Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Owns the Land? By What Right?

“According to Beinin and Hajjar, the Turkish census for 1878 listed 462,465 Turkish subjects in the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts: 403,795 Muslims (including Druze), 43,659 Christians and 15,011 Jews. In addition, there were at least 10,000 Jews with foreign citizenship (recent immigrants to the country), and several thousand Muslim Arab nomads (Bedouin) who were not counted as Ottoman subjects.”

“By 1946, Jews had purchased 6 to 8 percent of the total land area...” *

How then has a Jewish state, Israel defined by the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, come to “own” most of this area and control all of the area?
How have Arabs such as Sari Nusseibeh, whose family has lived in the area since the 7th century, been left with no country? (Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life by Nusseibeh)

It’s long and complicated, convoluted, hate-filled, prejudiced, violent, genocidal, discriminatory, unjust, unmerciful, unloving, and ungodly. Most people know of the Jewish side, how many of the Arabs sided with the Nazis!, how some fanatic Arabs repeatedly rioted and killed innocent Jewish civilians…

Not as many know of the Arab side, but one can read a moving account in Eli Chacour’s short autobiography, Blood Brothers, which tells of how his father emphasized that they as Christian Arabs should help and love the Jewish people. But then the Jewish army kidnapped this loving man and a couple of his sons, blew up their church, and destroyed their town!

I’ve read thousands of pages about this area, the unending conflicts going back thousands of years, and lived and worked there the better part of one year. Then for many years taught the history and selected literature of the area to high school students.

How can this question “Who Owns the Land?” be resolved? How can contrary different religions get along? How can people learn to share?

My Cliff Notes version for those who hate long blogs: There are no easy answers. Skip to the poem for the best answer.

For Part #1 of the long answer:

In the last few thousand years this area, this land, has been ‘owned’ by the Phoenicians, Canaanites, Hebrews, Babylonians, Arabs, Turks, British, French, Jews, etc.

So who gets it now and upon what basis?

Here are eight possible views of land ownership:

#1 Historic Right

#2 Worldview/Religious Claim

#3 Present Possession

#4 Military Might (The most popular view with most people in most of history.)

#5 Best Use

#6 Diplomacy/Compromise

#7 Legal Claim

#8 Visitor Status (No one group, nationality, religion “owns” the land. Humans are merely visiting. We must share.)

Three Sons No Longer Fight

Disking the rock strewn
Objected earth near Bet Shean,
Underneath the Middle Eastern sky
Rows of mean earth riven by the blades,
We cut away our anger, hate, and pride,
Stopping to drink, not from the liquor of
Fanatic corruption but from the
Precious water welling up,
Our oasis of Jacob'd sharing,
In this Hanukah season
Of Christ's mass after

We three sons of Abraham,
Muslim, Jew, and Christian,
Fight the true battle
Not each other but
To be found worthy
In compassion
And purity--
The true
To God

Previously published in

“The major goals of MidEast Web are:
Popularizing Humanitarian Values
Building a Common Reality
Building a Human Network
Amplifying the Work of Others
Reaching Everyone
Building Friendships and Skills
Humanizing the "Enemy"
The Future Must be Better than the Past”

To be continued…

In the Light of God,
Daniel Wilcox


David said...

Well said, easily understood, and helpful. Thank you

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi David,

Thanks for reading my blog on this topic and the positive comment. As you can imagine, having lived there, I feel so passionate and troubled about all the issues there.

In the Light,