By Richard Mather and David Semple…
Let’s clear this up once and for all. Palestine was never a country. The ancient Greeks used to refer to ancient Israel and the country we now call Syria as Philistina; in English,Palestine. Why? The Philistines were Greek settlers from the islands of the Aegean Sea who lived in Gaza and at first tried to invade Egypt before turning their attentions to Eretz Israel.
The Bible calls the Philistines the P’lishtim or Pelishtim; the Egyptians referred to them as thePeleset. The Philistines failed in their attempts at imperialist conquest and were later expelled from the land of Israel, which may explain why the Ancient Greeks were so anti-Semitic.
The Philistines were defeated by King David’s Kingdom of Judea and Israel, which we now call the State of Israel in its reduced form today. After the Romans colonised Judea and defeated two Jewish revolts in 70 CE and 136 CE, they renamed the territory Philistina or Palestine.
So Europeans called it Palestine from the year 136 until 1948, when Israel declared its independence from the UK. But there was never a nation called Palestine. It was a colony, first under the Romans and Byzantines, then under the Arab Caliphates and the Ottoman Empire, and finally under the British, who revived the name Palestine during the Mandate period, long after the name had died out under the Arabs and Ottomans.
If there is such a thing as the Palestinians, then there is only one people that deserve the epithet – the Jews. They are the true Palestinians. The Jews were the first and last Palestinians in the authentic and modern sense – first under Rome and finally under the British Empire. The remnants of the people left behind by the Mohammedian imperialists, who conquered Palestine in the seventh century, called themselves South Syrians, not Palestinians.
There were hardly any of these Arabs living in Palestine during the nineteenth century when Jews from Europe began to return to the land of Israel. Many more Arabs were shipped into the area by the Turks as the Jews grew the economy of this Ottoman province. Under the British, uncontrolled and illegal Arab immigration into Mandate Palestine far exceeded Jewish legal immigration.
The British referred to the two peoples as “Palestinian Jews” and “Arabs.” The Arabs favoured being part of an entity called Greater Syria. The British took Palestine, which they had promised to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration, and gave seventy per cent of it to the Arabs and called the new nation Transjordan – the first independent Palestinian state. The remaining part of Palestine – western Palestine – was a geographical entity stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean (“from the river to the sea.”). And despite losing even more territory when the U.N. decided to partition western Palestine, the Jews finally declared independence in 1948 and the State of Israel became the second Palestinian state, after Jordan.
Then Jordan, along with several Arab states, invaded Israel and tried to destroy it, without success. Jordan conquered Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem, annexing those territories in 1949, making them a full part of the Hashemite Kingdom. Finally, the Arab nations tried to destroy Israel in 1967, with the result being that the territories illegally annexed by Jordan were liberated by Israel. This should have been the end of the story, but the Arabs had another plan.
The Arabs invented the “Palestinian People” from the 700,000 refugees who left Mandate Palestine in 1948 and went to Gaza, Judea/Samaria and Jordan. They waited and waited for Israel to be destroyed. The Arab refugee population grew from 700,000 to several millions.
The “Palestinian People” (perhaps they should be called the “New Palestinians”) were invented by Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat. His ideology came from three sources: Islam, German fascism (via the Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini) and the anti-Zionist Soviet Union. Arafat’s success was to appropriate the appellations Palestinian and Palestine, and repackage them as a pair of signifiers referring to a new and reactionary grouping of former colonial Arab migrants.
These Arabs – these New Palestinians – now live in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and everywhere around the world. They call themselves the Palestinian People, not because they identify with a place called Palestine, but because they are anti-Semitic and wish to wipe out the Jewish State, returning it to colonial rule under Arab-Islamic totalitarianism.
Since the 1960s, the New Palestinians have sought to erase the true Palestinian people (the Jews) by literally taking their place in the land of Israel. The New Palestinians – the monstrous birth of Arafat who dreamed of a Judenrein Middle East – was (and still is) an Arab conspiracy:
“We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state,” said Arafat. “We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”
So who, in the end, are the Palestinians? The New Palestinians are Arab usurpers – racist, anti-Semitic, colonialist. The true Palestinians are the Jews, the Jews who lived under Roman, Christian, Arab, Ottoman, and British imperialism, from 135 CE to 1948. These Palestinian Jews simply decided, on independence in 1948, to establish a new name for their country. Judea was one idea. The State of Israel was another.
Put simply, the Israelis, and not the Arabs, are the true inheritors of the name Palestinian.