"There is no such thing
as a Palestinian Arab nation . . . Palestine is a name the
Romans gave to Eretz Yisrael with the express purpose of
infuriating the Jews . . . . Why should we use the spiteful
name meant to humiliate us?
"The British chose to
call the land they mandated Palestine, and the Arabs picked it
up as their nation's supposed ancient name, though they
couldn't even pronounce it correctly and turned it into
Falastin a fictional entity."
Golda Meir quoted by
Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, 25 November 1995
Palestine has never
existed . . . as an autonomous entity. There is no language
known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture.
There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by
Palestinians. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from
Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese,
Keep in mind that the
Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel
represents one-tenth of one percent of the landmass. But
that's too much for the Arabs. They want it all. And that is
ultimately what the fighting in Israel is about today . . . No
matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will
never be enough.
from "Myths of
the Middle East" <../septoct00/myths.html>, Joseph Farah,
Arab-American editor and journalist, WorldNetDaily, 11 October
From the end of the
Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British rule,
the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a
country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries .
. . .
Lewis, Commentary Magazine, January 1975
Talk and writing about
Israel and the Middle East feature the nouns "Palestine" and
Palestinian", and the phrases "Palestinian territory" and even "Israeli-occupied
Palestinian territory". All too often, these terms are used with
regard to their historical or geographical meaning, so that the
usage creates illusions rather than clarifies reality.
WHAT DOES "PALESTINE"
It has never been the name
of a nation or state. It is a geographical term, used to
designate the region at those times in history when there is no
nation or state there.
The word itself derives
from "Peleshet", a name that appears frequently in the Bible and
has come into English as "Philistine". The name began to be used
in the Thirteenth Century BCE, for a wave of migrant "Sea
Peoples" who came from the area of the Aegean Sea and the Greek
Islands and settled on the southern coast of the land of Canaan.
There they established five independent city-states (including
Gaza) on a narrow strip of land known as Philistia. The Greeks
and Romans called it "Palastina".
The Philistines were not
Arabs, they were not Semites. They had no connection, ethnic,
linguistic or historical with Arabia or Arabs. The name "Falastin"
that Arabs today use for "Palestine" is not an Arabic name. It
is the Arab pronunciation of the Greco-Roman "Palastina" derived
from the Peleshet.
DID THE LAND OF ISRAEL BECOME "PALESTINE"?
In the First Century CE,
the Romans crushed the independent kingdom of Judea. After the
failed rebellion of Bar Kokhba in the Second Century CE, the
Roman Emperor Hadrian determined to wipe out the identity of
Israel-Judah-Judea. Therefore, he took the name Palastina and
imposed it on all the Land of Israel. At the same time, he
changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina.
The Romans killed many
Jews and sold many more in slavery. Some of those who survived
still alive and free left the devastated country, but there was
never a complete abandonment of the Land. There was never a time
when there were not Jews and Jewish communities, though the size
and conditions of those communities fluctuated greatly.
THE HISTORY OF PALESTINE
Thousands of years before
the Romans invented "Palastina" the land had been known as "Canaan".
The Canaanites had many tiny city-states, each one at times
independent and at times a vassal of an Egyptian or Hittite king.
The Canaanites never united into a state.
After the Exodus from
Egypt probably in the Thirteenth Century BCE but perhaps earlier
-- , the Children of Israel settled in the land of Canaan. There
they formed first a tribal confederation, and then the biblical
kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the post-biblical kingdom of
Judea. From the beginning of history to this day,
Israel-Judah-Judea has the only united, independent, sovereign
nation-state that ever existed in "Palestine" west of the Jordan
River. (In biblical times, Ammon, Moab and Edom as well as
Israel had land east of the Jordan, but they disappeared in
antiquity and no other nation took their place until the British
invented Trans-Jordan in the 1920s.)
After the Roman conquest
of Judea, "Palastina" became a province of the pagan Roman
Empire and then of the Christian Byzantine Empire, and very
briefly of the Zoroastrian Persian Empire. In 638 CE, an
Arab-Muslim Caliph took Palastina away from the Byzantine Empire
and made it part of an Arab-Muslim Empire. The Arabs, who had no
name of their own for this region, adopted the Greco-Roman name
Palastina, that they pronounced "Falastin".
In that period, much of
the mixed population of Palastina converted to Islam and adopted
the Arabic language. They were subjects of a distant Caliph who
ruled them from his capital, that was first in Damascus and
later in Baghdad. They did not become a nation or an independent
state, or develop a distinct society or culture.
In 1099, Christian
Crusaders from Europe conquered Palestina-Falastin. After 1099,
it was never again under Arab rule. The Christian Crusader
kingdom was politically independent, but never developed a
national identity. It remained a military outpost of Christian
Europe, and lasted less than 100 years. Thereafter, Palestine
was joined to Syria as a subject province first of the Mameluks,
ethnically mixed slave-warriors whose center was in Egypt, and
then of the Ottoman Turks, whose capital was in Istanbul.
During the First World
War, the British took Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. At the
end of the war, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and among its
subject provinces "Palestine" was assigned to the British, to
govern temporarily as a mandate from the League of Nations.
THE JEWISH NATIONAL HOME
Travellers to Palestine
from the Western world left records of what they saw there. The
theme throughout their reports is dismal:
The land was empty,
neglected, abandoned, desolate, fallen into ruins. Nothing
there [Jerusalem] to be seen but a little of the old walls
which is yet remaining and all the rest is grass, moss and
English pilgrim in 1590
The country is in a
considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its
greatest need is of a body of population"
British consul in 1857
There is not a solitary
village throughout its whole extent [valley of Jezreel] -- not
for 30 miles in either direction. . . . One may ride 10 miles
hereabouts and not see 10 human beings.
For the sort of solitude
to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn...
Jericho lies a moldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in
their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living
creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but
is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse...
a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole
route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree
and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had
almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and
ashes... desolate and unlovely...
Mark Twain, The
Innocents Abroad, 1867
The restoration of the
"desolate and unlovely" land began in the latter half of the
Nineteenth Century with the first Jewish pioneers. Their labors
created newer and better conditions and opportunities, which in
turn attracted migrants from many parts of the Middle East, both
Arabs and others. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, confirmed by
the League of Nations Mandate, commited the British Government
to the principle that "His Majesty's government view with favour
the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish National Home, and
will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of
this object... " It was specified both that this area be open to
"close Jewish settlement" and that the rights of all inhabitants
already in the country be preserved and protected.
originally included all of what is now Jordan, as well as all of
what is now Israel, and the territories between them. However,
when Great Britain's protégé Emir Abdullah was forced to leave
the ancestral Hashemite domain in Arabia, the British created a
realm for him that included all of Manfate Palestine east of the
Jordan River. There was no traditional or historic Arab name for
this land, so it was called after the river: first Trans-Jordan
and later Jordan.
By this political act,
that violated the conditions of the Balfour Declaration and the
Mandate, the British cut more than 75 percent out of the Jewish
National Home. No Jew has ever been permitted to reside in
Less than 25 percent then
remained of Mandate Palestine, and even in this remnant, the
British violated the Balfour and Mandate requirements for a "Jewish
National Home" and for "close Jewish settlement". They
progressively restricted where Jews could buy land, where they
could live, build, farm or work.
After the Six-Day War in
1967, Israel was finally able to settle some small part of those
lands from which the Jews had been debarred by the British.
Successive British governments regularly condemn their
settlement as "illegal". In truth, it was the British who had
acted illegally in banning Jews from these parts of the Jewish
WHO IS A PALESTINIAN?
During the period of the
Mandate, it was the Jewish population that was known as "Palestinians"
including those who served in the British Army in World War II.
British policy was to
curtail their numbers and progressively limit Jewish immigration.
By 1939, the White Paper virtually put an end to admission of
Jews to Palestine. This policy was imposed the most stringently
at the very time this Home was most desperately needed -- after
the rise of Nazi power in Europe. Jews who might have developed
the empty lands of Palestine and left progeny there, instead
died in the gas chambers of Europe or in the seas they were
trying to cross to the Promised Land.
At the same time that the
British slammed the gates on Jews, they permitted or ignored
massive illegal immigration into Western Palestine from Arab
countries Jordan, Syria, Egypt, North Africa. In 1939, Winston
Churchill noted that "So far from being persecuted, the Arabs
have crowded into the country and multiplied . . . ." Exact
population statistics may be problematic, but it seems that by
1947 the number of Arabs west of the Jordan River was
approximately triple of what it had been in 1900.
The current myth is that
these Arabs were long established in Palestine, until the Jews
came and "displaced" them. The fact is, that recent Arab
immigration into Palestine "displaced" the Jews. That the
massive increase in Arab population was very recent is attested
by the ruling of the United Nations: That any Arab who had lived
in Palestine for two years and then left in 1948 qualifies as a
Casual use of population
statistics for Jews and Arabs in Palestine rarely consider how
the proportions came to be. One factor was the British policy of
keeping out Jews while bringing in Arabs. Another factor was the
violence used to kill or drive out Jews even where they had been
long established. For one example: The Jewish connection with
Hebron goes back to Abraham, and there has been an Israelite/Jewish
community there since Joshua long before it was King David's
first capital. In 1929, Arab rioters with the passive consent of
the British -- killed or drove out virtually the entire Jewish
For another example: In
1948, Trans-Jordan seized much of Judea and Samaria (which they
called The West Bank) and East Jerusalem and the Old City. They
killed or drove out every Jew.
It is now often proposed
as a principle of international law and morality that all places
that the British and the Arabs rendered Judenrein must forever
remain so. In contrast, Israel eventually allotted 17 percent of
Mandate Palestine has a large and growing population of Arab
FROM PALESTINE TO ISRAEL
What was to become of "Palestine"
after the Mandate? This question was taken up by various British
and international commissions and other bodies, culminating with
the United Nations in 1947. During the various deliberations,
Arab officials, spokesmen and writers expressed their views on "Palestine".
"There is no such
country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists
invented. . . . Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine'
is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it."
Local Arab leader to
British Peel Commission, 1937
"There is no such thing
as Palestine in history, absolutely not"
Professor Philip Hitti,
Arab historian to Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, 1946
Ahmed Shukairy, United
Nations Security Council, 1956
By 1948, the Arabs had
still not yet discovered their ancient nation of Falastin. When
they were offered half of Palestine west of the Jordan River for
a state, the offer was violently rejected. Six Arab states
launched a war of annihilation against the nascent State of
Israel. Their purpose was not to establish an independent
Falastin. Their aim was to partition western Palestine amongst
They did not succeed in
killing Israel, but Trans-Jordan succeeded in taking Judea and
Samaria (West Bank) and East Jerusalem, killing or driving out
all the Jews who had lived in those places, and banning Jews of
all nations from Jewish holy places. Egypt succeeded in taking
the Gaza Strip. These two Arab states held these lands until
1967. Then they launched another war of annihilation against
Israel, and in consequence lost the lands they had taken by war
During those 19 years,
1948-1967, Jordan and Egypt never offered to surrendar those
lands to make up an independent state of Falastin. The "Palestinians"
never sought it. Nobody in the world ever suggested it, much
less demanded it. Finally, in 1964, the Palestine Liberation
Movement was founded. Ahmed Shukairy, who less than 10 years
earlier had denied the existence of Palestine, was its first
chairman. Its charter proclaimed its sole purpose to be the
destruction of Israel. To that end it helped to precipitate the
Arab attack on Israel in 1967.
The outcome of that attack
then inspired an alteration in public rhetoric. As propaganda,
it sounds better to speak of the liberation of Falastin than of
the destruction of Israel. Much of the world, governments and
media and public opinion, accept virtually without question of
serious analysis the new-sprung myth of an Arab nation of
Falastin, whose territory is unlawfully occupied by the Jews.
Since the end of World War
I, the Arabs of the Middle East and North Africa have been given
independent states in 99.5 percent of the land they claimed.
Lord Balfour once expressed his hope that when the Arabs had
been given so much, they would "not begrudge" the Jews the "little
notch" promised to them.