Friday, April 07, 2006

When Rhetoric Renounces Reason - Palestine and the Charge of the Light Brigade

The dramatic imagery of the fighting British spirit and the outstanding actions of the brave Light Brigade as they charged into the “Valley of Death” has stayed with many of us as truth for a long time. Those poor brave individuals with… “Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them” and in a later verse even “Cannon behind them”, all riding gallantly to their destruction supposedly to save the British guns. Why where the guns at risk... because of the cowardly flight of their allies, the undisciplined and unruly Turks.

However… ‘The latest evidence from the Crimean battlefield itself tells a rather different story than the initial myth seems to indicate’. It appears the legends of the 'noble six hundred' and of course ‘the thin red line' are far from the truth ... and the story of the soldiers who actually saved the day has until now, lay untold. The program “Battlefield Detectives” reveals the heroic role played by the Turks who rather than running, gallantly endured three hours of Russian shelling in redout no.1, mainly because the Brit command turned up 2 hours late at the battlefield. Then to top it off the Turks, in a ratio of two to one, were the major contingent of the regrouped troops that became the famous ‘the thin red line’, which we all were led to believe was exclusively made up of the 93rd (Highland) Regiment, (as depicted in one particularly famous painting of the battle).

This British myth founded by senior officer’s ‘butt-covering’ lies, was then beat up and sold to the world by and unscrupulous hysterical press, particularly William H. Russell a journalist for “The Times”. It was then further embellished by various patriotic painters and of course the famous poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. As for W. H. Russell esq. one reference states, “his reports reflected the prevailing viewpoints of his times (anti-Ottoman and anti-French) and included descriptions of events he could not have possibly seen for himself, they were [nevertheless] hugely significant.” By the way, it appears there were 673 chargers of which perhaps 110 or less where killed (accounts vary). The Brigade was never fired on by all three gun batteries at once and were moving targets, unlike the unfortunate Turks who were pinned down behind an earthen wall. Additionally, the charge took about 10 minutes and the entire battle 30 minutes as against 3 hours for the Turks and the Brigade probably only faced about 200 rounds fired by mostly unsighted gunners.

So How Do The Palestinians Fit In?

For years night after night we have been bombarded by the images of Palestinians fighting for their home, stolen from them by the Jews, who where of course initially aided by the British. Palestinian politicians line up for a frenzied press core an bemoan there unfair treatment and demand there rights and the return of their God (Allah) given traditional holy homeland. Cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them etc…

The history of Palestine is complicated however to give a framework for thinking here are some dates and names. I have not thought it really necessary to describe who killed who, just understand the level of mix and ongoing ownership changes:

Homo Erectus, Neanderthal and transitional types between Neanderthal 8,000 B.C.

Amorites, Canaanites, and other Semitic peoples related to Phoenicians 2000 B.C.

Jewish people evolved out of native Canaanite peoples and invading tribes, some time between about 1800 and 1500 B.C.

It is estimated that king David conquered Jerusalem about 1000 B.C. The kingdom was divided into Judea in the south and Israel in the north following the death of David's son, Solomon.

The Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 or 721 B.C.

The Babylonians conquered Judah around 586 B.C.

The Persians ruled from about 530 to 331 B.C.

Alexander the Great then conquered the Persian Empire. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his generals divided the empire.

One of these generals, Seleucus, founded a dynasty that gained control of much of Palestine about 200 B.C.

A later Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, tried to prohibit it Judaism in 167 B.C., the Jews revolted established a large degree of autonomy, forming a kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

The kingdom received Roman "protection" when Judah Maccabee was made a "friend of the Roman senate and people" in 164 B.C.

About 61 B.C., Roman troops under Pompei invaded Judea and sacked Jerusalem in support of King Herod. Judea had become a client state of Rome.

Roman rulers put down Jewish revolts in about A.D. 70 and A.D. 132. In A.D. 135, the Romans drove the Jews out of Jerusalem.

In the fourth century A.D. (300's) under the Byzantine Empire, Christianity spread to most of Palestine.

Jerusalem was conquered by Muslim Arab armies about 638 and Caliph Umar (Omar) gave his protection to its inhabitants. Muslim powers controlled the region until the early 1900's.

By 1914, the total population of Palestine stood at about 700,000. About 615,000 were Arabs and 85,000 to 100,000 were Jews.

In 1916, Arabs led by T.E. Lawrence and backed by Sharif Husayn revolted against the Ottomans in the belief that Britain would help establish Arab independence in the Middle East.

In November 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, that stated Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.

1919 Arabs lobbied the American King-Crane commission, in favour of annexation of the Palestine mandate area to Syria, and later formed a national movement to combat the terms of the Mandate. At the instigation of US President Wilson, the King Crane commission had been sent to hear the views of the inhabitants. At the commission hearings, Aref Pasha Dajani expressed this opinion about the Jews, "Their history and their past proves that it is impossible to live with them. In all the countries where they are at present, they are not wanted...because they always arrive to suck the blood of everybody..."

1919 David Ben Gurion, who would lead the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) and go on to be the first Prime Minister of Israel, told a meeting of the governing body of the Jewish Yishuv in 1919 "But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question...We as a nation, want this country to be ours, the Arabs as a nation, want this country to be theirs." By this time, Zionists had recognized the inevitability of conflict with the Palestinian Arabs.

“The word 'Zion', which designates the land of Israel and its capital Jerusalem, exists in texts dating back almost three millennia. It was the Emperor Hadrian who called the country Palestine in 135 C.E. In this Palestine, Arabic was not the spoken language, the Torah the Bible were the religious books and not the Koran, and the population was mainly Jewish.”

“Palestine was colonized five centuries later by the Arab armies of the Islamic jihad. Many Jews were massacred at that time, others deported to Arabia as slaves, the whole population expropriated and reduced to the condition of dhimmis.” Dhimmis are ‘protected’ non-Muslim residents of lands conquered by jihad that are then subjected to sharia law and allowed to exist as ‘lesser beings’ with limited rights. For example they cannot testify in court against Muslims, find it difficult to buy and hold property, are unable to build new places of worship and are subject to a special protection/pole tax known as jizya or jizyah.

‘Arab racism consists of calling the country of Israel, Arab land, whereas no Palestinian province, village or town, including Jerusalem are mentioned either in the Koran or in any Arabic text before the end of the ninth century C.E. They are, on the contrary, mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, which represents the religious and historical heritage of the Jewish people. The Bible, which tells the history of Israel/Palestine, tells it in Hebrew, the language of the country, and not in Arabic.’

“By the early 19th century, Judaism was nearly extinguished in Palestine, the very cradle of Jewish history and civilization. A similar historic process was at work for Eastern Christianity, whose roots are in the Middle East, nowadays usually referred to as Arab-Muslim lands. Except for the Copts of Egypt who still form a sizeable minority, Christianity would hardly have survived in its Oriental homeland - especially in Palestine - without the permanent support and protection of Europe.”

What may be seen as “Palestinian racism consists of asserting that the whole history of Israel, biblical history, is Arabic, Islamic and Palestinian history. The kings and prophets of Israel were Arabic, Palestinian and Muslim kings and prophets, as were Jesus, his family and the apostles. This Islamization of the Bible thus robs not only the Jews but also the whole of Christianity of their history. New theologies of substitution are developed, transferring Israel's heritage to Arabic and Muslim Palestine.”

So if its ‘first in first served’ you have to on balance give the disputed lands to the Jews, or if its might is right perhaps you would say the Arabs one it fair and square. Point: In a territorial dispute settled under international law (Indonesia vs. Malaysia) in 2002 the International Court of Justice awarded Malaysia the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan, off Borneo. The reason the case went Malaysias way was because Kuala Lumpur had asserted authority over the islands since the 1930s and could prove an administrative and physical presence on the Islands over a long period. On this basis the Jews probably win by 3000 years.

Building the Palestinian “Truth”, Some of the Rhetoric

"We are people under occupation, and we are freedom seekers so that we would like the whole world really to emancipate us from the slavery of occupation," said Palestinian parliament speaker - Abdel Aziz Duwaik

"We have made a historic compromise, agreeing to accept 23% of our original Palestine. If they want one unified secular state, we will agree. If they want to return to the boundaries before 1967, the ones the UN had outlined, we agree. But if they want to keep occupying our lands and keep their settlements, no, we cannot agree." - Saeb Erakat

"Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation." - Palestinian National charter 1968

"The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine." - Palestinian National charter 1968

"Our law is a Jordanian law that we inherited, which applies to both the West Bank and Gaza, and sets the death penalty for those who sell land to Israelis. It is our right to defend our land." - Yassar Arafat 1997

“It is an important day in our people's history in Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, where all settlements will be removed out of our lands forever,” - Mahmoud Abbas

“PM Haniyeh, on the fact the [Palestinian Legislative] Council did not assemble in Jerusalem "proves the cruelty of the occupier that continues its aggression against the Palestinian people, and continues to incite against its elected government." - Prime Minister Haniyeh

When reality is smothered by a limited and biased view called ‘truth’, tragedy is its legacy and injustice is its consequence.

Battlefield Detectives – The Charge of the Light Brigade

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