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The Context

The Ivy League colleges' presidents informed the world that genocide against the Jews is a crime only depending on the context. The purpose of this note is to provide the context.


ב"ה יב' שבט תשפ"ד

Jan. 21st, 2024


The Ivy League colleges' presidents informed the world that genocide against the Jews is a crime only depending on the context. The purpose of this note is to provide the context. This is a factual note based on putting together current archeological and historical knowledge and thousands-year-old documents. The anti-Semite who hates Jews because of gut feeling is not affected by facts, truth, or history, and thus can skip reading this article. Any open minded individual who wants to really know the context, is welcome to continue reading. It is a daunting task to summarize a 3500 year context in a few pages. The skeleton is brought here. The reader is encouraged to delve more deeply into any topic that piques his interest.

 

The context starts at the Bronze Age, which ended about 3200 years ago. During that time there were no nations as we know them today. Some settlements organized as city-states. The advanced ones may have been fortified and had a king. Such city-states had patron gods and their population was generally an extended clan with a possibly unique dialect. In the Middle East there were a few empires, such as the Egyptian or Chaldean. The empires generally taxed the city states in areas adjacent to them, and possibly had administrative or military outposts in these areas. In the region known as Canaan, Israel of today, there were many city-states, each with its king. The Canaanites were one people in that area, but there were others, Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, and others. An interesting clan in those times was the Hebrew clan. While it was also one of the clans in the regions, it was nomadic and had a strange religion – believing in a single universal God who created everything and espoused  a moral and ethical code. In the Bible, this clan was led by Abraham, then Isaac, and Jacob. The clan had offshoots, Esau, Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, that did not follow the Hebrew religion and were absorbed by neighboring tribes. Archeological evidence suggests that the area was subservient to the Egyptian empire, but there is also evidence of occasional Babylonian incursions.

 

At the end of the Bronze Age there were some massive famines in the Eastern Mediterranean area that caused major population migrations. One of them was the invasion of Canaan by the Sea People, who were called by the locals the Invaders (Polshim in Semitic languages, or Plishtim, Philistines). Another migration was of the Hebrew clan to Egypt. As a harbinger of future exiles, the Hebrews were oppressed in Egypt. However, in Egypt they changed from a clan to a nation, the Nation of the Children of Israel.

 

The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age. The nation of Israel returned from Egypt to their origin - the Canaan region. Over a few hundred years they consolidated their hold over the land and eventually King David formed a kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem. A Temple to the universal God was built in Jerusalem by king Solomon and the ethics of Israel were formulated and taught via the Psalms and the writings of the prophets. These eventually became the basis of Western Humanism, democracy, and equality. Geopolitically the nation of Israel had constant wars with the Invaders (Philistines), who had strong cities on the coast. They also had ties alternately with the Egyptian and Babylonian or Assyrian empires. After about a hundred years the nation also split into two nations – the kingdom of Judea, and the kingdom of Israel. Of the initial 12 tribes that constituted the nation of Israel, the tribes of Judea, Simeon, Benjamin and Levy were in the kingdom of Judea, and the rest of the tribes were in the kingdom of Israel.

 

About 2700 years ago, Sanherib extended the Assyrian empire to the Levant and destroyed the kingdom of Israel. As was the customs by the Chaldean empires, the Assyrians made major population exchanges, exiling the people of the kingdom of Israel to other regions and bringing colonizers from other places to settle in the area of the kingdom of Israel. Those exiles of the kingdom of Israel apparently were assimilated and their disappearance gave rise to the legend of the "lost tribes".

 

The Assyrian empire was succeeded by the Babylonian empire, that destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and conquered the kingdom of Judea about a hundred years later, exiling its people to Babylonia. However, unlike the lost tribes, the Judeans (Jews) were able to keep their national identity intact even in exile. The Babylonians also relocated the Invaders (Philistines) and, like the lost tribes, that was the historical end of the Philistines.

 

The Babylonian empire fell to the Persian empire. The Persians had a different system of controlling their vassal states. Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. This was done about 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple. However, those 70 years were extremely important in that it enabled the Jews to formulate a system where the place of the National Temple in the people's beliefs, is filled by "embassies" – synagogues. The Jewish religion evolved from a national religion to a community religion, allowing the nation to exist even outside the land. This system proved to be extremely robust over a later 2000 year exile.

 

The period of the Second Temple was over 400 years. The early years were under Persian rule. Alexander the Great vanquished the Persian empire, and Judea fell under his rule. Upon Alexander's death his empire was split between three generals, with Ptolemy ruling Egypt and Seleucus ruling the eastern part. Judea, being on the seam between the two was initially under Ptolemian rule and, afterwards under Seleucan rule.

 

The 3500 year old history of the Jews in Israel can be divided into the political aspect – when were the Jews autonomous and when they were governed by occupying empires, and the spiritual aspect – the effect of the Jewish religion and ethics on the world. Up until this time the surrounding nations were aware that the Jews have a single "invisible" universal God who loves justice and mercy, and that they are people of mercy. The polytheistic religions were not ethical religions but rather "scientific" religions, whose task is explanation of the mystifying occurrences of nature. They have a plethora of gods who are neither nice nor ethical but who are very powerful and selfish and thus it is wise to be on their good side. These gods have a hierarchy and different gods adopted different people, thus if my god is stronger than yours, I conquer you and you are my slave. The monotheistic Jewish concept meant that "all men are created equal", and that God is ethical and requires us to be ethical as well.

 

These two concepts clashed during the Seleucid control of Israel. The polytheistic Hellenistic view was so prevalent and pervasive throughout the world and even Judea, that the theological Judaism almost became extinct. Had Hellenism won, the world today would have been very different. However, the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid empire took place around 2200 years ago. The priestly Hasmonean family took arms against the Seleucid empire and managed to purify the Temple in Jerusalem, gain independence, and re-institute a Jewish kingdom in Israel. These event are commemorate in the holiday of Hanukkah, and were a pivotal point in the ethical and theological direction of the world.

The Hasmonean dynasty lasted less than 200 years. The Roman empire conquered the Levant and Egypt, and thus the Jews again lost independence in their land. Eventually, in a series of Jewish revolts, the Romans burnt the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and massacred and exiled most Jews. In trying to eradicate Jewish ties to the land they changed the names of various locations, calling Jerusalem Ilia Capitolina and calling Judea Palestina. However, in the spiritual clash between Rome and Jerusalem, Judaism was having the upper hand. The world has evolved and the religions of the gods were providing neither scientific answers nor spiritual ones. Judaism offered a coherent answer. Many in the Roman intelligentsia were converting to Judaism.

 

Then  Christianity entered the scene. Christianity was an "easier" offshoot of Judaism. It provided the ethical backbone of Judaism without the rigorous demands of the practice. In addition, it was more tolerant of the old beliefs. Christianity spread like wildfire in the Roman world and, in the fourth century, was declared by emperor Constantine, to be the official religion of the Eastern Roman empire (also called  Byzantium). In an interesting interlude, about 30 years after Constantine, the emperor Julian, reverted to Hellenism and gave the Jews permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Construction of the Third Temple started but Julian was killed in a war against the Persians, and that attempt was aborted when the next emperors returned to Christianity.

 

During the entire Byzantine occupation of Israel there was a Jewish population, predominantly in the Galilee and Golan, but also small communities in Jerusalem and the south (e.g. Gaza). The Jerusalem Talmud was codified during this time, as well as many liturgical writings. However, there was also a lot of Jewish activity in Iraq and Persia, where the Babylonian Talmud was created, and communities in Egypt, Western Europe, and North Africa. In the Seventh century the Persian empire briefly conquered Israel. The Jews supported them and received permission again to build the Third Temple in Jerusalem. However, the Byzantines re-conquered Israel, massacred the Jews of Jerusalem and nullified the permission to rebuild the Temple.

 

The Seventh century saw the advent of the most successful colonizers in history – the Muslims. At the time of Mohammad's birth in Arabia there were Jewish settlements in the Arabian continent numbering hundreds of thousands. The rest of the population was pagan. Records show that there was peaceful coexistence between the Jews and non-Jews of Arabia. Mohammad was heavily influenced by the Jewish monotheistic religion and founded Islam, expecting the Jews to join his religion. When that did not happen he proceeded to exile, kill, or forcibly convert Jews (mainly women) to Islam. Upon Mohammad's death there was not a single Jew left in the Arabian peninsula.

 

This element of annihilating opposing cultures was a trademark of Islam. The Moslem colonizers swept the world, capturing the Levant, Egypt and North Africa and venturing as far east as India. They captured Spain and were stopped by Carl Martel from conquering all of Europe. Unlike previous empires, they were colonizers. They forced their religion and language on the indigenous populations and appropriated the cultural and religious places of the natives. We mention below two notable examples:

1.    Ram Janmabhoomi, the traditionally believed birthplace of the Hindu god Rama in Ayodhiya where the moslems destroyed the Hindu temple and constructed a mosque – Babri Masjid.

2.    The Temple Mount in Jerusalem where in 691 the Umayyad caliph Abd Al-Malik constructed the dome of the rock mosque and his son Al-Walid constructed the Al-Aksa mosque in order to appropriate as Moslem the Jewish holiest place.

 

In the next 1400 years the majority of Jews were abroad. The diaspora Jews were persecuted to some extent wherever they were. The reasons for antisemitism have been argued by scholars for years. A likely explanation is that both Christianity and Islam are offshoots of Judaism. For anyone insecure in his beliefs, the changes can be justified only by proving the superiority of the new religion. The best way is by repressing and humiliating the adherents of the parent religion – the Jews. In the Christian world the Jews were subjected to pogroms, expulsions, occasional forced conversions (as in Portugal), and restrictive laws of where they can live and what occupation they can profess. All this was mixed with a hefty dose of hatred. In the Moslem world the Jews experienced pogroms, murder, humiliation and exploitation, restrictive laws and forced conversions. Occasionally there were more enlightened rulers under which the yoke was light, but the entire exile period was physically dark and oppressive, culminating in the Holocaust, when six million men women and children were methodically exterminated simply for being Jews. The hatred of Jews became so deeply ingrained that, today, even atheists who don't know anything about Christianity, Judaism, history, or current events, have one remaining conviction: hatred of Jews.

 

The miracle was that the Jews remained a nation and did not disappear, as did the lost tribe and all other Iron Age nations. This was due to the system developed by the Rabbis, where the Jewish religion became a personal religion. Even a single Jew in the middle of nowhere had his life enveloped by Judaism. In three daily prayers he yearned to return to his ancestral homeland, Zion. In every wedding there was a memory of the destruction of Jerusalem. In the holidays there was the hope that "next year in Jerusalem". There were fast days during the year commemorating that dates when the walls of Jerusalem where breached, when the city was conquered, and when the Temple was burned. Every Jew everywhere was constantly poised to return home to Israel.

 

Within the land of Israel itself, colonizer followed colonizer and empire followed empire. In the 12th century, the crusaders pushed back the Moslems and founded the kingdom of Jerusalem. The crusader period in Israel lasted about two centuries. Israel was then conquered by the Mamelukes for about 200 years, followed by Ottoman rule for 400 years.  Throughout all this time Israel was never bereft of Jewish presence, albeit being subject to constant repression and occasional massacres. Under the Ottomans the area was barren and very sparsely populated. Some land was owned by absentee landlords but the majority, as was the Ottoman custom, was State land. Towards the end of the Ottoman occupation, in 1867, Mark Twain toured Israel and wrote about it extensively in his book Innocents Abroad. He concludes with a dirge to the vanished glory of the land:

Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists--over whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead-- about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the "desert places" round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.

Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?

Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition--it is dream-land."

 

Mark Twain visited Israel a mere couple of decades before the "curse of the Deity" was lifted and the Jews were finally able to return to their ancient homeland. This national movement of returning the indigenous Jewish population to its ancient homeland was called Zionism, after one of the names of Jerusalem – Zion. From the end of the 19th century, the JNF, Jewish National Fund, started purchasing land for Jewish settlements. The absentee landlords were more than happy to sell, what they thought off as, worthless land for high prices. Surprisingly, the land welcomed back its people and started blooming. This caused migration, not only of Jews, but also of Arabs from Syria and Egypt, to the newly booming land.

 

The Ottoman empire collapsed in 1917 and the Levant was split by the new occupying powers – France and England. In the San Remo conference of 1920, the League of Nations, the precursor to the UN, decided that Syria and Mesopotamia, formerly parts of the Ottoman empire, will be recognized as independent states, and that "The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

 

The history of the State of Israel is the miraculous return of the original natives to their homeland after thousands of years of persecution. Again the Hebrew language is spoken, and every school kid can read and understand scrolls written two thousand years ago. The desert is flowering, and a vibrant democracy was established, granting rights to all its citizens.

 

Sadly the Moslem world could not shake off its antisemitism and has been fighting the Jewish national return from its inception. This is a brutal fight that has at its arsenal atrocities such as rape, mutilation, slaughtering babies, and burning people alive. We have witnessed such atrocities on Oct. 7, 2023, but these are just repetitions of similar atrocities even before there was a State, such as in Hebron, 1929. Moslem antisemitism encouraged the age-old Christian antisemitism. The West is awash with demonstrations supporting the slaughter of Jews and demanding its continuation by not allowing the Jews to defend themselves. This antisemitism is the context that enabled the honorable Ivy League presidents to gleefully claim that calling for genocide against Jews is permissible in their campuses.

 

 

Prof. Amihood Amir, chair

Professors for Strong Israel

Petach Tikva, Israel

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