OpinionIsrael News

The attempt to colonize Jewish history

For centuries, the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel was universally acknowledged, but not today.

Francesco Hayez's 1867 oil on canvas painting "The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem" at Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia. Both the first and second iterations of the Beit Hamikdash were razed on Tisha B’Av, hundreds of years apart. Credit: Francesco Hayez via Wikimedia Commons.
Francesco Hayez's 1867 oil on canvas painting "The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem" at Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia. Both the first and second iterations of the Beit Hamikdash were razed on Tisha B’Av, hundreds of years apart. Credit: Francesco Hayez via Wikimedia Commons.
Yonina Pritzker. Credit: Courtesy.
Yonina Pritzker
Yonina Pritzker served as the spiritual leader of Boston-area congregations for over two decades.

The history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel did not begin in 1948, as those who want to erase Jewish history and the Jewish connection to Israel would have us believe. In fact, Jews have been living in their ancestral homeland continuously since antiquity.

Throughout that long history, there have been adversaries who attempted to drive the Jewish people out of their land, such as when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE. Those exiled as a result sang, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat; we also wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137).

The Romans also attempted to drive out the Jewish people when they destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. Images of the ancient Roman looters can still be seen in Rome today, carved on the Arch of Titus.

Many more conquerors have tried to incorporate the Land of Israel into their own territories, including Persian, Greek, Byzantine, Umayyad, Abbasid, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman conquerors.

Yet Israel has always been the sovereign country of the Jewish people alone.

This ancient bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has been universally acknowledged for thousands of years, including in recent centuries.

In 1830, the governor of Damascus, writing of the Jewish connection to the Matriarch Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, instructed the Mufti of Jerusalem that “they [the Jews] are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them [from doing] this.”

Similarly, in 1919, Emir Faisal ibn Hussein, later King Faisal of Iraq, wrote a letter to Prof. Felix Frankfurter, later an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, stating: “I want to take this opportunity of my first contact with American Zionists to tell you what I have often been able to say to Dr. [Chaim] Weizmann. … We feel that the Arabs and Jews are cousins in having suffered similar oppressions at the hands of powers stronger than themselves.”

Faisal stated that the Arabs “look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement” and would “do our best … to help them through: We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.” He also acknowledged that “The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist. Our movement is national and not imperialist. … I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us.”

The Supreme Muslim Council also acknowledged the Jewish connection to the Land in a 1925 guide to the Temple Mount, which stated, “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

This connection was also recognized by the world powers at the close of World War I. It was unanimously affirmed by the League of Nations and codified in international law that the Jews have an indigenous claim to all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, including Gaza, as well as the Golan Heights and the land that comprises the country of Jordan.

Nonetheless, we have seen countless attempts to strip the Jewish people of their land and to denigrate and even criminalize their presence in it. For example, almost immediately after the Jewish right to the land was recognized, the international representatives entrusted with facilitating the resettlement of Jews in the Land of Israel gave away 77% of it to create Jordan.

The remaining 23% is precisely the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea about which people chant in the streets today, fabricating this land’s “occupation” by Israel.

Previously, this tactic to erase Jewish history and replace the Jewish people by calling Israel a colonial, occupying enterprise would have shown the claimants to be either ignorant or deceitful. It would not have earned them a teaching position at our celebrated institutions of higher learning, where they have been able to mislead and indoctrinate a generation of students who have not been taught actual history or critical thinking.

Similarly disingenuous was United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres when he claimed that the massacre of Israelis and others in the pogrom of Oct. 7 had context because of Israel’s “occupation.”

His statement was in direct contradiction of the U.N. charter, since the U.N. inherited the obligations of the League of Nations, including the reestablishment of the State of Israel on precisely that “occupied” land.

We also see the word “occupation” deceptively applied to Israel in various newspapers and on other media platforms. We see it used by international leaders and elected officials who, at best, unthinkingly parrot these tired mantras about Israel and, at worst, are actively aiding in the effort to wrest the Jewish homeland away from the Jewish people by verbally rewriting history and denigrating the Jewish state.

Had Israel’s neighbors offered it any kind of reciprocity, any acknowledgement of the rights of the Jewish nation to a sovereign state in its ancestral homeland, they would have planted the seeds of peace. Unfortunately, in the face of the current attempt to drive the Jewish people out of the Land of Israel, the Jews are once again forced to defend their history, heritage and home while the yearning and praying for peace continue.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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