If My Great Uncle was a Palestinian Jew, Then Who Are You, Rashida Tlaib?

Jews have had a continuous presence in their homeland

Recently the latest darling of the left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D.-Mich.), expressed how calm she felt thinking about the Holocaust – because that is the most appropriate feeling to have regarding the greatest targeted genocide towards a group of people in modern history. To drive a bulldozer through this falsehood requires unearthing a series of historical truths hidden beneath the Arab propaganda cloaked in antisemitism.

Israel was not ‘born’ in 1948. Jews didn’t simply plop down into an oddly shaped, resource-poor land and declare themselves part of a new country. The Jewish people are native to the land of Israel. The very name of the people comes from an area in Israel called Judea. The Romans fought three massively destructive wars against Jews, which cost them more money and men than any other group they sought to conquer. After the Romans forced exile upon Jews from Israel, taking many as slaves to Italy, and killing many others, they renamed the land Palestina, an attempt to erase any Jewish connection to their homeland.

Yet the Romans didn’t kill all the Jews in Israel, and the ones remaining became citizens of the Roman empire. In the town of Peki’in, in northern Israel, many members of the Jewish priestly class found refuge and became farmers. These families lived there continuously for over 2000 years until Arab antisemitism drove them out in the 1930s. The continuous Jewish presence in Israel predates the Roman era. To the leftist antisemitic mainstream media and the terrorist-supporting members of Congress it props up, let me repeat this clearly – Israel was never Judenrein.

Adding to the alphabet soup of adversaries Jews had to face, after the Crusaders, came the Mamluks, who in 1260 destroyed coastal areas of Palestine. The Jewish stronghold of Acre was decimated. Being a resilient people, my tribe regrouped and moved further inland, especially to Jerusalem. There were also Jewish communities in Gaza, Hebron, and throughout the Upper Galilee (northeast Israel). As early as the 14th century, three main Diaspora communities – Ashkenazim, Mizrahi, and Sephardim—had representation in Jerusalem.

Every wave of hate added to the Jewish return to the homeland. The most pivotal of these attacks was the Inquisition, it changed the demographic of Jews in Palestine. The Jewish refugees from Spain were Sephardic Jews who spoke Ladino, a mix of Spanish and Hebrew. They became a majority of the Jews in Palestine. And thus it remained for a few hundred years until the pogroms in Russia spearheaded a Zionist passion—not only to flee to Israel, but to return to its land for religious and nationalistic purposes.

So what about the Arabs? Palestine was not just populated by Jews, of course. The main confusion primarily stems from semantics; and what exactly is Palestine? The best way to understand this complexity is that Palestine was a geographic region, just like North America. Today we know that Americans live in the US, Mexicans live in Mexico, and Canadians live in Canada. Yet all three populations live in North America. Simple, right? Well the same concept can be applied to Palestine. Under the Ottoman Empire there were no real borders within their stronghold. Arabs, originally from the Arabian Peninsula, lived where they wished. Muslim residents of the Ottoman Empire were able to move about freely: they lived in today’s Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan – all part of the Ottoman hold.

The beginning of the Ottoman Empire saw economic gains under Sultan Suleyman. The Jewish population comprised of those who never left the region, along with immigrants from Europe and North Africa. Most Jews lived in Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza, Safed, and the Galilee villages. After the death of the Sultan in the late 1500’s, the subsequent rulers, who had administrative offices in Damascus, and ruled from Istanbul, treated Israel as an afterthought. The Jews living there were very poor at the time. Malaria was rampant, and resources were scarce. The land was sparsely populated.

Most of the Arabs living in Israel at that time were serfs working the properties owned by wealthy Ottoman landowners, who mostly lived outside of Israel – many in Damascus. Like any great empire, the Ottomans had to collect taxes from its residents. In response, many Arab serfs, to avoid paying high taxes, chose against owning deeds to the land offered to them by their rulers. The Ottoman rulers decided to make a great profit for themselves by selling the land in Israel to Jews for up to eight! times the amount it was worth. There was always violence by Arabs against Jews in Palestine. There are official terror attack statistics in the area dating back to 1860. By 1880, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority.

When the British arrived in 1917 after helping defeat the Ottomans, the Arabs were at it full force against the Jewish people of Palestine. But remember, the Arabs lived everywhere in the region of Palestine, and Jews only lived in Israel. After the Ottomans left, economic conditions greatly improved, and Jews were the primary force behind land revitalization. They rid the land of malaria and irrigated the desert.

The French and British carved up post Ottoman lands – the French ruling today’s Lebanon and Syria, the British ruling today’s independent Israel and today’s Jordan. There was a great influx of Arabs to Israel for economic purposes – from all over the Arab world. Today those who incorrectly call themselves Palestinian actually have surnames derived from Arab countries (including Ms. Tlaib’s family). The question is, if the land of Israel was that important to those claiming to be ‘Palestinians,’ why didn’t they revitalize the land?

Both Jews and Arab populations wanted the Brits out of British Mandated Palestine, and while both populations fought the British, it was the Arabs who won the favor of the occupying forces – the British were famously anti-Semitic. British powers outlawed weapons for Jews, but were perfectly fine with Arabs having weapons and ammunition. During the British occupation, the Arab massacre of Hebron was the most violent, with 67 Jews murdered. The result of that massacre was after thousands of years of Jewish residency in Hebron, no Jews lived there until Israel won back that land from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. The survivors of the 1929 riots were the first to return to Hebron after the 1967 victory.

Well before Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti (Muslim religious leader) of Jerusalem met with Hitler in 1941, el-Husseini was organizing Fedayeen, Arab terrorists, to terrorize Jews for a good twenty years. How very friendly of your ‘people,’ Rashida Tlaib. As the British were restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine, and the Arabs were fighting Jews, the moniker ‘Palestinian’ very much belonged to Jews. The Palestine Post would become the Jerusalem Post in post-liberation Israel. The Palestine Orchestra, founded in 1936, became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948.

For centuries, ‘Palestinian’ was firmly associated with Jews, to the extent that Arabs hated that moniker. Newspapers from that era, both in British Mandate Palestine and around the world, used the terms ‘Arabs’ and ‘Jews.’ It wouldn’t be until 1964 when the Cairo-born Yassir Arafat started using the term ‘Palestinian’ to unite Arabs as an anti-Semitic tool against Jews – both with physical violence and as a political dagger.

Jews were fighting for independence against the British, and for survival against the Arabs. When it became obvious to the British that the Jews would not back down, they decided to retreat from Palestine. The newly liberated Israel, with its then-majority Holocaust survivor population, along with the sabras (natives), fought bravely against the invading Arab armies. Having no other homeland, the only Jewish state had no option but to triumph.

Yet the Arabs living in Israel were not pushed out. Those who left listened to Arab leaders who promised if they leave, the Jews will be killed faster. Of course there were some instances to the contrary, after all it was a war, with powerful Arab armies invading on all fronts, and the Arab population siding with the invaders. Famously, the Jewish mayor of Haifa pleaded with the Arabs in his city not to leave. Those Arabs who stayed became Israeli citizens after the war. Those who left became refugees, and to this day according to UNRWA are considered refugees (any refugee who lived in Israel for 2 years or more prior to leaving), along with all their descendants. The Palestinian Arabs are the only refugee group in the world to have now five generations of such a status.

Rep. Tlaib, my great-uncle, who came to Israel in 1936 to escape the Nazis, was considered a Palestinian Jew. You and your family are Palestinian Arabs, and your original homeland is not today’s independent Israel. Jewish Palestine became Israel; Arab Palestine became Jordan.

About the Author
Laureen Lipsky is a pro Israel advocate living in New York, and is the founder of Taking Back the Narrative.
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