Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Conquests of Jerusalem and Israel's Control

After reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's very good Jerusalem: The Biography, I skimmed back over the whole thing to see how many times Jerusalem was conquered, in his telling. Of course, one can haggle about the word "conquer", but I'm using it in a broad and straightforward meaning: when the people with the power over the town changed as the result of some sort of military event. This can mean a full-fledged siege followed by mass murder, as in the cases of Titus or the Crusaders, it can be mostly peaceful as when the British arrived in 1917 (though there was quite a bit of fighting elsewhere in the vicinity before and after the conquest of Jerusalem), and it can mean hordes of marauders arriving, rampaging and leaving, as with Zenobia, a woman leading Palmyrian troops in the year 260, or Barkha Kahn in 1244.

It must also be said that there's an element of uncertainty about some of these conquests, either because Sebag Montefiore merely alluded to them, or because no-one really knows and therefore he wrote so briefly. There is also almost no way of knowing about the first 2,000 years of the town before the arrival of David: there's next to no data.

The number I reached was 61. I encourage everyone to read his book, so I'm not going to give any descriptions, but here are the dates and names of the conquerors:

1458BCE Egypt
1350BCE Marauders
1250BCE Jebusites
1200BCE Tribes of Israel
1100BCE Judges
1000BCE David
697BCE Nebuchadnezzar
586 BCE Nebuchadnezzar
323-301 BCE Macedonians, 6 times
170BCE Menelaus
170 BCE Antiochus
167 BCE Antiochus
164 BCE Judah Macabee
163 BCE Nicanor
155? BCE Jonathan Hasmonai
143 BCE  Antiochus VII
64 BCE Pompei
44 BCE Pacorus& Antigonos
40 BCE Herod
66  Gessius Florus
66  Sicarii
67  Idumeans
70  Titus
130  Bar Kochva
134  Hadrian
260  Zenobia
272  Diocletan
602  Greens (Byzantine rebels)
602  Byzantines
614  Shahrbaraz
630  Heraclius
636  Omar
969  Jawahr al-Siqilli
1073  Atsiz
1099  Crusaders
1187  Saladin
1229  Frederick II
1244  Barkha Khan
1250-1260 10 years of chaos and alternating temporary rulers
1263  Baibars
1299  Hethoum II
1317  Nassir Mohammed
1480  Beduins
1517  Selim the Grim
1590  a local rebel
1625  Farrukh
1702  Husseini
1705  Ottoman forces
1831  Mehmet Ali
1834  local fellahin
1834  Mehmet Ali
1840  Ottoman forces
1917  Britain
1948  Jordan&Israel
1967  Israel
 Has anywhere in the world been conquered more times?  I don't know. If so, it would probably have to be somewhere in the vicinity, along the Fertile Crescent, since no-where else is there enough recorded human history. Perhaps Damascus? Not Baghdad Constantinople or Cairo, which are all younger towns.

The notion, accepted as an article of faith the world over these days, that the 60th conquest of the city, in 1948, was the one that sets the bar for legal occupation, so that the Israeli conquest in 1967 is illegal, is profoundly silly when you look at this list. Not to say idiotic, and not to mention that the occupier in 1947 was Jordan, not the Palestinians. One might say allowing Palestinian rule over half the city would create peace, but that's a different argument: pragmatism, not international law; it is compelling only if there's reason to believe it's true and division will bring peace.


Anonymous said...

Why don't they have a referendum among the population and ask them who they wish to be ruled by?

Yaacov said...

Out of the question: What if Israel won? As I've been writing here for a while, there's reasonable reason to assume the Palestinians of East Jerusalem would prefer to remain in Israel, with social security, universal health care, connected to the Israeli economy and so on and so on.

Anonymous said...

I remember a story from several years ago, at the start of the Oslo process. There was an Arab man of East Jerusalem who was collecting signatures of Arabs, of Jerusalem who did not wish to become citizens of a Palestinian entity. He survived an attempted assassination.


Silke said...

here is an interview with the woman who locked them in her kitchen

to me she still sounded pretty proud of herself

Witness: Oslo Talks 02.09.10 09:30 Uhr
For an insight into the Middle East peace talks, Witness takes you back to 1993 and secret talks in a Norwegian home which led to the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords.


Anonymous said...

If it's arbitrary to accept the the 60th conquest as the one that establishes the legal basis for occupation, isn't it equally arbitrary to accept Jewish claims to have a special right to the city (or to any of Israel, for that matter)?

Further, while I understand and, to a large degree, accept your point, it's also quite tendentious to list every historical conquest to make it. While it may be somewhat arbitrary to choose 1948 over 1967 over 1917, attempts to trace historical legitimacy have to stop somewhere. As great a historical injustice as it may have been, the Cherokee are not getting back Georgia. And the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons are not getting back England. So what's the relevance to any current consideration of the city's status of the Macedonian conquest of Jerusalem?

It seems to me that, given what I understand of your views on the justification for Israel as a state, you're caught in a dilemma. Either historical claims are valid, in which case I don't see why you aren't forced to consider the rights to the city of everyone on your list. Or, since it would arbitrary to choose one conqueror over another, brute fact is the only relevant consideration, in which case Israel wins (which, for what it's worth, I don't have a problem with) but forfeits any lofting claims to "deserving" the city in some moral sense.


Yaacov said...

rukn -

fair enough, though if you think about it for a moment, the Jutes, Angles and Saxons are still in England. No one ever deported them.

You're conflating two different issues. The point I made wasn't about justification at all, it was about the odd idea that there's a Zero Moment in history (the Germans used to call it a Stunde Null), where-after no changes of borders are allowed, ever, and everything that came earlier is irrelevant. This is a popular concept these days, tho in a few centuries it will be nothing more than a quaint factotum about the early 21st century. (You and I are unlikely still to be around to see me vindicated). It's also the concept which underpins the entire narrative about how Jews settling in Jerusalem are transgressors against international law - were this true, by the way, it alone would be reason to abolish international law. Jews have lived in Jerusalem almost uninterrupted for 3000 years, but it's illegal for them to do so because in 1948 the Jordanians ethnically cleansed them? Huh?

WHich brings me to your second point, about the legitimacy of Israel's control. I actually didn't address that at all in this post. The case is strong and multi-layered, but I'm not going to get into it here. Sometime, perhaps.

As to "might makes right" - in reality, this often indeed is the way things work, right or wrong.

Silke said...

putting on my romantic hat -

Jerusalem is the city of a book that is dear to all "westerners" including even atheists. There are so many books that couldn't have been written (fiction and non-fiction alike) had this book not existed that our whole western culture would vanish in thin air. And that is not talking about all the other arts that have profited from it.

This book is for me connected to Jews who are its authors and by consequence Jerusalem.

sabril said...

Yaacov, a similar thought had occurred to me. Jews were chased out of Hebron, East Jerusalem, Gaza City, and many other places in the first half of the 20th century. At that time, did those places become Arab land forever?

And if so, does the same principle apply to towns in Israel from which the Arabs fled in 1948?

Anonymous said...

I never understood this notion of "Arab land." Can you tell if the land is Arab or Jewish by taking a blind taste test?

Jewish claims to the land are numerous and not limited to the following:

1) Biblical
2) Sovereignty for over a millennium
3) Indigeneity (As defined under the UN Law on the Rights of Indigenous people.)
4) International Law (The League of Nations Mandate/UN Resolution 181)
5) Conquest (In a war of defense)

Anonymous said...

Think you missed one, 1098 the Fatamids took Jerusalem from the Turks after a successful assault and sack.

For some reason this one seems to be disappearing from the histories.

Anonymous said...

Awesome list! Thanks for sharing!

notElon said...

Actually, according to the UN, the Israeli half of the 1948 occupation is also illegal. Jerusalem is a Corpus Separatum and Israel has no claim to it. Israel was also criticized several times for its handling of the Muslim Holy Sites in West Jerusalem during the 50s. I have not been able to discern from UN records what Muslim sites there were in West Jerusalem. The Jordanian claim was not recognized either, except by Britain [and a few scattered other places], which still does not recognize Israel's claim to the West. This was because the other Arab countries were all jealous that Jordan was the one that got Jerusalem, so they pressed the issue.

East Jerusalem and Bethlehem are stll a Corpus Separatum and not part of the West Bank, but you will never hear anyone mention this since 67.

I don't blame Palestinians for any of this, as they are just taking advantage of what they are told. And they do have a connection to Jerusalem because they live there. But it goes to show what we already know, that the current incarnation International Law is corrupt beyond all belief.