Are the Palestinians a separate and unique people, different from the other Arabs? When did the notion arise – of the Palestinians as a separate Arab people?
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, Iraqis, etc. Keep in mind that the Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel represents one-tenth of 1 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. Greed. Pride. Envy. Covetousness. No matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will never be enough. – Joseph Farah, Arab-American journalist, editor and CEO of WorldNetDaily
The concept of “Palestinians” is one that did not exist until about 1948, when the Arab inhabitants, of what until then was Palestine, wished to differentiate themselves from the Jews. Until then, the Jews were the Palestinians. There was the Palestinian Brigade of Jewish volunteers in the British World War II Army (at a time when the Palestinian Arabs were in Berlin hatching plans with Adolf Hitler for world conquest and how to kill all the Jews); there was the Palestinian Symphony Orchestra (all Jews, of course); there was The Palestine Post; and so much more.
The Arabs who now call themselves “Palestinians” do so in order to persuade a misinformed world that they are a distinct nationality and that “Palestine” is their ancestral homeland. But they are no distinct nationality at all. They are the same – in language, custom, and tribal and family ties – as the Arabs of Syria, Jordan, and beyond. There is no more difference between the “Palestinians” and the other Arabs of those countries than there is between, say, the citizens of Minnesota and those of Wisconsin.
What’s more, many of the “Palestinians”, or their immediate ancestors, came to the area attracted by the prosperity created by the Jews, in what previously had been pretty much of a wasteland. – New York Times, June 12, 2000 (via CFICEJ’s ISRAEL REPORT May/June 2000)
Meeting in Cairo in 1964, the Arab League resolved to divert the waters of the Jordan River, which are vital for Israel’s existence. At that same conference, there was a public declaration of the intention to destroy Israel, and the PLO was founded. – Anita Shapira, The New Republic, 29 November, 1999
It is mainly in the past few decades that “Palestinian” has been co-opted by the Arabs, as if the name belongs exclusively to them, pretending to have a long history and independent national identity. Until 1967, most of those who now call themselves Palestinians were reasonably happy with their Jordanian citizenship and with calling themselves “Jordanians” Even today, there is strong support among the “Palestinian” majority of Jordan for their Hashemite monarchy, though King Hussein relies on his Bedouin troops when he needs absolute loyalty.
The use of a term like “Palestinian” without the suffix “Arab” and the term “Israeli-Occupied Palestine” have served to confuse the public into thinking that there has always been an independent “Palestinian” people which hasn’t been given the opportunity for self-determination. In fact, any such failure has been the fault of the government of Jordan, which covers the majority of what was once known as “Palestine” and in which the majority of Palestinian Arabs live.
“Palestinians” [are an] Arab people no one heard of before 1967 before Israeli governments certified this piece of propaganda… As has been noted many times before, prior to 1948, that is before Jews had begun to call themselves Israelis, the only persons known as “Palestinians” were Jews, with the Arabs much preferrring to identify themselves as part of the great Arab nation. – David Basch
The actual word “Palestine” came from the Romans, not the Arabs, and there has never been an independent country or state of Palestine, nor a Palestinian rule. Yet we are led to believe that there are Palestinians and then there are Arabs.
Avi Erlich wrote in his book Ancient Zionism, A Palestinian Arab claim to the Land of Israel cannot rise above a claim to houses, lost from the larger Arab Empire. Neither Moorish homes in Cordoba nor Arab homes in Jerusalem can reasonably constitute lost nations. …Homeland represents the grafting of a specific place with a specific national idea. No Palestinian idea beyond the claim to land or other lost property has ever been articulated. Borrowed and usurping nationhood does not count.
Palestine has always constituted a single geographical, political and demographic unit with Greater Syria and Egypt. On its soil the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt intermingled. Palestine also witnessed, as a land bridge linking Asia, Africa, and Europe, several movements and waves of conquerors who dominated it for different periods of time and left behind varying degrees of influence. – By Abdul Jawad Saleh, in Transformation of Palestine, printed in Challenge, February 1995, published on the WWW by the Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society, Bir Zeit University, the West Bank
Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:
“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.”
“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.” – Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, a local Arab leader, to the Peel Commission, 1937
“Palestine was part of the Province of Syria… …politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.” – The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted this in a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947
“It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.” – Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, to the UN Security Council
The Romans had changed the name of the Land of Israel to “Palestine.” But from A.D. 640 until the 1960s, Arabs referred to this same Land as “Southern Syria.” Arabs only started calling the Land “Palestine” in the 1960s. Until about the eighteenth century, the Christian world called this same Land, “The Holy Land.” Thereafter, they used two names: “The Holy Land” and “Palestine.” When the League of Nations in 1922 gave Great Britain the mandate to prepare Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people, the official name of the Land became “Palestine” and remained so until the rebirth of the Israeli State in 1948. During this very period, the leaders of the Arabs in the Land, however, called themselves Southern Syrians and clamored that the Land become a part of a “Greater Syria.” This “Arab Nation” would include Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan as well as Palestine. An observation in TIME magazine well articulated how the Palestinian identity was born so belatedly in the 1960s:
Golda Meir once argued that there was no such thing as a Palestinian; at the time, she wasn’t entirely wrong. Before Arafat began his proselytizing, most of the Arabs from the territory of Palestine thought of themselves as members of an all-embracing Arab nation. It was Arafat who made the intellectual leap to a definition of the Palestinians as a distinct people; he articulated the cause, organized for it, fought for it and brought it to the world’s attention.
If there was an Arab Palestinian culture, a normal population increase over the centuries would have been expected. But with the exception of a relatively few families, the Arabs had no attachment to the Land. If Arabs from southern Syria drifted into Palestine for economic reasons, within a generation or so the cultural tug of Syria or other Arab lands would pull them back. This factor is why the Arab population average remained low until the influx of Jewish financial investments and Jewish people in the late 1800s made the Land economically attractive. Then sometime between 1850 and 1918, the Arab population shot up to 560,000. Not to absolve the Jews but to defend British policy, the not overfriendly British secretary of state for the colonies, Malcolm MacDonald, declared in the House of Commons (November 24, 1938), “The Arabs cannot say that the Jews are driving them out of the country. If not a single Jew had come to Palestine after 1918, I believe the Arab population of Palestine would still have been around 600,000. . .”
Because Arabs until the 1960s spoke of Palestine as Southern Syria or part of Greater Syria, in 1919 the General Syrian Congress stated, “We ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine.” In 1939 George Antonius noted the Arab view of Palestine in 1918:
Faisal’s views about the future of Palestine did not differ from those of his father and were identical with those held then by the great majority of politically-minded Arabs. The representative Arab view was substantially that which King Husain [Grand Sherif of Mecca, the great grandfather of the current King Hussein of Jordan] had expressed to the British Government. . . in January 1918. In the Arab view, Palestine was an Arab territory forming an integral part of Syria.
Referring to the same Arab view of Palestine in 1939, George Antonius spoke of “the whole of the country of that name [Syria] which is now split up into mandated territories…” His lament was that France’s mandate over Syria did not include Palestine which was under Britain’s mandate.
Syrian President Hafez Assad once told PLO leader Yassir Arafat:
You do not represent Palestine as much as we do. Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian People, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people, Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people.
Assad stated on March 8, 1974, “Palestine is a principal part of Southern Syria, and we consider that it is our right and duty to insist that it be a liberated partner of our Arab homeland and of Syria.”
In the words of the late military commander of the PLO as well as member of the PLO Executive Council, Zuhair Muhsin:
There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity….yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.
The following are significant observations by Christians of the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s:
The Arabs themselves, who are its inhabitants, cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it.
Stephen Olin, D.D., L.L.D., called one of the most noted of American theologians after his extensive travels in the Middle East wrote of the Arabs in Palestine “…with slight exceptions they are probably all descendants of the old inhabitants of Syria.”
Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank.
…the Arab leadership realized how much more effective they could make their efforts to “throw the Jews into the sea” if they became Palestinians rather than Arabs. By then, the Jews of this country (the only people called Palestinians before the War of Independence) were named Israelis. Even The Palestine Post became The Jerusalem Post. By adopting the name ‘Palestinians’ the Arabs succeeded in converting the Arab-Israeli conflict from a war of annihilation against the Jewish population to a struggle of dispossessed natives against colonialist invaders. It was a spectacularly effective canard, eventually adopted by Israel’s own fiction weavers, the ‘new historians.’ – David Bar-Illan, The Jerusalem Post, ‘Eye on the Media’, November 5, 1999
Kudos to The Peace Encyclopedia: Palestinians