Jews inhabited the strategically important land of Judea/Israel since about the year 1400 BC. Afterwards a succession of empires - e.g. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Seljuk Turk, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman and British - conquered/occupied these and other Jewish lands, including important oases like Yathrib, Khaibar and Tayma in the Arabian Peninsula. Yathrib became Medina, the seat of the first Islamic Caliphate and now Islam’s second holiest city. Through hard work these oases had been developed to produce dates and other agricultural goods by Jewish refugees from Judea and elsewhere. Many had escaped Roman exile and persecutions. The oases were a boon to the tribes of the Arabian peninsula which thanks to Jews achieved greater trade volumes along the caravan routes. Jews provided the caravans with food, water, lodging and other products and services for travelers and their animals. Once Muhammad united the Arabian tribes through charisma and coercion the Muslims decided to conquer those areas for themselves. As with previous empires the Caliphate also conquered Judea, Samaria and many non-Jewish areas as part of a wider plan to control the land itself and more importantly the Mediterranean, its ports and related trade routes. History repeated itself in modern times when Jews once again made the Mandate of Palestine bloom through hard work and perseverance. First the Muslims moved in to take advantage of the jobs and opportunities to raise their standard of living, then they placed claims on the land and demanded it for themselves along with Jerusalem, which was given a religious significance only surpassed by Mecca and Medina.

Jews were among the peoples who did not agree to assimilate nor convert to the religion of the conquering empire. Those who did not convert became second-class citizens and often underwent genocide to eventually disappear or be greatly reduced in numbers or be driven to exile.

Many peoples in lands bordering the Mediterranean eventually accepted the empire’s proselytizing religion - e.g. Roman Polytheism, Christianity or Islam - to avoid persecution and to benefit politically and economically. Some were attracted to the religion of the occupier for personal reasons. Jews were troublesome for occupiers because they did not accede to their demands to worship an emperor as a god or to provide numerous recruits for imperial armies which did not operate in the Jewish interest and at a time when a given soldier's life expectancy was not high. Jews also rebelled when they had to pay exorbitant taxes or refused to willingly provide slave labor from their own populace. Ancient empires were not democratic. Disobedience was seen as an affront to their authority and served as a negative example to other conquered peoples who might begin to resist.

The Romans built the Colosseum with riches stolen from Herod's Temple which they razed to the ground in 70 AD. In its place they built the Temple of Jupiter, their main god. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity they destroyed the pagan temples and built many churches in Jerusalem, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335 AD while turning the Temple Mount into a garbage dump. After the Muslims invaded in the 7th century Jews hoped to rebuild their Temple but instead the Muslims constructed the Dome of the Rock upon the same Temple Mount and later the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to leave no doubt who was in charge and that "God was on their side". These were acts of propaganda.

It is naive to believe that ruling empires so interested in propaganda would not enforce censorship of widely-disseminated texts within their realm. Whatever pure and altruistic motives religious writers may have had, empires have codified anti-Jewish “facts” and rules in their laws and religious scripture in order to deal with their rebellious and independent-minded Jewish subjects. For this reason Jews everywhere have suffered since the writing of the Christian and Islamic holy texts. Whenever there are disagreements about politics, economics, religion and almost anything else, the appropriate “holy verses” can be employed to demonize the Jewish minority and to urge the majority mob mentality to discriminate against, drive out and even kill Jews.

The New Testament and Quran were written during the occupation by the Roman and Muslim empires respectively. These texts were surely a focus of Roman censorship and the equivalent Islamic hisbah. Political and religious leaders like Martin Luther, Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Hussein would not have had the ability to hurt Jews through their speeches and writings unless anti-Jewish stories and verses filled their holy books already and its readers were convinced of their veracity.

Note that in both Christian and Islamic holy texts Jews are blamed for the death of their main prophets, Christ by crucifixion and Muhammad by poisoning. Anti-Jewish sentiments and acts have found and still find justification in those ancient texts.

The geographical expansion of Rome and Mecca followed by the widespread and often forceful roll-out of Christianity and Islam explains why anti-Semitism today is not limited to the Middle East. The decision to overlook past imperial deeds and to promote a blame-the-Jews attitude helps groups like ISIS who want the same thing Islamic Caliphs wanted – to conquer and unite as much of the Mediterranean shore and land as possible for reasons which are in nature economic and military but are conveniently backed by Holy Scripture.

Despite the European enlightenment of the 1700s, which checked many of its antiquated ideas and excesses, Christian texts today are still used as a source of antisemitism. Even worse, Islam has yet to undergo a similar Enlightenment. Many of its verses continue to pose a great threat to minorities in Muslim countries and to Jews worldwide.

After the end of WW1 the Ottoman Empire disintegrated. From its ruins, the Allies oversaw the formation of many new Muslim Arab states. Why do the Jews, whose ancestors also lived in the region for millennia, not deserve their own state?

Why did the Allied victors' promises of 1920 to create a Jewish state within the whole of the British Palestine Mandate to include Gaza, Judea, Samaria and the whole of what is today Jordan not materialize?

The Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921. The area east of the Jordan river, as well as west of it - Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem can be viewed as compensation to the Hashemites for the coming loss of the Hejaz region (whose territory included Mecca and Medina) to the military attacks of 1924-25 conducted by the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Ibn Saud.

Besides self-interest and Arab pressure, did religious prejudice affect the British, French and others' decisions within the League of Nations to allocate so little land and to set ridiculous non-contiguous hard-to-defend borders for the nascent Jewish state in 1948? A people who had recently experienced the horrors of WW 2 and the Holocaust now faced yet more loss of life and crippling injuries as Arab armies assaulted the day after British troops withdrew.

There is great antipathy expressed towards Jews in Islamic texts. Ever since the half-baked territorial “solution” of 1948, the quest for defensible borders has been opposed, most often by previous colonizers of the region. Zionism is equated to racism while Christians (sometimes) and Muslims (often) still preach and act upon their respective holy books’ racist anti-Semitic content, content written during the occupation of the Jewish homeland.

Jews are continuously demonized in modern Arab and Muslim media. Internationally Jews are condemned and boycotted by often well-meaning but misinformed individuals and groups unaware of the history of the Middle East. International and Palestinian insistence to deny Israel defensible borders has had and continues to have great economic and human costs. Given those realities, does it not make sense for the State of Israel to achieve truly defensible borders?

Indeed, when one looks at a map of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 63 BC – the last time the Jews were masters of their own land prior to 1948 - one sees that the border was not just at the Jordan River but deep inside the eastern bank, a territory we now call Jordan. Likewise, the ancient northern border extended to the Litani River. Key positions within those borders – the coast, rivers, hills, passes and ridges – allowed a defense of the land in-depth. While technology and warfare have changed, the need for in-depth defense and buffer areas has not. They help save lives when facing external threats.

What about internal threats and how does that relate to a potential one-state solution? Lebanon during WW 2 still had a majority Christian population. Today it is barely 25% with the rest being predominantly Muslim. The demographic time bomb hit rather late in Lebanon. In all other areas within the bounds of the old Islamic Caliphate the percentage of Muslims today is from 90% to 99%. Even as a minority in Israel, Muslims are too often involved in violence against Jews through armed attacks and by setting fires that kill and cause great environmental and economic damage. Should Israel willingly resign itself to the fate of its once non-Muslim neighbors?

Israel today has an area of 22 145 square kilometers including Gaza, Judea and Samaria. The Umayyad Caliphate in the years from 661 to 750 reached an area of 11 million square km.

Israel comprises 0,2 % of the area conquered by the Caliphate. With the exception of reconquered Spain, Portugal and a much reduced Armenia (together comprising well under one million square km) the Ummayad Caliphate’s region today is overwhelmingly Muslim.

The Palestinians deserve their own state. Jews too deserve for Palestinians to have a state. We can insure that a one-state solution does not over time do demographically what could not be done militarily. The land for a new Palestinian state must come from the much larger ex-Caliphate areas outside of Israel. The two-state solution can exist simultaneously with defensible borders for Israel.
As long as the international community does not show its support, Israelis will be forced to unilaterally keep creating facts on the ground, for the sake of present and future generations. The settlement project will hopefully spur the international community to help both Jews and Palestinians achieve a sustainable solution in a timely fashion.

Fabio Moretti

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