Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

A Brief History of the “Muddled” East

Here is an answer to those who claim that Israel and Palestine are “new” creations.

Following the end of the Great War (1914-1918), the victorious powers, Britain and France, carved out of Arab tribes which had been under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire for five hundred years, new nations.

They had been discussed between the parties at the Treaty of Versailles and had been created by the League of Nations in 1920.

The first new nation was Iraq and its ruler, Prince Faisal of the Hashemite family was declared King of Iraq by the British government in 1920. Faisal had earlier made an agreement with Dr. Chaim Weizman, then head of the Zionist movement, in which he expressed a positive response to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, stating that “the Arabs will welcome the Jews home”.

Following the creation of modern Iraq, Syria became a nation under a French mandate which began in 1920..

In order to ease the frictions between Christians and Muslims in Syria, the French created an independent state for a majority Christian population in Lebanon in 1920.

In that same year, the League of Nations recognized a British Mandate in Palestine whose task was to fulfill Balfour’s promise in 1917 in which His Majesty’s government recognized Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people.

It was further ratified at the San Remo Conference of the League of Nations in 1922, making it an historic and legal right of the Jews to live in and to develop Palestine.

But in that same year, Britain, influenced by the Sykes-Picot agreement for the Middle East, truncated 77 percent of Palestine, when three quarters of the original Mandate east of the Jordan River was lopped off by the British to create a new nation known as Trans-Jordan whose ruler, the Emir Abdullah of the Hashemite clan, was proclaimed king of the desert nation.

23 percent of the remainder of Palestine was to be settled by Jews and Arabs.

The new nation of Trans-Jordan was, in 1922, given to an Arab sheik who had never lived there.

After years of fierce struggles by the Jewish population in Palestine against British rule and against the murders of Jews by Arabs, a new nation was founded, subdivided, in 1948, the modern Jewish State of Israel.

Abdullah’s kingdom changed its name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1950 when the remainder of much of the land of Palestine was annexed by the Hashemite king.

There were no set boundaries in the Middle East land mass which encompassed those states for more than 2,500 years. The area as a whole was continually under the domination of conquering powers from the period of the Babylonian exile in 586 before the Common Era to the time of the oppressive Ottoman Empire, ending in 1918.

In 1967, following an historic six day war, the armies of Israel dispersed the Jordanian troops and re-captured the holy city of Jerusalem which had been divided in 1948, the western part of the city given to Israel while the eastern half of Jerusalem had been annexed to Jordan.

Israel re-captured the ancient Jewish biblical territories of Judea and Samaria, known today as the West Bank, and zealous Zionist settlers built homes there and settled into several small communities.

Some 600,000 Jews now live in the territory which was the heart of the Jewish homeland from biblical times.

Iran (formerly Persia) now seeks to exert its influence and might over the entire region of the “Muddled East” and although it is a very large Muslim country, its people are not Arabs and their language is Farsi, not Arabic.

Hopefully this will provide readers with a capsule history of the new Middle East, a geographical mass where battles were fought, won and lost, for thousands of years.

Israel, the youngest of the newer nations, is in fact the oldest, dating back to Abraham’s arrival in Canaan in approximately 1700 before the Common Era, a time when no Muslim and no Christian had yet been born. In those days, only two peoples shared territory…idolatrous pagans and monotheistic Jews.

Happily, the pagans no longer exist, while the Jews who were the first people to worship One God, live happily on the soil of their ancient yet modern homeland. Am Yisrael Chai v’Kayam. The people of Israel live and create miracles in the land where miracles were born.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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