 1948. During this very period, the leaders of the Arabs in the Land, however, called themselves Southern Syrians and clamored that the Land become a part of a "Greater Syria." This "Arab Nation" would include Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan as well as Palestine. An observation in TIME magazine well articulated how the Palestinian identity was born so belatedly in the 1960s:37

Golda Meir once argued that there was no such thing as a Palestinian; at the time, she wasn't entirely wrong. Before Arafat began his proselytizing, most of the Arabs from the territory of Palestine thought of themselves as members of an all-embracing Arab nation. It was Arafat who made the intellectual leap to a definition of the Palestinians as a distinct people; he articulated the cause, organized for it, fought for it and brought it to the world's attention. . . .who made the intellectual leap to a definition of the Palestinians as a distinct people; he articulated the cause, organized for it, fought for it and brought it to the world's attention. . . .

If there was an Arab Palestinian culture, a normal population increase over the centuries would have been expected. But with the exception of a relatively few families, the Arabs had no attachment to the Land. If Arabs from southern Syria drifted into Palestine for economic reasons, within a generation or so the cultural tug of Syria or other Arab lands would pull them back. This factor is why the Arab population average remained low until the influx of Jewish financial investments and Jewish people in the late 1800s made the Land economically attractive. Then sometime between 1850 and 1918, the Arab population shot up to 560,000. Not to absolve the Jews but to defend British policy, the not overfriendly British secretary of state for the colonies, Malcolm MacDonald, declared in the House of Commons (November 24, 1938), "The Arabs cannot say that the Jews are driving them out of the country. If not a single Jew had come to Palestine after 1918, I believe the Arab population of Palestine would still have been around 600,000. . ." 38

Jewish contributions and Jewish immigration continued to flow into the Land. The Jews created industry, agriculture, hospitals—a complete socio-economic infrastructure. As job opportunities increased, so did Arab immigration. In fact, in 1939 President Roosevelt observed that "Arab immigration into Palestine since 1921 has vastly exceeded the total Jewish immigration during this whole period."39 For one specific example, in 1934 between 30,000 and 36,000 Arabs from the Hauran Province in Syria left for "the better life" in Palestine.40

On the other hand, Great Britain's White Paper of 1939 closed the doors of Jewish immigration to their Land. Simultaneously, there was a large-scale Arab immigration to the new Land of opportunity during World War II.41 In 1946 Bartley C. Crum, a United States Government observer, noted that tens of thousands of Arabs had entered Palestine "because of this better life—and they were still coming." 42

The Testimony of Arabs and Christians

Because Arabs until the 1960s spoke of Palestine as Southern Syria or part of Greater Syria, in 1919 the General Syrian Congress stated, "We ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine." 43 In 1939 George Antonius noted the Arab view of Palestine in 1918: 44

Faisal's views about the future of Palestine did not differ from those of his father and were identical with those held then by the great majority of politically-minded Arabs. The representative Arab view was substantially that which King Husain [Grand Sherif of Mecca, the great grandfather of the current King Hussein of Jordan] had expressed to the British Government. . . in January 1918. In the Arab view, Palestine was an Arab territory forming an integral part of Syria.

Referring to the same Arab view of Palestine in 1939, George Antonius spoke of "the whole of the country of that name [Syria] which is now split up into mandated territories…" 45 His lament was that France's mandate over Syria did not include Palestine which was under Britain's mandate.

As late as May 1947, Arab representatives reminded the United Nations in a formal statement, "Palestine is a…part of the Province of Syria….Politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity." 46

On May 31, 1956, Ahmed Shukairy had no hesitation, as current head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in announcing to the Security Council the observation, "It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria." 47

Syrian President Hafez Assad once told PLO leader Yassir Arafat:48

You do not represent Palestine as much as we do. Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian People, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people, Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people.

Assad stated on March 8, 1974, "Palestine is a principal part of Southern Syria, and we consider that it is our right and duty to insist that it be a liberated partner of our Arab homeland and of Syria."49

In the words of the late military commander of the PLO as well as member of the PLO Executive Council, Zuhair Muhsin: 50

There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity….yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel [emphasis ours].

The following are significant observations by Christians of the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s: 51

The Arabs themselves, who are its inhabitants, cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it.

Stephen Olin, D.D., L.L.D., called one of the most noted of American theologians after his extensive travels in the Middle East wrote of the Arabs in Palestine "…with slight exceptions they are probably all descendants of the old inhabitants of Syria." 52

The most authoritative Arab statement, however, as to whom the Holy Land belongs is found in the Koran, the Islamic Scriptures: 53

The fact is that the Koran agrees with the Bible that God (Allah) made a covenant with the Sons of Israel and assigned the Holy Land to the Jews (See the Koran, Sura V, "The Table"). The Koran also describes the Land given to the Jews as "blessed" and foresees a return of Israel to their Land at the end of days.

These testimonies confirm the Christian Scriptures that God gave the Land to the Jewish people as an everlasting possession. The relatively few Arabs who wandered into the Land between A.D. 670-1878 were but temporary dwellers. The truer perspective of history reveals that the large recent influx of Arabs that paralleled the regathering of Jews has no historic rootage in the Land.

The Verdict of History: Land Rights

Before Jewish immigration and Jewish investments spawned massive Arab immigration, Arabs were actually leaving Palestine. Then the flow of traffic reversed. ". . .Palestine changed from a country of Arab emigration to one of Arab immigration. Arabs from the Hauran in Syria as well as other neighboring lands poured into Palestine to profit from the higher standard of living and fresh opportunities provided by the Zionist pioneers." 54 This phenomenon is confirmed by the Palestine Royal Commission Report which observed that in the period between the Balfour Declaration and the United Nations Partition Resolution of 1947, Palestine became a land of Arab immigration. 55 As further documented by Frankenstein, substantial Arab immigration was a recent phenomenon:56

The early "lovers of Zion" began the stimulation of Arab immigration. Some writers have come out with the conclusion that in 1942, 75 percent of the Arab population were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants into Palestine during the preceding one hundred years, mainly after 1882.

Indeed, the verdict of history does more than confirm the Prophets. The population of the Land of Israel would be minimal until the "double" of Israel's disfavor ended in 1878 when the regathering of the Jewish exiles began (Jeremiah 33:10; Zechariah 9:12 and Jeremiah 16:14-18). The record of history testifies that the great influx of Arabs also began after that date.

These facts of history explain why the United Nations needed to develop a definition that a "Palestinian Refugee" is any Arab who had been in "Palestine" for only two years. 57 This U.N. definition, in fact, is incompatible with the assumption that the Arab Palestinian roots go back one or two thousand years. The Jews themselves have dominated the Land called "Palestine" for the past two millennia. The Jews themselves are as much "Palestinian" as the Arabs who claim to be Palestinians. If any population has a right to the name Palestinian (if they wanted it), it would be the Jews whose ancestors had their Land renamed "Palestine."

Divine Perspective Partitioned Land Biblical Perspective
A Blesser Nation End Notes

Divine Perspective
Partitioned Land
Biblical Perspective
A Blesser Nation
End Notes

The Israeli-Arab Peace Process and Bible Prophecy
Many scholars now accept Josephus' figure of five to seven million people.
‡See Revelation 11:8. From God's viewpoint, Christendom is also guilty of Jesus' death.