For many people, salvation is not of the Jews but of the Palestinians

People around the world are calling for Jews to be exiled from Eretz Israel. This new anti-Semitic dogma is being driven by a new quasi-religion called Palestinianism, which has positioned itself as the most contemporary interfaith ideology. For Christians, Muslims, atheists and even Jews, Palestinianism offers a new kind of replacement theology in which Palestine is the True Israel and Israelis are cast out of the family of nations because of their stubborn loyalty to the land.

By Richard Mather

Replacement theology or supersessionism is the teaching that the Christian Church has replaced Israel regarding the plan, purpose and promises of God. It has been a core tenet of Christianity for much of its existence and holds that the Church replaced the Israelites as the Chosen People and that the New Covenant replaced the Mosaic Covenant.

From very early on, the Church Fathers taught that the Mosaic Covenant had been fulfilled and replaced by Christ. Tertullian, for example, taught that the “old law” and “carnal circumcision” had been “obliterated” by the “new law.” One of the implications of this theological standpoint was that the Jews were seen as an accursed people stubbornly clinging to an outmoded set of rituals that served no divine purpose.

Just by continuing to exist, the Jews were recalcitrant sinners. Worse, their refusal to embrace Christ was an obstacle to God’s salvational plan for the world.

After the Shoah, some Christian theologians started to de-emphasise supersessionism. But replacement theology has never gone away. Far from it. In fact, it has re-emerged in a new disguise, in a new quasi-religion that is sweeping the world. That religion is Palestinianism. I don’t just mean Christian Palestinianism which seeks to “de-Zionise” the Tanakh and “Palestinianise” Jesus. Nor do I merely mean the Islamic tendency to use the Palestinian issue as a recruiting sergeant in the mosques.

No, Palestinianism in its fullest sense is a wide-ranging quasi-religious ideology that appeals to all faiths and none. It appeals to Christians, Muslims, and even some Jews. It appeals to hardcore communist atheists and religious fanatics alike. It is the belief system of anti-Semitic movements like BDS and the International Solidarity Movement. It is a unifying belief system that blames all the world’s problems on the Jews and promises salvation by promising to eradicate Zionism and establish a State of Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

If Christianity owes a debt of gratitude to Paul the Apostle, then Palestinianism can be traced back to one man – Yasser Arafat, who is Palestinianism’s apostle to the nations. Like Paul, Arafat toured the world, converting people to his cause, acquiring recognition and financial backing until his movement was a global phenomenon. As with Christianity, Palestinianism has now become an almost-universal faith that appeals to gentiles and even some Jews. In fact, Jews are often the most fanatical converts. It is because of Arafat (with the help of the Soviet Union) that contemporary Zionism is portrayed in much the same way that the Mosaic Covenant was/is depicted by some Christians – as corrupt, outdated, superstitious, carnal, evil.

Following Emperor Constantine’s declaration of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire, theologians began to teach that Jews were solely responsible for the crime of murdering God, of deicide. John Chrysostrom (354-407), archbishop of Constantinople, stated that Jews were murderers and destroyers, a people “possessed by the devil.”

If hostility to the Torah motivated early anti-Semitism, it was the Talmud that soon became an object of anti-Jewish hate. Full-scale attacks on the Talmud began in France during the thirteenth century. The Talmud was said to make Jews stubborn and superstitious. If only the Jews would relinquish their superstitious rituals, argued their opponents, then they’d convert to Christianity and conform to societal norms.

In the midst of all this anti-Talmud hysteria, Christian anti-Semites were accusing Jews of using the blood of Christian children for ritual purposes. It began in England in 1144 when the Jews of Norwich were accused of ritual murder after a boy was found dead with stab wounds. Thomas of Monmouth erroneously claimed that there was a Jewish prophecy that stated the killing of a Christian child each year will ensure that the Jews will be restored to the Holy Land. This must be one of the earliest instances of a Jew-hater using the blood libel to smear the Jews for their dream of national restoration. In fact, the blood libel, or variations thereof, continue to this day.

After Israel committed the cardinal sin of winning the 1967 Six Day War, Jews have been routinely described in the language of medieval Christian theologians: Jews as satanic murderers, baby-killers, well-poisoners, harvesters of organs and stealers of land. The charge of deicide has been resurrected in modified form and is now presented as the charge of genocide against Palestinians. Of course, such claims made against the Jewish people are scandalous nonsense, propaganda designed to demonise and then to kill. But in the minds of Palestinianists, any justification to kill Jews or force them into permanent exile will suffice.

So: First the Torah and the polemical arguments against the Mosaic covenant; then the Talmud and the blood libel as justifications for persecuting Jews. Now, the object of hate is Zionism and the State of Israel. Under the banner of the new Palestinianist theology, Palestine is portrayed as the “True Israel,” just like the Church was described as the “True Israel.”

While Christian covenant theologians claim that Jews have been cast off and are no longer pre-eminent in the plans of God because they continue to abide by their Mosaic traditions, so the State of Israel is to be cast out of the family of nations because it stubbornly clings to the “carnal covenant” of Zionism. There is an eschatological aspect at play that demands the passing away of the old heaven and earth (Zionism) and the arrival of the new heaven and earth (the State of Palestine).

The sooner Zionism and the Israeli state pass into history, say the Palestinianists, the sooner there will be peace in the Middle East. Despite the obvious drawbacks to this scenario, such as the oppression of women and minorities in a Palestinian state, the imprisonment of journalists and dissidents, and the political legitimisation of far right Islamist groups like Hamas, Palestinianists remain zealous in their commitment to the creation of a twenty-third Arab state.

(Fanatical Islamic Palestinianists also have a vision of new Middle East that is in accordance with their own violent apocalyptic beliefs. As Giulio Meotti has pointed out in an op-ed for Arutz Sheva, 2022 is the year that Muslim leaders, theologians and terrorist groups, including Islamic State, have reserved for the end of Israel. For example, in an interview for a Lebanese television channel, the imam of the mosque of Al Quds in Sidon, Maher Hamoud, said that “according to calculations based on the Koran the end of Israel will be in 2022.” Of course, one of the driving forces behind Iran’s nuclear ambitions is the apocalyptic desire to destroy the Jewish state.)

And then there are the Jewish apostates. Once upon a time we had to endure people like Titus Flavius Josephus, the writer-historian who defected to the Romans in 69 CE during the First Roman-Jewish War; and Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, who pressed thirty-five charges against the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX; and Abner of Burgos, the fourteenth-century Jewish philosopher who converted to Christianity and wrote Mostrador de Justicia, one of the longest polemics against Judaism ever written.

Now we have people like Ilan Pappe, Paul Eisen, Shlomo Sand, and Noam Chomsky, who spend their days writing anti-Zionist and/or anti-Jewish polemics in order to ingratiate themselves to the non-Jewish world. It seems that some Jews, both then and now, are unable to resist the lure of either Christianity or Palestinianism.

(To complicate matters, there are some very religious Jews who believe that continued exile is part of God’s plan. The Christian view that the destruction of the Second Temple was a punishment for killing Christ has been absorbed in a modified way by some ultra-Orthodox Jews such as Neturei Karta who believe that because of their sins, the Jewish people went into exile and that human recapture of the Land of Israel is a violation of divine will. If Christians believe in replacement theology, it seems some Jews, both religious and secular, subscribe to what might be called displacement theology – the displacement of themselves.)

Because it appeals to many Christians, most Muslims and a minority of Jews, Palestinianism is the latest example of the postmodern exercise in interbelief cooperation, which can be defined as the constructive interaction between people of different religious traditions and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs. In a sense, Palestinianism is the most democratic and egalitarian of faiths. It doesn’t matter where you come from or which god you may (or may not) worship; all that is required is that you express genocidal disdain for Jewish political autonomy.

Indeed, Palestinianism is now a substitute faith for post-Christian European liberals. It offers all the benefits of mainstream religion, such as community and social action, but without any of theological baggage such as the Trinity or Islam’s Pillars of Faith. Even the quasi-religion of Marxism can be included within the framework of this new interfaith ideology because it, too, turns a finite, limited ideal (a world without Zionism/the classless society/the end of capitalism) into an object of absolute and murderous godlike devotion.

Given that Palestinianism draws on Christianity and Islam, it is perhaps no surprise that it borrows heavily from Abrahamic salvation history. This helps explain the Palestinianist preoccupation with the status and fate of the Jews, with ownership and boundaries of the land of Israel, with the importance of Jerusalem, with the identity of Jesus, and with the messianic goal of peace in the Middle East. Even the concept of “original sin” is employed to describe the creation of the State of Israel, as if pre-Zionist Palestine was the Garden of Eden.

In other words, Palestinianism offers the world a set of religious symbols that are reassuringly infused with the comfort of Bible imagery (“new wine in old skins”). Hence the myth of a Palestinian lineage that goes all the way back to the Canaanites; the “Satanic” intrusion of Zionism; the “crucifixion” of Palestine and the arrival of “Isra-hell”; and the awaited return of Palestine as a land of milk and honey. (All these concepts and word-ideas are used in Palestinianist discourse.)

In this salvation story, the Jews may have a role to play, but only as a people who are about to be expunged from history as the prelude to the arrival of a new world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Salvation is of the Jews.” But for many people – Christian, Muslim or atheist – it seems that salvation is not of the Jews, but of the Palestinians. It is a terrifying thought.

 

 

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My conditions for recognising Palestine

Mahmoud_Abbas

By Richard Mather

So Greece is set to recognise a Palestinian state in a parliamentary vote to be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But what is the State of Palestine? What are its borders and its currency? What and where are its legitimate international institutions? What is its government – the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?

At present, the State of Palestine is no more than a state of mind, a political-ideological fantasy dreamt up by the psychotic Yasser Arafat. Palestine does not and never did exist in any concrete sense. It is a country of the imagination for Jew-hating fanatics.

But the world seems intent on recognising Palestine as the twenty-third Arab country at a time when the Arab world is descending into anarchy. Perhaps a State of Palestine will be a reality in ten to fifteen years. Of course, Israel is under no obligation to recognise the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. But perhaps I can be persuaded. Here’s my list of conditions:

I will only recognise Palestine if Jews are allowed to stay in their homes in Hebron and Ariel and Beitar Illit. I will recognise Palestine when the Arabs recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation and the so-called refugees are resettled in Palestine and not Israel. I will recognise Palestine when the Palestinian Arabs relinquish their demand to make east Jerusalem their capital.

I will recognise Palestine when it calls a halt to the mass murder of Israelis in particular and Jews in general. I will recognise Palestine when Jew-hatred is purged from school textbooks. I will recognise Palestine when it rejects the dream of a Greater Palestine from the river to the sea. I will recognise Palestine when the Arabs apologise for their role in the Holocaust. I will recognise Palestine when the Arabs express remorse for massacring Jews in 1929, 1936, 1947 and 2000-2005.

I will recognise Palestine when it refuses money and arms from rogue regimes like Iran and Qatar. I will recognise Palestine when women and gays are no longer oppressed or killed, when journalists are free to report the news without risk of imprisonment, when dissident voices are given a fair hearing, when political opponents are allowed to speak their minds without the fear of being thrown off the top of buildings.

I will recognise Palestine when it stops blaming Zionists for its own problems and acknowledges that it is the Arabs and not the Jews who have consistently refused to establish two states for two peoples.

In other words, I will recognise Palestine when it starts behaving like a country that wants to join the human race and gives up the nihilistic ambition of destroying the most stable, democratic and prosperous nation in the Middle East, which is the State of Israel.

 

Post-Christian Brits must make a choice between humanism and Islam

ShariaBy Richard Mather

Britain is no longer a Christian country, according to a committee chaired by the former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss. Only two in five British people now identify as Christian, while the proportion of people who do not follow a religion has risen from a third in 1983 to almost half in 2014, the report states. Meanwhile Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism have overtaken Judaism as the largest non-Christian faiths in Britain. Lady Butler-Sloss said the findings “amount to a new settlement for religion and belief in the UK, intended to provide space and a role for all within society, regardless of their beliefs or absence of them.”

According to a separate report, the number of Muslims living in the UK – mainly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin –  is around 2,706,100, or 4.5 per cent of the total population. If present trends continue, the Anglo-Muslim population will double over the next fifteen years and hit 5.5 million by 2030. There are several reasons for this: one is immigration, another is high birth rates and another is that Muslims in Britain are passing their faith on to the next generation at much higher rates than Christians or Jews.  A recent sociology survey showed that 77 per cent of practising Muslim families successfully pass on their faith to their children, compared with 29 per cent in Christian families and 65 per cent in other religions.

Taken together, the decline in Christianity and the rise of Islam in Britain point to a significant cultural change in the UK. One of these changes is the rise in the number of people who are converting to Islam. Studies show that Brits are converting to Islam at an astonishing rate. Around 5,200 people in the UK convert to Islam every year, according to inter-faith thinktank Faith Matters, which also says that the total number of British converts to Islam could be more than 100,000.

Unlike Judaism, Islam is a missionary religion. Muslims actively seek converts by setting up stalls in towns and cities, and also on university campuses where Islamic societies are engaged in outreach programmes to attract British students. Part of the attraction is that Islam is very easy to convert to. All a person needs to do is recite the Shahada that states, “There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet.” (Most converts recite the Shahada in front of two or more witnesses, one being an imam.)

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, believes there is a direct correlation between conversions and the prominence of Islam in the media: “People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about and when they do that they go in different directions,” he says. “Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”

According to anecdotal evidence, converts are embracing Islam in order to escape modern society, which is portrayed or imagined as decadent, bankrupt and perverted. Young women who are sick and tired of alcohol, drugs, sex, partying and consumerism are particularly susceptible to Islamic missionaries who promise a purer way of life. Figures show that more women than men convert to Islam and that the average age of female converts in the UK is twenty-seven.

Taken as a whole, the British people are concerned about the impact Islam is having on their society. Opinion surveys show that voters view Islam and Muslim immigration as very high on their list of concerns. And yet the same people who complain about the changes in their society no longer attend church on a regular basis. They may claim to believe in God and Jesus but the churches are emptying out at an alarming rate. With the exception of the Protestant evangelical movement (and to some extent the Catholic Church), Anglo-Christianity is at a low ebb. Carol services at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter are not enough to sustain an English/British culture that gave the world the Book of Common Prayer, the King James’s Bible, the hymns of Charles Wesley, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and William Blake’s relief etchings.

The only serious alternative is for the British people to embrace secular humanism, but one that is robust and critical, not vague and listless. This involves living ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and empathy, trusting in the scientific method, taking an interest in philosophy and the arts, having a concern for other human beings and animals, and rejecting superstition and dogma.

Humanism, if it is to be embraced, should not be seen as a deficiency but as a positive approach to life. While atheism is the absence of belief, humanism is affirmative. It is centred on human experience and rational thinking, and also asserts that humans have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. According to humanists, we derive our morality from critical thinking, history and personal experience.

While humanism may not appeal to practising Jews and Christians, it is surely better if post-Christian Brits embrace a robust and ethical humanism rather than Islam, which is oppressive, anti-democratic, opposed to free speech, violent and anti-Semitic.  If anyone is in any doubt about the dangers of the Islamification of Britain, consider the following:

A poll by Policy Exchange thinktank found that three in ten British Muslims want to live under sharia law. This rises to four in ten among 16 to 24-year-olds. Another poll (by GfK NOP Social research) reveals that three in ten British Muslims hope that Britain would one day become an Islamic state. Six in ten British Muslims hold negative attitudes towards free speech.

More worrying are the statistics that show one in ten British Muslims are “hardcore Islamists” who agree that people who insult Islam should be punished. Some 17 per cent say the Holocaust has been exaggerated, while half of Muslims aged 18-24 believe that 9/11 was an Israel/American conspiracy.

In the words of Spectator writer Douglas Murray, anti-Semitism (particularly the bizarre conspiratorial kind) is “rife and routine” in British Muslim communities. Sadly, many Muslims have made anti-Semitism a core tenet of both their faith and their politics. This can be seen in the growth of anti-Semitism in British political discourse. Anti-Semitism on the Left is now so commonplace and institutionalised that the Labour Party is haemorrhaging Jewish support (around half of all British Muslims vote for left-wing parties).

If the British Jewish community is to remain safe and secure, their only hope is that the British people refuse to tolerate the imposition of Islam. But an ideological bulwark is needed. And that bulwark is unlikely to be a return to Christianity. Humanism is the best option – a humanism that is strong enough to withstand demands for sharia law, a humanism brave enough to denounce Islamic anti-Semitism, a humanism with the guts to stand up for free speech and the right to criticise Islam.

Britain must come to terms with its post-Christian situation and make a choice. Apathy is not good enough. A country that is not prepared to stand up for ethics, compassion, democracy and free speech should not be surprised if the growing Muslim population does not honour these values either.

 

 

Antiochus condemns Jewish extremists, calls for labelling of products made by Judeans

Judea_Judas_Makk

Article from The Seleucid Times, dated December 7, 165 BCE

Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of the Seleucid monarchy, has told reporters that Jewish extremists are guilty of “disproportionate force” in the battle over the temple in Jerusalem. He said Yehuda HaMakabi’s revolt was “illegal” and “not in accordance with international law.” The liberation and rededication of the temple, he claimed “is an act of Zionist colonialism that must be condemned in the harshest terms.”

Antiochus said that reports of a flask of oil lasting eight days is “obviously a Zionist conspiracy designed to manipulate the market price of olive oil on which the Palestinian economy depends.” The king called on the Palestinians – who have lived on the land for 231.4 million years – to “rise up against the Maccabean oppressors.” Throwing rocks and stones at Judean civilians, he said, is a “perfectly legitimate form of resistance.”

He also called on the international community to introduce labelling on products manufactured by Judeans and suggested that sanctions and boycotts should be implemented to force the Judeans into making concessions over the status of Jerusalem. Antiochus also hinted that the Seleucid Security Council will, in the coming days, vote on whether to adopt a resolution that determines the Hanukkah menorah “as a symbol of racism and racial discrimination.”

—–

[This, of course, is satire. But this is how the modern media would report the Jewish revolt against Antiochus.]

Bar Kokhba – hero or villain?

shane6It is 1,880 years since Shimon Bar Kokhba’s independent Jewish state collapsed under the weight of Roman military might. Hero or villain, Shimon bar Kokhba still exerts a strong pull on the imagination of Israelis who are either spellbound by the deeds of the iconic “muscle Jew” who challenged the might of Rome, or repelled by his violent rebellion that resulted in 1,800 years of Jewish exile.

By Richard Mather

Shimon Bar Koseva was the leader of the final Judean revolt against the Roman empire. Known as a man of great physical strength, his rebellion won the support of many rabbis. His early military successes prompted Rabbi Akiva to confer upon Bar Koseva the title of Messiah, and gave him the surname Bar Kokhba, which is Aramaic for “Son of the Star.” This is from the messianic verse in Numbers 24:17: “There shall step forth a star [kokab] out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab.”

Bar Kokhba’s rebellion against Rome began in 132 CE when Emperor Hadrian announced plans to outlaw circumcision and build a pagan temple on the Temple Mount. Bar Kokhba amassed an army of between 200,000 and 350,000 men, a huge fighting force that included a number of sympathetic gentiles. However, local Christians refused to take part in the rebellion because they did not recognise the messianic title that had been given to Bar Kokhba.

Bar Kokhba reconquered the Galilee and then forced the Romans out of Jerusalem. The initial success of the rebellion was so great that the Judeans declared an independent state. For many Jews, this was proof that Rabbi Akiva was right – that the era of redemption had arrived and Bar Kokhba was indeed the Messiah. Coins minted during the rebellion indicate Jewish control of Jerusalem during the war. Bar Kokhba issued coins stamped “Freedom of Jerusalem.”

According to Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba tried to make Hebrew the official language of the Jews, which was a foretaste of the secular Hebrew revival in the early twentieth century.

Notwithstanding Rabbi Akiva’s blessing, it is not clear whether Bar Kokhba actually believed he was  the Messiah. He did, however, refer to himself as HaNasi (“the prince”) but this may have been because he was the military leader of the Jews. What is known is that Bar-Kokhba was a religious Jew. He tithed, and observed the Sabbath and the festivals. In one of his letters, he talks excitedly about the celebration of Sukkot.

Unfortunately, the Jewish state lasted a mere three years. Alarmed by the scale and success of the Jewish rebellion, Emperor Hadrian amassed a massive army of Roman soldiers from across the empire. After losing many of their strongholds, Bar Kokhba and his supporters withdrew to the fortress of Betar, which came under siege in the summer of 135 CE. According to Jewish tradition, the fortress was destroyed by the Romans on Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the First and the Second Jewish Temples. It is understood that Bar Kokhba died in battle, although some of his fighters continued to fight for several more months.

The Romans carried out a genocide in Judea, executing leading members of the Sanhedrin, massacring around half a million Jews, and selling others into slavery. Many Jews died of famine and disease. Jewish and Christian holy places were desecrated. In an attempt to erase any memory of Judea or Israel, Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the Jewish homeland to Syria Palaestina, and he issued decrees that outlawed Judaism. Under Hadrian’s rule, to teach Torah was to commit a crime.

In the decades and centuries following his death, Bar Kokhba was viewed as a bringer of calamity and exile. Rabbinical writers subsequent to Rabbi Akiva did not share his estimation of Bar Kokhba. Akiva’s disciple, Yose ben Halaphta, called him “Bar Koziba,” which is similar to his birth name of Koseva but also means “Son of the Lie” (kazab is a Hebrew word for “to lie”).  More significantly, the Roman victory over Bar Kokhba altered Judaism forever. The rabbis came to realise that the survival of the Jewish religion would depend on books and traditions, not on violent resistance.

Despite rabbinical hostility towards Bar Kokhba, the rebirth of Israel has partly restored the reputation of the Jewish warrior. On Lag Ba’Omer, Israeli children light bonfires across Israel in celebration of the heroic victory of Bar Kokhba over the Romans.

Early Zionists such as Max Nordau viewed Bar Kokhba as proof that Jews are capable of fighting for their liberty and independence. In an essay about “Muscle-Jews,” he said that Bar Kokhba “was the last embodiment in world history of a bellicose, militant Jewry.” While secular Zionists emphasise Bar Kokhba’s military exploits, others hail him as a harbinger of contemporary religious Zionism. After all, Bar Kokhba was a pious man who performed Jewish rituals and fought hard to stop the Roman desecration of Jerusalem.

But not everyone is convinced. Ha’aretz writer Yossi Sarid believes that the Jewish people have suffered because of individuals like Bar Kokhba: “To this day we have not succeeded in ridding ourselves of the punishment of false messiahs. We are comfortable with our hallucinations, with being captivated by them. Sometimes it seems that the movement for national liberation – now as then – includes a self-destruct mechanism.”

And former Mossad director general Shabtai Shavit is worried that some elements within Israeli society, namely the religious Zionist movement, is “galloping blindly in a time tunnel to the age of Bar Kokhba and his war on the Roman Empire. […] The result of that conflict was several centuries of national existence in the Land of Israel followed by 2,000 years of exile.”

In truth, Bar Kokhba was neither villain nor hero. It is true that his failed rebellion against the mighty Roman empire resulted in nearly two millennia of blood and exile – of pogroms, blood libels, massacres and genocide. Having said that, we should acknowledge Bar Kokhba’s influence on the modern Zionist imagination – the strong “muscle Jew” willing to fight for his (or her) independence. And hopefully we have learned from his failures. The State of Israel may be the heir to Bar Kokhba’s short-lived Judean state, but modern Israel is incomparably stronger. And it’s not just about strength, although having an arsenal of 115 nuclear warheads helps. Modern Israel is vibrant, diverse and democratic; it is a fully-functioning nation-state with a strong economy and robust political institutions. Unlike the Judean state of 132-135 CE, the modern State of Israel is a permanent fixture and the Roman exile of the Jews is over.

Gaza – land of the invaders

map-of-territory-of-philistines“The Philistines are upon you” – Judges 16:20

[This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek but there is a curious historical parallel between the Philistines and the Palestinians.]

If the Palestinian Arabs are so proud of being named after a Greek sea-faring people who invaded the land of Canaan and occupied its southwestern coast, they should accept the limits of their forebears’ territorial victories and accept the Gaza Strip as the de facto Palestinian state and relinquish any claims on the rest of “Canaan,” i.e. Israel, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

By Richard Mather

The words Philistine and Palestinian share the same etymology: both words derive from “Peleshet” or “Pelestim,” from the Semitic root “p-l-s”, which means “to divide” or “to invade.” Despite the name, the people who call themselves Palestinians are unrelated to the Philistines. The current Palestinians are very recent Arab migrant-settlers who came to Eretz Israel in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The name “Falastin” that Arabs today use for “Palestine” is not an Arabic name, but adapted from the Latin Palaestina.

The original Philistines were a non-Semitic sea-faring people who came from the Aegean Islands and Crete circa 12th century BCE. They attempted to invade Egypt and were forced northward into Canaan by Ramses III. Having killed the coastal Canaanites in the area known as Gaza, the Philistines began to move into the interior of Canaan, which belonged to the Israelites. They were defeated by King David. The Philistines who remained in Gaza were ruled by Sargon II of Assyria. After that time, they vanished from history, having been assimilated into the Assyrian and Persian empires. There is no mention of them after the Babylonian Captivity.

If the modern-day Palestinians claim to be Philistines, then the only land in the whole of Canaan/Palestine/Israel they have any claim to is the Gaza Strip. The original Philistines occupied the southwestern strip of land on the coast and nowhere else. They failed to expand into Judea, Samaria or Galilee. The only other place they attempted to conquer was Egypt (and they failed). In other words, if the Palestinians claim they are Philistines, then they can only claim Gaza as their state. In so doing, they should relinquish any territorial claim to Hebron, Shechem, Jaffa, the Jordan Valley etc.

So: Judea and Israel for the Israelites/Jews; and Gaza for the Philistines. That’s the two-state solution solved.

True, the original Philistine State was slightly larger than the current Gaza Strip (it included Ashdod and Ashkelon) but it is a strange quirk of history that the Palestinians have chosen to name themselves after an invading force who came from another part of the world. It is also curious that the land occupied by the Philistinian settlers from Crete and the migrant-settlers from the Arab world have ended up in almost the same place. There may not be a genetic or cultural connection between the ancient sea-faring peoples and the modern-day Arab Palestinians, but they occupy the same land, share the same name and share the same enmity towards the Hebrew-speaking people.