Palestine and Palestinians

Who are the real Palestinians and what is the real Palestine?

© David Burton 2005

1920 Map of Palestine

Biblically, Palestine, which is called the land of Canaan in the Old Testament, was promised to the descendents of Abraham by God (Ref. 1). In Exodus 6.2, we read, “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ ‘I . . . established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan  . . .’ ‘Say, therefore to the Israelite people: . . . I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I am the Lord.”

According to biblical accounts, following their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites conquered, settled and developed the land of Canaan. The biblical definition of this land is roughly the land from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River in what is now Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Genesis 15:18 (Ref. 2) reads, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I assign this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates . . .’“ Later, we read in Genesis 17:88 (Ref. 3) the following promise that God makes to Abraham, “I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding."

Following their conquest of Canaan, the kingdom of Israel was established. Later, the kingdom split into two rival kingdoms, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. In 135 A.D., after the second unsuccessful Jewish revolt against the Romans, the Romans renamed Judea (the kingdoms Israel and Judah) as Syria Palaestina. Today, Syria Palaestina has morphed into Palestine. The territory historically referred to as Palestine consists roughly of the present State of Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan.

In 1921, Great Britain’s Colonial Office, led by Winston Churchill, a suspected anti-Semite, unilaterally severed 80% of Palestine to create the emirate of Transjordan, now called Jordan (Ref. 4) “The British . . . set up monarchies for the offspring of their former ally, the Hashemite Sherif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, who had been deposed during the consolidation of Saud family rule in Arabia. They established a protectorate called Iraq and enthroned one son, Feisal, there. They also split off Transjordan (later Jordan), the portion of Palestine that lay east of the Jordan River, from the western part between the river and the Mediterranean Sea, and installed Feisal's brother Abdullah on the throne. In the western portion the British committed themselves to establishment of a national home for Jews.”(Ref. 5)

Clearly, there has never been an Arab state, country or entity called Palestine. Palestine was another name for the original Jewish Kingdom of Israel (later the Jewish Kingdoms of Judah and Israel). Arab Jordan, as well as Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula were both parts of the original Kingdom of Israel. “From the Arab perspective, the people who were already there when the Jews arrived were their descendents. Even if true, and scholars debate this, the “Palestinians” certainly were not associated with this land since they did not adopt their national identity as a people separate from other Arabs until the twentieth century.”(Ref. 6)

Historically, a Jewish presence has existed in Palestine for over 3,700 years. Throughout this period of time, the Jewish people have maintained a presence and a Hebrew language in this, their homeland.

When I was growing up during the 1940’s, I remember visiting my grandparents and seeing a small rectangular light blue box in their house. The box was a collection box provided by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The funds collected were used for buying land and planting trees in Palestine, which at that time was under the control (mandate) of Great Britain. Anyone who had a few loose coins would put them into this collection box and, when full, the box would be taken to the local JNF office for emptying. On the back of this box was a map labeled Palestine. That map covered the area that now comprises the State of Israel and the disputed territories of Gaza, the West Bank and Judea and part of the Golan Heights. There was no separate territory labeled “Arab Palestine”. Palestine meant the entire geographic area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, from Lebanon and Syria in the North to the Sinai and the Gulf of Aqaba in the South.

The “occupied” territories:

The so-called “occupied” territories, i.e., Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were captured and subsequently “occupied” by Israel following Israel’s victory over Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies that attacked Israel in 1967. Gaza had been under Egyptian occupation since they attacked Israel in 1948. The West Bank (and Eastern Jerusalem) had been under Jordanian occupation since they attacked Israel during Israel’s war of independence in 1948. And finally, the Golan Heights were under the control of Syria since 1948.

Dov Gilor, in an article appearing in The Jewish Press (Ref. 7), claims that, “. . . the ‘disputed’ territories (the West Bank) involve a dispute between Jordan and Israel. There never was an entity called ‘Palestinians’ that defined Arabs rather than Jews. We (the Jews) are the people of 'Palestine’, not the Arabs. . . . Up until Israel granted recognition to the Arabs of Palestine, even their own co-religionists ignored any claims they might have had (and historically, they never made any claims).” Finally, “. . . the ‘Arab refugee camps’ were the creation of the Jordanians, the Lebanese and the Egyptians who wanted nothing to do with these other Arabs and who wanted to continue the negative political pressure upon Israel and Jews.”

The "real Palestine" can therefore be said to encompass Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, and part of Iraq, while the appellation "Palestinians" can more objectively be applied to the Jews living in the "real Palestine". In thinking of "Palestine" as the Gaza strip and the West Bank and of the "Palestinians" solely as the Arabs living there, we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed and we have ignored the historical reality. As has been said before, if you repeat a lie often enough, the lie will  acquire the mantle of fact.

  1. TANAKH – The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society, pg 92, 1988.
  2. TANAKH – The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society, pg 22. 1988.
  3. TANAKH – The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society, pg 23, 1988.
  4. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, Bard, Mitchell, Alpha Books, Pg 22, 1999.
  5. From, Chapter 1, Background to War.
  6. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, Bard, Mitchell, Alpha Books, Pg 25, 1999.
  7. Occupied?, Gilor, Dov, The Jewish Press, pg 37, June 6, 2003.

  10 October 2005 {Article 2; Israel_01}    
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