The time to face some truths about the history of the Middle East has definitely come. As CNAV has noted before, the Fourth Arab Israeli War is dividing people, political factions, and countries as never before. This can only mean that people have turned this war into a kind of judicial proceeding. Israel and potentially all the Muslim world are the parties to the case. But perhaps some people shouldn’t take on the job of “trier of fact” as they have. If they’re not prepared to examine critically the reports they receive, then they cannot make a good judgment. To decide who’s right and who’s wrong, people need a proper historical context.
Current state of the war
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are waiting for better weather before launching a full-on ground invasion. But they are striking at targets in Gaza, mainly in Gaza City, in the northern part of the Strip. They did warn civilians in Gaza City to evacuate and move south.
Immediately rumors flew that the Israelis dropped bombs on them as they were trying to evacuate, or that Israeli squads, conducting localized raids, somehow blocked the evacuation.
Evidently someone forgot that the Islamic Resistance Movement (Arabic Harakah al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, abbreviated HAMAS) boasted of capturing several IDF fighting vehicles. So merely because a fighting vehicle in Gaza bears Israeli markings, doesn’t mean Israelis were driving it.
In fact, HAMAS instructed their people not to evacuate. And many took those instructions in the grand manner, demonstrating publicly that they preferred to die in place.
Martyrdom – literally, bearing witness by dying – is not only a common Muslim practice but also, according to their traditions, sends the soul instantly to a Muslim’s idea of heaven. Which, furthermore, is more like a brothel than the place of rest to which a Christian looks forward.
One can readily see that HAMAS – and most Muslims in power in the Middle East – salt their messages with lies. And why not? Lying – in Arabic, taquiyyah – is a common tactic. Muhammad taught his followers to lie if they could get away with it and it would advance the faith. And advancement of the faith always means conquering land for it.
The Middle East – a long and bloody history
The Middle East has always been a combat zone. And no wonder – it is literally the crossroads of the world and always has been. The British would never have built the Suez Canal, that connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, otherwise. In fact, Jerusalem is the aviation centroid of the world, even today. (That is: the sum of flying distances from Jerusalem to every other airport in the world is shorter, in aggregate, than the sum of flying distances from any other city to every other airport.)
Perhaps that is why God told Abraham, natural born citizen of Ur Kasdim (“Ur of the Chaldees”), to settle there. (Perhaps “settle” isn’t the right word; Abraham and his descendants were nomads for centuries before his grandson Jacob entered Egypt.) In any event, Arabs and Jews (originally Israelites) both descend from Abraham. But for hundreds of years, or thousands, Arabs remained nomadic.
The Israelites, of course, spent 430 years in Egypt, first as honored guests – then as slaves. After their rather colorful escape, they made their way back to what we call the Holy Land today. Their escape happened on 1491 BC, and they entered the Holy Land forty years later.
And they have maintained a presence in that Land ever since. Even the Exile did not mean a complete evacuation, leaving not a soul present. But of course, after the defeat of King Zedekiah of Judah, life in that Land would never be the same.
Origins of current names
The greatest confusion comes from slight changes of ancient names in the languages of successive conquerors. Herewith a primer on those names.
When Abraham and his son Isaac roamed the Land, they dealt with a people they called the Philistines. After the Exodus, Joshua and later chroniclers described dealings with another people, occupying the same land, also called Philistines. These are not the same people. First to occupy the land called Philistia were the Avvites. During the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt, a people calling themselves the Caphthorites sailed in from Crete and displaced them. These are the Philistines who trouble the peace of Israel for nearly four hundred years, before King David’s reign. And what does Philistine mean? It means “neighbor” at best – or “intruder” or “unlawful sojourner” at worst.
These Caphthorite Philistines built five cities, and called their nation-state the Five Cities. Their names are Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath – and Gaza. The Philistines ran them until Nebuchadnezzar wiped them out.
Of Ekron and Gath, only ruins remain. But Israel today controls Ashdod and Ashkelon. And a people calling themselves “Palestinian” control Gaza, which was under Egyptian control until the Six-day War of 1967. But where do they come from, and where do they get that name? In fact, the name Palestine is Latin for Philistia. (In fact that name translates into Arabic as Filastin – Philistine.) How the present inhabitants came there, involves another philosopher-general: Muhammad.
Beginning of Islam
Rome held sway over the Middle East and other lands east of Italy for centuries. In 135 AD, Emperor Hadrian faced a second rebellion of the Jews. (The first happened in AD 70, after the Year of the Three Emperors.) A fed-up Hadrian scattered the Jews throughout his Empire, renamed Judea Province as Palaestina (Palestine), and renamed Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina.
After a long succession of Emperors, came Constantine. He moved the capital of the sprawling Empire to ancient Byzantium, which he named Constantinople. Thereafter the Roman Empire had two capitals: the original capital, and the new eastern capital. In 454, of course, Rome fell – but Constantinople did not. So the eastern half the empire remained – as the Byzantine Empire.
Muhammad was an Arab who resented Byzantine rule. But he knew his fellow Arabs had no common principle to unite them. Without that, they would surely lose. So he invented a religion. He called it “Submission” – Islam.
The people of Mecca, where he was born, dismissed his ravings as that of a lunatic. (How appropriate: he appropriated an idol in the form of a moon god and represented that as the God, or Allah, of his teachings.) When the Meccans turned nasty, he fled – to Medina, then a center of commerce. The reason for that is that Jews lived there. Muhammad tried to sell the Jews on his new creed – and they rejected him. He bore a grudge against them for the rest of his life.
The Islamization of the Middle East
Muhammad wrote the Fighting Words of the Koran after that rejection. Those words became his by-words as he raised an army to conquer in the name of his new faith. He established a long line of generals who swept the Byzantines out of the Arabian Peninsula – and then out of the rest of the Middle East. Abd al-Malik, one of those successors, conquered Jerusalem. He built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Temple (Herod’s Temple) which Titus, future Emperor of Rome, destroyed in 70 AD.
When his successors desecrated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Pope Urban IX called for the reclamation of Jerusalem. The Crusades were the result. Four such wars took place, beginning in the eleventh century. Then in the 13th century came the Mamelukes, who expelled the last Crusader Kingdoms from the region. Several Arab-speaking Muslims settled in the land – but so did many Jews from Spain, beginning late in the fourteenth century.
In the fifteenth century, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile made a treaty, sealing it with their marriage. Their combined armies drove the Moors out of Spain in 1492 (the year of the Columbus expedition). In 1517 the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes – and the Sultan invited more Jews to settle in the land. The Sultan did this, probably to spite the Spanish, who at the time were running The Inquisition.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Zionist pioneers came, to organize the Jews living in the region and establish a Jewish homeland. They prevailed upon a wealthy banker – part of the Rothschild family – to help buy land from absentee Ottoman landlords. These landlords sold the land, and laughed all the way to the bank, thinking they had “taken” the Zionists. Wrong! The Jews planted eucalyptus and other trees and transformed the desert into fertile ground. Thus they “made the deserts bloom.”
At the same time a young Lithuanian named Eliezer Itzhak Perelman – Eliezer Ben-Yehuda – came with a radical proposal. He proposed teaching the Jews to speak Hebrew – which at the time was liturgical only. But he expanded the language to handle everyday concepts. Which is why Hebrew remains today the primary language of Israel.
In the meantime, no such nation-state as Palestine has ever existed. The Arabic-speaking Muslims now in the Gaza Strip, and in certain towns in Judea and Samaria, never had an independent kingdom or other country. They came with the Mamelukes and the Ottomans – or came to find work after the deserts started to bloom. But they have never governed themselves.
The Middle East after the First World War
CNAV has covered the more recent history of the region before. Today CNAV would add this: the Ottoman Empire threw in with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the First World War. So the British sent a young officer – T. E. Lawrence, or “Al-Aurens” – to teach the Arabs how to fight and win. They did – but, as Osama bin Laden would do nearly a century later, the Arabs turned on their benefactors. First to do this was Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He suggested to Adolf Hitler that the correct course toward the Jews was their extermination. The doing was Hitler’s, but the idea was the Mufti’s.
Hitler lost the Second World War, but only after killing six million Jews (and four million Gentiles). The Mufti ended up in the failed All-Palestine Government in Gaza. In the meantime, the British, pressed to honor Lord Balfour’s promise decades earlier, allowed Jews to settle in the land that was still called “Palestine.” In 1948, of course, under the auspices (sort of) of the United Nations, it took the name of Israel.
Immediately the new State of Israel came under attack from three directions. In 1949, of course, it signed an armistice. War has continued, off and on, ever since. The Arab-Israeli Wars are as follows:
War for Independence 1948-9 First: the Suez Crisis 1956 Second: the Six-day War 1967 Third: the Yom Kippur War 1973
And now, of course, they are fighting a Fourth War.
No one can judge the facts without first knowing the history – and how certain people represent that history. The territorial claim by Muslims to Jerusalem has its basis in empire-building by an empire that no longer exists. In fact Jerusalem went from one empire to another before, first, the War for Independence, and second, the Six-day War. President Donald J. Trump ordered the United States Ambassador to move his office out of the Tel Aviv compound to the consular compound in the southern part of Jerusalem. In so doing he recognized an accomplished fact.
Who has the better claim? Let anyone trying to judge that, first ask which witnesses are more credible. Recall that Islam teaches its adherents to deceive others, if possible. How credible could such witnesses be? Second: what methods does each claimant use to keep order – and who starts incidents of disorder? The answers are plain enough to any who have eyes to see. Third, who were the real colonizers? Those would be Muhammad, then Abd al-Malik and his successors. And Muslims can only deny that by denying history itself. Which is why they don’t preserve antiquities; they destroy them.
And even without all the prior history, one cannot overlook this salient fact. A group purporting to be an army for “Palestine” committed an incredible series of atrocities. When they did that, they forfeited any legitimacy they might have owned.
Only one set of conclusions is reasonable today. The Jews, not the Muslims, have the proper claim to the land. These “Palestinians” came late to the land and never organized themselves as a State. Today their purported “army” behaves worse than the worst sort of raiders, literally killing for the sake of killing.
CNAV has also covered the flawed understanding of eschatology, and how this contributes, sadly, to “conservative” antagonism toward Israel. Yes, some prefer “covenantal,” post-Millennial preterism as a hermeneutic (literally, interpretation) of the Revelation to St. John of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, one cannot make common cause with an artificial, revisionist faith that rejects Judaism and Christianity alike. (Let the reader understand: CNAV prefers the hermeneutic called dispensational pre-Millennial futurism.)
And for that reason, CNAV stands with the State of Israel. At the moment, they are contemplating the final capture of the last of the Five Cities of the Philistines. They didn’t start this war, which HAMAS planned for a year. But they intend to finish it. As for peace in the Middle East? Only God – the True God – will bring that.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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