The Myths and Facts of Israel’s Claims to Land Rights

Israeli soldiers arrest a 14-year-old Palestinian boy in Al-khalil city / Photo source:
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In this op-ed, Mohammad S. Moussalli explores the Hebrew Bible to scrutinize Israel’s claims to land rights of Palestine and Jerusalem. He presents historical and biblical evidence that clear the myth about the ancestry of “Children of Israel” (the Israelites) and “the Promised Land”. He criticizes the international community for their chronic failure to implement the UN resolutions that recognize the Palestinian rights to have their own national state.

Like President Trump and pro-Israeli lobbyists, some politicians and analysts belittled the likely repercussions of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Contrary to their presupposition, the international community, including the European Union, UK, Russia, Japan, and China, took a tough stand against the U.S. decision on Jerusalem, not to mention the majority vote of the United Nations to “null and void” the U.S. unilateral decree that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

To cap it all, the Palestinian National Authority officially revoked its approval of the U.S. mediatory role in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Over and above this political upheaval, a series of violent clashes between the enraged Palestinian protesters and Israel’s ruthless security forces still roves all around the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem (Al-Quds, in Arabic).

Besides, the continuous broadcasting of live video footages showing the detained, injured, and gunned down Palestinians on all international news channels, the main topic of many political talk shows and web-based media revolved time and again around the same old opposing claims to land rights of the holy land and Jerusalem.

Throughout the last seven decades up to this time, similar complex political discourse often tends to provoke heated disputes of legitimacy and legality between the Israelis and Palestinians, most of which to corroborate each side claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem and Palestine.

Whether it’s an informal political discussion or an official peace negotiation, it always turns into a historical faith-based debate between the two camps about the land rights of Palestine, let alone the standpoints of hotheaded zealots. It prompts a rerun of the age-old arguments and counterarguments about the ancient flow of Semitic emigrants to the Levant, the role of foreign occupying forces in Palestine, and the like.

This line of arguments usually raises several historical questions but delivers ambiguous answers, many of which about the emigrants and inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Who were those people? Were they “Children of Israel” or other tribes? Were they polytheists or monotheists? Were they Jewish, Christians or Muslims?

However, many writers and analysts deliberately misstate the designation of names, family lines and the sequence of historical events unearthed in the Hebrew Bible to support their one-sided political views. Knowing beforehand that the discrepancy between the chronology of biblical events and the established data of modern archaeologists and scientific scholars would make it very difficult to scrutinize the terms and times of historical events.

Given the intricacy of these issues, it is more explicative to look-over few historical instances to mark off the fact from misrepresentation.

About “The Promised Land”

According to the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 15:18-21), God promised Abraham (Ibrahim, in Arabic) to give him and his descendants a land to inhibit, and thus Abraham moved along with his successors to the land of Canaan.

Genesis 15:18-21

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, to your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

In simple words, this text along with other verses reveals that Abraham left Haran to dwell in the land that God gave him, where Ishmael (Ismail, in Arabic), Isaac and the other six sons of Abraham were born. Later, in time, Isaac’s son Jacob/Israel and his descendants (the Israelites) moved to live in pharaonic Egypt (Genesis 46:1-4), where they remained for centuries before Moses led their mass departure (the exodus) to Canaan.

This biblical text “to your descendants attests that the land was given to ALL descendants of Abraham, not to Jacob’s successors restrictively. Since the above biblical text did not specify or exclude any of Abraham’s descendants, no matter of other supplementary text or supposition.

The Hebrew Bible also shows that there were many other successors of Abraham besides the descendants of Jacob/Israel, like the descendants of Abraham’s six sons and Isaac’s first son who scattered over the land and resided in and around the land of Canaan (“the promised land”) before and after Moses. To name those overlooked descendants: a) descendants of the other six sons of Abraham: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (brothers of Isaac and Ismail); b) descendants of Esau (twin brother of Jacob/Israel).

From an analytic viewpoint, this biblical text also proves without doubts that all Abraham’s descendants have equal rights to claim the land of Canaan. And hence, all descendants of Abraham, regardless of their faith, geographical location or political grouping, are eligible to claim their ancient land rights to “the promised land”, exactly like those who built their land rights claims on their lineal descent from Abraham> Isaac> Jacob> Levi> Kohath> Amram> Moses.

In addition to Abraham’s successors, history shows that there were so many other Semitic people and nomads who resided in the land between Mesopotamia and the East of the Mediterranean Sea. Like the descendants of Shem’s four sons (ten generations of descendants from Shem to Abraham), and Nahor and Haran {Abraham’s brothers) and their descendants. See the Lineage tree below.

The Ancient “Children of Israel”

Despite that, the real description of the term “Children of Israel” in the Quran and the Bible (Old and New Testament) is somewhat similar. Nonetheless, the continuous dissemination of false appellations of Israeli politicians and politically subsidized media have swayed most people to conjecture that it refers to the Jews exclusively. Whereas, all historical manuscripts and divine books, including the Hebrew Bible, affirm that “Children of Israel” (Beni Israel, in Arabic) is a godly term to refer to all descendants of Jacob/Israel collectively and individually (ever since God changed Jacob’s name to Israel).

Here are few scriptural quotations from the Bible (Genesis 32:28, 29 & 33) that substantiate this fact. Quote:

“28 And he said unto him: ‘What is thy name?’ And he said: ‘Jacob.’

29 And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

33 Therefore the children of Israel eat not the sinew of the thigh-vein which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day; because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, even in the sinew of the thigh-vein” Unquote

However, a review of this historical event will exhibit that “children of Israel” (descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel) is the name of Jacob’s lineage irrespective of their faith or any other variable. And hence, it is incorrect to echo that the “children of Israel” were restrictively Jewish. Since Judaism only emerged after five centuries or so from the time of Jacob. Add that, even after Judaism, many tribes upheld the monotheistic belief of their olden patriarchs; while, other tribes remained paganists and polytheists.

Here is a short timeline of Jacob (Israel) lineage (displaying his ancestors and descendants) from Noah to Moses:

The Difference Between the “Israelites” and Israelis

This instance illustrates how the pro-Israeli propaganda intentionally misuses some biblical terms like the “Israelites’ to identify the Israelis of the newly created Israeli state. Disregarding the fact that “Israelis” is a modern term to identify the citizens of present-day State of Israel. Whereas, “Israelites” is the biblical term to refer to all descendants of patriarch Jacob/Israel–not only to those who became Jewish.

On that, it is inconsistent with history to drop a hint or infer that all descendants of Jacob are either Jews or Israelis. Since Judaism is a religion (a monotheistic faith like Christianity and Islam), not a line of ancestry or a blood lineage. Considering that, being Israelis or nationals of any other country, is an identification tag of nationality, not an ethnological aspect to interconnect with the parentage line of patriarch Jacob/Israel or Abraham, or with any.

The only likely explanation for this misnaming pattern is to form a mental image of the takeover of Palestine as a return of the ancient Israelites (Children of Israel) to the land of Canaan.

About the Jewish People

A review of the Bible’s historical data, from the time of Noah’s flood (circa 2386 BC) to the time when Moses received God’s message (circa 1527-80/40 BC), shows that there were no people called the Jews or the Jewish people before Judaism and Moses teachings.

Calling to mind that it was the Israelites (the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel and their descendants), not the Jewish people, who lived in pharaonic Egypt for more than 430 years before Moses led their mass departure from Egypt, known as the Exodus from Egypt, in 1447 BC to the land of Canaan.

On that, it is misinforming to exclusively name the Jews or the Jewish people to refer to the entire ancient Israelites (all descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel/Jacob, or the “Children of Israel”), and vice versa. Nonetheless, we find some encyclopedias and popular web dictionaries still deliver inaccurate reference to define the Jews and the Jewish people–as illustrated in the following screenshots.

In logic

Given all the above clarifications, it is beyond the bounds of logic to condone that the ancient existence of one lineage or another in a specific geographical area is a timeless license of land-ownership to reoccupy that land after more than 1600 years from leaving it. Irrespective of one’s belief, it is unreasonable to accept that the readings of one holy book or another, which was written thousands of years back, are valid proofs of land rights at this modern era.

Imagine what would happen if some millions of Semitic Christians, who were Jewish and then converted to Christianity over the past 2000 years, now claim the land of Jerusalem because of their ancient presence in the birthplace of Christ and for being the successors of Jacob> Isaac> Judah.

Imagine what would happen if some millions of Semitic Muslims, who were Jews and then Christians before their conversion to Islam during the last 1400 years, now lay claims to land rights of Jerusalem because they inhabited the land for more than thousand years and/or for being the successors of Abraham> Jacob> Esau>, for instance.

Would it be acceptable if they recaptured their forefathers’ land again?

Would it be their rights then? If not? By the same token, all should revoke the Zionist and Israeli illegitimate claims to land rights over the holy land.

In Politics

Despite all logicalities, the Zionist pattern of manipulation of historical facts along with their financial contributions, business buyouts, and capital investments have one way or another restrained most foreign politicians, western governments and the media to support what is right and reasonable. This unfortunate reality, however, has facilitated the spread of the Zionist version of land rights in the western world and beyond, upon which the lights were dimmed on the Palestinian legal rights in having a home country and national identity.

To all intents, should the international community have resolved the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at its early stages or at least employed a damage control strategy, it would not have cornered the world to deal with the present complexity of the conflict.

This chronic failure­ in mediating and resolving the long-drawn-out Palestinian-Israeli conflict fairly and squarely has dramatically lessened the prospects of peace in the region, not to mention the adverse effects of Trump’s recent decision on Jerusalem on the peace process.

Actually, the current impasse in the political process is owed in large part to a lack of will and integrity of the UN Security Council and all succeeding U.S. administrations to implement UN’s Security Council Resolutions 181 (1947), 242 (1967), and 338 (1973), or at least compel Israel to stop building more settlements in Palestinian territories.

Given the fiery past and bloody present of the Middle East region, leading heavyweight countries should have realized by now that there will never be peace in the Near East without recognizing an independent Palestine State, let alone finalizing the status of Jerusalem as per UN resolutions.

In fact, if the international community and the UN really want peace and security in the land of Canaan, they should take some decisive measures instead of delivering denouncement speeches. The first step, among other necessary measures, is to install a UN peacekeeping force on the UN’s recognized borderlines of Israel and Palestine to stop the bloodshed until Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach an agreement.

However, if none are willing to parent a fair peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians; then, it won’t be long before the distant history of Jerusalem repeats itself.


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  1. Excellent. Well researched and not opinionated . The Palestinian people history and the history of Palestine were,and still are on a diverging path. Bad politics and bad decisions and 2 world wars caused it all. My reading in the future is that the Israelis will take the Jewish peoples into losing Jerusalem one more time . Voila.

  2. You mention UN Resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into a Jewish and Palestinian state. When the Jewish population acted on that and proclaimed the State of Israel based upon that resolution and its borders in 1948, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and other Arab entities attacked the Israelis, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to drive out the Israelis. How does that fit into your narrative? Many Arabs, such as those in Hezbollah (and Persians, i.e. Iran) still wish to regain all of Israel. What message would you have for them?

    • Firstly, your argument simply concludes that what is done is done. I don’t agree that we, all people, should keep doing the same mistakes we made in our modern and ancient history. At this time in history, Israel is doing the same mistake Arabs did in 1947, as it keeps refusing and obstructing the realization of a Palestine state.
      No matter what non-Arab states preach or do; no matter of the level of enmity militant groups express because, at the end of the day, it is the Arabs who neighbor Israel–not Iran. It is the Arab governments who can make peace.
      As reasonable as one can be, without a Palestinian state don’t count to see peace and none should count on time. The future, though it is dark now but will change sooner or later. Without peace, Israel cannot survive in the long run, even if the whole world is in support, while it keeps provoking hundreds of millions of Arabs to be enemies.
      Smart people make peace while they are strong, Isn’t it so.

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