Photo Credit: Lori Lowenthal Marcus
The Judean Hills

According to the historian James Parker, “During the first century of the Arab conquest, the Caliph and Governors of Syria and the Holy Land ruled entirely over Christian and Jewish subjects. Apart from the Bedouin in the earliest days, the only Arabs west of the Jordan were garrisons.” In 985, Arab writer Muqadassi complained: “The mosque is empty of worshippers. The Jews constitute the majority of Jerusalem.” In 1377, the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun declared, “Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel extended over 1400 years.”

Mandelbaum also noted in his article that Dutch scholar Adriaan Reland who visited the Holy Land in 1695 found that most of the communities had Hebrew names, with some Greek and some Roman. There were no Arabic Muslim names to any of the communities at that time period. He furthermore claimed that the cities were mostly populated by Jews, while the rest of the population was predominately Christian and Muslims constituted a minority of the population.


Interestingly, Reland reported this, even though Caliph El Hakim forced all of the Jews of the Holy Land to either convert to Islam or leave the country in 1012 and the Crusaders massacred numerous Jews in the Holy Land in the late medieval period. He maintains that until the British Mandate period, the influx of Muslims into the Holy Land was minimal and most of the locals had Jewish roots.

“When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only a few thousand Muslim Arabs resided in the Holy Land,” Mandelbaum writes. “Most of the Arabs were Christians, and most of the Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendants of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors.”

However, despite the massive influx of Muslims into the Holy Land during the British Mandate period, the Palestinian interviewed proclaimed: “I don’t know of a Palestinian family who does not have a Jewish story to their history. Just like Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain, they won’t ever go back, but it would be helpful to remind us publicly of whom we were and what we were, to show that we must connect as humans.”

This Palestinian explained that both sides made mistakes in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and afterwards. The Zionist movement did not recognize the Palestinians as having Jewish roots in their family while emphasizing that both sides suffered from anti-semitism and the Palestinians themselves also very much looked down on the newcomers from Europe. But this Palestinian hopes that this information can help bring the two peoples together at the very least to pursue peace in the future: “Unless we study our past, we won’t move forward to the future.”

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleTerrorism-Lite: How Universities Let Students Abuse Academic Freedom
Next articleFailing Negotiation 102: Europe
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."