When Republican candidate Newt Gringrich dropped his bombshell in December last year, stating categorically that “There was no Palestine as a state – it was in fact part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people”, he resurrected a debate which has raged since long before the start of the destructive Israeli-Palestinian conflict; but to what end?
In his article in the Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith wrote, “The real question, then, is not whether Palestinian nationalism is “authentic,” but whether this particular national fiction is useful. Gingrich’s proposed alternative identity for the Palestinians – linking these Arabic-speaking, non-Jewish residents of the territories to the rest of the “the Arab people” – is bad for the region, the United States, and Israel.” (http://www.tabletmag.com/news-and-politics/86826/useful-fiction/),
So how valuable is it to debate this issue? Will knowing the origins of the Palestinians lead to a quicker resolution of the conflict, a greater understanding of its roots, a more acceptable cognition of how best to bring peace to the region? Hardly likely.
For the Jewish and much of the Western world, today’s Palestinians are indeed a construct emanating from an “invented” nation. Probably in agreement with this, therefore, “Palestinian Arabs“ have been used as pawns by all other Arab countries determined to destroy Israel. No other Arab country accepts as full citizens any of these Palestinians, seeing them instead as useful only as tools to exterminate Israel and all the Jews in the Middle East. Besides that, their welfare is of no concern to the rest of the Arab world.
The Palestine National Authority’s website offers almost nothing on the history of the Palestinian people. Other than the article headed “Palestinian History: 20th Century Milestones”, which doesn’t have any information on the Palestinians prior to 1900, and its reference to a Passia Publications book entitled “100 years of Palestinian history: A 20th Century Chronology”, there is a paucity of details on them confirming that just over 100 years ago there was no such concept as the “Palestinian people.”
Despite Arab and Palestinian claims that the country was settled by Palestinians for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the Land of Israel, according to dozens of visitors to the land, was, until the beginning of the last century, practically empty. In 1835 Alphonse de Lamartine, returning from a visit there, wrote in his book, Recollections of the East, “Outside the gates of Jerusalem we saw no living object, heard no living sound..” Then in 1867, American author Mark Twain in his book, Innocents Abroad, wrote, “A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely.. We never saw a human being on the whole journey.” Adding to this reality, an 1857 report from the British Consul in Palestine stated: “The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population.”
On March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published the following interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein:
“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. 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. For tactical reasons Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
In the 1948 Israeli War of Independence between the neighbouring Arab countries and Israel, the Arab countries sent no help for the people today known as “Palestinians” but instead sent troops to drive the Jews into the sea. Most of the “Palestinian Arabs“, who at that time were called Arabs, fled to avoid the fighting. The name “Palestinians” was invented by the media world after 1967.
In the history of the world, Palestine has never existed as a nation. The region known as Palestine was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian Crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their ancestral homeland. It was never ruled by Arabs.
According to official Ottoman Turk census figures of 1882, in the entire “Land of Israel” (http://masada2000.org/historical.html), there were only 141,000 Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab. By 1922 the number had increased to 650,000 Arabs, and by 1938 that number would become over 1 million. According to the Arabs the huge increase in their numbers was due to natural childbirth, but the statistics belie that; so if that was not the case, then were did all these Arabs come from? It could only have been from the neighbouring Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. And they were definitely not Palestinians, but instead a generic collection of Arabs from all over the rest of the Arab world.
But the Palestinians do not believe it. They believe they have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them the right of self-determination. Based on this, therefore, one must question why they never tried to become an independent and sovereign nation until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the Six Day War in 1967; and why they have rejected every offer put to them by Israel since then, which would lead to peace and give them a state of their own. So many questions, so few answers.