Never mind that Jews were those ethnically cleansed during the Mandate period, from Tel Chai to Hebron, Jenin, Shchem, Gaza, Hulda to the Old City of Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, Bet HaAraha, Neveh Yaakov & Atarot and other places. What about the Arab conquest and occupation beginning in 638?
During the Arabic period, the Land of Israel was of a low priority for the Arabic rulers. The Umayyad government centre was in the Arab Peninsula at first, moving to Damascus in 660. The rulers of the Abbas dynasty moved their centre to Baghdad, while the Fatimid and the Seljuks ruled from Egypt. The Land of Israel was an occupied territory and a source of revenue from tax and land confiscations that benefited the rulers. In his article “Status of the Land of Israel under Muslim Rule”, Prof. Moshe Gill describes it as “a gold mine for Muslims”: From the year 670 to 975, the Arabs collected from 304,000 dinars per year (during the 820’s) to 850,000 dinars per year (during the 860’s). The average annual tax collected was about 400,000 dinars. Many of the rural settlements were deserted and destroyed and the cultivated area shrank in size. Many of the Jews and Christians were farmers, particularly those in small settlements. Jews worked also in pottery manufacturing, smithies, glass manufacturing, mats making, textiles, flour mills, and soap manufacturing, as well as commerce. The constant fighting, however, hurt trade and manufacturing, the economy deteriorated and the country’s population was impoverished. There is no data about the number of Jews living in the country on the eve of the Arabic occupation. Based on his analysis of various factors, Michael Assaf estimates that their number then was 150,000--200,000. During the Arabic occupation, in the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries, Jews from communities in the Arab Peninsula, North Africa, and Babylon returned to Israel and its Jewish population increased slightly, but from correspondence preserved in the Cairo Genizah we learn that the security situation in the country made many leave, particularly during the Fatimid period. Documents from the Cairo Genizah presented by Prof. Moshe Gill contain evidence of Jewish communities in Israel, particularly from the 10th to the 11th centuries. In the Galilee, Tiberias was the centre of Jewish spirituality, with several synagogues and two communities: Jews from Babylon and Jews from Jerusalem. There were also Jews in Acre, Haifa, Gush Halav, Pequi’in, Dalton, Kfar Cana, Kadesh Naphtali, Tzipori, Kfar Hananya, ‘Ivlin, Kfar Mandi, Safed, ‘Akhbara, and Biriya. According to the 10th century Arabic Geographer Al Muqadassi, there were large Jewish settlements in Gush Halav and Kadesh Naphtali, and Jews lived also in Ramle, Hebron, the coastal cities, Tzo’ar (near the Dead Sea) and Eilat. Ramle was the largest Jewish centre in the South, with three communities, 2 synagogues, and 5000 Jews. The community in Hebron was well organised and had a synagogue near the Cave of Machpelah. During the Arab occupation Jews lived in Caesarea, Jaffa, Ashkelon, and Raffiah.
The Genizah letters also tell of deteriorating security under Fatimid rule as a result of 60 years of constant fighting against extremist Shiite elements, the Byzantines, and Bedouin assaults. Letters describe horrors committed by Bedouins in Jerusalem and Ramle. In his study Michael Assaf mentions Jewish settlements in the Negev and notes that Eilat was called “City of the Jews” by the Geographer Al Bakri (d. 1094). Assaf points out that in addition to coastal cities and Tiberias, Raqat and Hammat, other Upper Galilee Jewish places mentioned in the Cairo Genizah documents include the Fort of Dan, Ba’al Gad, ‘Akal, Zeitoun, ‘Alma, Al-‘Alawiya, and Tirtzah, as well as Jerusalem, Hebron, and Ramle in Judea. Assaf mentions several factors that caused the significant decline of Jewish population numbers at the end of the Arab occupation due to desertion, which was caused by the unstable security conditions.
Prof Moshe Gill summarised the Jewish situation in Israel during the Arab occupation as evident from the Genizah documents. Genizah letters describe “generations of decline and impoverishment in body and spirit in the wake of the extraordinary troubles of the times and the transformation of the Land of Israel into a constant battle field. The Jewish settlement fought for its actual physical existence”. But the letters also reflect “the continuance of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel through generations of Arab occupation. This settlement was a direct descendent of the Jewish settlement of ancient times”.
...In her article “The Role of the Conquest in Shaping the Layout of Settlement in the Land of Israel during the Early Muslim Period”, Dr Milka Levi-Rubin determined that the main change in population composition took place in the coastal cities. The change was evident in the almost total desertion of the coastal cities by their Christian population as the Arabic army approached. The Christian population was, until then, the economic, social and cultural back bone of the country. Most of those leaving belonged to the elite affluent, Greek-speaking classes, and those staying behind were mostly Aramaic-speaking lower classes who had immigrated to the Land of Israel from what is now Syria and Lebanon.
...Yoram Zafrir described in his study “The Arabic Conquest and the Process of Population Impoverishment in the Land of Israel” how “during the Muslim period, and generally through the Middle Ages, a most significant process of decline in the population of the Land of Israel took place”. Zafrir brings archaeological evidence that show that the process reached its climax during the Abbasside period, from the mid 8th century, although signs of population decline are apparent already in the Umayyad period. The reasons for this crisis, according to Zafrir, were:
In the first place, neglect: once the government centre moved to Baghdad, the government did not allocate resources for the country’s prosperity. Secondly, the trend of replacing the Christian administration with an Arab-Muslim one lowered its efficiency, while the anti-Christian sentiments drove Christians out of the country. Zafrir studied the Arabic population in the country based on the Nitzana Papyri (late 7th century) and M. Kokhavi’s archaeological survey. These sources attest to the desertion of Arabic settlements in the Negev Mountain area due to the difficult living conditions, water and land shortages, insecurity caused by Bedouin pillage raids, Bedouins taking over settlements and populating them on-and-off, and demolishing buildings for their construction materials as seen fit.
According to this archaeological survey there were 470 settlements in the southern area in the Byzantine period, and only 76 remaining during the Arabic period. Fifty of them were located in the Jordan Valley, where desertion was halted thanks to irrigation works carried out by the Umayyad government. Around Sde Bokker, 8 settlements remained during the Arabic period out of 45 that existed during the Byzantine period. The Byzantines converted the inhabitants of the Judean desert to Christianity, but the population left with the collapse of Byzantine rule because, contrary to the Byzantine government’s custom of reducing taxes and providing protection during times of drought, the Arab-Muslim rule was only interested in collecting taxes. The deserted settlements were taken by Bedouins who continued their nomadic life-style.
Prof. Sharon determined in his study “Processes of Destruction and Nomadisation in the Land of Israel” that Bedouin invasions for settlement began only in the mid 9th century, increasing around the mid-10th century and particularly through the 11th century. During the 9th century, Bedouin tribes settled in the Negev area, and from the mid-10th century, and particularly in the 11th century, Bedouin tribes invaded the Jordan Valley. Throughout the Arabic Muslim period other Bedouin tribes conducted raids into the country, and for some time also ruled sections of it (article on the Bedouin invasions of the Land of Israel will be published latter).
Michael Assaf quotes a report by the Arab Geographer Al Ya’akubi from the end of the 9th century about the settlement of Arabs and Persians in the Galilee, around Ramle-Lydda, in the coastal cities, Nablus, and Yavne. He mentions 6 Arabic tribes that settled in the country. Assaf brings similar reports of 10th century Arabic historians. The picture emerging from the Arabic sources is of Arabic settlement in estates confiscated from the Byzantines in the Western Galilee, settlement in Tiberias and the Eastern Galilee, around Ramle-Lydda and in the Jordan Valley. According to Assaf the Arabic sources tended to obscure the presence of Christians and Jews in the country and exaggerate the extent of Arabic settlement. The 10th century Arabic Geographer Al Mouqadassi reported the presence of Samaritans and non-Arabic Christians.
Prof. Moshe Gill notes that with the Abbasside conquest the presence in the country of the tribes that served as garrisons was limited, their allowances were cancelled and they were relocated to Egypt and Iraq. The tribe Bannu Al Ash’ar (originally from the South of the Arab Peninsula) resided in Tiberias during the Abbasside period. The Arabic author Al Mas’oudi wrote that from the end of the 10th century to the mid 11th century there was only one mosque in Tiberias compared to 3 synagogues, attesting to the small number of Muslims in the city. Muslims began settling in Hebron only from the 10th century. Muslims were living in Eqron, which had a large mosque. In Nablus, Arabic tribes were living in the 9th century alongside the Samaritans. In Bet Shean the population included Arabs as well as non-Muslims.
In his research on the Crusader period, Ronnie Ellenblum determined that, as a result of the decline in Samaritan population in north Samaria at the end of the Byzantine period, Bedouin tribes began moving into that area during the Arabic Muslim occupation. Their process of permanent settlement, however, was slow and was not yet completed at the time of the Crusader conquest.
In a lecture on Samaria, Dr. Levi-Rubbin determined that Arabic historians give evidence of significant Muslim settlement in Samaria, side by side with the Samaritans, during the 9th century, and that Arabic penetration into the area began in the 7th century. In Saladin’s time, i.e., in the 12th century, Arabs were the majority in Samaria.
In his research “The Coastal Cities of the Land of Israel during the Arabic Period, 640 – 1099”, Amikam Elad states that an effort was made by the Arabic rulers to encourage Arab and Persian soldiers to settle in the coastal cities, by handing out land and homes that had been deserted. Mosques were built in the coastal cities and Muslim clerics opened schools for Islam...
And as for "Palestine" -
Arabization meant imposing the Arabic language, culture, and customs, but did not include converting the population to Islam.
The Arab conquerors did not call the country Palestine, but rather Al Sham, meaning “left”, because the Land of Israel is to the left of the rising sun. This term included Syria as well.
The Umayyad rulers maintained the Byzantine administrative division: Palestina Prima, which included Judea, Samaria, and part of the coast, and whose capital was Caesarea, was called Hijaz Filastin(Hijaz means district)/ The Capital was first moved from Caesarea to Lydda, and in 717 was moved to Ramla, the only city the Arabs built (in 716) in the Land of Israel.
Palestina Secunda, which included the Galilee, the Sea of Galilee, and part of the Jordan Valley and whose capital was Tiberias, was named Hijaz al Urdun, i.e., the Jordan District. Jerusalem’s Roman name, Aelia Capitolina, was maintained for a while, then changed to Bet Al-Maqdas (‘Beit Hamikdash’ – the Temple) and then to Al Quds.
The Arabs did not have an educated class that could take over the administrative system, nor did the Umayyad welcome any shake-ups until their rule was stabilised. The Greek language, therefore, remained as the official language and Christian officials continued to administer the country’s affairs. The top echelon, however, were the Arabs, who gave themselves estates – villages that provided their income.
The Arabization process began only at the end of the Umayyad period, as evident in the gradual take over of the administration by Arab administrators, the use of Arabic for official matters, the replacement of Byzantine coinage with Arabic one, and the spreading of the Arabic culture as a way of living...
Never trust an Arab or pro-Arab propagandist.