ISRAEL VERSUS THE OCCUPIERS: The
History And Meaning Of "Palestine" And "Palestinian."
By Michael Bussio Jul-Aug 2006 Issue of Think-Israel
"From the end of the Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British
rule, the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a country and
had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries..." -- Professor Bernard
Lewis, Princeton University
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not." -- Professor
Philip Hatti, Arab historian to Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, 1946
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria." --
Delegate of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Security Council, 1956.
"Keep in mind that the Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands.
Israel represents one-tenth of one 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... No matter how many land concessions the Israelis
make, it will never be enough." -- Joseph Farah, Arab-American editor and
journalist, author of "Myths of the Middle East"
There has never been a Palestinian state in the history
of the region. Palestine has never existed as an autonomous entity. 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.
The "so-called" Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians
(another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, etc. Even the name
Palestine came from the Roman Emperor Hadrian around 135 A.D. after Rome
put down yet another Jewish revolt. The Emperor was increasingly angry over
the rebellious nature of Judah, Judea and Samaria that he was determined
to break the back of the stiff neck Jews once and for all. When asked, who
were the Jews most ardent enemies of the distant past, the Emperor was told
the Philistines; thus the name Palestina, which would later be morphed into
the word Palestine.
Nearly eighteen hundred years later, Great Britain took over that part of
the Middle East as a mandate from the League of Nations. The British chose
to call the land Palestine. It wasn't long before the various Arab tribes,
native Egyptians, Syrians, and Turks living in the area adopted the word
Palestine as if it were some ancient name passed down from their forefathers.
Strange, the Arabs couldn't even pronounce it correctly, and used the fictional
THE WORD -- "PALESTINE"
The word Palestine has never been used as a name of a nation or state, but
rather as a geographical term, used to designate the region at those times
The word Palestine comes from the name Peleshet. Peleshet appears frequently
in the Bible and entered into English as "Philistine". It dates to the thirteenth
century B.C. These people were thought to be the dangerous "Sea Peoples"
that so threaten the Aegean, Egypt, Syria, and present day Israel, Turkey,
and Lebanon. Historians and archeologist believe these "Sea Peoples" originated
from Greece and many of the Greek Islands. From there they would raid the
region for plunder and general destruction. Eventually they would establish
five independent city-states (including Gaza) on a narrow strip of land that
came to be known as "Philistia". The Greeks and Romans would call it Palestina.
At no time were the Philistines of old ever considered to be Arabs. They
were not even Semites. They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical
with Arabia or Arabs. The name "Falastin" that Arabs today use for "Palestine"
is not an Arabic name. It is the Arab pronunciation of the Greco-Roman
"Palestina" derived from Peleshet.
HOW DID THE LAND OF ISRAEL BECOME "PALESTINE"?
In the First Century after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Romans crushed
the independent kingdom of Judea. Though the Jews had successfully created
a nation state for the second time in their history (the first being that
of King David and King Solomon), it was eventually smashed by the Roman Emperor
Hadrian. In the Emperor's haste to wipe out the identity of
Israel-Judah-Judea-Samaria, (those areas that make up much of Israel today),
Hadrian not only defeated the Israelite armies and sent many Jews into exile,
but he took the name Palestina and imposed it on all the Land of Israel.
At the same time, he changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina.
|The Roman Empire would eventually extend its borders to the
Middle East with the conquest of Judea, Judah, Israel and Samaria. This region
would become a province of the pagan Roman Empire and then of the Christian
Byzantine Empire, and very briefly of the Zoroastrian Persian Empire. After
the death of Mohammad in the 600's A.D. the Arab-Muslim Caliph conquered
Palastina from the Byzantines, and made it apart of their Arab-Muslim Empire.
Since the Arabs had no name of their own for the area they opted for adopting
the name the Romans gave the region -- Palastina, which the Arabs pronounced
During this time in history, much of the mixed population of Palastina was
converted to Islam and eventually was pressured to adopt the Arabic language.
Whether they liked it or not the people of the region were subject to the
whims of a distant dictator, the Caliph. The area of Palastina at not time
ever became an Arabic nation, or ever became an independent Arabic state
of any kind, or ever developed a distinct Arabic culture and or society.
The year 1099 A.D. marked the first year of the First Crusade. It also was
the year the Christian Crusaders conquered Palastina-Falastin. After 1099,
it was never again under Arab rule. Though the Christian Crusader kingdom
was politically independent, it never developed a national identity. For
all intense and purposes it remained only a military outpost of Christian
Europe, and lasted less than one century. Thereafter, Palastina-Falastin
would be ruled as a subject province by Syria, then by the Egyptian dominated,
ethnically mixed slave-warriors known as Mameluks, and finally by the Ottoman
Near the end of World War I, the British led by the likes of General Allenby
and Lawrence of Arabia took control of Palestine from the Ottomans. Thus
with the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the war, its once subject
provinces came under the influence of the European powers. Palestine was
one of those subject provinces, and it came under the control of Great Britain
who would now govern the territory on a temporary mandate from the League
THE HISTORICAL HOME OF THE JEWS
Over the centuries many from the West traveled through
the region. They gave an excellent account of what they saw there. And what
they saw was depressing to say the least. All mentioned the land as being
empty, neglected, abandoned, and desolate. "Everything had fallen into
disrepair and ruins," one visitor said. An English pilgrim stated in 1590,
"There is nothing there (Jerusalem) to be seen but a little of the old walls
which is yet remaining, and all the rest is grass moss, and weeds". The British
consul to the region stated in 1957, "The country is in considerable degree,
empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population."
It was not unusual to hear from travelers returning home from this area of
the Middle East to assert that, "There is not a solitary village throughout
its whole extent [Valley of Jezreel] -- not for 30 miles in either direction...
One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings." It was reported
in Europe and the United States that, "For the sort of solitude to make one
dreary, come to the Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a moldering
ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted
by any living creature..." One visitor declared that the "country was desolate
whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent,
mournful expanse... a desolation.... We never saw a human being on the whole
route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus,
those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country..."
Even Mark Twain was taken by the devastation of the region, stating in his
1867 trip to the Palestine territory, "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes...
desolate and unlovely..."
The land would not maintain its "desolate and unlovely" image for long. With
the coming of Jewish pioneers in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century
who would join with the many Jews who already lived in the region from time
immemorial, the land began to turn green. Their hard work and diligence in
bringing the land back to life attracted many others in the Middle East who
sought employment opportunities and a better life style. Thus many Arab migrants
were drawn to the area in hopes of better conditions for their families.
"His Majesty's' government views with favor the establishment
in Palestine of a Jewish National Home, and will use their best endeavors
to facilitate the achievement of this object..." This was the Balfour
Declaration of 1917. It was validated by the League of Nations Mandate,
and thereby committed the British Government to the principle that there
would be a Jewish state in that portion of the Middle East. It also specified
that those Jews living in the region be preserved and protected.
The area in question that Britain had committed itself to, Mandated Palestine,
originally included all of what is now Jordan, as well as all of what is
now Israel, Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip. This would change when Britain's
wartime ally (World War I), Emir Abdullah was forced out of his Hashemite
domain in Arabia by the Saudi family. In order to preserve their alliance
however, Great Britain opted for making the former king ruler of a great
portion of Mandated Palestine and lands east of the Jordan River. There was
no traditional or historic Arab name for this land, so it was called after
the river: first Trans-Jordan and later just Jordan.
With the British violating their own declaration under the mandate, the proposed
ancestral and National Home for the Jews was cut by more than 75 percent.
From this point on, no Jew has ever been permitted to reside in
Trans-Jordan/Jordan. In addition, the British progressively restricted Jews
from building, farming, purchasing land, and living where they wanted within
Nonetheless, following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel finally entered those
lands long forbidden to them by the British and later by Jordan. Though one
British government after another went about denouncing Jewish settlement
as "illegal", the reality of the situation was that it was Great Britain
who was acting in an illegal manner by prohibiting Jews from these parts
of the ancestral Jewish National Home originally promised to them.
JUST WHO IS A PALESTINIAN?
While Britain mandated over the region, it was the Jews, not any Arab tribe
that was known as a Palestinian, including those Jews that served in the
British Army during the Second World War, while various Arab groups aligned
themselves with Nazi Germany.
More often than not it was British policy brought on by fits of anti-Semitism,
and Arab oil that continually restricted Jewish immigration. It was the 1939
White Paper that all but put to an end the admission of Jews to Palestine.
When Jews needed a helping hand the most, it was this White Paper that became
the death nil for Jews fleeing to the Promised Land, from the threat of
annihilation at the hands of Hitler's executioners. Jews who might have lived,
developed the nearly empty lands of Palestine, and prospered, were instead
murdered in the death camps that stretched out over Nazi occupied Europe.
While the British together with their Arab helpers were closing the door
to those Jews attempting to escape certain death in Europe, they were more
than willingly to permit massive illegal Arab immigration from Jordan, Syria,
Egypt, and North Africa into the ancestral lands of the Jews.
A famous myth states that the various Arab tribes have long established
themselves in Palestine. Then the Jews came and drove them out. This is of
course patently false, as any historian will tell us. History enlightens
us to the fact that it was the assortment of Arab tribes that entered the
region through illegal immigration and it was they who, with violence,
"displaced" the Jews. In fact this Arab violence was used against the Jews
in areas where they (the Jews) had long been established. For example, the
Jewish presence in the city of Hebron goes back to Abraham, and there has
been an Israelite/Jewish community there since Joshua, long before it was
King David's capital. In 1929, Arab rioters, with the passive consent of
the British, killed or drove out virtually the entire Jewish population.
The world community stood by and did nothing. The U.N. itself, no friend
to Israel and certainly not friend to any Jew, declared that the massive
increase in Arab population was very recent; that any Arab who had lived
in Palestine for two years and then left in 1948 qualifies as a "Palestinian
Nearly twenty years later, following the 1929 riots, the British created
the state of Trans-Jordan, which eventually seized much of Judea and Samaria
(i.e., the West Bank) East Jerusalem, and the old city. They killed or drove
out every Jew. And the world community stood by and did nothing.
As far as the British and the Arabs were concerned all lands where the Jews
had been driven from, making the land Judenrein would remain so for ever.
And the world once again stood by and did nothing. It is interesting to note
and by contrast, Israel, eventually allotted only 17 percent of Mandated
Palestine had to absorb a large and growing population of Arab citizens.
FROM PALESTINE BACK TO ISRAEL... AGAIN
By the time of the "third" Jewish nation -- Israel, the Arab tribes of the
region had still not yet discovered their ancient nation of Falastin. The
U.N. offered them (the Arab tribes) half of Palestine in 1947 -- half! And
what did the Arabs do with this offer to a non-people? They violently rejected
it. Soon, all to soon, six Arab nations swept down upon the only Jewish state
in the region with the intent of driving every last Jew into the sea. The
Arab goal was the complete eradication of Jewry in that portion of the Middle
East. And the stated goal of the Arab tribes in the area was the creation
of the 22nd Arab state known as Falastin.
The Arabs failed in their attempt to massacre the Jewish population of Israel.
Now the Arab tribes of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) even forfeited any
right to a nation of their own when their brethren in Trans-Jordan invaded
the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupied these territories, and killed
or drove out all the Jews who had lived there since time immemorial. The
Jews were banned for life from traveling and praying before Jewish holy places
in the region. In the meantime another Arab nation, Egypt succeeded in taking
the Gaza Strip. Both Egypt and Jordan held onto conquered lands until 1967.
In that same year the Arab nations that surrounded Israel initiated another
war of genocide. The end result however, was much like the first -- the Arabs
lost again in their bid to destroy the Jewish nation, and in consequence
lost lands they had taken in 1948.
In a nineteen-year span from 1948-1967, Jordan and Egypt never once, not
once, offered to hand over Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip to make up
an independent state of Falastin. Once more, the so-called "Palestinians"
never sought it. And not one nation in the entire world ever suggested it,
much less demanded it.
Since the end of the First World War, the Arabs of the Middle East and North
Africa have been given independent states in 99.5 percent of the land they
claimed. They are determined that the remaining .5 percent be developed into
yet another Arab nation at the expense of the lone Jewish state. To that
end, the Palestine Liberation Movement was set up in 1964 with the express
purpose of destroying the State of Israel and driving out of the region all
The sad truth today is that history has been thrown aside. Many nations,
including the United States have engineered media and public opinion to accept
without question; without any serious analysis the new myth of an Arab nation
of Falastin whose territory is unlawfully occupied by the Jews.
Michael Bussio is a former teacher of history. He has worked for INR at the
US Department of State in Washington D.C., lived in Israel, and is the author
of "Threat to America: A Citizen's Handbook on International Terrorism" (To
be published). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was submitted July 13, 2006.