Palestine was always an Arab country.
In the second century CE, after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judaea (the southern portion of what is now commonly called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the Land of Israel. The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name (Yehoshua Porath, The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918–1929, London: Frank Cass, 1974, p. 4).
The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the capital around 1000 BCE. David’s son, Solomon, built the Temple soon thereafter and consolidated the military, administrative, and religious functions of the kingdom.
The nation was divided under Solomon’s son, with the northern kingdom (Israel) lasting until 722 BCE, when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the southern kingdom (Judah) surviving until the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE.
The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterwards until most Jews were finally driven from their homeland in 135 CE.
Jewish independence in the Land of Israel lasted for more than four hundred years. This is much longer than Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States (Max Dimont, Jews, God, and History, NY: Signet, 1962, pp. 49–53).
In fact, if not for foreign conquerors, Israel would be more than three thousand years old today.
The boundaries of Palestine changed over the centuries. While a Roman province, it was attached to Syria.
In the medieval period, Filastin was a subdistrict of Syria (the land of Sham in Arabic).
The Crusaders established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which ultimately extended from north of Beirut to the Sinai Desert, and along both sides of the Jordan River. The area was then referred to as the Holy Land.
According to the eminent historian Bernard Lewis, Jews never used the name Filastin or Palestine, referring to the area from the time of the Exodus as Eretz Israel.
Muslims stopped using either name after reconquering the land from the Crusaders.
Lewis observed that the name Palestine became popular in the Christian world around the time of the Renaissance.
After becoming the common designation in Europe, the name spread to Arabic-speaking Christians. In 1911, an Arab Christian edited a newspaper in Palestine called Filastin.
“Palestine became the official name of a definite territory for the first time since the early Middle Ages,” according to Lewis, only after the creation of the British mandate (Bernard Lewis, “On the History and Geography of a Name,” The International History Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1980, pp. 1-12).
Following the defeat of the Turks in World War I, France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire and set the boundaries for Palestine. For example, Palestine initially included both sides of the Jordan River until Churchill arbitrarily severed more than three-fourths of the area to create Transjordan. In addition, part of the Golan Heights was transferred from Palestine to Syria.
Palestine was never an exclusively Arab country, although Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine.
When the distinguished Arab- American historian, Princeton University professor Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said, “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not” (Moshe Kohn, “The Arabs’ ‘Lie’ of the Land,” Jerusalem Post, October 18, 1991).
Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. They usually identified themselves by their clans and villages. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, they adopted the following resolution:
Similarly, the King-Crane Commission found that Christian and Muslim Arabs opposed any plan to create a country called “Palestine,” because it was viewed as recognition of Zionist claims (Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People,” American Thinker, October 30, 2011).
In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine:
The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations echoed this view in a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947, which said Palestine was part of the Province of Syria and the Arabs of Palestine did not comprise a separate political entity. A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria” (Avner Yaniv, PLO, (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Study Group of Middle Eastern Affairs, August 1974, p. 5).
Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post–World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the Six- Day War. For the duration of the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and Egyptian control of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian nationalists were silent about their desire for an independent state. In fact, the PLO was created by the Arab League to advance the interests of Arab governments interested in driving the Jews into the sea, not to create a Palestinian state.
Today, the Palestinian people have international recognition and claim the right to self- determination; however, their definition of Palestine does not comport with the historical borders. Rhetorically, at least, their current leaders no longer claim that Palestine is part of Syria or demand the territory now under Jordanian rule. They are now only interested in areas claimed by the Jewish people, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing what is now Israel, Gaza, and Judaea and Samaria. In the short-run, they have demanded the creation of a state based on the 1949 Armistice Lines with East Jerusalem as its capital as the first stage toward the liberation of all of “Palestine.”