|First half 1st century CE||Majority||-||-||~2,500²|
|5th century||Minority||Majority||-||>1st century|
|End 12th century||Minority||Minority||Majority||>225|
|14th cent. before Black Death||Minority||Minority||Majority||225|
|14th cent. after Black Death||Minority||Minority||Majority||150|
1,970 pl from wiki cited below
1. Figures in thousands.
By Richard Sale, author of Clinton’s Secret Wars
My son once asked me about a remark by a comedian who asserted that the Palestinians were never a people, and I replied to him, “That’s an AIPAC argument. I used to see it in the writings of reflexive American far-right Israeli supporters except even the hard right in Israel (some of whom I talk to) no longer disputes that the Palestinians are and were a people. Were they a people united by language, race and a common culture like the Jews? No said AIPAC. But for seven hundred years the Arabs or Palestinians made up the majority of the population of what was called Palestine before Israel became a state in 1947 -- (that’s when the U.N. vote was taken at the U.N. in Flushing Meadow New York to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews.)
The Palestinians were a village people who lived in settlements ranging from a few dozen people to a thousand. They placed their villages near springs and sited them on ground that had defensive features so that they could be safe from the marauding raids of the Bedouin tribes who were always wandering in off the desert and helping themselves to what belonged to other people. There was always a low-level of warfare between the Palestinian villagers and the Bedouin tribes.
The Palestinians lived by agriculture (like the Romans.). The farm economy was not sophisticated and didn’t involve much irrigation, etc. but it was their way of life. The Arabs were also made up of clans, and they never knew any sort of unanimity. They were the victims of incessant feuds and rivalries and would pay a heavy price for their disunion.
The Arab-Israeli dispute is essentially a misnomer. The Arab nation did not exist as a co cohesive entity in terms of significant political accomplishment, according to Wilbur Eveland, a friend of mines who a DOD Middle East expert. Domestic problems, intra-Arab quarrels, and petty jealousies have dogged every Arab effort to federate. Persistent attempts to unite Iraq and Syria by coups and compacts went nowhere.
After World War I, the Palestinian Arab society had not stood still all this time. In the post-war years the Palestinians went through urbanization, small-scale industrialization, and suffered unemployment B all placing stresses on the traditional order and radicalizing younger men who threatened the conservative elite and in some cases supplanted it.
The Zionists by this time had established the Jewish Agency, and it was well-funded, meaning that the levels of Jewish immigration began to rise steeply. Arab fears of an eventual Jewish majority sharpened. The Arabs could do math and see that the rising tide might overwhelm them. In addition, there was a major increase in Jewish land purchases in Palestine. Absentee owners, rich Arabs or Turks or Lebanese who lived outside of Palestine, held a lot of Arab land. They didn’t care to whom they sold the land, as long as the Jews offered them high rates. At first the land purchases involved large, uncultivated tracts but now they began to involve small, cultivated ones. When the Jews bought the land, they evicted the tenant farmers that had worked it for centuries.
As in all things, there was certain hypocrisy involved in the land transactions. A lot of Arab owners took a hard anti-Jewish line during the day, but secretly sold land to the Jews at night, according to one contemporary critic.
Benny Morris, the distinguished Israeli historian, said that the damage it caused to the Palestinians was psychological, and political. A Jewish historian named Porath said that the sales actually devastated the Palestinian National Movement. They spread an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and mischief. AIt enfeebled@ the national movement, he said.
What the sales produced was a mass abandonment of the countryside, sending the dispossessed Arab tenants to the cities where they became rootless urban poor. The evictees joined thousands of other evicted Arabs dating from the1880-1920 period who had moved to cities from rural areas. But what stuck to the Arab collective consciousness were the land losses stemming from Jewish purchases. It was a resentment that never went away. Many Arabs felt dispossessed and became radicalized. A sinister feature was that the Arab radicalization became more and more identified with religious symbols and values. The Arab leaders were quite aware of the political uses of religion. Islam now began to reassert itself, and we have our first Islamic fundamentalist. By 1935, the Arabs had formed the Palestinian Arab Party that was opposed to the establishment of a home for the Jews and asked for resistance to its establishment.
Hostility worsened. By 1936, there was another outbreak of violence -- Arab gangs attacking Jewish settlements, towns, and people. By then even Ben-Gurion clearly saw its cause. In May of 1936, he said: AThe Arab fear of our power is intensifying. (It’s) exactly the opposite of what we see. It doesn’t matter whether or not their view is correctYthey see immigration on a giant scaleYthey see the Jews fortifying themselves economicallyYthey see the best lands passing into our hands. They see England identify with Zionism.
He added the Arabs were Afighting dispossessionYthe fear is not of losing land, but of losing the homeland of the Arab people, which others want to turn into the homeland of the Jewish people. This is absolutely key because that is the nut of the struggle.
One factor that intensified Arab resistance was the fact it was not just land they were losing, but sacred, ancestral Muslim land. It was sacred Muslim soil being lost. And the Arabs feared what the Jews had already envisioned: that the small Jewish state would serve as a springboard for expansion.
The Jews by now saw the only solution lay in transferring the Arabs out of Palestine. Herzl had at one time thought Arabs and Jews might possibly live in peace, but by 1936, no mainstream Jewish leader thought coexistence with the Arabs possible without the clear physical separation of the two people, achievable only by transfer and expulsion. It was a strange view of coexistence, and, worse, the Zionist rationalization for this was facile. They said they saw transfer as a highly moral solution. First, they wanted the new Israel to be a country of empty spaces so it could absorb new Jewish immigrants and that the importance of this outweighed any rights the indigenous Arabs may have had. They felt the Arab had no ancestral or religious tie to his land, but that Jordan to him was the same as Palestine. Why couldn’t the Palestinians go to Syria or Jordan? (Of course, parties of the British foreign establishment had once thought of sending Jewish immigrants to Uganda, just as Lincoln wanted to send the former American slaves to Liberia.)
The Jews felt that transfer would best be done Avoluntarily@ but the Arabs made clear they were not going to go anywhere, which meant war would be the means for transferring the Arabs. One Israeli politician, Zingwell declared in 1905: AWe must be prepared either to drive out by the sword the tribes in possession as our forefathers did or to grapple with the problem or a large alien population.@ He added there was no particular reason for the Arabs to cling to these few kilometers, clearly not seeing that the Arabs might be animated by the same reverence for his religion and ancestral past as the Jews were.
Partition and War
The U.N. vote taken in November, 1947 at the U.N. gave 57 percent of Palestine to the Jewish people in spite of the fact that two-thirds of the population was Arab. And the Arabs were majority owners of the land. When they heard the vote, the Arabs were incensed, but the Jews were also stunned when a U.N. Special Committee recommended that Jerusalem be placed under international trusteeship. They had wanted it as the capital of the new Jewish state. The Arabs were especially affronted because language was used by the British and Americans that said the partition of Palestine was being done in part as a recompense for the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet the Arabs pointed out, with some justice, that they had not mistreated the Jews in their midst over the previous centuries. Yet their land was to be taken to repay the Jews for atrocities done far away by the Nazis. Why?
The utter cynicism and hypocrisy of America’s own immigration policies regarding Jews now became a major stink in Heaven’s nostrils. There were thousands of displaced persons in Europe after World War II, yet now concern was being taken for them. The U.S. Congress was refusing to allow its own refugee bill out of committee and during the first eight months of 1948, while urging that a quarter of a million Jews be allowed to enter Palestine with its 1.2 million Arabs, the United States allowed only 4,767 Jews into its own soil, thanks to the immigrant ship the Exodus.
Further, the passing of the U.N. vote had been the result of some rather brutal U.S. arm-twisting. Truman, trailing in the polls to Thomas Dewey, a former New York governor and crime fighter, needed Jewish support to win the election. When the French at first withheld their support, Truman threatened Paris with a direct cut off of U.S. aid. Four nations became crucial to passage of partition: Haiti, Greece, Liberia, and the Philippines. Congress basically blackmailed President Roxas of the Philippines, the U.S. threatened Greece with a total aid cut off, and in Liberia, which produced rubber, Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tires threatened Liberia with a rubber boycott after the Jews threatened to boycott all of Firestone’s products.
War was quick to come, and it was to be a war of roads. Palestine had been split into three parts and holding roads open would be the key to Jewish success. But the huge numbers of the enemy Arab armies, made much of by Zionists, were totally misleading. The nature of the two societies would be decisive. Israel was a highly motivated, literate, organized, semi-industrial society. It was socialist, and it owned state industries but that was concealed from the American public. Israel became instead a little democracy, a Little America in the Middle East. Facing it were the Arabs, coming from a backward, largely illiterate, disorganized, agricultural society. For the average Arab, statehood and even nationality were a vague abstraction.
Plus, Israel had the backing of America, the Soviet Union, and many European countries.
And after the Holocaust, the Israelis were all drive, push, resolution, pitilessness and self-reliance. They were clever enough to smuggle into the new Israel 72,000 parts of a machine that would provide the basis for an Israeli arms industry before the war even started.
By contrast, Arab forces were badly supplied and poorly trained. The principle of a single, united command, so essential to the winning of any war, was missing. In addition, Arab efforts at war were piecemeal and uncoordinated. For example, only 450 or so out of 800 Palestinian villages contributed troops to the conflict. The villages on the West Bank barely stirred. Some preferred to assist the Jews, even providing them arms because of rivalries or feuds with their Arab neighbors. Other Arabs collaborated because they though the Jews would win. The Jews, of course, did. (* A good book to read on the war is O Jerusalem, by Collins and Lapierre).