One of the key questions in the conflict between Israel and Palestine is this: Who can legitimately claim the land? The underlying question is: Who deserves to have a state there, and to live there? To answer these questions, we need to understand the historic legitimacy of the claims of Israel and Palestine, and for that we must know who owned what, when.
In this article, I’ll refer to Palestine as the historical region of Palestine, a label that Romans adopted. It perdured for 2,000 years, and the British kept that label.
In the previous article, we covered the origin of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, and the Jews who inhabited it 3,000 years ago, how some were captured and sent to Babylon, and how they returned and formed a semi-autonomous kingdom.
At that time, the number of Jews was growing until the Romans subdued them again. Their numbers started dwindling in clashes with the Roman Empire, which eventually triggered the Jewish Diaspora: Most of the Jews left the Levant and spread across countries.
After the Romans, the Byzantines took over the Levant, and then the Arab Muslims.
Arab and Muslim Rule
Muslim empires controlled the Levant for about 1,100 years between 650 AC and 1918, with the crusades as the only interlude, which lasted about 200 years.
Many of these early Muslim empires were Arab (Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid), but later ones were not (Seljuks were Persian, Mamluks were originally a warrior slave class from around the Black Sea, and the Ottomans were from Turkey).
During the rule of all these empires, the many wars and the lack of local kingdoms probably affected the population negatively, so much so that by the early 20th century, the population of the Levant was lower than in Roman times.