When Israel and the Arabs Were Allies





Dr. Feinman is the founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to providing education programs to teachers, students, and the general public. His upcoming article in January 2008 is "William Taylor in Chile: A Methodist Missionary Case Study, 1877-1903" (Methodist History).

Yasser Arafat used to claim that he was the descendant of Canaanites.  He also would declare himself to be the descendant of Jebusites.  By the term “Canaanite,” Arafat meant the biblical land of Canaan.  As it turns out, the term has been discovered archaeologically primarily from the second millennium BCE to refer essentially to the same land as meant by both the Bible and Arafat.  There is no indication that Arafat actually knew the term “Canaan” had been archaeologically verified but apparently in this instance, unlike with the Solomonic Temple, Arafat was willing to accept the biblical account as accurate.

There is no archaeological reference to the term “Jebusite.”  This designation only exists in the Bible.  It refers to inhabitants in the city of Jerusalem prior to the conquest by David.  By contrast, the archaeological record, primarily from Egyptian Execration Texts and the Amarna Letters from the Middle Kingdom and the Amarna Age suggests that the name Jerusalem was known and used centuries before David.  Here Arafat was willing to vouch for the biblical record without any supporting archaeological evidence.

The reasons for his willingness to accept the biblical terms in these two instances should be obvious.  Arafat was playing a game of one-upmanship on Israel.  In effect he was saying, “I see your Book of Joshua claims of conquest and predate you.  We were in the land first.”   Ironically, in Lebanon, the exact opposite scenario prevails.  In Lebanon, Christians are the descendants of the ancient Phoenicians while Muslims are the descendants of the Arabs who arrived with Islam.  So in Lebanon the Muslims are not the descendants of Canaanites from the Bronze Age (2000-1200 BCE) but of the late arriving Arabs in the 7th century CE while in Palestine the Muslims are descendants of the Bronze Age Canaanites even though there is no mention of the Arabs in Bronze Age in the archaeological record, no facts on the ground to support the claim!  These examples reveal how the past is manipulated to suit the political agenda in the present and the necessity of knowing that past if one is to effectively respond.

Let’s examine three words from the archaeological record and see what they indicate about the actual history in the region: Israel, Palestine, and Arabs.  The term “Israel” first appears in the archaeological record in the time of Pharaoh Merneptah (1212-1202 BCE), the son who finally succeeded his long-lived and more famous father, Ramses II (1279-1212).  In a stele or inscribed rock monument at his mortuary temple in Thebes, Merneptah claimed in his “Victory Hymn” to have “destroyed the seed of Israel.”  Ignoring exactly what he meant by that reference, a geographical analysis of the entire hymn suggests that Israel lived in the hill-country known today as the West Bank.  Archaeological surveys confirm that at precisely this time hundreds of new settlements were formed in this area.  The stele was discovered in 1896 and people to this very day remain remarkably ignorant of it.

Simultaneously with the appearance of Israel in history, the Egyptians were engaged in an ongoing conflict with the Sea Peoples.  This designation refers to a number of Indo-European peoples from the Aegean world who began to make their presence known in Egypt and the Levant by land and by sea.  The most significant Sea Peoples for our purposes is the Plst in the Egyptian record (Egypt had no vowels).  They are called Peleset with the addition of the e vowel.  To Israel, they were the pelistim, in Aramaic, the Palshtin, and in Assyrian the Palashtu.  Herodot us in Book III 91 refers to the region as Palestine Syria probably drawing on the Aramaic version since Aramaic was then the lingua franca.  The word Palestine with the plst root derives from these people who were not Arab and not Semitic.

The people known as Arabs first appear in the archaeological record in the Middle Kingdom Egyptian story of Sinuhe as “people of the east” in the Syrian/Arabian desert.  When they became involved in the geopolitics and international trade of the 9th and 8th centuries in the conflicts among the Assyrians, Aramaeans, and Israel they were referred to as Arabs in both the biblical and Assyrian records.  In 716 BCE, Sargon II following the conquest of Israel and deportations of the Israelites also deports Arabs.  They are forcibly relocated to Samaria near modern Nablus, the first known instance of Arab people permanently living in the land of Canaan.

Their first appearance in history was over a century earlier in 853 BCE.  At that time a major coalition of the willing was created among the West Semitic peoples to stop an invasion from the east by Assyria. According to the battle inscription, the Arabs engaged the Assyrians with a force of 1000 camels.  It has been suggested that the Arab claim to fame was their use of camels which led to the Arabs being regarded as a superb police and guard force who could provide swift transport when needed, such as in retreat. Camels also helped give them control of the trade route to the spices of Sheba in modern Yemen, a route that Assyrians sought to control.  The Arabs choose to ally with their partners in trade, Ahab’s Israel, the leading provider of chariots to the coalition.  It is quite possible that the partnership began in the time of Ahab’s father, Omri, and that the prevalence of Arab names with the “mr” root may be an offshoot of the friendship and respect among the two peoples then.

Thus there once was a time when Arabs and Israel were allies and Israel was part of the Semitic world around it as brother, cousin, and husband to its many peoples, when the image of Isaac and Ishmael standing together as one matched the historical record of 853 BCE.  One prays that we won't have to wait another 2861 years for these peoples to be allies and part of the same family once again.            


This is an abstract from a paper presented at the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Pathways to Peace conference at Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT, March 28-29-2008.


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omar ibrahim baker - 12/24/2008

Peace between the Arabs and the “Israelites/Israelis ”, the old and recently resurgent name of the Jews, to be a true ,genuine and lasting peace, will have to be founded on more than the old alliances recalled by Dr Feinman that once joined them against what were transitory enemies for both .

For one thing the concep and perception of “peace” should stress and regenerate the intrinsic difference between Jews, the indigenous monotheistic community that considers itself a “people” whose roots are in the region with legitimate cultural and spiritual attachment to it AND the Zionists, originally mostly non indigenous, alien, Jews of Western and East European provenance, who morphed that Jewish attachment into an aggressive, colonialist, expansionist and racist doctrine that carried most of the Jews , indigenous and aliens alike, along with it.

How ever since that doctrine,Zionism, has managed, for the time being, to successfully implement its principles in establishing a Zionist colony in Palestine, Israel, that it manned with alien and indigenous Jews and since the current conflict is with that entity it is Israel , enjoying the support of most Jews, rather than the Jews per se, that should be addressed in any meaningful search for “peace”.

“Peace” ultimately, in a historical perspective, is primarily an Israeli issue and strategic objective in the sense that it is Israel that is , and is correctly perceived as, the aggressor/usurper, colonialist party that has dislocated, dispossessed and subjugated the indigenous Palestinian Arab people, both Moslems and Christians, from and in their
homeland ,supplanted them with aliens
screened and selected on a racist/confessional basis and has consistently denied those of the indigenous people of Palestine that were dislocated or moved of their own accord during war time activities the right to return to their homes and to repossess their properties in their homeland.

The establishment of Israel in Palestine was not only opposed and rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian Arab people and the Arab nation in general but also led to several military confrontations and entrenched in the Arab nation and ,eventually , in the Moslem world a deep sense of rejection of Israel’s very existence that the Israelis consider as an existential threat!
As such Israel being the “threatened” party the legitimacy of whose existence is regionally rejected and universally increasingly suspected and being the party seeking
acceptance and recognition;hence
“primarily”!
“Peace” is equally an Israeli issue in the sense that it is Israel who is looking for regional acceptance of its very existence,presently enforced by military superiority,and is seeking integration into its environment and all that goes with it :mutual acceptance, inter communication, economic cooperation etc etc.
(NONE of the above should be construed ,nor extrapolated, to mean that Peace is NOT in Arab interest which, under suitable conditions it definitely IS.)

Such a “peace” , of regional acceptance and integration, can only be achieved through the de alienation of Israel in its environment.
That boils down to the deZionization of Israel i.e.:
a-Israeli/Zionist total and irrevocable abandonment of the impossible objective of an exclusively or predominantly Jewish Palestine that excludes the indigenous Palestinian people, both resident and refugee, from his homeland.
b-Unequivocal Israeli recognition and implentation of all the inalienable rights of the Palestinian Arab people in his homeland.
Which stipulations should entail and lead to:
c-The re Palestinization of Palestine
d-total and irrevocable acceptance by both the Arabs and Israelis of a
Palestine for ALL the Palestinians in which both communities enjoy and exercise equal rights and obligations under which ever political inter communal regulating system they may choose.

Except for and short of such a historical reconciliation between the Arabs and the Jews/Israelis that will introduce a new era for both and the region Israel will remain, at best, :
1-an alien isolated and hostile entity implanted and sustained by force whose primary mission is to defend itself
2-a racially conceived and racially maintained racist nation/state
3-a foreign hostile implantation resented and rejected by its environment.

None of that can ever be the foundation of a durable peace NOR provide the “safe haven” long sought after by the Jews.


omar ibrahim baker - 12/24/2008

Peace between the Arabs and the “Israelites/Israelis ”, the old and recently resurgent name of the Jews, to be a true ,genuine and lasting peace, will have to be founded on more than the old alliances recalled by Dr Feinman that once joined them against what were transitory enemies for both .

For one thing the concep and
perception of “peace” should stress and regenerate the intrinsic difference between Jews, the indigenous monotheistic community that considers itself a “people” whose roots are in the region with legitimate cultural and spiritual attachment to it AND the Zionists, originally mostly non indigenous alien Jews of Western and East European provenance, who morphed that Jewish attachment into an aggressive, colonialist, expansionist and racist doctrine that carried most of the Jews , indigenous and aliens alike, along with it.

How ever since that doctrine,
Zionism, has managed, for the time being, to successfully implement its principles in establishing a Zionist colony in Palestine, Israel, that it manned with alien and indigenous Jews and since the current conflict is with that entity it is Israel , enjoying the support of most Jews, rather than the Jews per se, that should be addressed in any meaningful search for “peace”.

“Peace” ultimately, in a historical perspective, is primarily an Israeli issue and strategic objective in the sense that it is Israel that is , and is correctly perceived as, the aggressor/usurper, colonialist party that has dislocated, dispossessed and subjugated the indigenous Palestinian Arab people, both Moslems and Christians, from and in their homeland ,supplanted them with aliens screened and selected on a racist/confessional basis and has consistently denied those of the indigenous people of Palestine that were dislocated or moved of their own accord during war time activities the right to return to their homes and to repossess their properties in their homeland.
The establishment of Israel in Palestine was not only opposed and rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian Arab people and the Arab nation in general but also led to several military confrontations and entrenched in the Arab nation and ,eventually , in the Moslem world a deep sense of rejection of Israel’s very existence that the Israelis consider as an existential threat!

As such Israel being the “threatened” party the legitimacy of whose existence is regionally rejected and universally increasingly suspected , being the party seeking acceptance and recognition ; hence “primarily”!
“Peace” is equally an Israeli issue in the sense that it is Israel who is looking for regional acceptance of its very existence, presently enforced by military superiority, is seeking integration into its environment and all that goes with it :mutual acceptance, inter communication, economic cooperation etc etc.
(None of the above should be construed, or extrapolated, to mean that Peace is NOT also in Arab interest; which under the right conditions it definitely is.)
Such a “peace” , of regional acceptance and integration, can only be achieved through the dealienation of Israel in its environment.
That boils down to the deZionization of Israel i.e. :
a-Israeli/Zionist total and irrevocable abandonment of the impossible objective of anexclusively or predominantly Jewish Palestine that excludes the indigenous Palestinian people, both resident and refugee, from his homeland.
b-Unequivocal Israeli recognition and implementation of all the inalienable rights of the Palestinian Arab people in his homeland.
Which conditions should entail and lead to:
c-The re Palestinization of Palestine
d-total and irrevocable acceptance by both the Arabs and Israelis of a
Palestine for ALL the Palestinians in which both communities enjoy and exercise equal rights and obligations under which ever political inter communal regulating system they may choose.
Except for and short of such a historical reconciliation between the Arabs and the Jews/Israelis that will introduce a new era for both and the region Israel will remain, at best, :
1-an alien isolated and hostile entity implanted and sustained by force whose primary mission is to defend itself
2-a racially conceived and racially maintained racist nation/state
3-a foreign hostile implant resented and rejected by its environment.

None of that can ever be the foundation of a durable peace NOR provide the “safe haven” long sought by the Jews.

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