Promised Land?


I must express my gratitude to the Gulf Cultural Club and my hosts Dr Saeed Shehabi and Mr Shabbir Rizvi for having invited me to speak on my book Promised Land? at Abrar House. I must also thank the respected audience for the trouble they have taken to attend this seminar.
This evening I am going to speak to some people of this great city of London where a noble octogenarian was walking alone in the dark icy streets with a lamp in hand and constantly murmuring – Peace, Peace, Peace, No WAR in Iraq.
It is again in  this great city where around that period nearly two million people assembled in Hyde Park and protested against any war against Iraq. But the invasion did take place despite the fact that this great country has been practising democracy for hundreds of years.

Following this noble British Octogenarian, I have started my book Promised Land? with the words, peace, peace, peace and decided to move ahead with my book as a tiny lamp in the dark icy streets of this unfortunate world with the great hope that some day peace would descend on it. I do no know whether I would have the same fate as that of the waling angel in a London Street as there is no peace in Iraq and in the region – only war, deception, deprivation, destruction and death.
I am a political economy commentator and have been writing on the Palestinian-Israeli issue for about a quarter of a century. Why have these two people been engaged in a such a suicidal warfare? Indeed, the answer was simple – it is a ‘piece of land’ which these people have been fighting on. The solution appears difficult – nearly impossible, but the world must remember  world peace and security is at stake.
Hate, anger, revenge actions emanating from Israeli occupation further complicated by the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have engulfed this part of the world. Immediate action is called for to find a solution, but the big question is – can we find a solution? In the words of President Obama – yes, we can and hence the need for talk, sensible talk that can make things work.
The title of my book Promised Land?  has a question mark. The question mark is important as I have tried to project my own assessment of this difficult issue on the basis of my research work on the relevant provisions of the Holy Scriptures – the bible (both Old & New Testament) and the Qur’an as the whole issue relates to religious belief.
As I said,  I have my considered views on the issue but I left the matter to the readers for their final judgement after they have read the book. It’s a hugely controversial issue as nobody really knows what God said to Prophet Abraham and Moses except what is written in the Holy Scriptures. So ultimately it has to be one’s own judgement and belief but not what interested parties say for the purpose of political or religious gains.
Though the facts  on  the ground are different i.e. Israel has been established, this work even though academic under the present circumstances, could be considered as an important element for the purpose of establishing the correct genesis of the present people of the Jewish faith whose claim of ethnicity and consequently the claim on the land in Palestine and also the establishment of the state of Israel through huge political manipulations of the  big powers have changed the political, social and strategic situation not only of the region but of the entire world. One can say without hesitation that this single factor contributed hugely to today’s world divide and terrorism. However, things have gone beyond anybody’s control, but as I have said before, the world community must work positively and relentlessly on the issue of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
The first major issue is are the Israelis the children of Israel? They crossed the Red Sea, travelled for 40 years with Moses from Egypt to Sinai and thereafter through many locations over such a long period to the Land of Canaan. Some of those who survived entered the Land of Canaan but after some 4,000 years, there  is no dependable proof that anyone of the Children of Israel survived.
So the present people of Jewish faith who are known to be the Jews through conversion do not seem to have any real basis to claim original ‘heritage’.
My own research work over the years by comparing provisions in the Bible and the Qur’an led me to the conclusion that the present Israelis and other people of the  Jewish faith do not belong to the ethnic group of the Israelites and therefore cannot be the descendants of the children of Israel.
A similar conclusion was  arrived at by the Jewish author Arthur Koestler who in his book The Thirteenth Tribe said :"Research proves Jews are not Israelites",  "these Eastern European Jews are neither Israelites nor Semites but are instead Khazars, Mongols and people of Hun descent.
Like the majority of the Israelites who left Egypt, Moses dies before experiencing fulfilment of Yahweh’s promises. [Ref. Understanding The bible by Stephen L Harris pg 84}.
There was no mention of God speaking to Abraham directly as He did to Moses and promising the Land of Canaan to belong to  his descendants. (Understanding the Bible by Stephen L. Harris p 185). I have also not come across any such reference in the Qur’an.
Abraham did not have any reason to ask for a ‘promised land’. Why did he ask the Hitties of Canaan to sell a piece of land to him so that he could bury his wife Sarah who died there (ref Genesis 23:4-20).
Moses was shown the land of Canaan (Palestine) from Mount Nebo and God asked his people – the children  of Israel – to go and live there but Moses was barred from entering into the Land of Canaan.
A passage from the Qur’an (17:104)  says :"And We said unto the Children of Israel after him: Dwell in the land (ardh) but when the promise (wada) of the Hereafter (al-akhira) cometh to pass We shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations".
Curiously, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, translated it saying : "And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel: "Dwell securely in the land (of promise)".  "But when the second of the warnings came to pass, We gathered you together in a mingled crowd".
In the translations of the same verse by Mohammed M Pickthal, Al Shakoor, Abrahimic  Forum, Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh, the word promise was not with the land, it was with the Hereafter.
Indeed, there has never been any such instance of God’s promise of exclusive land, let alone a state, to any religious or ethnic group.
The second most controversial issue is Israel’s claim of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The word capital was probably not seen by the Children of Israel at that time. Eternal is the key word. The Davidic monarchy existed only for a short period: it came "to a disastrous end when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 587 BCE [Ref. Understanding The Bible by Stephen L Harris p 83].
In the Qur’an (38.35) it is also mentioned: He (Solomon) said :"O Lord! Forgive me and grant me a kingdom which (it may be) suits not another after me: For Thou art the Guarantor of bounds (without measure).
Even Prophet Solomon himself realised when he prayed for a kingdom that such a state "suits not another after me". So the conclusion in the Bible was similar to the one that was revealed in the Qur’an i.e. there will  be and end to  Solomon’s kingdom. Thus when Israel’s Davidic monarchy that  included Solomon’s kingdom came to an end, the issue of Jerusalem  remaining as Israel’s eternal capital does not stand on any historical fact.
Let us jump to the modern era. The Zionists pushed for  a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Having observed the antagonistic situation in the area, Yusuf Zia-Alkhaldi, the Major of Jerusalem during the Ottoman Rule  wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France :"In the  name of God, leave Palestine in peace". He added that the European Jews "should look elsewhere for a homeland". (The Gun and the Olive Branch" by David Hirst – p 15).  There were ideas to have the Jews settled in Uganda or any another place in Africa but it was not acceptable to the Zionists – hence all the problems.
The Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland  in 1897 to establish a home in Palestine secured by public law. (The Gun and the Olive Branch – David Hirst p 16) for European Jews.
The president of the tenth congress of the Zionist movement declared that "only those suffering from grave ignorance or actuated by malice, could accuse us of the desire of establishing an independent Jewish kingdom". (David Hirst p – 20). But it appears from the diary of Herzl he actually laid the foundation for a Jewish state: "at Basle I founded the Jewish state". (David Hirst p 20).
Here it is necessary to add that all Jews are not  Zionists. Even President Truman used the term Zionists in his memoirs. Zionists are those who wanted to return to Zion – a mountain near Jerusalem where they believe God lived.
The Balfour Declaration referred to a national home for the Jewish people – not a state. It is difficult to find a single document – a letter of 117 words – which so arbitrarily changed the course of history as this one. "One nation promised a second the country of a third". (Zayid Dossier on Palestine) [Arthur Koestler, as quoted by Ismael Zayid in Palestine, 50 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession: dossier on Palestine].
It is always possible for someone to be extremely generous and give away somebody else’s treasure to someone else. But history has to note the injustice that has been inflicted on weaker people by the stronger ones and hence the political and social turmoil that the world has been facing from time immemorial.
 Worldwide problems including terrorism that we face today are the direct result of the arbitrary breaking up of others’ lands, giving no consideration to their sovereignty, ethnic affinities and religious background of the indigenous people. (The Sykes-Picot Secret deal of 1916). These imperial powers acted purely on self-interest. But the US and the State of Israel are now blaming these deprived people for the unrest and instability of the region.
Upon the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, Britain got Iraq and Tranjordan and France got Syria and Lebanon and Palestine to "remain under the international administration of a kind to be decided later".  They left Palestine under the so-called international administration as they themselves  could not finally agree on this issue.
The US and the UK formed  the joint committee which after deliberations suggested the adoption of three principles:
(1) That the Jews shall not dominate Arabs and the Arabs shall not dominate Jews in Palestine.
(2) Palestine shall be neither a Jewish nor an Arab state.
(3) That the form of government ultimately to be established shall, under international guarantees, fully protect and preserve the interests in the Holy Land of Christendom and of the Moslem and Jewish faiths.
President Truman said in his memoirs: "My efforts to persuade the British to relax immigration restrictions in Palestine might have fallen on more receptive ears it if had not been for the increasing acts of terrorism that were being committed in Palestine. There were armed  groups of extremists who were guilty of numerous outrages. On June 16 eight bridges were blown up near the Transjordan border and two other explosions were set off in Haifa. The following day there was a pitched battle between Jews and the British troops in Haifa after explosions had started a fire and caused great damage in the rail yards there. Others were shot at from passing auto mobiles. Explosions took place in ever-increasing numbers.
The joint committee made further recommendations: "The formation of a federal system of two autonomous states with a strong central government. "Approximately fifteen hundred square miles (of a total of forty-five thousand) were to become a Jewish state. The central government would retain control of the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as well as of the southernmost section of Palestine, the Negev. The remainder of Palestine would become an Arab state". (ref Truman’s memoirs p 150). This was unacceptable to both Jews and Arabs.
President Truman continued to say that there was further deterioration in the overall situation. He wrote: "Only a few days before, Jewish terrorists had blown up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem with considerable loss of lives". Meanwhile the Jewish extremists in Palestine were continuing their terrorist activities. And top Jewish leaders in the United States were putting all sorts of pressures on me to commit American power and forces on behalf of the Jewish aspirations in Palestine".
Having observed all these terrorists’ activities by the Jewish extremists the British government in the capacity of the mandate holder referred the case to the United Nations on February 4, 1947. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) then set up a special committee – UNSCOP, which recommended  the independence of Palestine in the form that there should be ‘two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab, tied together in an economic union. Jerusalem should be under direct UN trusteeship. ‘Jews welcomed it but Arabs obviously opposed any division of the Arab land.  The US supported the partition plan.
However the Under-secretary of State Summer Welles stated, :"By direct order of the White House, every form of pressure, direct and indirect, was used to make sure that the necessary majority would be gained". (Palestine – Fifty Years of Ethnic Cleansing by Ismail Zayid, Dossier on Palestine, 2003 – p4).
President Truman recorded (memoirs p 159) General Assembly action in the following way: "The General Assembly passed the partition plan on November 29, 1947, although it did not actually put partition into effect. Instead it merely gave its approval to the majority recommendations of the Special Committee (UNSCOP) and asked the Security Council to see that they were carried out.
The UN General Assembly passed the partition plan resolution No 181 that "Recommended the partition of Palestine to establish a Jewish state using 56% of Palestinian land and an Arab state with the remaining 42% of the land: Jerusalem was kept under international administration’. (Fifty Years of Cleansing, p4). It is necessary to mention that the UN did not then, nor does it now, have the power to create new states in the world.
Israel decided on the  unilateral declaration of a state. "On May 14, I was informed that the Provisional Government of Israel, was  planning to proclaim a Jewish state at midnight that day, Palestine time,  which was when the British mandate came to an end…….Now the Jews were ready to proclaim the state of Israel, however I decided to move at once and give American recognition to the new nation (the copy of the de facto recognition is recorded in the book).
The President of the United States of America recognised the state of Israel which had no legal basis, there was no UN Security Council  binding resolution on a partition plan nor  UN recognised boundaries on the ground. The partition map was only on paper and boundaries were to be negotiated with the Arabs if the UNSC formally approved and implemented it.
However it   had a majority Jewish population but there are Palestinians with Israel. Therefore, the entire eposide around the establishment of the state of Israel has been based on pressure tactics and unilateral force and, as it seems, with the support of the USA. It is quite clear that while various proposals were there before the UN and other international bodies  had time for consideration and actions, President Truman  ‘decided to move at once’. (Ref his memoirs p. 164) with the recognition and made an announcement accordingly. President Truman wrote :"I was told that to some of the career men of the State Department this announcement came as a surprise".
Then there came the de jure recognition of Israel by the United States on January 31, 1949 after Israel held its first election on January 25th, 1949. Obviously, the Arabs were furious and they rejected the establishment of Israel. Hostilities began in Palestine and in order to pacify the hostilities, the UN dispatched a mediator, Count Bernadotte, who was able to have a temporary truce and suggested a different kind of partition plan. Secretary Marshal saw it as an improvement of the partition plan and hence he "informed the United Nations that it seemed to him that it was a fair and sound proposal. The Israelis went so far as to say that the Bernadotte plan had been drawn up originally in our State Department". (Truman memoirs P 166).
So this change was not acceptable to Israel. The Arabs did not accept it as it would have signified recognition of  ‘a Jewish state called Israel" which they were totally opposed to.
President Truman again mentioned in his memoirs that some days later "the British and Chinese introduced a joint resolution in the United Nations that was sharply anti-Israel in tone (Ref. Truman’s memoirs 167).
The above words in President Truman’s statement  lead to some serious questions that need to be noted: Count Bernadotte knew about the earlier partition plan approved, in principle, by the UNGA. But still he came up with the new partition plan keeping in view the problem on the ground. The new partition plan was given by an independent person like Count  Bernadotte: he was neither an Arab nor a friend of the Palestinians.
What he came up with was a reflection of the actual situation on the ground and he wanted some improvements that could  lead to some form of settlement and this is why Secretary Marshall rightly called it a "fair and sound proposal". Thus, the partition plan, which was on paper only and was still considered to be not final and needing  change and improvement.
But Marshal’s statement to the UN created some hidden friction between President Truman and Secretary Marshal but this was not allowed to surface.  The president later discussed it with Secretary Marshal and let  him know that the "Bernadotte plan was  so different from the original partition plan that it could not be accepted without a change in policy". (Truman Memoirs P 167). This indeed closed the chapter of any change without the direct approval of President Truman. It seems that though President Truman was upset initially with  the ‘approaches’ of the Zionists, he seemed to have converted and went for all out support of Israel.
These unfortunately still appear to be the elements of  America’s policies unduly favouring Israel in the Middle East. Obviously such policies cannot establish peace in the region unless there is a real change, hopefully a balanced one, in American policies. This, in a nutshell is the story of the establishment of Israel in Palestine. One can very clearly see the kind of legitimacy, if any at all, Israel had in declaring and establishing  Israel  in Palestine and that the US and other countries recognised Israel and later actively supported Israel’s admission into the United Nations.
It’s a sad, and according to many an internationally unlawful act to create a new state in the world,  and hence the terrorism and consequently the long and nearly unsolvable problem that the world has been facing since.
In 1949 the State of Israel was officially admitted to the United Nations on the condition that all the Palestinians driven from their homes and lands during and after the Zionist expulsion and declaration of the State of Israel, be allowed to return with compensation.
But the Palestinians became refugees in their own land. The Zionists, from the beginning had no intention of giving the Palestinians back their land, thereby creating all the political and refugee problems much of the world has endured since that time. To take care of more then 750,000 Palestinian refugees, the UN set up the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), establishing 60 refugee camps by voluntary agencies. Thus the people of Palestine lost their own country to Jewish immigrants and became refugees in their own homeland and throughout the world.
It was only after 1967 that the  ‘promised land’  became a propaganda campaign to justify the taking and keeping of Palestinian lands seized by the Zionist state in the 1967 war: the West Bank including Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Yitshak Shamir when he was Prime Minister of Israel said publicly that "Israel needs the West Bank for Soviet Jews (Reclaiming History by Andrew Killgore – march 1990, Washington report On Middle Eastern Affairs).
"We shall spirit the penniless population (Palestinians) across the border… the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly (Theodore Harzel – Diary Vol II, page 24, 1898).
"What is to be done with the population?" (Palestinians). Ben Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said :Drive them out [ref Palestine: Fifty years of Ethnic Cleansing].
Palestine  will be as Jewish as England is English (Chaim Weizemann, first President of Israel, autobiography: Trial and Error).
Major issues still need to be resolved among them an end to the occupation with withdrawal beyond the 1967 borders with a Palestinian state to be contiguous.
Another sensitive issue is the Palestinians’ right to return to land now in Israel. The Israelis must not oppose this as they themselves are in the land of Palestine on their own agreement of ‘return to Palestine’ which was occupied by the children of Israel i.e the Israelites. It  has to be accepted by the Jewish community that even in the bible, Palestine has been shown as a land occupied by the Israelites – the Israelite tribe that came with Moses.
Successive US governments continued to support Israel – right or wrong. The pressure of the Israelis on the US government through Jewish organisations in the US continued.
Secret negotiations continued in Oslo, Norway and ultimately an Oslo Accord was arrived at which was signed by Yasser Arafat, Chairwoman of the PLO. This accord gave recognition to Israel and Israel recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. the issue of the Palestinian state was not mentioned in the accord.
Recognition of the PLO was the only benefit the Palestinians got against the PLO’s recognition of Israel. This was rejected by Hamas. Endless negotiations continued but  the Palestinians received nothing in terms of a state. The negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak, the then Israeli Prime Minister, under the supervision of President Clinton resulted in an agreement which offered a Palestinian state but a totally disjointed one.
In other words it was something like some areas of a Palestinian state surrounded by Israeli state areas including Israeli settlements This was not a contiguous and viable state. Arafat rejected it and was blamed by the West that he did not take a Palestinian state when it was offered to to him.
Then came the deadly visit of Ariel Sharon to the Noble Sanctuary – Masjid Al Aqsa area where he declared that the entire area is part of Israel.
The messengers of G od were Moses, Jesus and Mohammed (peace be upon all) and they all received the same message from God and gave it to the people who followed them. Thus, by definition, the followers of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed should all be righteous i.e. Muslim (as an attribute). Indeed, such a truth should bring all people of faith together to forge a common position in religion and such is the basis for a dialogue which all of us should promote and work hard for achieving peace and security of mankind.
I believe that all must give up extremist views in the wake of the most unfortunate events of 9/11 and concentrate on effective ways, including the UN session, to deal with  problems. Only then will the people of faith be able to live together in harmony, peace and security. If the people of faith, who form the largest population on earth, can remove their differences, the people of other religions could also be invited to join  them so that differences between all religions could be brought to a manageable proportion. Such a step could really reduce religious violence significantly leading to sustainable peace around the world.
* Muslehuddin Ahmad graduated with a Masters from the University of Punjab in Pakistan after which he started his career in 1953 as a lecturer at Dhaka 1956, he joined the Government service through Pakistan central Superior Service Examination. Having served the government for 35 years he retired as a Secretary and Ambassador of the Government of Bangladesh in 1990. He served the country’s foreign office in different capacities on deputation for over 12 years and was posted in Stockholm,Paris, Geneva and finally Romania.He is also a columnist and has been writing columns in Spotlight on M. East.A peace and Human Rights Activist, he has been the chairman of civic watch, Bangladesh.

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