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May 8, 1999
A. Trevor Hodge's article "A Palestine by any other name" (May 4) is laden with sophistry and meandering.
The Palestinians of today, Muslims and Christians, are the cumulative descendants of the Canaanites, Philistines, Jebusites and other tribes that lived in this land since history began. The Hebrew tribes came to the Land of Canaan (Palestine) as invaders and were later massacred and driven away by other invaders, the Romans. The Palestinian Jews who remained in the land were later, together with the Muslims and Eastern Christians, were massacred again by the Crusaders in the 11th century. On the other hand, the European (Ashkenazi) Jews, who came to Palestine in the 20th century, terrorized by the Nazis and other Europeans, are largely the descendants of the Khazar tribes, from Russia and Central Asia, who took up Judaism in the 8th century AD were never in Palestine and clearly have no claim to a "right of return".
In essence, today's Palestinians' claim to Palestine and to the right of return are supported by international law, based on continued possession of the land, setting aside UN resolutions.
Noted world historians have recognized the right of Palestinians to their land. Professor Maxime Rodinson, of the Sorbonne University in Paris, who is Jewish, stated in 1968: "the Arab population of Palestine was native in all senses of the word and their routes in Palestine can be traced back at least 40 centuries".
On November 2, 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter to an English Jew, Lord Rothschild, stating: "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..., it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". In this fraudulent document, his Lordship downgrades the Muslim and Christian Arabs who constituted 92% of the population at the time, as the non-Jewish communities.
Commenting on the Balfour Declaration, the renowned British historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee, stated: "We (the British) were taking it upon ourselves to give away something that was not ours to give. We were promising rights of some kind, in the Palestinian Arabs' country, to a third party".
The well-known Jewish writer, Arthur Koestler, described the Balfour Declaration as a document in which "one nation promised a second the country of a third".
H.G.. Wells, the well-known British writer, wrote in this regard: "If it is proper to 'reconstitute' a Jewish state which has not existed for two thousand years, why not go back another thousand years and reconstitute the Canaanite state? The Canaanites, unlike the Jews, are still there".
Regardless of Professor Hodge's semantics, the fundamental issue was aptly summed up by Lord Bertrand Russell, in 1970, when he stated:
"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was 'given' by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment that nobody else would tolerate?"
This is the fundamental issue. The Palestinians who have been massacred and cleansed from their homeland, are calling for a modicum of justice. For without justice, there will be no peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.
Ismail Zayid, MD