Philistines settled in Palestine in the 12th century BCE, which confirms that Palestine had long been a nation (see Palestine, Britannica). After the three Jewish-Roman Wars, fought between 66 CE and 136 CE, Palestine was renamed Syria Palaestina by Roman Emperor Hadrian (24 January 76 – 10 July 138) after he crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-136, thus named after Simon bar Kokhba (d. 135). The Bar Kokhba revolt is the third of three Jewish-Roman wars, but it is sometimes called the second, the Kitos War being omitted.
Emperor Hadrian renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, and Jews could no longer enter the city.
Expulsion of the Jews during the Reign of Hadrian
The concept of nationalism was not new to the 19th century. Traits and circumstances shared by a number of individuals such as language, religion, foklore, location, not to mention climate, lead to nationhood. We owe the théorie des climats (the climate theory) to Montesquieu as well as Madame de Staël, the author of De l’Allemagne (1810-1813).
The Growth of Nationalism
- the Congress of Vienna, 1815
- the attrition of the Ottoman Empire
Although nationalism was not born in the 19th century, the 19th century is nevertheless associated with an unprecedented surge in nationalism.
The Congress of Vienna, held in 1815, but suspended when Napoleon returned from Elba, the Hundred Days, les Cent-Jours, was one of nationalism’s first 19th-century location. France returned land conquered by Napoleon and Prussia returned Alsace-Lorraine to France. However, nations represented at the Congress of Vienna, France, England, Prussia, and Russia, quite shamelessly rearranged Europe. During the 19th century, European countries conquered by the Ottomans, as of 1453, fought wars of independence leading to the attrition of the Ottoman Empire. Also to be taken into account is the balkanization of several states. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, fragmented countries in Eastern Europe were victims of genocidal ethnic cleansing. The term balkanization was coined at the end of World War I.
Zionism also grew out of 19th-century nationalism. Its founder was Theodor Herzl (2 May 1860 – 3 July 1904). Zionists dreamed of a land of Israel which it lost beginning in the 8th century BCE. The exile was completed in 135 CE, when Roman Emperor Hadrian had the Bar Kokhba revolt crushed. Israeli nationalism seems to be developing into a state and faith nationalism.
The Balfour Declaration
At the time Jewish scientist Chaim Weizmann (27 November 1874 – 9 November 1952) was negotiating the Balfour Declaration (1917), he said the following:
“Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” He sat up, looked at me, and answered: “But Dr. Weizmann, we have London.” “That is true,” I said, “but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.” He … said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: “Are there many Jews who think like you?” I answered: “I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves.”… To this he said: “If that is so you will one day be a force.”
The Balfour Declaration, a letter dated 2 November 1917 from Foreign Secretary James Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, did not reflect Zionist objectives:
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (See Balfour Declaration, Wikipedia.)
Chaim Weizmann‘s statement is misleading. Yes, the Jews had Jerusalem a very long time ago, but they had lost their land and had been exiled. As noted above, this process had begun in the 8th century BCE and was complete as of 135 CE, when the Third Roman-Jewish War was fought under Roman Emperor Hadrian. Although several Jews remained in the newly created Syria Palaestina, most left. Assyrians, a Mesopotamian East Semitic-speaking kingdom and an independent state since the 25th BCE, converted to Christianity “[b]etween the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, a period which also saw Assyria become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.” (See Assyria, Wikipedia.)
Assyrians, who or many of whom had converted to Christianity, were not exiled. However, in the 7th century in particular (see Muhammad, Wikipedia), countries from Asia to the Iberian Peninsula were Arabised, a process that continued after Constantinople fell to the Seljuk Turks, in 1453. Ottomans were Muslims and conquered several countries in Eastern Europe that fought wars of independence in the 19th century.
Philistine captives being led away after their failed invasion of Egypt from a relief (Wermer Forman Archive/Heritage-Images)
Although the term refers to the physical dispersal of Jews throughout the world, it also carries religious, philosophical, political, and eschatological connotations, inasmuch as the Jews perceive a special relationship between the land of Israel and themselves. Interpretations of this relationship range from the messianic hope of traditional Judaism for the eventual “ingathering of the exiles” to the view of Reform Judaism that the dispersal of the Jews was providentially arranged by God to foster pure monotheism throughout the world.
The people of Quebec can understand the relationship between a people and a land, the pays du Québec. Quebec is a province, not a country. It has a Parti Québécois, consisting of Quebec nationalists, but Quebec has now chosen interculturalism, a form of humanist nationhood rooted in Martha Nussbaum‘s Cultivating Humanity.
Quebecers’ first homeland was its “literary homeland,” or patrie littéraire, a subject I have researched and pondered. One of my articles is online, in French. It is a reading of Antonine Maillet‘s Pélagie-la-Charrette. Metaphors are taken from the Bible, mainly. I have lectured on this subject at the University of Stuttgart.
The Creation of Israel
In 1948, Palestine was a state. However, it had been part of the Ottoman Empire and was divided by the recently established League of Nations, whose blueprint was the Zykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. Mark Sykes, for Britain, and François Georges-Picot , for France, were protecting spheres of influence. Therefore, in 1920, Palestine was not free. From a possession of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was transformed into a protectorate of Britain. As we have seen, in 1917, under the terms of the Balfour Declaration, Britain supported the creation of a homeland for Israel, but its Israel was in Palestine.
When Israel was created in 1948, statesmen may have hoped Israel would be in Palestine. That would have been the two-state solution, but partitioning Palestine made room for a State of Israel that would expand. The Jews had been the victims of various persecutions culminating in the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust then weighed heavily on a collective conscience, so it may have obscured safer resolutions. United States President Harry S. Truman had befriended a Zionist and may not have foreseen that the partitioning of Palestine could lead to a lengthy conflict and considerable resistance on the part of Palestinians, not to mention decades of resentment on the part of Arabs.
Moreover, it may not have occurred to President Truman and other statesmen that the creation of Israel was an option rather than an imperative. There were options. Many Jews moved to the United States and to Canada. Moreover, after denazification, survivors of the Holocaust could return to their homes if they wished. As for the creation of a land of Israel, the means were questionable. Given the objectives of Zionists, the establishment of a “land of Israel,” creating Israel, could not be mere ownership of a part of Palestine. After the diaspora and the Holocaust, the land of Israel had acquired mythical dimensions.
On 23 December 2016, 14 members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of condemning Israeli settlements and the 15th member, the United States, did not veto their decision. In his Remarks on the Middle East Peace, Secretary of State John Kerry quoted Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations who stated that the United States had not acted according to “values that we share:”
Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week, quote, “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share,” and veto this resolution.
If the figures I published on 3 January 2017 are accurate, the financial support given Israel is staggering and it may have fostered in Israeli a sense of entitlement allowing it to occupy territory that it wasn’t apportioned in 1948. There is practically nothing left of Palestine.
Truth be told, Israel started encroaching on neighbouring territory almost as soon as it was created, and it has yet to return the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem which it conquered during the Six-Day War, in June 1967.
If the United States provides military aid amounting to more than 10 million dollars a day to Israel, Israel is truly privileged and the statement of its representative to the United Nations: “values we share,” is inappropriate. Israel can no longer settle beyond borders not allotted Israel in 1948. If it does, it will endanger its own safety as well as the safety of the United States. The United States stands to be attacked as it was on 11 September 2001 and its support of Israel may encourage terrorist attacks in Europe. It short, Israel cannot spill out of its borders.
Finally, how can the United States refuse to provide social programs for its citizens if the money it collects from taxpayers, the middle class mainly, is used to support a nation that will not respect Palestinians and consider peace.
The two-state solution cannot forever be kicked down the road, nor can time be wasted on agreements that are not implemented. We cannot rewrite the past, but the future is ours and, more importantly, it is our children’s.
Nationalism is fine, but it does not justify encroachment on a neighbour’s territory.
Sources and Resources
 Weizmann, Trial and Error, p.111, as quoted in W. Lacquer, The History of Zionism, 2003, ISBN 978-1-86064-932-5. p.188 (See Balfour Declaration of 1917, Wikipedia).
 “Diaspora”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 21 Aug. 2016 or
 Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, « La Patrie littéraire: Errance et Résistance », Francophonies d’Amérique, Numéro 13, été 2002, pp. 47-65.
Woman in Nakba Dress, fleeing Palestine
© Micheline Walker
7 January 2017