Peace Process and
An open letter from Christians to Christians
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.
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).‡
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
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
Here the reclamation of the Land by Jewish immigrants began.
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
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:
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.
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:
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. . ."
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
1,700 years to Roman destruction of Jerusalem, AD 70
Jewish national entity with judicial system,
commerce, etc., majority of time. Population of 2½ million
AD 70 - 135
Rome began its attempt to destroy or exile 2½
AD 614 - 617
Jews controlled large parts of the country
AD 640 -1099
Arab conquest, but not majority population
AD 1099 - 1291
AD 1291 - 1517
Non-Arab Moslem Mamelukes' rule
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
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
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
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."
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."
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. . ."
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
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
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."
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."
In 1939 George Antonius noted the Arab view of Palestine in 1918:
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…"
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."
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."
Syrian President Hafez Assad once told PLO leader Yassir
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
In the words of the late military commander of the PLO as well as
member of the PLO Executive Council, Zuhair Muhsin:
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
The following are significant observations by Christians of the
Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s:
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."
The most authoritative Arab statement, however, as to whom the
Holy Land belongs is found in the Koran, the Islamic Scriptures:
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
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."
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.
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.
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