Op-Ed: The Myth Of The Palestinian People
Yehezkel Bin-NunA contributing author.
The general impression given in the media is that Palestinians have lived in the Holy Land for hundreds, if not thousands of years. No wonder, then, that a recent poll of French citizens shows that the majority believe (falsely) that prior to the establishment of the State of Israel an independent Arab Palestinian state existed in its place. Yet curiously, when it comes to giving the history of this ?ancient? people most news outlets find it harder to go back more than the early nineteen hundreds. CNN, an agency which has devoted countless hours of airtime to the ?plight? of the Palestinians, has a website which features a special section on the Middle East conflict called ?Struggle For Peace?. It includes a promising sounding section entitled ?Lands Through The Ages? which assures us it will detail the history of the region using maps. Strangely, it turns out, the maps displayed start no earlier than the ancient date of 1917. The CBS News website has a background section called ?A Struggle For Middle East Peace.?? Its history timeline starts no earlier than 1897. The NBC News background section called ??Searching for Peace?? has a timeline which starts in 1916. BBC?s timeline starts in 1948.
Yet, the clincher must certainly be the Palestinian National Authority?s own website. While it is top heavy on such phrases as ?Israeli occupation? and ?Israeli human rights violations? the site offers practically nothing on the history of the so-called Palestinian people. The only article on the site with any historical content is called ?Palestinian History - 20th Century Milestones? which seems only to confirm that prior to 1900 there was no such concept as the Palestinian People.
While the modern media maybe short on information about the history of the ?Palestinian people? the historical record is not. Books, such as Battleground by Samuel Katz and From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters long ago detailed the history of the region. Far from being 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. Alphonse de Lamartine visited the land in 1835. In his book, Recollections of the East, he writes "Outside the gates of Jerusalem we saw no living object, heard no living sound?." None other than the famous American author Mark Twain, who visited the Land of Israel in 1867, confirms this. In his book Innocents Abroad he writes, ?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.? Even the British Consul in Palestine reported, in 1857, ?The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population??
In fact, according to official Ottoman Turk census figures of 1882, in the entire Land of Israel, there were only 141,000 Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab. This number was to skyrocket to 650,000 Arabs by 1922, a 450% increase in only 40 years. By 1938 that number would become over 1 million or an 800% increase in only 56 years. Population growth was especially high in areas where Jews lived. Where did all these Arabs come from? According to the Arabs the huge increase in their numbers was due to natural childbirth. In 1944, for example, they alleged that the natural increase (births minus deaths) of Arabs in the Land of Israel was the astounding figure of 334 per 1000. That would make it roughly three times the corresponding rate for the same year of Lebanon and Syria and almost four times that of Egypt, considered amongst the highest in the world. Unlikely, to say the least. If the massive increase was not due to natural births, then were did all these Arabs come from?
All the evidence points to the neighboring Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In 1922 the British Governor of the Sinai noted that ?illegal immigration was not only going on from the Sinai, but also from Transjordan and Syria.? In 1930, the British Mandate -sponsored Hope-Simpson Report noted that ?unemployment lists are being swollen by immigrants from Trans-Jordania? and ?illicit immigration through Syria and across the northern frontier of Palestine is material.? The Arabs themselves bare witness to this trend. For example, the governor of the Syrian district of Hauran, Tewfik Bey el Hurani, admitted in 1934 that in a single period of only a few months over 30,000 Syrians from Hauran had moved to the Land of Israel. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted the Arab influx. Churchill, a veteran of the early years of the British mandate in the Land of Israel, noted in 1939 that ?far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied.?
Far from displacing the Arabs, as they claimed, the Jews were the very reason the Arabs chose to settle in the Land of Israel. Jobs provided by newly established Zionist industry and agriculture lured them there, just as Israeli construction and industry provides most Arabs in the Land of Israel with their main source of income today. Malcolm MacDonald, one of the principal authors of the British White Paper of 1939, which restricted Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, admitted (conservatively) that were it not for a Jewish presence the Arab population would have been little more than half of what it actually was. Today, when due to the latest ?intifada? Arabs from the territories under 35 are no longer allowed into pre-1967 Israel to work, unemployment has skyrocketed to over 40% and most rely on European aid packages to survive.
Not only pre-state Arabs lied about being indigenous. Even today, many prominent so-called Palestinians, it turns out, are foreign born. Edward Said, an Ivy League Professor of Literature and a major Palestinian propagandist, long claimed to have been raised in Jerusalem. However, in an article in the September 1999 issue of Commentary Magazine Justus Reid Weiner revealed that Said actually grew up in Cairo, Egypt, a fact which Said himself was later forced to admit. But why bother with Said? PLO chief Yasir Arafat himself, self declared ?leader of the Palestinian people?, has always claimed to have been born and raised in ?Palestine?. In fact, according to his official biographer Richard Hart, as well as the BBC, Arafat was born in Cairo on August 24, 1929 and that?s where he grew up.
To maintain the charade of being an indigenous population, Arab propagandists have had to do more than a little rewriting of history. A major part of this rewriting involves the renaming of geography. For two thousand years the central mountainous region of Israel was known as Judea and Samaria, as any medieval map of the area testifies. However, the state of Jordan occupied the area in 1948 and renamed it the West Bank. This is a funny name for a region that actually lies in the eastern portion of the land and can only be called ?West? in reference to Jordan. This does not seem to bother the majority of news outlets covering the region, which universally refer to the region by its recent Jordanian name.
The term ?Palestinian" is itself a masterful twisting of history. To portray themselves as indigenous, Arab settlers adopted the name of an ancient Canaanite tribe, the Phillistines, that died out almost 3000 years ago. The connection between this tribe and modern day Arabs is nil. Who is to know the difference? Given the absence of any historical record, one can understand why Yasser Arafat claims that Jesus Christ, a Jewish carpenter from the Galilee, was a Palestinian. Every year, at Christmas time, Arafat goes to Bethlehem and tells worshippers that Jesus was in fact ?the first Palestinian?.
If the Palestinians are indeed a myth, then the real question becomes ?Why?? Why invent a fictitious people? The answer is that the myth of the Palestinian People serves as the justification for Arab occupation of the Land of Israel. While the Arabs already possess 21 sovereign countries of their own (more than any other single people on earth) and control a land mass 800 times the size of the Land of Israel, this is apparently not enough for them. They therefore feel the need to rob the Jews of their one and only country, one of the smallest on the planet. Unfortunately, many people ignorant of the history of the region, including much of the world media, are only too willing to help.
It is interesting to note that the Bible makes reference to a fictitious nation confronting Israel. ?They have provoked me to jealously by worshipping a non-god, angered me with their vanities. I will provoke them with a non-nation; anger them with a foolish nation (Deuteronomy 32:21).?
On second thought, it may be unfair to compare Palestine to Disneyland. After all, Disneyland really exists.