One day, during those exceedingly rare moments that I didn’t have anything to do, I was contemplating the concept of “Jordan is Palestine”. And this is what I contemplated. According to the Zionists, the territory of present-day Israel and Jordan comprised one country under British rule called “Palestine”, until 1922 when eastern Palestine was chopped off from western Palestine and behold, a new Arab country was created – a “Palestinian state” – that the British called “Transjordan” (later shortened to “Jordan”) because it was comprised of the lands across the Jordan River.
According to the Arabists on the other hand, Jordan was created as a buffer between western Palestine and Iraq (which was also under British rule) and since then, it has become a fully separate and independent country that is no substitute for a Palestinian state. If we examine both of these narratives closer, we find, right away, that the Arab narrative is nothing but crap.
The Zionist narrative, on the other hand, no strangers to also disseminating crap, gets a yes and no on this particular point. In reality, the entire area of present-day Jordan has only been a part of Palestine from the time the British assumed authority in 1918 after World War I to 1922 when they created “Transjordan”. But that part of Jordan that lies immediately to the east of the Jordan River was, indeed, historically a part of Palestine, and before that, the Land of Israel, for thousands of years. The rest of the area was historically part of Arabia.
In ancient times, this area was partially made up of the ancient Israelite/Jewish territories of Gad, Reuven, and the eastern half of Menasheh (which also extended into, what is today, southwestern Syria). In this area are the sites of Mount Nebo (burial place of Moses), Abel Shittim (today, the town of Abila where the Israelites camped before crossing the river into the Land of Canaan), and Penuel where Jacob stopped on his way to Padan Aram in Syria and, after wrestling with an angel, received as a blessing, the name of “Israel,” an acronym meaning “because you fought with God.” It is an irony that the name “Israel” was first coined at a site that is located in what is today, an “Arab Palestinian” Kingdom.
South and east of the ancient Israelite territories were the non-Israelite territories of Ammon, centered in and around, what is today, Amman, and Edom and Moab. The inhabitants of these places were long extinct though some say that their descendants do actually live on as the local bedouin. East of these territories, the region was often referred to in the Bible as the “East Country”, part of the Nabatean Arab homeland.
Since the biblical period and until the early Middle Ages, Israelites/Jews continued to inhabit their ancient ancestral lands east of the Jordan. With the Arab conquest and occupation in the 7th century, this territory, being so close to the Arabian desert, was the one of the first in Palestine to experience Arab colonization, settling alongside the indigenous Jewish inhabitants. The town of Ajlun, the biblical Gilead, had long been a prominent medieval Jewish center. At one point, there was question among the rabbis in Jerusalem over whether Ajlun and the entire region was halakhically a part of the Land of Israel. At the end of the 16th century and after much debate, they decided in the affirmative and the local Jews were henceforth able to observe those Jewish rites that can only be practiced in the Land of Israel. (At that time, no one ever suggested that Jews were there in order to protect Jaffa.)
This rabbinic ruling, however, was over a region that became devoid of Jews as during and after the Crusader period, bedouin raids and depredations drove the local Jews away. But sacred land is sacred land and the empty lands east of the Jordan were treated just as holy as the lands west of the Jordan and Jewish travelers and merchants still maintained an intermittent Jewish presence in the region.
In 1879, the lands east of the Jordan was proposed as a place of Jewish settlement by the English Christian adventurer Laurence Oliphant as a first step towards Israel’s restoration to its ancestral land. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Zionist organizations in New York, Montreal, Chicago, Romania, and Yekatrinoslav, purchased land in the area for this purpose. However, no appreciable settlement followed. During World War I, the Battle of es-Salt between the Turks and the Jewish Legion, just 16 miles west of Amman, was among the most decisive battles in the War that allowed the British to take control of Palestine.
In 1919, as part of post-war international peace deals, Zionist leaders proposed the border of Palestine as including all of the ancient Israelite territories plus Moab and Edom — one of the few things the Zionists actually did right. But the British had other ideas and instead, created their own borders. Upon the creation of Jordan, Jewish habitation in Jordan was decreed off limits, especially in regards to the ancient Israelite territories. This prohibition is still upheld today, as it is in the rest of this “Arab Palestinian” kingdom.
So now what do you think about “Jordan is Palestine”?