By Mohammed Adamu
Continued from last week
WE have seen that none of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, came into possession of Palestine or Jerusalem by being the original owners or the earliest ‘settlers’. They were all virtually ‘strangers’ to the lands -just like God Himself in the Bible had said to Abraham in Genesis 17:8: “the land wherein thou art a stranger”. Virtually all the three faiths, at various times in religious history came into possession of the whole or parts of the ‘Holy Land’ chiefly by conquest. Although we also saw that the indigenous Canaanites, being essentially self-Arabised and self-Islamised, the Islamic Caliphate under Umar Ibn Al-Kattab, did not originally have to wage a war to ‘conquer’ them. The Caliphate was ushered in by ‘red carpet’. Almost all the wars fought by the Muslims were either in defense of the territories against Crusaders or in offense against Crusaders to repossess them.
Which is not to excuse the fact that the Islamic Caliphate had mightfully expanded its territory to encompass Palestine and Jerusalem, and that like the Romans did, it too, by proxy or by vice-gerency, had ruled these territories. As Arabisation effortlessly made Arabs out of essentially non-Arab populations, even so the rampaging expansion of the early Islamic Caliphate, had, willfully or inevitably, made Muslims out of already Arabised peoples. Said Maxime Rodinson in his book ‘The Arabs’: “Well before Islam… a slow process of Arabisation got under way”; and that although “Islamization followed a parallel course…. Here (Rodinson admitted) physical coercion was the exception.”
The Jews with their esoteric, non-proselytizing, cult-like attitude to religion which racially discriminates the admittance of new converts, were not that lucky. While the Arabs grew and expanded by Arabisation and Islamisation, the Jews had to wage series of relentless bloody wars of ethno-racial annihilation and decimation to gain territories. They had to wipe the Canaanites the Amorites, the Edomites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Hittites and others to establish the nation of Israel and the Kingdom of Judea. A fact which the Bible admits in Joshua 6:21: “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword”.
On the other hand, Christian Europe –without being in any way remotely Middle Eastern by descent, let alone being Arabs or Jews or Israelites- had also persistently laid claim to Palestine and Jerusalem. And you wonder, if Arabised Palestinians who had always been the original inhabitants of Palestine and of Jerusalem are not entitled to the land belonging to their forefathers, why should some blond-haired, blue-eyed Christian-Europeans or European converts to Judaism -merely because the one had accepted and appropriated Christianity and the other had invaded Judaism- have superior title over the ‘Holy Lands? Yet Europe’s Christendom, by series of Vatican-organised Crusades, travel thousands of miles from Europe, to conquer the Holy Lands, and during which, ironically, the lives both of Jews and of Muslims were pleasurably always fair game. Just as, by a streak of another strange irony today, the lives, both of Muslims and Christians are also pleasurably fair game to the Jews in the occupied territories.
But historically, long before societies came to be law-governed that is, ‘conquest’ was one of the many means by which claimants to territories could come into possession or ownership of land. Or they could also do so by being the earliest ‘settlers’ – free that is, from the adverse claims of other settlers. A claimant to a territory must trace his title (or right of ownership) to an ‘original owner’ who was either a ‘first settler’ or, less controversially so, a ‘conqueror’. But if anyone claims to be an ‘original owner’ himself, he can only prove that he became so by being the ‘earliest settler’ –because ‘conquerors’ of a necessity must have displaced some settlers to come into ownership. And so, in fairness to the three ‘monotheistic’ religions, even by as obnoxious a means as ‘conquest’, it can safely be said that at the various times that they ‘possessed’ or ‘owned’ some or all of the ‘Holy Lands’, they each had both de facto and de jure right to do so. Notwithstanding some had had to kill and maim to do so.
But the Balfour Declaration which created the State of Palestine in 1922, although it first resulted from a unilateral action by the British government, the fact that “the declaration was (subsequently) embodied in the League of Nations mandate to Britain, for Palestine”, made it also both de jure, legally speaking, and de facto, by fait accompli. The Balfour Declaration becomes legally binding –even if not morally so- on the Palestinians as it is binding on the Israelis. And so any land taken by Israel –by whatever means- in excess of what International law had given, cannot be covered by the existing title. The world has long gone past the era of proving title by ‘conquest’ or by the earliest ‘settlement’.
Said Dr. Norman Finkelstein: “The law is clear. There is a tenet, a basic principle of international law. It is inadmissible to acquire a territory by war…. You cannot resolve any conflict unless there are basic principles. And the principle for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict or the Israel-Syrian conflict has to be the International law. East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory under International law. That was the ruling of International Court of Justice in July 2004. Israel has no title under International law, to East Jerusalem.”
The ‘Promised Land’
Said one of the Chief Rabbis of Palestine, Rabbi Sonnenfeld: “Zionists came to the region. Jewish people have no demand over any place holy and sacred by the Muslims”. Said another Chief Rabbi of Palestine Dushinsky, in a written testimony to the United Nation: “We furthermore wish to express our definite opposition to a Jewish State in any part of Palestine.”
But Dushinsky also warned that the irredentism of International Jewry –or Judaism- regrettably is transforming “Judaism from a religion, into a nationalism –uprooting all sacredness from our religion.” Because as he argued “The concept of creating a sovereign homeland for Jews happens to be totally forbidden according to Judaism, since according to our belief, we are in exile and we are forbidden to end exile by any political means.”. In support of this Finkelstein, who is a Jew also, said “Zionism believes in an exclusively Jewish State; an ideology rejected by both religious and secular Jewish people.” These are the views of the orthodox Jews. But not of the blond-haired, blue-eyed European Jews like Natanyahu who, not believing in the Christian Bible, yet, will cite Genesis 17:8 to assert the Jewish ‘Holy Title Deed’. Which says:
“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” Ask any Jew including the many atheists and agnostics among them who doubt or disbelieve the existence of God, ‘Who gave you Palestine? And the answer conveniently is always ‘God’. The reference also being always Genesis 17:8.
Validity of Title
But the question is asked: ‘can a valid title to any territory be established on the basis strictly of a prophesy contained in a scripture which belongs to, and is believed only by, people of a particular faith and not by those of others? Can the scripture of just any religion create possessory and ownership rights in land enjoyable by total ‘strangers’ to it, and in a manner adversely detrimental to its original inhabitants? What right for example, had Abraham to leave the Ur of Chaldea and to come to Canaan to claim a land belonging to others, on the strength of a prophesy personally revealed only to him, and by a ‘God’ only he believed? If a valid title can be established on the basis of the prophesy of just any religion, will any one prophesy of a particular religion then be more valid than the prophesies of others, on the same property?
Ironically though almost all three Abrahamic faiths, -Judaism, Christianity and Islam- believe there was indeed the promise of a ‘Promised Land’; -a land promised to the seeds of Abraham. (Genesis 17:8). And whether or not the Jews believe in the God of the Christians or the Allah of the Muslims, is immaterial to the fact that that promise is there as well in the Quran of the Muslims as in the Christian Bible. It makes unnecessary, dissipating any textual energies or splitting scriptural hairs along the ethereal or the metaphysical to probate or to approbate the validity of that promise. But in the search for the beneficial heirs of that promise, the Muslims –if not their fellow Christians- it appears, are always ready to take off the gloves!
Over the years the argument against the Jewish claim had always been based strictly on morality and ethics. Hardly ever on Biblical and or Quranic exegesis. Because it is always a ‘given’ that there is in fact the promise of a ‘Promised Land’ made to Abraham and to the seeds of Abraham. But the question arises: ‘Who are the seeds of Abraham?’ or put another way, ‘are the Jews or the Israelites, or both of them, the only seeds of Abraham?’ Nope! The Israelites, the Jews and the Arabs are all seeds of Abraham. Because in far more number of places than can be reckoned in the first book of the Bible, Ishmael the progenitor of the Arabs –like Isaac his younger brother- is spoken of as the son and seed of Abraham; viz:
“And Hagar bore Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael” (Genesis 16”15); “And Ishmael, his son, was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised” (Genesis 17:25); “In the very same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael, his son” (Genesis 17:26); and “Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son” (Genesis 25:12). And in Genesis 21:13 God said to Abraham “of the son of the bondwoman, I will make a nation, because he is thy seed.” And in Genesis 16:10 “the angel of the Lord said to her (Hagar), I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude”
In truth Ishmael was more so Abraham’s legitimate son than Isaac could have been, because he was a first born. And to borrow a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 21:16 in the Bible: ‘if the Lord God, disdaineth not to recognize Ishmael as the son and seed of Abraham in the Torah, who are we to deny him his patrimony’. God, the verse says, will not allow the right of the ‘firstborn’ (in this case Ishmael) to be jeopardized even if the child (Ishmael) is the offspring of a hated wife (in this case Hagar)’. In fact, the claim that Ishmael was a ‘bastard son’ of a ‘legitimate marriage’ is textually preposterous; because to be a legitimate son, it is sufficient that a child is a product of wedlock approved by God, and of which Abraham’s and Hagar’s was.
If Isaac –in spite of being virtually the product of an incestuous marriage, between Abraham and his blood step sister, Serah- was still a legitimate son of his father Abraham, why should Ishmael –in spite of being the product of a legitimate marriage- be deemed illegitimate merely because he was the son of a father (Abraham) who had to marry his bondwoman (slave), Hagar, to sire him? Who is more legitimate? -the product of a marriage of two blood siblings or the product of a marriage of a freeborn and a slave?
The Chosen Ones
The choice by God of the people of Israel from whom to raise warners, was a divine test and not a divine indulgence. It carried with it enormous spiritual and temporal responsibilities. And the promise of a ‘Promised Land’ must be viewed strictly in that perspective as a ‘Land’ to be earned by godly and righteous living and not one to be conquered by the arrogance of ‘exclusive faith’ or the pride of racial superiority. The plan of God, as one black American Muslim, Tariq Abdallah Al-Mansur, once said was to use the Jews to establish a model community of godly people, so that in addition to the Mosaic tablet containing the does and don’ts of a righteous people, the whole of humanity would regularly pay pilgrimage to the ‘Holy Land’, and it would be sufficient to see from the lives of God’s own ‘chosen people’, the practical demonstration of a righteous, ‘Ten-Commandment’ living.
Said Abd Al-Karim Biazar in his ‘The Covenant in the Quran’, “the Covenant made with the children of Israel must not be turned into a claim for special rights.” But did the Jews fulfill their own side of the bargain? Or as the Quran would ask ‘did they fulfill their covenant with Allah?’. Nope! Or do you still wonder why God in the Bible referred to them as “stiff-necked (Exod. 33:5)” and “rebellious(Deut. 9:7)”. Or what can be more anti-Semitic than in the words of the same Jewish prophets of the Bible, the Jews are variously referred to as ‘vagabonds’ (Deut. 9:7); ‘wicked and adulterous generation’ (Math. 16:4) and ‘brood of snakes’ (Luke 3:7)? The message they repudiated! The messengers, they killed!
“Lo,” the Quran says in 8:55 “the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are…. who break their treaty and they keep not their duty” . And further in Quran 2:124, Allah clearly says “My promise is not within the reach of wrongdoers”; confirming also like the Bible does, that “Those of the children of Israel who went astray were cursed by the tongue of David” (Quran 5:78). And the warnings of Jeremiah and Jesus about the inevitable revocation of God’s promise to the Jews in Jeremiah 31:36 and Mathew 21:43 can only foreshadow the vision of Isaiah in Isaiah 21:7 of “a chariot of camels” after those of “horsemen” and of “asses”.
Said Jesus: “Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Mathew 21:43)”.