By Dov B. Fischer, Guest Comment, May 23, 2002
The recent landslide vote of the Israeli Likud party, completely rejecting an Arab
country west of the Jordan River, reflects the mindset of the largest political
party in Israel today. And there is good reason for that position – the land of
Judea and Samaria, birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, does not necessarily
belong to the Arab Islamic world.
It is instructive that the Arab world does not even have a name for the land.
Think about it. “Palestine” is a name that the ancient Romans gave the
Land of Israel after that now-vanished empire destroyed the last breaths of
Jewish freedom in the Holy Land in 135. The Romans renamed the cities and
the land to excise all memory of the stubborn Jewish patriots who had defied
the empire from within the Holy Land. So, Jerusalem became Aelonia
Capitolina. Shechem became Naples. (Naples later became Nablus.) And the
country itself was renamed “Palestine” for the Biblical people who preceded the
Jews – the Philistines.
For all the centuries of the Jewish Diaspora, long after Arabs invaded the area
to conquer at the point of a sword, the land of Judea and Samaria never
became an Arab territorial entity.
By the 20th century, with the rise of political Zionism and the
establishment by the League of Nations of a “Palestine Mandate,” administered
by Britain, the Jews still were the “Palestinians.” Thus, the predecessor of the
Jerusalem Post was called the Palestine Post. The predecessor of the United
Jewish Appeal was the United Palestine Appeal. Even the American support
group for Menachem Begin’s nationalist Irgun underground called itself The
American League for a Free Palestine. It sounded right to 1960s film viewers
when Ari ben Canaan, Paul Newman’s character in Exodus, spoke of a Jewish
yearning for “Palestine.” That’s not ancient history; it was still that way during
the Kennedy years.
The Arabs have names for countries like Syria, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Iraq, Libya,
and Kuwait. They even have two countries named Yemen. But through all of
recorded time they never have had a name for the land of Judea and Samaria.
“The West Bank”? Such a name describes Jersey City, lying on that
bank of the Hudson. Santa Monica, perhaps, is a more elegant bank, east of the
Pacific. And we may note Louisville, reposing on the south bank of the majestic
Ohio River. These are cities, not countries.
But “The West Bank”? In 1964, when the Palestine Liberation Organization was
founded, it was eponymously created to liberate “Palestine” – namely, the
country of Israel – from Haifa to Tel Aviv to the Negev.
The Palestine Liberation Organization had no interest in the occupied part
of the Kingdom of Jordan that lay west of the Jordan River. PLO-terrorists did
not murder Jordanian children, as they did Israelis. They did not hijack
Jordanian airplanes. They did not murder Jordanian Olympians. They had no
interest in the land without a name.
To this day, the logo of each and every Palestinian “activist” group,
groups ranging from Hamas to Islamic Jihad to the Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine to Fatah, all depict the map of a “Palestine” that is
identical to pre-1967 Israel – no “West Bank.”
For many of the places that Yasser Arafat covets in Samaria and Judea, he
uses the names of the Hebrew Bible. He claims Hebron (Genesis 23). He claims
Bethlehem (Genesis 35). He claims Jericho (Joshua 5). His people burned down
the Tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24).
But he cannot use the Hebrew Bible’s names for the land that the
Christian Scriptures (Matthew 1), no less than the Torah, calls Judea – because
it would sound ridiculous complaining that “the Jews have stolen Judea from
the Arabs.” Almost as silly as suicide bombers in Hamas calling themselves
There never – ever – has been an Arab Palestine west of the Jordan River. From
1948-1967, while Jordan’s King Hussein illegally occupied the region in a
temporary land grab that both the Arab and the non-Arab world rejected, no
“Palestinian Arab” nation was created there. The city of Jerusalem was not
elevated to any status or import. Rather, the land became desirable only after
Israel liberated East Jerusalem and established itself in Judea and Samaria while
fighting for its life in 1967.
Indeed, as the Samaria-based Jenin refugee camp illustrates, Arabs
encamped in the heart of Judea and Samaria still regard themselves as
“refugees.” Judea and Samaria is not their home, and their UNRWA refugee
camp proclaims it. They do not want the “West Bank” for a homeland – they
want a different “Palestine”: Tel Aviv and Haifa.
There are now 200,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, and another
200,000 Jews living in “Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.” They are not leaving
any sooner than will the descendants of the Americanos who squatted on the
Californios’ land during the era of the 1849 Gold Rush. The Treaty of
Guadaloupe-Hidalgo helped make the squatting in California irreversible. The
Battle of the Alamo helped make the squatting in Texas irreversible. Both
California and Texas came into being because brave and hearty American
settlers created “illegal settlements” on “occupied land.”
Eventually, those illegal settlements became states in our Union. In the
same way, the Likud Party Central Committee has reaffirmed that Judea and
Samaria constitute the patrimonial heartland of a people that has no less right
to be there than did the settlers hailing from Europe who planted themselves in
The Likud Central Committee vote is a harbinger of a Jewish nation that is
taking its patrimony off the chopping block. Perhaps Chairman Arafat should
look to the Kingdom of Jordan for the land of his Palestine. That country, itself
an historically recent creation, is built on 78 percent of the “Palestine
Mandate.” At least 1,700,000 Palestinian Arabs live in Jordan, more than in
any other country. The queen is a Palestinian Arab. And the majority of all
Jordanians are Palestinian Arabs. Why shouldn’t King Abdullah offer territorial
compromise, taking a risk for peace and making a gesture towards the queen?
Yasser Arafat told President Clinton in September 1999 that he has proof there
never was a Jewish Temple on the Jerusalem Temple Mount. Maybe it is time
to apprise Arafat that, when he tells Americans there never were Jews at the
Temple Mount of Jerusalem, he is denying not one but both prongs of our
nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.