July 31, 2011

Whose Palestine?

‎When the Romans incorporated Palestine into their Empire, they expected that - as with other conquests - the inhabitants would accept the new reality within a couple of years or a couple of generations, and would value the peace and stability and enhanced economic opportunities. The Romans had no intention of wiping out local inhabitants. They were happy to incorporate local gods into their pantheon, and expected the Jews to allow the worship of whatever anyone felt like worshiping. Many Jews were fine with this.

But religious Jews had a different attitude, religiously and historically. When they had conquered Palestine over a thousand years previously, their leader relayed a message from their god on how to treat the Palestinians of those days, a message that remains in the Bible to this day, in Deuteronomy 20, 16-18:

"But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God."

So the Romans saw Palestine as a province or kingdom or whatever, that anyone should be able to live in and follow their own customs so long as they paid taxes and didn't cause trouble; while the more religious of the Jews saw Palestine as their land alone, given to them along with a requirement to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing against anyone else who wanted to live there.

There was no room for compromise. The resistance against the Western Occupation continued for a couple of centuries, until the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, and finally kicked the Jews out of the province.