A. THE EMERGENCE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
The history of the Jewish people started with Abram, a then prophet of God acknowledged in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, whom the Jews call as “the Father of the Jewish People”. Abram came from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. Together with his father (Terah), wife (Sarai), and nephew (Lot), he travelled to the city of Haran in present day Turkey. There he received a promise from God to make of him a great nation and a command to travel forth to the Land of Canaan with Sarai and Lot, which God would make as a land for his heirs.
In Canaan, God repeated His promises and sealed a covenant with Abram by demanding him to perforrm a circumcision. In order for Abram’s descendants to be included in this covenant, a circumcision has to be made. God also renamed Abram with Abraham, which means “a father of many (people)”. In Canaan, Abram married Hagar, an Egyptian slave of Sarah, and begot Ishmael by her. Later Sarah bore him Isaac.
Isaac begot Jacob, who acquired the name “Israel” which means “God contended”, and Jacob begot 12 sons, whom the Jews call as the fathers of “The 12 Israeli Tribes”, one of whom was Joseph. Due to resentment from his brothers, in childhood Joseph moved to Egypt and later served as the Egyptian king’s Vizier. After reconciliation with his brothers, he later invited them and his father, Jacob, to relocate to Egypt following a drought in Canaan. It was in Egypt that the Jewish population descended from Jacob grew.
The Jewish population in Egypt underwent slavery for a couple of generations until the emergence of Moses, a prophet of God, who was commanded to bring the Jews back to the Promised Land. In Canaan, the Jewish culture flourished. There emerged the Kingdom of Israel with Saul, David, and Solomon successively as its prominent leaders. The era of David saw rivalry with the Philistine people for domination over Canaan and the era of Solomon saw the construction of the Temple of Solomon (also called as the First Temple). After Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel broke into 2 parts: the Kingdom of Israel in the North and the Kingdom of Judah in the South. In the following centuries, Canaan eventually fell to foreign invasions and the Jews were subject to Assyrian, Babylonian, Macedonian, and Roman rule successively.
B. THE JEWISH DIASPORA
Continuous emigration of Jewish people started taking place when king Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple of Solomon in 587 BC. He relocated a large number of Jewish population to Babylon. In 63 BC, General Pompey of Rome invaded Canaan and started Roman rule in the region. Following this, Emperor Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the rebuilt Temple of Solomon (known as the Second Temple) in 70 AD. After renaming Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina in 131 AD, Emperor Hadrian constructed the Temple of Jupiter on the place of the Second Temple and banned the Jews from entering Jerusalem. This ban was valid until Muslim conquest in the 7th century.
Following the anti-Judaism inclination (often called as Anti-Semitism) the Roman government exhibited and the harsh persecutions that the Jews received, the Jews scattered and migrated to Persia, North Africa, and Roman provinces in the Mediterranean. From there, they made their way to inland Europe and resided in different parts of Europe. Only a small population remained in Canaan.
Jewish culture in Europe rose, diversified, and declined alternately at different times during Jewish residence in Europe. There grew eventually 3 distinctive Jewish cultures: Mizrahic in the Middle East and North Africa, Sephardic in Spain and Portugal, and Ashkenazic in Central and Eastern Europe. For most of the time, however, it can be said that Jews were subject to continuous discriminations –the level of which varied according to the region where a Jew lived. These discriminations came in different forms, such as the restriction for Jews to participate in a government, the requirement for Jews to reside in ghetto areas, the denial of citizenship, forced conversions and persecutions.
These discriminations took place mainly due to several factors:
History recorded occurences of severe persecutions of Jews:
Before the Holocaust brought by Hitler, many Jews responded to these discriminations in many ways:
In contrast to the above assimilation attempts, in 1897, Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian-born Jew founded the Zionist movement. He wrote in his book, der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) published in 1896, that Europe would not be able to embrace Jews totally as a part of its society despite the efforts that the Jews had been exerting to assimilate. This he wrote because he viewed that Anti-Semitism amidst Europeans had also grown stronger in recent years and assumed political movements. He hypothesised that Jews could only live in peace if they could found their own Jewish state in a hospitable piece of land, which he viewed at that time as Argentina or Palestine. However, in his time, Zionism didn’t gain much acceptance amidst Jewish people who mostly still preferred assimilation. Even a well known Anti-Zionism movement arose amidst Jews, known as Agudath Israel.
C. THE FOUNDING OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL
The end of World War I in 1918 brought the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, one of Islamic empires that held control of a vast territory from North Africa, the Middle East, to European Balkan, after it allied with the Central Powers (Germany, Austro-Hungarian empire, and Bulgaria) in defence of its territory. This territory included Palestine.
The collapse of the empire has brought a vacuum of power in Palestine. The Zionist movement sought to take advantage of this situation to found a Jewish state in Palestine. During the War, the Jews had provided funding in the cause of the Allied Powers. In return, the Zionists asked for recognition and support for the founding of a Jewish State. The British government stated its support for the Jewish state in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
In 1922, the League of Nations, a predecessor of the United Nations consisting mainly of Allied Powers, issued the Mandate for Palestine, by which the United Kingdom, as one of the winning countries in the War, was given control of Palestine for 25 years, support to create a state for Jews, and mission to help form a local government in Palestine until the government is able to stand by itself.
Before the Mandate, there had been massive Jewish immigrations to Palestine in 1881 and 1904, known as the First and Second Aliyah, to flee persecutions of Jews in Eastern Europe and the Russian Empire. The Mandate brought more Jewish Aliyahs, known as the Third Aliyah (1919-1923), Fourth Aliyah (1924-1929), and ultimately the Fifth Aliyah (in 1930s) –Consisting of Jews who fled Nazis persecutions in Europe. These Aliyahs have shifted the population balance in Palestine in a short time, where before the Mandate the Jews made up only 11% of the population of Palestine and after the Fifth Aliyah made up 33% of the population, and caused the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939.
Since its first attempt, the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine by the British government had always been met with resistances by the local Arab population and the neighbouring Arab countries. The British government was seen as having given conflicting promises to the Jews and Arabs. To the Jews, they promised a Jewish state in return for the support the Jews gave during the WW I. To the Arabs, they promised independence in their lands from Ottoman rule for the support the Arabs gave of British campaigns against the Ottomans. The Arabs saw this must include the land of Palestine, which also had a majority of Arab population.
In attempt to ease the resistances, the British government proposed solutions as described in the White Paper of 1939:
In 1947, nearing the end of the Mandate, the British government finally announced that they would withdraw from the Mandate as they couldn’t find a solution that satisfied both the Jews and the Arabs. UK passed the problem of Palestine on to the United Nations. In November 1947 the UN came with a resolution to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. The Jews reluctantly accepted this, but the Arabs rejected.
By the end of the Mandate, no solution could be accepted mutually by both the Jews and the Arabs. Eventually on 14 May 1948, a day before the Mandate ended, the Zionists proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel (Eretz Israel). As a response, in the following day a combined military force of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt attacked Israel, causing the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. However this force was successfully repelled by Israel.
In the cause of Palestine, other large scale wars occurred in 1953, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006 between Israel and its neighbouring countries. In all of these wars, Israel successfully maintained its territory due to strong military support from the United States. In the war of 1967, Israel even successfully seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip from its Arab neighbouring countries. These territories are then called the Occupied Territories and remain under Israeli control until today.
Since the establishment of Israel, many Palestinians fled or were expelled from their properties in Israel. While some Palestinians emigrate to the neighbouring countries, some others stay in scattered cities and refuge camps across the Occupied Territories. Living quality in most of these settlements is poor. Statistics shows while there are 1,9 millions of Palestinians living in Israel with Israeli citizenship (20,5% of Israel’s population, as of 2012), there are 4,62 millions of Palestinians displaced from their original homes and becoming refugees in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories don’t have right to Israeli citizenship.
Civil unrests colour the daily life in Israel and the Occupied Territories. In response to discriminations, strict access control to water sources, working places, and other places, Jewish settlements expansion into the Occupied Territories, and other suppressions felt by the Palestinians, many suicide bombings and other violent acts are carried out by Palestinians with Israeli military and civilian targets. From 1987 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2005, great uprisings known as the First Intifada and Second Intifada were staged by the Palestinians in response to some Israeli provocative acts. These Intifadas have got Israel to construct wall barriers of hundreds of kilometres length inside the Occupied Territories to promote security in Israel. The ongoing unrests have placed Israel down in the 145th rank out of 153 ranks in the Global Peace Index of 2011.
Since Israel’s independence, proposals have been offered to solve the problem in Palestine by Jews, Arabs, and other countries. There have been the One State Proposal, Two States Proposal, and the Three States Proposal. Initially no proposal could be accepted mutually by both the conflicting parties. However recent developments have made Two States Proposal the apparently favoured solution by the Jewish and Palestinian public, despite strong internal oppositions.
While the Jewish public view that Israel should remain a Jewish state and not a joint Jewish-Palestinian government is still maintained, the view of the Israelis of the Palestinians is split between 2 major parties in the Israeli parliament: the moderate Labor Party (Haavoda) which favours the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and the hard-lined Likud Party which opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and insists that Palestinian population must stay in their current dispersed state. Likud fears the rise of hard line groups, such as Hamas, in the Palestinian government, which could later threaten Israel’s existence.
The view of the Palestinians of their situation is also split between 2 major parties in Palestinian parliament: the Fatah which favours the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel and the hard-lined Hamas which denies the existence of Israel and promotes the establishment of a Palestinian state in current Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Progresses towards peace have been impeded in recent time due to the creation of Jewish settlements, violent acts carried out by Palestinian militants, and the current control of the government post by the Likud Party in Israel (after 2005 election) and Hamas in the Occupied Territories (after 2006 election). However, recently Hamas has shown its willingness to accept Israel’s existence, provided that Israel supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories, as stated by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ Political Bureau’s Chief in 2009 –Something that the current Israeli government under Likud still hesitates to accept.
D. MODERN JEWISH ANTI-ZIONISM MOVEMENTS
Despite the establishment of Israel, the talks about Israel have always been a controversial subject within Jewish communities all around the world, as Jews themselves have different inclinations towards Israel and many Jews oppose the establishment of Israel on secular and religious grounds. After Agudath Israel, other Jewish anti-Zionism movements continue emerging over time, such as Matzpen, Neturei Karta, and Satmar. They often stage protests in cities where a Jewish population is present –New York, Ontario, London, or Israel itself- demanding the dismantlement of the State of Israel and the restoration of the State of Palestine. They also run educational institutions, issue bulletins, and run other activities.
Jews who oppose Zionism on religious ground remind that the current situation of Jewish dispersal has been prescribed in the Torah as God’s sanction for the disobedience of the Jews. Jews will be delivered by God to the Promised Land by peaceful means and not by the works of hands of the Jews themselves only after they repent. If they make any attempt to return before they repent, they will be met with severe punishments from God. Until their return, the Jews must submit to the authorities of the lands and promote peace where they reside.
Religious Anti-Zionism Jews view the establishment of Israel as a premature attempt to return to the Promised Land and a direct violation of God’s command to Jews to remain in exile. The huge efforts exerted by Israelis and the constant foreign monetary aid from the US needed by Israelis to support their presence in Israel are forewarnings of God’s punishment.
Sources and Further Information:
On history of the Jews:
Harris, Jay M. "Jews." Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
On history of Palestine, Peace Proposals for Palestine, and Palestinian Organisations:
Reich, Bernard. "Israel (country)." Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
On Jewish Views on Israel:
Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion:
A Jewish American’s Evolving View of Israel:
Why Fewer Young American Jews Share Their Parents View of Israel:
Why Are American Jews Abandoning Israel:
On Israel, Jews and Leaders often Disagree:
A Jewish View of the Jewish State:
Jewish Anti-Zionism Movements:
www.nkusa.org, Website of Neturei Karta of the United States