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.


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