Thursday, June 23, 2005

History of the Word "Palestine"

What is the origin of the word “Palestine?” Today, the word connotes the ethnic Arabs known as Palestinians that live in the areas of land surrounding Israel, titled “the Occupied Territories, or “shtachim,” in Hebrew, meaning “the camps” or “refugee camps.” But let us examine the historical development of this word. In 1932, the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, an institution whose goal was to motivate nations of the world into military, economic, and political cooperation, gave the now State of Israel, established in 1948, the name “Palestine.

This name was to be a neutral name for the inhabitants of the region, indicating no favor to any religious, ethnic, social, or political group. At this point in time, anybody living in the roughly established borders of Palestine was known as a Palestinian, which included Jews and Arabs both. Arabs were known as “Arab Palestinians,” some having been there for centuries and others because they came from many surrounding countries. As far as for the Arabs living in the region before it was named Palestine, they were not known as Palestinians but rather by their respective family grouping, usually a tribe or another grouping. From 1932 until 1948, Jews who were making their new lives there were not known as an Israeli’s, but rather as “Palestinians,” or “Jewish Palestinians,” and it is true that during this period of time, references to Palestinians were largely references to settling Jews. Before moving on, wrap your mind around the notion that Jews were returning to the land of their heritage after thousands of years, finding it exceedingly difficult to live in other lands, trying to make their future in the land of their past. Israel is the land of origin of the Jews. In fact, it is the only reason that they can be called “Jews.” (Read the posting "History of the Word 'Jew'")

Many of the Arabs were and are of the xenophobic notion that since the Jews that first came to Israel did not look like “the Jews of old,” due to their having lived in other countries for several generations, that they were somehow “not real Jews.” In short, this is a negation of identity based on appearance and culture. If we look past physical appearance, we will realize that appearance and culture do not negate their right to have a future in their birth land. There are black Muslims, Arab Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Philippine Muslims, white Muslims, and Iranian Muslims; do they all have the right to visit Mecca freely? According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad taught that there was no place in Islam for hierarchy between Muslims; if Muslims were to extend this teaching to the Jews, “whiteness” would not be an issue. It is important to mention that there is much racial and ethnic variation among Christians too (Mexican, Arab, Anglo, African, etc…).

The point is that the surrounding (Arab) Muslims were xenophobic towards the Jews based on the simple notion that they were European, but had fewer problems accepting the Jews of Arab countries because they shared cultural similarities, and perhaps had the same skin tone. However, when these same Middle Eastern Jews expressed the desire to live in Israel, the Muslims turned on them and many were kicked out (such as my grandparents). Therefore, the cultural similarities shared between Arab Jews and Arab Muslims were only skin-deep; their identity as Jews had to remain submissive to the Muslim hierarchy, and once they decided to step out of it they became enemies of the state.

It should be clear by now that the Arab intolerance of Jews had less to do with their being European and more to do with their being Jews. This is the basis of the claim that anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism; the Jews returned to and established Israel based on their right to live there as Jews, a right that the Arabs rejected. The rejection is related to both religious and political reasons, based on centuries of traditional Muslim teachings about Jews. Indeed, religious Muslim teachings, based in the Q’uran and Hadiths (commentaries on the Q’uran) teach that the Jews corrupted the Torah, leading Hashem to withdraw His promise from them. In short, Muslims believe that Jews have forsaken their right to Israel, and even to Hashem’s favor. The (shared) Muslim belief in the existence of the One G-d becomes irrelevant when their belief maintains that He only favors them. So even though Jews and Muslims believe in “the same G-d,” as He is commonly referred to, it ceases to matter when one group believes that He only “belongs” to them. This explains why the political slanders that come from the media sources of the Arabs known as Palestinians are anti-Jewish in nature. People who reject that anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism are perhaps not aware of the real motive beyond (readily admitted by its advocates) the nature of anti-Israelism.

Passport to Palestine

So where did the name “Palestine” come from? Going back about 2,000 years to the year 70, the Roman Empire was spreading its rule over much of the then-known world. The Jewish Holy Land, known as “Eretz Israel,” the “Land of Israel” to the Jews, was just one province under Roman rule at that time. Much of the politics for the Romans, who were invaders and occupiers of the Jewish land, revolved around the Temple that stood in the center of Jerusalem. In the year 70, the Roman army sacked and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, burning it to the ground, and tightened their grip on the everyday lives of Jews in the land of their own heritage, the land that gave birth to their religious, social, and ethnic identity. Jerusalem’s new name was to be “Aetolia Capitolina,” and (Eretz) Israel’s new name was to be “Philistina.” Philistina is the original word that later developed into “Palestine.” Today, when people use the name "Palestine," they are either misinformed, deliberate (anti-Semites), or some combination of the two. There is no logical reason for a person to refer to a non-existent country by a name that he or she wishes it to be named.

Passport to Philistina

Where did the word “Philistina” come from? Thousands of years before the Romans existed, lived an Israelite king named David. David was the king that began the building project of the Temple in Jerusalem, a central city to the land of Israel. The Land of Israel, referred to as “the land that I will show you” in the Torah, was promised to the ancestors of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by Hashem. One of the known national and political enemies of the Israelites was the Philistines, a sea-faring people living on the western coast of modern-day Israel on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and it is believed that they were a Greek people. After nearly two-thousand years had passed, when the Romans sacked and destroyed Jerusalem and overtook Israel, they renamed it, “Philistina.” The general practice of occupiers is to change names of towns, cities, entire lands, etc, in order to drive home the point that the land no longer belongs to its original inhabitants. By changing the name, the occupier attempts to drive a wedge between the original inhabitants of the land and the identity that is attached to it. The Romans took the name of the Philistines, who by this time having ceased to exist as any identifiable peoples, and applied it to Israel. By giving the name “Philistina” to Israel, the Romans were telling the Jews that their land, and their future there, was now in the hands of the Roman Empire. A deep sense of injustice and rebellion were in the air, and it was in this context, prior to the destruction of the Temple, the religious and spiritual center of Jewish living, that the movement of Jesus and his followers began. Philistina eventually became known as a region with roughly-delineated borders, much like “the Amazon,” which is a general area rather than anything that can be deemed as a country.

Throughout history, the name “Palestine,” a derivative of the word “Philistina,” was used to refer to the land by scholars, books, professors, etc. However, in the hearts and minds of Jews, many of whom were still living in the land as well as with others whom had left and been scattered to other places, Palestine was still known as “Eretz Israel,” the original homeland of their religious, social, and ethnic identity. Even through integration in their new homes, throughout the generations, Jews remained conscious of the Land of Israel, as they do today, citing both its significance to heritage and to Judaism. The essential core importance of the Land of Israel dates back to the original Biblical promise from Hashem to Abraham that his ancestors would inhabit it. Jewish theology, which believes in the entire world’s future embrace of G-dly concepts in day-to-day living, revolves around this promise, the Jews’ sovereignty in Israel, and rebuilding of the erected Temple in Jerusalem. This is further discussed in another section.

Passport to Israel

Palestine remained Palestine until 1948, when Jews established it as their political homeland and gave it the name the Modern State of Israel, or “Medinat Israel,” a country. The Jews who were previously referred to as “Palestinians,” were now known as “Israeli’s.” Logically, Ariel Sharon, the current Prime Minister of the State of Israel, was a Palestinian before he was an Israeli, both words that at points in time applied to Jews. Today, however, the term “Palestinian” has an entirely different connotation, as will now be examined. The irony of the term “a Palestinian state” is bizarre. In 1967, the same Arab states that tried to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state by destroying it, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, deployed an attack on Israel from three fronts. The ring leader behind the anti-Israel propaganda and political machismo of this movement was the Egyptian President, Gamel ‘Abd Al-Nasser. The war of 1967, also known as “The Six Day War,” because it lasted for six days, ending with Israeli victory (and survival), changed the status quo of both Israel and the Arab’s perspective on the country. In 1967, Israel’s shape and size changed, due to the land that it seized during the Six-Day War. Previously, Israel’s narrowest point was a nine-mile stretch between the city of Tel-Aviv and its border with Jordan, but after the war, the entire Sinai Desert (previously Egypt’s), the Golan Heights (previously Syria’s) and the area of land known as the “West Bank (previously Jordan’s),” because it lay on the west bank of the Jordan River fell under Israeli, and should we say, Jewish rule.

Ten years later the entire Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in the wake of peace talks between Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and between Egypt’s seemingly progressive President Anwar as-Sadat. The Golan Heights became the heated topic of land concessions between Israel and Syria, and which are still going on today. Rahman al-Qudwa The Arab states’ hatred towards Israel culminated in a war only in 1967, but Israel faced constant terrorist attacks by extremist Muslim Arab groups from before its inception, during it, up to 1967, and has faced a continuing policy of political blacklisting, televised hate propaganda for the youth, and terrorist attacks to this day. Some videos from Palestinian media can be seen here... (

Rahman al-Qudwa

In 1964, one such extremist Muslim Arab terrorist was a man named “Rahman al-Qudwa,” born in Egypt on August 4, 1929, began operating under the terrorist name “Yasser Arafat." During 1964, three years before the Six-Day War, Qudwa began employing the use of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as a means of political resistance towards the State of Israel, in line with the pre-existent desire of Arab states to put an end to Israel. Anti-Semites and anti-Israeli's commonly state that suicide bombing was the result of the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, which ignores that it began in 1964. Qudwa saw the Arab loss of the Six-Day War of 1967 as a new and powerful political justification by which to incite propaganda and inflict harm on Israel, in line with the perpetual Arab states wish to destroy it. The Six-Day War brought a population of Jordanian Arabs under Israeli rule. The already-existent Arab propaganda towards Israel made this an undesirable new state of existence for these Jordanians; no Arab, after having such distaste for the State of Israel, would want to live within its borders.

Qudwa’s anti-Israel tactic was one that neither the Arab world nor Israel had previously seen, it was to push for a “Palestinian state,” a concept that nobody has ever heard of in reference to Arabs. Furthermore, all twenty two Arab states had been established more than twenty years ago, why the sudden need for a twenty third? As was previously written, Israel, before 1948, was known as the region of Palestine, so what geographical area would constitute a “Palestinian state” in the year 1967, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War? In fact, the Arab states did not want there to be an independent Palestinian state before 1948, as long as it was to be a Jewish state. After 1967, Arab states rallied behind the Palestinian cause, because by this point, the definition of Palestinian nationalism had taken a 180 degree turn. Qudwa tried to depict “Palestinian nationalism” to the surrounding Arab states in the way that Theodore Herzl (the founder of Zionism) tried to persuade heads of government in Europe and wealthy Jews to donate money to the new Jewish state. In other words, he employed the same mechanisms that the Zionists used to create Israel and deliberately used the same terminology to paint a picture. The only difference was that his goal was not to simply create a Palestinian state, a twenty third Arab state in the Middle East, but to destroy Israel with it. He essentially invented what was an entirely unheard of narrative for the Jordanian Arabs under Israeli rule, keeping in mind that there were no political movements for “Palestinian nationalism” between 1948 and 1967.

Qudwa used all of the terms previously used to refer to Israel to refer to the “Palestinian cause.” The term “right of return” referred to the right of Jews to return to their homeland, Qudwa used to say that the “Palestinians” had the right to return to their homeland. “Diaspora” was a term that referred to the Jews living outside of Eretz Israel; Qudwa arbitrarily used this term to describe the Arabs that left Israel in the War of 1948 (Independence War) to the Jordanians that fell under Israeli rule in 1967 and said that these Arabs were living in the “Palestinian Diaspora.” According to the Balfour Declaration, the country of Jordan was to be an Arab Palestinian state, so by living in Israel were the Arabs in the “Palestinian Diaspora.” “Genocide” was one of the known causes for the establishment of the Jewish state; Qudwa was charging Israel with a Palestinian genocide. “Jewish homeland” was among the terminology describing Israel, Qudwa said that Palestine was the “Palestinian homeland,” and interestingly enough, that a united Jerusalem should be its capital.

To paraphrase Dennis Ross, “Arafat gave the Palestinians a past, but he did not give them a future.” Even the Palestinian flag is almost exactly the same as the Jordanian flag, minus a white eight-sided star. The ethnic identity of the Palestinians is largely Jordanian, given that Arabs from various countries married each other anyway, and their culture is accordingly similar. However, since the Six-Day War, the Palestinians have developed their own culture, one which has mixed traditional Muslim Arab culture, new ideas of nationality, and seething hatred of Israel. Televised Palestinian propaganda from the Palestinian Authority television station began to say that the Palestinians were actually descendants of the Canaanites, the people that were living in the land prior to both King David and to the Philistines, the very people whose name the Palestinians carry. The Canaanites existed, but the Palestinians are not their descendants.


If the Palestinians actually believe that they are the descendants of the Canaanites is questionable, but the fact remains that the purpose of this propaganda is to recast themselves as the Canaanites, who the Israelites removed from the land upon entering it. This has clear propaganda purposes and no basis in reality. The most ironic thing about the Palestinian movement is that it ended causing great suffering, economic depression, and sadness among the new Palestinians, causing them enormous anger at their situation, which Qudwa, with deliberation, directed at Israel. The result: a group of people who think that they are historically deserving of a state of their own. By now, of course, they are in such a state of trauma, and the surrounding Arab states are unwilling to help alleviate their problems but rather fuel the flames, that one proposes a Palestinian state just in order to end their suffering. Would this be a just solution?

If anyone belongs in "Palestine," Jews do.


haKiruv said...

Awesome post

YJ Draiman for City Council said...

The Palestinian Arabs are the occupiers of Jewish land

Tell the World the are delusional in thinking that Arabs belong in Israel - There will never be a an Arab/Palestinian State together or adjacent to Eretz Israel.
There has never such a nation as the Palestinian/Arab People.
The Arab/Moslem Koran specifically states in

The Qur'an 17:104 - states the land belongs to the Jewish people

If the historic documents, comments written by eyewitnesses and declarations by the most authoritative Arab scholars are still not enough, let us quote the most important source for Muslim Arabs:

"And thereafter we [Allah] said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd'.".

Any sincere Muslim must recognize the Land they call "Palestine" as the Jewish Homeland, according to the book considered by Muslims to be the most sacred word and Allah's ultimate revelation.

Any building of housing in The Greater Israel is the right and duty of the Israeli government. There is no such a thing as occupied territory. It is the land of Israel for over 4,000 years.

Sequence of historical events, agreements and a non-broken series of treaties and resolutions, as laid out by the San Remo Resolution, the League of Nations and the United Nations, gives the Jewish People title to the city of Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

Let the Arab nation take the Palestinian Arabs and settle the in the Million plus Jewish home that they evicted from their countries and allow the Jewish nation to live in peace.

A true peace in the Middle East will be an economic phenomenon that the world has never seen. But this can only be accomplished when there is a real peace. The Arabs must stop preaching and teaching hate.

Any liberal Israeli that is delusional about Arab intention and wants to give any land in Israel to the Arabs should live Israel, he does not belong in Israel.

YJ Draiman, Northridge, CA

jjew said...

Mr. Draiman, thank you very much for taking the time to find this post and commenting on it and your comments are also valuable.

What is also interesting is that Arabs living in Israel live very cosmopolitan lives and are almost completely integrated into society, with some making higher salaries than Jews. There are also certain industries that are populated largely by Arabs, which we know is another way of saying "steady income." The train track being built through the center of town in Jerusalem is comprised largely of Arab labor. The same goes for construction jobs, bus and taxi drivers, bankers, government buildings, and warehouse laborers.