Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Shut 'Em Up - (Part 1)

Sometimes the voices of criticism and condemnation get to be too loud, particularly when you think yourself the injured party. As it seems with the little land of Israel and its nasty persecutors, the Arab hordes. In the Israeli perspective, they're under siege - surrounded by howling dervishes who would drive them from the land originally vouchsafed unto them by their benevolent Diety, and latterly by the United Nations Organization. And so have they been, in their latest 60 years of national life, having had to fight their neighbours on at least 6 formal occasions and maintain a Ft. Apache defense the rest of the time.

So shutting them up is nothing new. What's new is the help in strange places. But first a little recap of history - abbreviated as it is.

When the God of Abram led him into the land of Canaan all those millenia ago, it's too bad He didn't make the Canaanites aware of his will, other than through the actions of Abraham, et seq, who 'took over' gradually and became chieftains in their own areas of settlement. When Joseph led his 'family' into Egypt, initially as refugees, the land of Canaan may have reverted to its original owners - at least given the current way property changes hands, being first 'deserted' and then 're-claimed' for settlement.

What the Hebrew tribes actually did in Egypt remains a mystery. Egyptian history records an ínvasion by a semitic people they called 'Hyksos' at the end of the Middle Kingdom. These foreign people usurped the Egyptian throne and, for 150 years or so, crowned their own pharoahs and ruled the country. It took a revolt by the Theban nobility and a series of battles to remove them. Whether, or not, they were the descendants of Joseph, whom we are told rose to high rank in Egypt, we don't know, for, to the New Kingdom Egyptians, they were anything but slaves in need of redemption.

Moses and the story of redemption from Egyptian slavery may be the other side of the same coin, explaining how the followers of Jah returned to Canaan claiming their 'birthright'. This time it was bloodier than the first time. The native Canaanites resisted and were conquered, if not virtually annihilated, to make room for the 12 tribes descended from Abraham. Israel took its place on the world stage led by at least 3 strong kings. And at war with its neighbours.

After the death of Solomon the Great, the kingdom went into a decline, being 'nibbled at' by more powerful peoples on the edges - maybe reclaiming what they considered to be their birthright. Eventually the Kingdom split in two parts which were subsumed, separately, by neighbouring powers. The Hebrews become nominal vassals of those around them. The Temple - focus of their worship was eventually destroyed along with the royal capital, Jerusalem, and the entire population taken captive to Babylon - in what is now Iraq.

After a short captivity, relatively speaking, they were favoured by the conquerors of Babylon (for 'fifth column' services?) the Medes, whose king released them and returned them to their 'birthright' a third time. But satrapy under the Persians, became vassal-state under the Alexandrian Greeks and then the Romans. Judea, the land of the Jews, was ruled by priests, judges or kings in various order, none free and none too powerful - but all willing to revolt given some instigation. That sort of thing happened often. Often enough for the Romans to decide that the best thing for 'Palestina' was to remove the irritation, which they did in AD 90, flattening the Temple Mount again and scattering the Children of Israel to the four corners of the then-known world. In many parts of the Empire there were already thriving communities of Jews. They continued to thrive into the middle ages - with occasional negative attention from the a developing Christian population and governmental authority.

In the Middle Ages Jews did well in some areas, but were persecuted and expelled in others. Eastern Europe became a sort of 'homeland' for them but some were notably successful as financiers to western monarchs well into the nineteenth century. They may have attained wealth, and status, but they were considered to be 'foreign' in Christian Europe. The nineteenth century social revolutions in Europe were a natural field for the expression of Jewish social aspirations and for the desire to retrieve the Jewish homeland.

Jews had returned to Palestine within decades of being expelled by the Romans. And, as time passed, more and more returned, settling among Christian and Moslem Palestinians without much upset. Toward the end of the 19th century this 'return' increased and, backed by European money, the settlers bought land in the Ottoman-ruled territory. Zionism, a political movement to have European powers restore Jewry in Palestine, grew in power and influence.

Punishing Jewish people served in many places as an outlet for political 'stresses' and they were often targetted as scapegoats. In Russia and western Europe, periodic upsets, involving the Jews, were fairly regular. The Ottomans used their Jewish (and other) populations in like manner. But when Palestinian Jews were targetted in the early years of the century, and again during the upset of the post-war mandate years, it was because of a rising prominence and a perceived 'ín' with the powers that were. Chaim Weizmann's chemical expertise had been a gift to the British munitions industry, his reward was the Balfour Declaration. The Jews were to have their homeland in Palestine. This time the will of the 'almighty' was revealed to those who would be disinherited.

Con't Part 2

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