By Lee Bender
In the Middle East, not all narratives are valid or equal; some are based on lies. And the biggest falsehood of them all is the narrative of the Palestinian Arabs.
Their story goes something like this: The “Palestinians” are the indigenous people of “Palestine,” with a history that stretches back 5,000 years to the Canaanites; the Jews have no claim or connection to the land, including the Temple Mount; the Jews are colonizers and a European implant — and stole Palestinian land; the creation of the State of Israel was a nakba, a catastrophe; and the Palestinian Arabs have an eternal “right of return.”
Is any of this accurate? Hardly. In reality, the Palestinian Arabs have an invented history.
Palestine was a place — not a people. The Romans renamed the entire region Syria-Palestina after they destroyed the Second Temple. Why? Because they wanted to erase the Jewish connections to the land. The Philistines were a seafaring people, the Assyrians were Greek in origin, and both were enemies of the Jews. The name of Syria-Palestina was later shortened to Palestina (Palestine in English).
Furthermore, most Palestinian Arabs are not native to the land. Ancestrally, culturally, linguistically and religiously, they are akin to neighboring regional Arabs. As far as I’m aware, the first reference to Arabs as “Palestinians” was when the Palestine Liberation Organization was established in 1964.
Most Palestinian Arabs cannot trace their own lineage to the land of Israel more than four generations (see Joan Peters’ 1984 book, From Time Immemorial) and are primarily descendants of those who immigrated from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other Arab countries for economic opportunities, when the Jews started making the land flourish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Most place names used by local Arabs are non-Arabic in origin; in fact, they are often derived either from biblical Hebrew names, or from Greek or Roman names (i.e., An-Nasira was Nazareth, Nablus was Neapolis). About 25 percent of the 584 Arab localities in Israel and beyond the Green Line have ancient biblical names.
In his 1932 book, The Peoples of Our Land, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who later became Israel’s second president, stated that west of the Jordan River, 277 villages and sites — which is almost two-thirds of all sites — had names that were similar or the same as Jewish villages on these sites during the Second Temple time.
The region that the international community regularly and mechanically refers to as the West Bank, which Jordan renamed in the 1950s, was known for 3,000 years as Judea and Samaria. Indeed, Jews derive the very name of their religion and peoplehood from the name Yehuda, who was the fourth son of Jacob and whose tribe settled in that region. This is also where Jerusalem is located, including the Old City, the Temple Mount, the Jewish Quarter and the Mount of Olives Cemetery. The United Nation’s 1947 Resolution 181, which proposed the partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs, referred to the region as Judea and Samaria — as do all maps published before 1948.
Here are some other facts: Palestinian Arabs have not ruled the land for even one day in history; there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the 1860s; Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times in the Bible, but not once in the Quran; there is massive and incontrovertible archeological proof of Jewish connection to the land; the Quran recognizes the land of Israel as the heritage of the Jews; in its yearly guide books of al-Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) from the 1920s to the 1950, the Supreme Muslim Council stated that “the identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute”; the Arabs have rejected a state living side-by-side with Israel six times since 1937; before 1948, the term “Palestinians” was used by the Jews to refer to themselves and their organizations, i.e. The Palestine Post, the Palestine Orchestra and the Palestine Electric Company; Arabs commonly referred to themselves as “southern Syrians” or “Arabs”; there is no trace in art, literature or history of any Muslim people referred to as “Palestinians”; Jews remained in the land for 3,000 years, despite wars, foreign rule, the Crusades and pogroms; and half of the Jewish population in Israel descends from Jews expelled from vast Arab lands that they had lived in going back hundreds of years.
The Palestinian Arabs can call themselves whatever they wish, but their history should be based on provable facts and truth — not distortions and lies, nor a negation of Jewish history.
Lee Bender is the co-author of the book, Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z (Pavilion Press 2012), co-developer of the website and app, factsonisrael.com, and co-president of the Zionist Organization of America-Philadelphia.