Much thanks to Eli Hertz for this comprehensive, exhaustive historical deconstruction of the biggest lie told round the world.
Palestine is a Geographical Area, Not a Nationality December 11, 2011 | Eli E. Hertz
In an interview with Republican Presidential Primary front-runner and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a former Professor and Historian, he explains his position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and states that the Palestinians are "an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs."
It is time to tell the truth that is based on facts:
Until the Jews began returning to the Land of Israel in increasing numbers from the late 19th century to the turn of the 20th, the area called Palestine was a deserted waste land that belonged to the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey.
'Palestinianism' in and of itself lacks any substance of its own. Arab society on the West Bank and Gaza suffer from a deep social cleavage created by a host of rivalries based on divergent geographic, historical, sociological and familial allegiances.
What glues Palestinians together is a carefully nurtured hatred of Israel and the rejection of Jewish nationhood.“All [that Palestinians] can agree on as a community is what they want to destroy, not what they want to build.”1 New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman
The Palestinians’ claim that they are an ancient and indigenous people fails to stand up to historic scrutiny. Most Palestinian Arabs were newcomers to British Mandate Palestine. Until the 1967 Six-Day War made it expedient for Arabs to create a Palestinian peoplehood, local Arabs simply considered themselves part of the ‘great Arab nation’ or ‘southern Syrians.’
There is no age-old Palestinian people. Most so-called Palestinians are relative newcomers to The Land of Israel.
Palestinian Arabs cast themselves as a native people in “Palestine” – like the Aborigines in Australia or Native Americans in America. They portray the Jews as European imperialists and colonizers. This is simply untrue.
Until the Jews began returning to the Land of Israel in increasing numbers from the late 19th century to the turn of the 20th, the area called Palestine was a God- forsaken backwash that belonged to the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey.
The land’s fragile ecology had been laid waste in the wake of the Arabs’ 7th- century conquest. In 1799, the population was at it lowest and estimated to be no more than 250,000 to 300,000 inhabitants in all the land.2
At the turn of the 20th century, the Arab population west of the Jordan River (today, Israel and the West Bank) was about half a million inhabitants and east of the Jordan River perhaps 200,000.3
The collapse of the agricultural system with the influx of nomadic tribes after the Arab conquest that created malarial swamps and denuded the ancient terrace system eroding the soil, was coupled by a tyrannous regime, a crippling tax system and absentee landowners that further decimated the population. Much of the indigenous population had long since migrated or disappeared. Very few Jews or Arabs lived in the region before the arrival of the first Zionists in the 1880s and most of those that did lived in abject poverty.
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Most Arabs living west of the Jordan River in Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza are newcomers who came from surrounding Arab lands after the turn of the 20th century because they were attracted to the relative economic prosperity brought about by the Zionist Movement and the British in the 1920s and 1930s.4
This is substantiated by eyewitness reports of a deserted country – including 18th-century reports from the British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, French author and historian Count Constantine Volney (Travels through Syria and Egypt, 1798), the mid-19th-century writings of Alphonse de Lamartine (Recollections of the East, 1835), Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad, 1867), and reports from the British Consul in Jerusalem (1857) that were sent back to London.5
The Ottoman Turks’ census (1882) recorded only 141,000 Muslims in the Land of Israel. The real number is probably closer to 350,000 to 425,000, since many hid to avoid taxes. The British census in 1922 reported 650,000 Muslims.
Aerial photographs taken by German aviators during World War I show an underdeveloped country composed mainly of primitive hamlets.6 Ashdod, for instance, was a cluster of mud dwellings, Haifa a fishing village. In 1934 alone, 30,000 Syrian Arabs from the Hauran moved across the northern frontier into Mandate Palestine, attracted by work in and around the newly built British port7 and the construction of other infrastructure projects. They even dubbed Haifa Um el-Amal (‘the city of work’).
The fallacy of Arab claims that most Palestinians were indigenous to Palestine – not newcomers – is also bolstered by a 1909 vintage photograph of Nablus, today an Arab city on the West Bank with over 121,000 residents. Based on the number of buildings in the photo taken from the base of Mount Gerizim, the population in 1909 – Muslim Arabs and Jewish Samaritans – could not have been greater than 2,000 residents.8
Family names of many Palestinians attest to their non-Palestinian origins. Just as Jews bear names like Berliner, Warsaw and Toledano, modern phone books in the Territories are filled with families named Elmisri (Egyptian), Chalabi (Syrian), Mugrabi (North Africa).
Palestinian Nationality is an Entity Defined by its Opposition to Zionism, and not its National Aspirations
What unites Palestinians has been their opposition to Jewish nationalism and the desire to stamp it out, not aspirations for their own state. Local patriotic feelings are generated only when a non – Islamic entity takes charge – such as Israel did after the 1967 Six-Day War. It dissipates under Arab rule, no matter how distant or despotic.
A Palestinian identity did not exist until an opposing force created it – primarily anti-Zionism. Opposition to a non-Muslim nationalism on what local Arabs, and
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the entire Arab world, view as their own turf, was the only expression of ‘Palestinian peoplehood.’
The Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a charismatic religious leader and radical anti-Zionist was the moving force behind opposition to Jewish immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. The two-pronged approach of the “Diplomacy of Rejection” (of Zionism) and the violence the Mufti incited occurred at the same time Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq became countries in the post-Ottoman reshuffling of territories established by the British and the French under the League of Nation’s mandate system.
The tiny educated class among the Arabs of Palestine was more politically aware than the rest of Arab society, with the inklings of a separate national identity. However, for decades, the primary frame of reference for most local Arabs was the clan or tribe, religion and sect, and village of origin. If Arabs in Palestine defined themselves politically, it was as “southern Syrians.”
Under Ottoman rule, Syria referred to a region much larger than the Syrian Arab Republic of today, with borders established by France and England in 1920.
In his book Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition, Daniel Pipes explains:
“Syria was a region that stretched from the borders of Anatolia to those of Egypt, from the edge of Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea. In terms of today’s states, the Syria of old comprised Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, plus the Gaza Strip
and Alexandria.”9 Syrian maps in the 21st century still co-opt most of Greater Syria, including
The Grand Mufti Al-Husseini’s aspirations slowly shifted from pan-Arabism – the dream of uniting all Arabs into one polity, whereby Arabs in Palestine would unite with their brethren in Syria – to winning a separate Palestinian entity, with himself at the helm. Al-Husseini was the moving force behind the 1929 riots against the Jews and the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt against two non-Muslim entities in Palestine – the British and the Jews. He gathered a large following by playing on fears that the Jews had come to dispossess, or at least dominate the Arabs.
Much like Yasser Arafat, the Grand Mufti’s ingrained all-or-nothing extremism, fanaticism and even an inability to cooperate with his own compatriots made him totally ineffective. He led the Palestinian Arabs nowhere.10
The ‘Palestinian’ cause became a key rallying point for Arab nationalism throughout the Middle East, according to Oxford historian Avi Shlaim. The countries the British and French created in 1918-1922 were based largely on meridians on the map, as is evident in the borders that delineate the Arab states today. Because these states lack ethnic logic or a sense of community, their opposition to the national aspirations of the Jews has become the fuel that fires Arab nationalism as the ‘glue’ of national identity.
From the 1920s, rejection of Jewish nationalism, attempts to prevent the establishment of a Jewish homeland by violence, and rejection of any form of Jewish political power, including any plans to share stewardship with Arabs,
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crystallized into the expression of Palestinianism. No other positive definition of an Arab-Palestinian people has surfaced. This point is admirably illustrated in the following historic incident:
“In 1926, Lord Plumer was appointed as the second High Commissioner of Palestine. The Arabs within the Mandate were infuriated when Plumer stood up for the Zionists’ national anthem Hatikva during ceremonies held in his honor when Plumer first visited Tel Aviv. When a delegation of Palestinian Arabs protested Plumer’s ‘Zionist bias,’ the High Commissioner asked the Arabs if he remained seated when their national anthem was played, ‘wouldn’t you regard my behavior as most unmannerly?’ Met by silence, Plumer asked: ‘By the way, have you got a national anthem?’ When the delegation replied with chagrin that they did not, he snapped back, “I think you had better get one as soon as possible.” 11
But it took the Palestinians more than 60 years to heed Plumer’s advice, adopting Anthem of the Intifada two decades after Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 – at the beginning of the 1987 Intifada.
Under the Mandate, local Arabs also refused to establish an ‘Arab Agency’ to develop the Arab sector, parallel to the Jewish Agency that directed development of the Jewish sector.
In fact, the so-called patriotism of indigenous Muslims has flourished only when non-Muslim entities (the Crusaders, the British, the Jews) have taken charge of the Holy Land. When political control returns to Muslim hands, the ardent patriotism of the Arabs of Palestine magically wanes, no matter how distant or how despotic the government. One Turkish pasha who ruled Acco (Acre) between 1775 and 1804 was labeled Al Jazzar, The Butcher, by locals.
Why hasn’t Arab representative government ever been established in Palestine, either in 1948 or during the next 19 years of Arab rule? Because other Arabs co- opted the Palestinian cause as a rallying point that would advance the concept that the territory was up for grabs. “The Arab invasion of Palestine was not a means for achieving an independent Palestine, but rather the result of a lack of consensus on the part of the Arab states regarding such independence,” summed up one historian.12 Adherents to a separate Palestinian identity were a mute minority on the West Bank and Gaza during the 19 years of Jordanian and Egyptian rule – until Israel took control from the Jordanians and the Egyptians in 1967. Suddenly a separate Palestinian peoplehood appeared and claimed it deserved nationhood – and 21 other Arab states went along with it.
Palestinianism in and of itself lacks any substance of its own. Arab society on the West Bank and Gaza suffers from deep social cleavages created by a host of rivalries based on divergent geographic, historical, sociological and familial allegiances. What glues Palestinians together is a carefully nurtured hatred of Israel and the rejection of Jewish nationhood.
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Palestine is a Geographical Area, Not a Nationality
The Arabs invented a special national entity in the 1960s 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.13 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 area between the Mediterranean Sea 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.”14
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 presented 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.”15
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.’16
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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: • The Jerusalem Post, founded in 1932, was called the Palestine Post until 1948.
• Bank Leumi L’Israel was called the “Anglo-Palestine Bank, a Jewish Company.” • The Jewish Agency – an arm of the Zionist movement engaged in Jewish
settlement since 1929 – was called the Jewish Agency for Palestine.
• The house organ of American Zionism in the 1930s was called New Palestine.
• Today’s Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1936 by German Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany, was called the “Palestine Symphony Orchestra, composed of some 70 Palestinian Jews.”17
• The United Jewish Appeal (UJA) was established in 1939 as a merger of the United Palestine Appeal and the fundraising arm of the Joint Distribution Committee.
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.18 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.19 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 claimed “Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the Jebusites” displaced when King David conquered Jerusalem. Arafat 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!20
Contradictions abound, Palestinian 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.
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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 Arab 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.21 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).”22
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 [as Palestine]! Palestine is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries, part of Syria.”23
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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 [Arab] history, absolutely not.” According to investigative journalist Joan Peters, who spent seven years researching the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine (From Time Immemorial, 2001) the one identity that was never considered by local inhabitants prior to the 1967 war was ‘Arab Palestinian.’24
Palestinian Cultural Contribution
Culturally, Palestinians cannot distinguish their endeavors from other Arabs. The only innovations Palestinians can take credit for are using skyjackings – which they initiated in 196825 as a political instrument, and suicide bombers – refined since the advent of the Oslo Accords in 1993 as a political weapon that now cynically is turning Arab’s own youth into suicide bombers that target other civilians.26 There is absolutely no precedent elsewhere in the world for the Palestinian 6th grade language primer that contains a poem exalting: “I will take my soul into my hands and hurl it into the abyss of death.”27 In the wake of the Palestinians’ newest guerrilla warfare against Israel, the al Aqsa Intifada launched by Arafat in September 2000, people are closely examining Palestinian claims to nationhood.
Barry Chamish, Dov B. Fischer, and countless others seek to ascertain the truth.28 If there is an ancient Palestinian history, why can’t they find any world- renowned Palestinian artists or scientists, or at least one Palestinian literary masterpiece or breakthrough invention – anything that distinguishes Palestinians as a people?29
Jordan – a State with a Palestinian Arab Majority
There is already a Palestinian state and a Palestinian people in everything but name: over 70 percent of all Jordanians are Palestinian Arabs. The British were assigned a Mandate over Palestine in 1920 in order to realize the 1917 Balfour Declaration that called for “establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine” – a geographical area that included western Palestine (today’s Israel and the West Bank) and Eastern Palestine (today’s Jordan). In 1923 Eastern Palestine, representing 77 percent of the Mandate territory, was excised to placate the Arabs, who opposed the idea of Jews returning to their ancient Jewish homeland. That 76 percent became a separate mandate, and in 1946 Eastern Palestine became the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (later renamed “Jordan” after the Jordanians occupied the West Bank) – a country which today is in everything but name, a Palestinian state carved out of Mandate Palestine.30 A full 70 percent of all Jordanians are Palestinian Arabs, and Palestinians occupy key positions in Jordan’s government and its economy. Even the Queen — King Abdullah II’s wife, Rania, is Palestinian. The remaining 30 percent of Jordan’s population is
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Bedouin, originating from the Arabian Peninsula, and including the Jordanian royal family, who hail from Mecca.
Arabs are not satisfied with one Palestinian political entity where they are the uncontested majority and have the political machinery and the territory for self- determination – Jordan. Instead, they want an additional state because twenty- one Arab states are not enough (and one Jewish state is one too many).
IN A NUTSHELL
• So-called ‘Palestinians’ are newcomers to Palestine. Most are generic Arabs who migrated to British Mandate Palestine from surrounding Arab countries to take advantage of the relative prosperity brought about by the Zionist Movement and the British Mandate.
• Palestine is a geographical area, not a nation. Before the establishment of Israel, members of two national entities – Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs – inhabited Mandate Palestine.
• A Palestinian people was artificially created in the 1960s by the PLO after the Six-Day War to rob Jews of their homeland and historical identity, and to paint them as victimizers and trespassers. The objective is to lay the groundwork for creating another Arab state at the expense of the Jews – whom Arabs consider an alien and illegitimate political entity in the Middle East.
• Over seventy percent of all Jordanians define themselves as Palestinians. That there exists a separate Palestinian people from the Jordanian population is a fabrication designed to force the creation of a second Palestinian state.
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