On March 2, 2023, the Greensboro News and Record published a piece written by Max and June Carter in which they shared their analysis of the political situation between the Israeli Government and the Palestinians. In order to educate our community members, JCRC director Rabbi Eli Sneiderman crafted this response along with help from the Greensboro Jewish Federation. For questions or further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The key to peace is working with a narrative that leaves room for both sides. However, Max and Jane Carter’s description of the conflict with Israel is one-sided. Their analysis, one that writes the Jewish people out of history, is an example of dehumanization that neglects our people’s long history and biblical connection to the land that makes up contemporary Israel.
There is no solution to the conflict if one starts telling the story, as the Carters do, beginning in 1988. To understand the Jewish physical and spiritual connection to Israel, one must begin with a historical narrative that is supported by archeological and scriptural evidence. The Bible, the central text of the Jewish people endorsed by the two subsequent monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam, places the beginning of Jewish settlement post Exodus at 1273 BCE. Egyptian records refer to a Hebrew people living in that region in 1206 BCE. Hebrew texts have been found that date to 1050 BCE. The Second Temple is destroyed by the Romans in 69 CE. Historians perhaps debate the edges, but Jews had sovereignty in the land for roughly 1300 years. More so, the land of Israel has been central to Jewish identity for two thousand years. It is mentioned over 300 times in the Jewish Canon and another 4,000 times in Rabbinic texts, where Jerusalem is also mentioned 7,454 times.
The land of Israel is not referenced in the Koran neither is Palestine. The word Israel is mentioned 43 times in the Koran but only in reference to people. Palestine is also not mentioned in Jewish texts. Palestine is neither an Arabic nor a Hebrew word. Palestine was the name given to the region by the Romans when they conquered the land, destroyed the Jewish Temple, and exiled the Jewish residents. As they were salting the land, the Romans imposed the name Palestine on the populace along with Aelia Capitolina for Jerusalem. Before 1948, the term “Palestinian” was more likely to refer to a Jewish resident of the area. After Israel gained its independence, its citizens got rid of the Roman name and referred to themselves as Israelis, not Palestinians.
Arabs have also had a long connection with the land. Caliph Umar, the second caliph, entered Jerusalem in 638 CE and the land was under Caliphate rule until the Christian Crusaders wrested control in 1099 CE. Jerusalem changed hands a few more times. The Ottomans took control of Israel in 1516, and the land remained part of their empire for 400 years. In total, the land was ruled by various Caliphates for close to 1200 years.
Yet, under the Ottoman Empire the historical Land of Israel did not have its own geographic identity. The region was considered part of Greater Syria, (Surriya al-Kubra). In fact, when the Ottoman Empire was being broken up after World War I, Prince Faisal hoped to re-establish Greater Syria and agreed with the Jewish leader Chaim Weizman to recognize each other’s presence. Ultimately, the League of Nations established the trustee mandates in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. The French gained control of Syria/Lebanon, the British administered Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan, and Prince Faisal became the King of Iraq.
The Carter’s article mentions a lot of percentages. Yet, these percentages are taken out of context and are only accurate if measuring from the 1980’s. In the original British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to Britain, the League of Nations in 1922 recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine-666Eretz Israel and called upon Britain to facilitate the creation of a national homeland for the Jews. That homeland was originally planned to be in line with biblical Israel which consisted of lands on both sides of the Jordan River. By September 1922 the plans had changed, and three quarters of the British Mandate of Palestine was broken off to form Jordan. The remainder, which was originally promised as a Jewish homeland was again split. The Jewish State receiving only 12% of the land mandated by the League of Nations.
The new Arab state and Egypt were not happy with this arrangement. From the 1920s until 1948, they would not accept any independence for a Jewish state regardless the size. Five Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs rose up to crush the fledgling state. Had the Arabs been victorious the Jewish people would have been pushed into the sea. Israel won the war of independence, and they gained 22% more territory than they would have from the partition of the Palestine area as suggested by the United Nations in 1947. Twice then, in 1922 and 1947, international recognition was accorded to the Jews to establish a homeland and then a state.
Instead of a Palestinian or Arab state established as prescribed by the UN, Israel and Jordan took control of most of the area that was assigned to an Arab state, after the 1948 war. This area came to be known as the West Bank, as in the west bank of the Jordan River. This is the area that Max and Jane Carter discuss in their piece that the Palestinians are apparently ready to accept as a homeland. If they had accepted the UN partition in 1947, they would have had that territory and more. If, during Jordan’s 19-year rule of the area there had been a desire to allow and promote Palestinian self-determination, it could have been achieved with little effort. Palestinian national aspirations emerged, only later, in the 1960s with the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and crystallized after June 1967, when Jordan, Egypt, and Syria lost lands to Israel in the thoroughly defensive war.
Just because Palestinian national aspirations are of recent origin does not mean they are not valid. But Max and Jane Carter’s description of “Historic Palestine” is disingenuous. Historic Palestine in this context was a mandate for a Jewish homeland. Mr. Carter also glosses over Palestinian Arab violence. Since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, the first time that the PLO recognized the legitimacy of the Jewish state, 2,558 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists. Since all Jewish presence and settlements were removed from Gaza in 2005 and turned over to Palestinian leaders, 19,385 missiles have been fired at Israel from there! This is not an example of a commitment to nonviolence. On the contrary, this Palestinian violence has severely weakened a once thriving peace camp in Israel. Attitudes and conduct of the rest of Palestinian society is an important reference point for non-violent action moving forward. Palestinian writers in Arabic and in English believe strongly that their leadership is autocratic and unrepresentative of Palestinian public opinion. One need only look at the last three years of surveys and polls undertaken by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Israel’s presence in the West Bank has not denied the Palestinians opportunities to rebuild or strengthen their national and civil society institutions.
In early March 2023, two young boys were killed by a terrorist while waiting at a bus stop. Instead of treating their deaths as unfortunate casualties, on the way to achieving political ends, some Palestinians rejoiced en masse. They stopped traffic, danced in the streets, gave out candy and shot off fireworks, all to celebrate the murder of children. Similar Palestinian reaction unfolded in 1991, when Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein fired rockets into Israel.
Max and Jane Carter’s article does not advance the cause of peace. Their narrative is devoid of nuance and historical context. Max and Jane blame Israel for every failure and absolve the Palestinians of any responsibility. The first step towards a peace is an accurate telling of history – one that affirms both narratives. History for the Palestinians and Israelis did not begin in 1988. Historical context matters as does an embrace of the humanity of all people.