Jewish Palestinians

Here is a question.  If there are Palestinian Muslims and there are Palestinian Christians, how is it that there are no Palestinian Jews?

Here is a possible answer.

18th-century Palestinian rabbi Raphael Chayyim Isaac Carregal. Born in Hebron, Palestine, Oct. 15, 1733.

Prior to 1948 the Jews of the British Mandate of Palestine referred to themselves as “Palestinian” in a manner not unsimilar to the way that I refer to myself as a “Californian.”  The Jerusalem Post was the Palestine Post, the Israeli Opera was the Palestine Opera and so forth and, therefore, the Arabs did not use that attribution.  It was only after the formal establishment of Israel that the Arabs could start comfortably calling themselves “Palestinian” and most did not do so until the late 1960s.

{In this way, I am myself older than are the “Palestinians” as a people.}

So much of our approach to understanding the Arab war against the Jews is trapped in outmoded tendencies of thought that are buttressed by loaded terminology derived from the so-called “Palestinian narrative.”  “West Bank,” for example, always leaps to mind.  The very term “West Bank” deletes 4,000 years of Jewish history on Jewish land, yet it is used daily by almost everyone who discusses the ongoing war.

The term “Palestinian” serves a similar function, except inside out and backwards.  If “West Bank” erases Jewish history, “Palestinian” invents a distinct nation, with a contrived history, where no such nation was previously understood to exist.  “Palestine” is simply a word that the Romans used to rename Judea and Samaria after the Philistines.  Once the Romans destroyed and scattered the Jewish remnant in the First Century CE they renamed Judea and Samaria (or Yehuda and Shomron in the Hebrew, if you prefer) after the ancient enemies of the Jewish people.

In the twentieth-century, of course, “Palestine” referred to the British Mandate of Palestine.  In this way “Palestine” was merely considered a region or a district and the people who called themselves “Palestinians” were mainly the Jewish residents of the area.  The term was never meant to denote a distinct ethnicity or nation any more than, say, Saharan represents a distinct ethnicity or nation.

Or, for that matter, Californian.

Everyone who resides in the state of California is a “Californian.”  No specific ethnic group who live here get to decide that they, and only those of their choosing, can legitimately refer to themselves as “Californian.”  Any effort to legalize such ridiculous distinctions would be laughed directly out of the halls of Sacramento.

The biggest mistake that Israel ever made was in recognizing a newly formed and allegedly separate group of Arab-Muslims who started calling themselves “Palestinian.”  From a historical stand-point there never was any such distinct people until Arafat and the Soviets conjured them up toward the end of the twentieth-century for the specific purpose of challenging Jewish claims to historically Jewish land.

Before that the local Arabs and Muslims – many, if not most of whom, hailed from surrounding regions – defined themselves according to ethnicity, as Arab, according to religion, as Muslim, and according to both family and tribe.  What they did not do is define themselves as “Palestinians” because until 1948 they generally considered the “Palestinians” to be Jews.

The historical prestidigitation performed by Arafat and friends is nothing short of remarkable and is truly a testament to long-term thinking and creative anti-statesmanship.  They had a specific goal, to obliterate and replace Jewish sovereignty on the land where Jews come from.  In order to accomplish this goal the PLO started referring to the local Arabs as “Palestinians” and once that was accepted by the international community it became easy to suggest that the indigenous Palestinian people are under the jack-boot of Zionist imperialism and oppression… or however else one might wish to formulate the anti-Semitic, because anti-Zionist, talking points.

So, yes, everyone who resides in the former British Mandate of Palestine is “Palestinian,” if we insist on using outmoded and counterproductive terms of expression.  But if we must use the term “Palestinian” than we should make it clear that this recent social construction of an identity is entirely “racist” and discriminatory in its essence because those who claim that identity do so in an exclusionary manner.

Not that Jews want to be “Palestinian,” of course, but everyone who resides in what was the British Mandate of Palestine is, in that sense, a “Palestinian.”

First Published at ISRAEL THRIVES

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  1. Wow! really got what i was looking from this post . Thanks
    קבלה, חכמת הקבלה, הדף היומי, kabbalah

  2. Michael, as always a really interesting and informative article.

    it’s always puzzled me how the world has fallen for the construct of Arabs as Palestinians who are longing to return to their ancient homeland. When Jordan illegally occupied Judea and Samaria in 1948, the Arabs never claimed to be Palestinians and only discovered their long-lost indigenous status when Israel reclaimed her land in the 1967 defensive war.

    That the world so readily fell for this stunt suggests that they were already predisposed to think badly of the Jewish State, and jumping on the ‘Palestinians’-as-victims narrative was a great excuse to hide their animus towards Jews by pretending to care about this fictitious people.

    • It seems to me, Pam, that the Jewish people are under no ethical or legal obligation to recognize a people who only recently constructed themselves as a distinct people, for the sole purpose of robbing Jews of autonomy and self-defense on historically Jewish land.

      This may sound rather hard, but we owe them nothing.

  3. Michael, I would go further and say not only do we not have an obligation to recognize this false claim, but we should expose their (largely successful) attempt at identity theft. They have stolen our our birthright, our land and revised history, so that much of the world thinks Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. They are not Palestinians, but Arabs, whose origins are in Arabia. They have already taken 75% of mandate Palestine to carve out Jordan, an artificial country which, unlike Israel, has no legitimate historical right to exist.

  4. Larry Langman

    Michael might I suggest that you are being extremely mischievous and leading poor Pam Hopf into some unfortunate observation and claims. You and I both know that prior to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922, which formally defined a geopolitical region called Palestine; Palestine was made up of the sanjuks of jerusalem, Acco and Nablus within the Eyyet of Damascus. So yes technically “Palestine” did not exist. But you also know the old regional name of Syria-Palestine was a recognised designation for the region and that the terms “Palestine” or “Syria-Palestine” was used in most western documentation describing the area. Certainly all the military maps on both sides used in WW1 and earlier used this designation, and had done so from the Byzantine period.

    Michael I also thought your intro a bit cheeky – Jews arriving in Palestine from 1881 called themselves Palestinians or Palestinian Jews – the term Palestinian or Palestinian Jew had been applied to Jews in Europe for centuries. And in the main it was because Jews arriving in the Yeshuv applied the term to themselves that the Arab population didn’t in negotiations with the mandate powers, as you rightly note.

    As a final kicker to your argument….right up to the day of the declaration of the state of Israel, there was still debate as to whether the State would be called Palestine,Zion or Israel in Arabic….so we could have easily have been called Palestine in Arabic, But it was finally decided to call the state Israel in Arabic….because they knew that when an Arab state was created it would probably be called Palestine.

    So the Palestinians have every right to call themselves Palestinians and its what the founders of Eretz Isra’el thought they should call themselves.

    • Larry, since you condescendingly describe me as ‘poor’, I suspect you are doing so to discredit my argument. It’s a rule of JDU that personal attacks are not allowed. I have already been subject to one lot of personal attacks recently, which reflect badly on the attacker, not on myself. Please simply address the issue.

      It’s quite clear that the Arabs used the term “Palestinian” to give themselves a status as indigenous to the area which is Israel and therefore to claim to be the rightful owners of the land, which the Jews stole from them. They never described themselves as Palestinians before the 1960s.

      Jews are indigenous to the land and were able to return when the State of Israel was reborn.

      • Larry Langman

        Pam you are absolutely right . I unreservedly apologise to you for its use and might I say to other members of this discussion for the tone of its use. I rarely enter discussions of this nature and you have properly drawn my attention to the need to consider others.

        Again my apology to you.

    • Larry, thank you for that interesting comment.

      There is much here for me to chew upon… so I will do so and respond sometime within the coming days.

      Peace to you, please.

    • Larry,

      thank you for this very thoughtful and interesting comment.

      When you write, “so we could have easily have been called Palestine in Arabic,” should I take that to mean that you are Israeli?

      In any case, we both agree that a country of “Palestine” has never existed in history.

      And although you reference the fact that Europeans used the term and Ottomans perhaps did, the local Arabs never considered themselves to be “Palestinian.”

      And that is the point.

      They only took it up as a means of contesting Jewish sovereignty.

      Do you disagree, because nothing that you have written above suggests so.

      You are clearly a smart guy and I would be happy to talk it out.

  5. Hilary Rubinstein

    More fool the Israelis for acquiescing in the “Palestinian” rebrand. Caroline Glick seems to be one of the few to use the term “Palestinian Arabs”.

    • Actually Hilary, more and more people are coming on board finally with Palestinian Arabs as a general term. That of course is not including our very politically correct Community groups, like the ZFA, AIJAC and the like, plus the Israeli Press.

      I say the Arabs in Judaea & Samaria, and just about everyone now is calling the inhabitants of Gaza, Gazans.

    • Hilary, yes Israel has made some unfortunate decisions, including handing governance of the Temple Mount to the Muslim waqf. Shirlee, your descriptions more accurately reflect the reality; the terms Judaea and Samaria should be used, not the West Bank, which Jordan renamed the area in order to de-Judaise it when they illegally occupied the area, plus Gazans for the Arabs living in Gaza. Many of places like Gaza, Jericho and of course Hebron are where Jewish history unfolded. It’s sad to think they are mostly off limits to Jews.

  6. Leon Poddebsky

    It is not for me to define the national or pseudo-national collective character of those Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians.”

    Any objective observer with integrity cannot, however, sweep under the carpet the assertions of many authoritative Arabs over a long period who have taken an unambiguous position on the matter. The following is a sample collection of their position:

    Professor Philip Hitti, doyen of Arab historiography, stated, “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”

    The late president Hafez el-Assad of Syria told Yasser Arafat that “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria.”

    King Hussein of Jordan declared, “The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”

    Zouhair Mohsen, leader of the a sayiqa terrorist organisation, let the cat out of the bag big time when he told a Dutch journalist, “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…

    Anthropologists will tell you, in any case, that the structure of “Palestinian” Arab society is based on hamoulas or clans, and that it does not conform to the nation model.
    It is also an irrefutable fact that during the anti-Zionist phase of the British Mandate, the British authorities encouraged and facilitated illegal Arab immigration into the Land of Israel in order to give the Arabs an overwhelming demographic advantage.and many of these Arabs still have a powerful affinity with the Arabs of their countries of origin.
    Today these illegal Arab settlers and their descendants, many of them, are self-declared mortal enemies of Israel.

    In any case, regardless of such a powerful Zionist case against the idea of yet another Arab state, the Zionist movement has always been prepared to share sovereignty in the Land.
    Not since 1919, however, when the acknowledged leader of the Arab nation, the Emir Faisal , declared that his nation welcomed the beginnings of the evolution of the reborn Jewish nation-state, where, he declared, the Jews’ presence would benefit all the peoples of the region, has any Arab leader acknowledged Jewish national rights. On the contrary.

    Moreover, it should be obvious to any informed observer of recent events that the notion of the nation-state is a foreign one among the Arabs. Their origins are tribal and for most of their history they were organised as an empire of conquest, not as a collection of separate nation-states.

    All of the above notwithstanding there are many in the Western world today who are prepared to support the existence of the utterly artificial “states” of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, all of which are fabricated imperialist creations, but the same Western champions of Arab nationalism bitterly, passionately, zealously abominate the idea of one of the most ancient nations, the Jewish one, enjoying self-determination in its homeland.

    What’s more these very same Westerners are at best uncomfortable with the presence of successful Jews among them, and at worst wish they would go somewhere else.

  7. Leon, yes it’s puzzling that the Western world has no problem with recognising the artificial states in the Middle East, but resent Israel, which is the only state based on an ancient Kingdom. There has always been a pro-Arab bias in Europe, and a concomitant anti-Israel bias.

    Dry Bones quiz is as relevant as ever –

  8. Larry Langman

    Hilary with respect, the leaders of the Jewish Agency made a right call in removing the term “Palestine” from the language of discourse; instead opting for the term Israel to identify the State, the Land and the People who would occupy this corner of the middle east. They wisely to my view made it so in English, Arabic and Ivrit. I personally never use the term Palestine when I mean Israel and I am always keen to understand what someone else is referring to when they use the term. I would encourage all readers of this discussion to also be acutely concerned when that term is used as to what is being referred to. The Emperor Hadrian coined the term to remove reference of Israel or Judah from the record. After the blood sweat and tears it took to restore the term Israel 1900 after Hadrian removed it, While I am happy enough to talk about Gazan, Israelli Lebanese, Syrian or even Jordanian Arabs – the term “Palestinian Arab” is one that I would logically ask the question “When you refer to Palestinian….what are you referring to?”

  9. Useful article! Came across it while researching the book I’m writing. But doesn’t this leave quite open the possibility for claiming indigenous status — a claim like that of native peoples of California — albeit without native people’s archeological evidence and much longer ago so less likely to require actual evidence. Seems like the case could be made that all these conquerers claimed the name that now the native people are taking for themselves. Not my interpretation but one that would need to be refuted.

    • Leon Poddebsky

      The earliest known names of what we call The Land of Israel appear in Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources, but those sources refer to what we call Israel and Syria as one unit.
      The various names were HARYUSHA , AMURU, RTNU, KIN’ANI (Canaan.)

      The name ISRAEL appears in the list of the territories and peoples which were conquered by the Pharaoh, Marneftah, who reigned in the period 1223-1211 BCE.

      During the entire 2,000 year-long period of the Jewish Dispersion of the Exile, it was an axiom in the discourse of Western societies that what they called “Palestine” was the Jewish historic homeland. Never was it regarded as any one else’s historic homeland.

      With the rise of the strident, aggressive left-wing-genocidal jihadist axis to prominence, however, the fiction of a mythical “Palestine” has captured Western minds, some of whom are very willing victims of this confidence trick since it serves as an anti-Jewish weapon.

      Hostility to the Jewish People has taken various forms over the millennia: religious, racist-political,
      Soviet imperialist, and now an amalgam of them all.