Israel and Sparta
Though Sparta and Israel are separated by more than two thousand
years, both were invaders who subjugated the original inhabitants of the land and had
societies with many common characteristics.
In 1897, the Zionist Organization was formed. It was charged with the
task of achieving the desire of a Jewish state. In 1917 during the World War I, the
British government gave a promise to the Zionists that it would give full support to them
and would support their activities with regard to Palestine. The promise was embedded in
the Balfour Declaration. At that time, the Arabs were aiding the British government in
fighting against the Germans. However, the British, acting with extraordinary deceit,
conspired to sell out its Arab allies to the Zionist dream of a new homeland. Slowly a
land where Muslims, Jews, and Christians had lived peacefully with each other for
centuries was to become a center of fire, blood, and tears.
By 1914 only 3000 Jewish farmers lived in Palestine. At the close of
World War I (1918), the population of Palestine was divided into 644,000 Arabs and only
56,000 Jews (i.e. being only 8% of the total population). The Zionists encouraged
immigration of Jews into Palestine and by the time Israel was created in 1948, the
population consisted of 1,350,000 Palestinians and 650,000 Jews. The Jewish ratio had
increased from more than 8% to 32½%. At the same time, the Jews legally owned only about
5.7% of the land. However, the U.N Partition of 1948 gave Jews the most fertile land of
the area and increased their control by nearly ten times to over 56% of the total area of
Palestine. Thus, by giving Jews land that was owned by the Palestinians for centuries, it
gave the Jews the "right" to force the Palestinians to flee from their homes and
country and become refugees for the first time in their history. The Jews razed whole
villages to the ground, massacring thousands of men, women, and children in cold blood.
By the time of the armistice of 1948, the Jews became occupiers of 78% of the total area
of the country. At least 800,000 Palestinians were forced to become refugees, never to
return to their own land. As the Zionist violence continued, more Palestinians became
refugees. By 1967, there were 1,344,000 Palestinian refugees.
After the Six Day War in 1967, the whole of Palestine was occupied by
Israel, and the number of people driven from their homeland increased to 1,500,000. The
oppression of the Palestinians continues today.
After the collapse of Mycenaean society around the 1100s BC, Dorians
from Macedonia invaded Greece and moved into the fertile areas of the Peloponnesus, Crete,
and southwestern Asia Minor. Sparta, which was in the Peloponnesus, became their capital.
The descendants of these invaders who settled in Sparta are known as Spartans. As the
Spartan population grew, Sparta desired more land from its neighbors, especially the rich
and fertile plains of Messenia. The first Messenian War took place between 730 BC and 710
BC. The Spartans conquered Messenia and captured its inhabitants as slaves. After the
Messenians revolted around 630 BC, the second Messenian war took place in which the
Spartans were fighting an enemy that outnumbered them by nearly 10 to 1. The Spartans,
however, were able to win. After this revolt, Lycurgus converted the society into a
militaristic society to prevent future revolts.
There were three social classes in Spartan society. At the top were
citizens. They controlled the city-state. Land was divided equally among them. Next came
the perioeci, who were foreigners who lived in Sparta and carried out most of the trade
and commerce within the state. They did not have as many rights as citizens and were like
half-citizens, though they paid taxes and served in the army. At the bottom were the
helots, the original inhabitants of the land who were reduced to slavery and were forced
to work on the land for the Spartans. The helots had to give a portion of the harvest to
their masters and were systematically terrorized into submission. They were treated like
animals. No trial was necessary for their execution. Any crime committed by a helot was
considered much more serious than the same crime committed by a Spartan citizen.
Similarly, Israeli society consists of three classes. Jewish citizens
are at the top and have the most rights. Next come "Israeli Arabs", or Arabs
with Israeli citizenship. At the bottom are the Palestinians, who like the helots, have no
rights and are being constantly terrorized by the Israelis. They are made to live in
congested quarters and refugee camps with little amenities and are frequently subjected to
collective punishments, including closures that imprison entire communities for days on
end. Any Jew from anywhere in the world becomes automatic citizen of Israel upon arrival
but Palestinians who live there for centuries are not allowed to return to their land..
Crimes committed by Palestinians are considered much more serious than the same ones when
committed by Jews.
Since Israelis and Spartans constantly feared a revolt by their
oppressed peoples, both societies were militaristic and had citizen armies. In both areas,
the army was a rite of passage into adulthood for youth. After serving in the army,
citizens could take part in politics, etc. In Israel, a citizen with distinguished
military service has the best chance of getting a good job. After release from combat
duties, men from both areas were expected to pay attention to public welfare (Sparta) or
participate in administrative duties (Israel).
Sparta was stricter regarding military service and the lives of the
citizens were controlled by the state. At birth, babies were closely examined. Anyone who
seemed weak, unhealthy, or deformed was left in the countryside to die. At the age of
seven, boys went to live in military barracks. At the age of sixteen (or possibly
eighteen), the youth became members of the krypteia, a kind of secret police force whose
purpose was to intimidate the helot population. The men then began their military service
at the age of twenty, and remained in it until the age of 60. They were not allowed to
live at home until the age of 30, when they became citizens, though they could marry at
the age of 20.
Though Spartan girls did not participate in the military, they also
received physical training and practiced discus and javelin throwing, wrestling, etc. They
were trained as such so that they could be strong mothers and raise healthy children.
In Israel, military service is compulsory for both men and women -
except for the most ultra-orthodox Jews. Israeli men are conscripted for an initial three
years after the age of 18, and are called for reserve duty every few weeks of a year until
the age of 45 for combat units. Like the Spartan krypteia, the Israeli Mossad also
fulfills the purpose of harassing, intimidating, and murdering anyone it deems dangerous