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Monday, September 15, 2008

Follow-up on Bibi's speech

One of the most commented postings I've had recently was from my article on Binyomin Netanyahu's speech at the Jewish bloggers' conference in Jerusalem. I had paraphrased Netanyahu as saying "The fact is that there are Jewish rights on the land as well, that history is also on the side of the Jewish narrative. Bibi quickly outlined the fact that Jews remained the majority in Palestine for many centuries after the Roman conquest, and that the first time they were physically dispossessed from the land itself was by the Arab conquest in the eighth [sic, really, seventh - EoZ] century."

I missed the historian he quoted but was informed in the comments by Ruth that it was Ben-Zion Dinur, either from "Israel in Its Land" or from his five-volume "Israel in Exile."

Unfortunately, very few of Dinur's works are in English. I found a copy of "Israel and the Diaspora" and have read the first section, much of which is excerpted here. While it is clearly true that Dinur felt that the Diaspora didn't start until the Arab conquest, this piece was not a historical work nearly as much as a work about historiography - his critique of different views of Jewish history and his own point of view. Any of his historical ideas can only be gleaned by implication from this work. I am not conversant enough in Hebrew to even consider tackling his Hebrew works, but it sounds like they are important enough that they certainly should be translated and made available to the world at large. (If anyone knows of an English-language treatment of Dinur, please let me know.)

I just started reading Netanyahu's "A Place Among Nations" which he said covers this material. So far I have not found it, as it (at least the 1993 edition) seems to concentrate on the history of Zionism and does not seem to have much on the historic Jewish connection to the Land.

As far as the Jews being the majority in Palestine before 636 CE, I still do not know if Dinur really says that. Clearly, the majority of Jews lived outside Palestine for centuries before the Arab conquest but that doesn't mean they weren't the majority in sparsely-populated Palestine.