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How the Arabs see Jews - a perspective from a king of Jordan

A handout picture made available by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan King Abdullah II (2R), Jordan Queen Noor widow of late Jordan King Hussein (R).//EPA

A handout picture made available by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan King Abdullah II (2R), Jordan Queen Noor widow of late Jordan King Hussein (R).//EPA

The article quoted below was written by King Hussein's grandfather, King Abdullah of Jordan. It was first published in the United States in the American Magazine in 1947, six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It is still relevant today.

In the article, King Abdullah disputes the mistaken view that the Arabs' antagonism towards Zionism (and later the state of Israel) comes from their longstanding religious or ethnic hatred. He noted that Jews and Muslims enjoyed a long history of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, and that Jews historically suffered far more at the hands of Christian Europe than those of Muslims.

Abdullah points out that even after the tragedy of the Holocaust during World War II, the US and Europe refused to take in more than a token handful of Jewish immigrants and refugees. He argued that it was unfair to make Palestine, which was devoid of anti-Semitism then, pay for the crimes of Europe. King Abdullah also asked how Israelis could claim a historic right to Palestine, when Arabs had been the overwhelming majority in Palestine for nearly 1,300 years. The essay ends on an ominous note, warning of dire consequences if a peaceful solution could not be reached to protect the rights of the indigenous Arabs of Palestine.

Due to the length of the article, it will be divided into two parts, one for this week and the other for next. Readers can make a judgement for themselves on a human catastrophe that the world has turned its back on.

"As the Arabs see the Jews" By King Abdullah of Jordan:

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support. So many billions of words have been written about Palestine - perhaps more than on any other subject in history - that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered - a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1.2 million. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45 million complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less "anti-Semitic" than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment - far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow "always been a Jewish land". Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their "historic claim." I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most - but not all - of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines - not the Jews - gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia".

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly - but not all - the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, "homeland" of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

(To be continued next week.)




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