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PALESTINE IS A GEOGRAPHICAL AREA, NOT A NATIONALITY

by Eli E. Hertz

  

The Arabs invented a special national entity in the 1960s (rather than a geographic delineation) called the Palestinians, specifically for political gain. They brand Israelis as invaders and claim the geographic area called Palestine belongs exclusively to the Arabs.

The word Palestine is not even Arabic. It is a word coined by the Romans around 135 CE from the name of a seagoing Aegean people who settled on the coast of Canaan in antiquity – the Philistines. The name was chosen to replace Judea, as a sign that Jewish sovereignty had been eradicated following the Jewish Revolts against Rome.

In the course of time, the Latin name Philistia was further bastardized into Palistina or Palestine. During the next 2,000 years, Palestine was never an independent state belonging to any people, nor did a Palestinian people, distinct from other Arabs, appear during 1,300 years of Muslim hegemony in Palestine under Arab and Ottoman rule.

Palestine was and is solely a geographic name. Therefore, it is not surprising that in modern times the name 'Palestine' or 'Palestinian' was applied as an adjective to all inhabitants of the geographical area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River — Palestine Jews and Palestine Arabs alike. In fact, until the 1960s, most Arabs in Palestine preferred to identify themselves merely as part of the great Arab nation or citizens of "southern Syria."

The term 'Palestinian' as a noun was usurped and co-opted by the Arabs in the 1960s as a tactic initiated by Yasser Arafat to brand Jews as intruders on someone else's turf. He presents Arab residents of Israel and the Territories as indigenous inhabitants since time immemorial. This fabrication of peoplehood allowed Palestinian Arabs to gain parity with the Jewish people as a nation deserving of an independent state.

In a March 1977 interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, Zahir Muhsein, a member of the PLO executive committee, admitted:

"Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism."

Historically, Before the Arabs Fabricated the Palestinian People as an Exclusively Arab Phenomenon, No Such Group Existed

Countless official British Mandate-vintage documents speak of 'the Jews' and 'the Arabs' of Palestine — not 'Jews and Palestinians.'

Ironically, before local Jews began calling themselves Israelis in 1948 (the name 'Israel' was chosen for the newly-established Jewish state), the term 'Palestine' applied almost exclusively to Jews and the institutions founded by new Jewish immigrants in the first half of the 20th century, before independence. Some examples include:

If you watch the blockbuster 1960 hit movie "Exodus," based on the novel by Leon Uris, you will see how recent this appellation is. The hero, a native-born Jewish pioneer called Ari ben Canaan, talks of his love for Palestine.

Encouraged by their success at historical revisionism and brainwashing the world with the 'Big Lie' of a Palestinian people, Palestinian Arabs have more recently begun to claim they are the descendants of the Philistines and even the Stone Age Canaanites. Based on that myth, they can claim to have been 'victimized' twice by the Jews: in the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites and by the Israelis in modern times — a total fabrication. Archeologists explain that the Philistines were a Mediterranean people who settled along the coast of Canaan in 1100 BCE. They have no connection to the Arab nation, a desert people who emerged from the Arabian Peninsula.

As if that myth were not enough, Arafat has also claimed "Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the Jebusites" displaced when King David conquered Jerusalem. Arafat has also argued that "Abraham was an Iraqi." One Christmas Eve, Arafat declared that "Jesus was a Palestinian," a preposterous claim that echoes the words of Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian Arab, who in an interview during the 1991 Madrid Conference said: "Jesus Christ was born in my country, in my land," claiming she was "the descendant of the first Christians" — disciples who spread the gospel around Bethlehem some 600 years before the Arab conquest. If her claim were true, it would be tantamount to confessing that she is a Jew!

Contradictions abound, Palestinian Arab leaders claim to be descended from the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Jebusites and the first Christians. They also co-opt Jesus and ignore his Jewishness, at the same time claiming the Jews never were a people and never built the Holy Temples in Jerusalem.

There has Never Been a Sovereign Arab State in Palestine

The artificiality of a Palestinian identity is reflected in the attitudes and actions of neighboring Arabs nations who never established a Palestinian state. It also is expressed in the utterances and loyalties of so-called Palestinians.

Only twice in Jerusalem's history has it served as a national capital. The first time was as the capital of the two Jewish Commonwealths during the First and Second Temple periods, as described in the Bible, reinforced by archaeological evidence and numerous ancient documents. The second time is in modern times as the capital of the State of Israel. It has never served as an Arab capital for the simple reason that there has never been a Palestinian Arab state.

The rhetoric by Arab leaders on behalf of the Palestinians rings hollow, for the Arabs in neighboring lands, who control 99.9 percent of the Middle East land, have never recognized a Palestinian entity. They have always considered Palestine and its inhabitants part of the great 'Arab nation,' historically and politically as an integral part of Greater Syria — Suriyya al-Kubra — a designation that covered both sides of the Jordan River. In the 1950s, Jordan simply annexed the West Bank, since its population was viewed as brethren of the Jordanians. Jordan's official narrative of "Jordanian state-building" attests to this fact:

"Jordanian identity underlies the significant and fundamental common denominator that makes it inclusive of Palestinian identity, particularly in view of the shared historic social and political development of the people on both sides of the Jordan.... The Jordan government, in view of the historical and political relationship with the West Bank … granted all Palestinian refugees on its territory full citizenship rights while protecting and upholding their political rights as Palestinians (Right of Return or compensation)."

The Arabs never established a Palestinian state when the UN offered a partition plan in 1947 to establish "an Arab and a Jewish state" (not a Palestinian state, it should be noted). Nor did the Arabs recognize or establish a Palestinian state during the two decades prior to the Six-Day War when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control; nor did the Palestinians clamor for autonomy or independence during those years under Jordanian and Egyptian rule.

Well before the 1967 decision to create a new Arab people called 'Palestinians,' when the word 'Palestinian' was associated with Jewish endeavors, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, a local Arab leader, testified in 1937 before a British investigative body — the Peel Commission — saying: "There is no such country! Palestine is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries, part of Syria."

In a 1946 appearance before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, also acting as an investigative body, the Arab historian Philip Hitti stated: "There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not." According to investigative journalist Joan Peters, who spent seven years researching the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine (From Peters, Time Immemorial, 2001) the one identity that was never considered by local inhabitants prior to the 1967 war was 'Arab Palestinian.'
 

Eli E. Hertz is president of Myths and Facts, Inc. The organization's objective is to provide policymakers, national leadership, the media and the public-at-large with information and viewpoints that are founded on factual and reliable content. Contact him at today@mythsandfacts.org and visit the website at http://www.mythsandfacts.com

This article was submitted January 8, 2009.

 

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