Clifford Rieders

History of Jews in the Middle East

A Short and Readable History of the Jews in the Middle East

Hebrews, Israelites and Jews have lived in the Middle East since the time of Abraham, approximately 3,500 years ago. This is a narrative accepted by Christians and Muslims alike. It is only very recently that there have been claims that modern Israelis are somehow not Jews or related to the Jews who have lived in Israel since time immemorial. Those claims are nonsense.

War has been waged against the Jews because they worshipped the one G-d, the G-d of heaven and earth. We are all sons and daughters of that one G-d, according to the Jewish faith. There are prophets and wise people, but every person can find G-d close to him or her.

Each time the Jews were attacked and destroyed by an empire, they kept some presence in Israel. That presence was continuous throughout history.

Abraham was careful to pay for the land where he buried his wife, so that no one would ever say that the Jews owned the land illegally. Even in the earliest times, it was understood that there would be lies lodged against the Jewish people.

There were many invaders through Israel. There were the Babylonians (modern Iraq), and the Persians (modern Iran), Egyptians and others.

After each invasion, the Jews rebuilt. The term “Jews” specifically pertains to the remaining 12 tribes of Israel, after the Babylonian Conquest.

The first major Holocaust to the Jewish people occurred during Roman Times, in approximately the year 125 of the current era. Scholars say that perhaps a million-and-a-quarter Jews were murdered by the Romans, who forever wanted to stamp out Judaism and the Jewish people.

What made the Romans so angry? The Jews fought a series of wars against the Romans in order to maintain their independence, their nationhood, and to be able to practice their religion. The Romans wanted subservience to their rules.

Even after the Romans ground Jerusalem to dust and attempted to destroy all Jewish culture, the people survived. The Romans renamed the land “Palestine”. The people who lived in what today we call Israel were Palestinians. They were primarily Jews, Romans who stayed, and various scattered tribes.

In the Sixth Century, a new prophet arose named Muhammad. He was driven out of Mecca, and his life was threatened. Where did Muhammad take refuge? Among the Jews in Medina. Medina, in modern Saudi Arabia, was primarily a Jewish city. At first, the relationship between Muhammad and the Jews was good; but when the Jews refused to accept Muhammad as G-d’s prophet, he said that he would raise an army, come back, and kill all the Jews. He did just that.

Islam conquered the Middle East and North Africa by the sword, slaughtering anyone who would not convert to Islam. The slogan was: “Islam or the sword”.

Today’s Jihadists, whether ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, whomever, draw their inspiration directly from the prophet Muhammad.

However, in the Middle Ages, Islam went through a period of change in some countries, where Muslims fought not the Jews but also Christians, particularly in Spain. In the Middle Ages, Islam, for a brief period, emphasized learning, science and math.  During that short period of time, Jews and Muslims got along well in most countries.

During the first Crusade, the Christians came to the Holy Land and butchered Jews and Muslims alike.

The Ottoman Turks became rulers of much of the Middle East. They were Muslims.  At one point, the Ottoman Navy was led by a Jewish commander. The Ottoman Muslims even provided kosher food for the leader of the Ottoman naval forces.

While Jews were permitted to live within the Ottoman empire, they were required to be subservient and they had no civil rights whatsoever.

In World War I, the British knocked the Muslim Ottoman Turks off their pedestal. In a treaty signed by League of Nation members and the United States, the Jews were promised a national homeland in Palestine. England, in the Balfour Declaration, had, as early as 1917, promised the Jews their own homeland.

While the Jews of the Holy Land were poor, they never left and were always in the majority. When United States President General Ulysses S. Grant, the hero of the Civil War, retired from the presidency, he went to visit Israel. He generously gave money to the poor in Jerusalem, and he celebrated the right of Jewish people to live in the Holy Land. He even appointed, when he was President, a Sephardi Jew (one of Spanish descent) to be United States Emissary to Jerusalem.

While the Jews were promised a national homeland in the Holy Land, by both the Balfour Declaration and by treaty, the world reneged on that promise. Winston Churchill, the leader of England, in particular, wanted the Hashemite tribe in Jordan to have a country, subsequently called “Jordan”. While the Hashemites were a tiny minority, they became and still are the rulers. The Hashemites have murdered well over 15,000 Palestinian Arabs in order to maintain their control in Jordan. The world is silent about that.

Syria, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world was created by the British and the Americans primarily to ensure the flow of Arab oil.

While the European Holocaust was taking place from 1938 to 1945, murdering the last of the Jews in Europe, 6 million of them, the great powers refused to let Jews escape to the Holy Land or anywhere else for that matter. Nevertheless, the Jews of Palestine had supported democracy in both World War I and World War II. Those Jews fought for and with the British.

The Arabs? The Arabs supported the Ottomans in World War I, who were their fellow Muslims, and were in league with the Nazi Germans in World War II.  The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a Muslim, promised Hitler that when Hitler was done with the Jews in Europe, all the Jews in the Middle East would be killed.

In 1948, the United Nations offered to partition Palestine. It would create a Jewish and Arab State. The Arabs refused and attacked Israel. They said, out loud and without equivocation, that they would kill all the Jews in the new Israel State. Israel survived, and there was an armistice called in 1948. The armistice created a virtually indefensible Israel.

Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River, and Egypt illegally occupied Gaza. The world did not say a word about that.

Who was it who gave autonomy and the ability to build a state to Muslim Arabs in the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza? It was Israel. Israel turned over Gaza to the Arabs to have their own country. What the Arabs in Gaza did was to kick out the Palestinian Authority and install a Jihadist regime, Hamas. The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) on the West Bank of the Jordan River was created by the Oslo Accords. The P.A. was a government approved by President Bill Clinton, Israel’s Yitzak Rabin, and known Arab terrorist leader, Yassir Arafat.

In the West Bank, the dictator, Muhammad Abbas, has ruled the Palestinian Authority ever since Yassir Arafat died.

The Arab regimes in Gaza and the West Bank have refused to live peaceably with Israel. They deny rights to anyone who is not a fundamentalist Arab, including women, gay and transgender people, Christians, anyone else. No one else has rights in either Gaza or the West Bank except those who support extremist Muslim regimes.

It is a lie to say that Israel has prevented statehood to either Gaza or the West Bank.  The reason why there is no state in either of those two places, is that neither regime has declared their independence. What is the reason for that? The rulers of Gaza and the West Bank do not want their own state. They want all Jews in Israel killed and the survivors driven out of the land.

The Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank receive the most aid of any group in the world, but that aid has gone into the Swiss and Qatar bank accounts of the Jihadist rulers.  The Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank have been robbed and exploited by their own leaders.

Make no mistake about it. Those who lead the people in Gaza and the West Bank and many others in the Arab world want nothing less than the total destruction of any Christian or Jew in the Middle East. There are virtually no Christians left anymore in the Middle East.

Almost one million Jews were made refugees when they were forced to leave North Africa. The Jews had been in the land of North Africa and the Middle East since before Islam was a religion, and in many cases before Christianity. Nobody worried about those million Jewish refugees, but fortunately most of them were taken in by Israel. Only Israel has taken in refugees from war-torn areas such as Ethiopia.

The internet has proved to be a powerful tool for those who spread hate, lies and rumors about Israel and the Jewish people. There is virtually nothing on the internet that can be trusted without verification.

The people in Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan River are not the underdogs being preyed upon by the Jewish people. They have been led by and endorsed political rulers who brag about their desire to murder others. The Islamic fundamentalist Jihadi groups are constantly attacking Israel with missiles, bombs, rockets, and suicide bombers. How do we know that? They say so.  hey educate and train their children to kill, maim, rape, burn and destroy those who do not fit the model of Islamic racial purity.

The Jews established modern Israel, where they have been living for 3,500 years, as a robust, exciting and fair-minded democracy. Israel has protected its residents whether they be Muslims, Christians, or any of the other many diverse groups.  Christian-Arabs, Druse who broke away from Islam in the 11th Century, Bahaiists and others know that life would not be possible in the Middle East if they were not protected by Israel.

In Israel, 20% of the people who vote are Muslim-Arabs! In the West Bank and Gaza and the rest of the Arab world, Jews have little or no rights at all. No Jew could possibly even survive in Gaza or the West Bank of the Jordan River.

The Palestinian Authority which rules the West Bank has totally failed as a state. It is corrupt, totalitarian, undemocratic and disrespected by its own people. Those under the rule of Hamas and Gaza and who are ruled in Lebanon by Hezbollah cannot dream of having the rights we take for granted. Only in Israel can Arab women walk down the street in jeans and shop at the department stores alongside their neighbors of diverse races and religions.

Israel is the only beacon of democracy, fairness and justice in the Middle East. It always has been and always will be.

Israel has a peace treaty with Jordan and Egypt. Israel gave up valuable land to have that peace treaty.

Apartheid is a term referring to South Africa. At one time, South Africa had separate provinces which were segregated based upon race. It is not Israel that practices Apartheid, but rather the Arab nations, and the areas ruled by the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. There is no such thing as Apartheid in Israel. It is a big lie.

The October 7, 2023 massacre of Jews in Southern Israel is nothing less than part of the long-term plan and promise of Islamic Jihadists to kill and degrade everyone in the Middle East who is not a Jihadist.

Friends of Hamas, and other terrorist groups, like to refer to Gaza as an “open air prison” and they complain about a “blockade”. The only blockade Israel has imposed, and obviously not very successfully, is the blockade against defensive weapons. It was Israel that supplied Gaza with hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete for building schools and hospitals. Instead, that concrete has been used to build the most extensive underground tunnel system, known as The Metro, of any place in the world. It is from that underground concrete jungle that Hamas launches missiles, rockets, and terrorist fighters against the Jewish democracy. The underground concrete command centers are deliberately built by the terrorists under hospitals and schools. They want to die for their Jihad, and they want to make sure that their citizens suffer along with them. In this way, the Jihadists can hurt Israel with direct attacks, bombs, rockets, and missiles, while securing sympathy around the world due to the death of civilians within Gaza. While the brave people of Italy overthrew a fascist, named Mussolini, early in World War II, the people of Gaza, for some unknown reason, have stood with their leaders who have caused them so much harm and suffering. Gaza is no open-air prison, but they have attempted to turn Israel into an open-air cemetery.

A good example of the agenda of the Jihadists is Lebanon. At one time, Lebanon was split equally, almost equally, between Christians and Muslims. The government had some positions filled by Christians and some by Muslims. The country was prosperous and even had a scent of democracy. However, the Jihadists have destroyed completely the Christian population and they now control Lebanon.  Lebanon has no independent civil government anymore. Lebanon has been invaded by and controlled by Hezbollah, which is a military unit of Iran and by Syria.

In Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, also a member of a minority Muslim tribe, waged war against his own people, killing 450,000 Muslims. Where were Americans marching in the street for that? A friend of mine, who is a Syrian Muslim, told me that what occurred in Syria was nothing short of a “Holocaust”.

It would be nice to believe that Americans who support Hamas and demand Palestine from river to sea, meaning destroy all the Jews in that area, were simply ignorant or lacking in knowledge. Unfortunately, there is a healthy dose of antisemitism which this world and our country has known.

Antisemitism is not a new phenomenon, but has existed for almost 2,000 years. It is based upon suspicions, rumors and lies that the Jewish people are evil and seek to exploit others. History has shown that the truth is absolutely the opposite.

Geography: do not forget that Israel is a tiny sliver of land that lies along the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the south, to Lebanon and Syria in the north. At its narrowest point, the country is four miles from the Mediterranean to the West Bank of the Jordan River. The West Bank is occupied and administered by the Palestinian Authority. One can drive from the southern tip of Israel, in Eilat, all the way to Mount Hermon in the north in six or seven hours. The country is half the size of New Jersey, with almost 10 million people, 6.5 million of whom are Jews. Think of a country half the size of New Jersey, surrounded by the entirety of the United States, Canada and Mexico. That is Israel’s position in the Middle East. Israel has given full autonomy and control to the Arabs living on the West Bank of the Jordan River and to Gaza, and rather than declaring their independent Palestinian State, those people have installed dictators who steal from their people, wage war, and refuse to cooperate with their neighbors. Israel lives in a very bad neighborhood, surrounded by the worst kinds of rulers who gas and kill their own people and have pledged to destroy the 6.5 million Jews in Israel. Anyone who thinks that Israel is the oppressor and that the Palestinian Muslim-Arabs are the oppressed, has never looked at a map.

As Bob Dylan said, when writing about Israel: “He has built a garden of paradise in the desert sand, in bed with no one; under no one’s command.” Israel is the only beacon of democracy the Middle East has ever known or that it ever will know, where diverse peoples, races and religions can live together in peace and harmony, vote, and enjoy the fruits of Western Civilization. Those marching in the streets in America and Europe praising Hamas, are being exploited. Hamas stands for death, destruction, racism, bigotry, subjugation of women, gay people, transgender, and should not be celebrated by anyone.

About the Author
Cliff Rieders is a Board Certified Trial Advocate in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a past member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.
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