Melanie Phillips
Melanie PhillipsCourtesy

(JNS) An ostensibly minor incident a few days ago has provided devastating evidence of the brainwashed malevolence within the Biden administration towards not just Israel but the Jewish people.

In a ceremony at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Bethlehem, the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative arm delivered to the Palestinian Authority a 2,700-year-old spoon dating from the Assyrian empire.

The Assyrians, an ancient people that first emerged around 2000 BCE in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), developed a vast empire that included much of the Middle East, including Egypt, Babylonia, Israel and Cyprus. It finally collapsed around 600 BCE.

The spoon, which is thought to have been used to load incense onto fires during rites dedicated to the Assyrian gods and the dead, was seized from the Jewish-American billionaire Michael Steinhardt as part of a criminal probe in New York. In a deal he struck to avoid prosecution, Steinhardt agreed in 2021 to turn over $70 million worth of stolen antiquities that the authorities claim were illegally acquired in Israel.

Ivan J. Arvelo, a special agent in charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in New York, described the transfer of the spoon to the P.A. as “the historic repatriation” of the artifact. In a similar effusive vein, George Noll, head of the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, called the spoon “an example of Palestinian cultural patrimony.”

Another DHS official, Jeff Brannigan, declared, “This repatriation is representative of HSI’s commitment to ensuring the storied heritages of peoples around the world through the preservation and protection of cultural artifacts.”

This is all utter garbage. It was not an act of repatriation, because the spoon never belonged to the “cultural patrimony” or “storied heritage” of a "Palestinian people". There was no “Palestinian people” in antiquity.

The “Palestinian people” didn’t exist at all until it was invented in the 1960s in a strategy to destroy Israel cooked up by Yasser Arafat, the Egyptian-born head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in cahoots with the Soviet Union.

During the 1920s and 1930s, many of the Arabs who were the 20th-century ancestors of today’s “Palestinians” poured into what is now Israel and the disputed territories from neighboring Arab states in pursuit of the prosperity they believed would result from the return of the Jews to their ancestral Jewish homeland.

Despite this, the “Palestinian Arabs” have gone to laughable lengths to assert that they were the original inhabitants of the land. For example, they have claimed to be descended from the Philistines—who were in fact ancient Greeks.

P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas has claimed that the “Palestinians” are indigenous to Israel because they are descended from the Canaanites. “This land is for its people, its residents and the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago—and we are the Canaanites!” he declared in 2019.

There is no evidence for this whatsoever. In any event, the people who lived in Canaan during the Bronze Age comprised various ethnic groups and have all disappeared.

So precisely who were these ancient “Palestinian” Canaanites? The Semitic Amorites? The Hyksos, a group of Asian peoples who came to Canaan from lands to its north? The Hurrians or the Hittites who came to Canaan from Anatolia?

The actual facts cut no ice with Abbas, who has also claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian [therefore, Arab] —even though he was a Jew from Judea.

The claim about the Assyrian artifact is firmly in line with all this nonsense. The P.A.’s Minister of Tourism, Rula Maayah, acknowledged that the spoon is the work of the Assyrian civilization and dates from between 700 and 800 BCE. Yet the Assyrians were among the many conquerors in the land of Israel. So, if the Palestinian Arabs descended from the Assyrians, how could they also be descended from the Canaanites?

These wild declarations arise from the Palestinians’ Big Lie. Central to their appeal to gullible supporters in the West is the claim that they are the indigenous people of the land of Israel. They deny the fact that the only people for whom Israel was ever their national kingdom were the Jews and that the Jews are the only extant indigenous people of the land.

That denialism writes the Jews out of their own history. To that end, the “Palestinians” have tried to conceal the stunning archaeological evidence of the ancient Jewish kingdom that is being uncovered in Israel all the time.

Thus, they have dumped as refuse truckloads of material excavated in Israeli archaeological digs, which the Israelis then painstakingly sifted in a desperate attempt to retrieve the precious finds it was likely to contain.

Despite all this, some Palestinian Arabs have themselves blurted out the truth.

In 1977, a PLO executive committee member, Zahir Muhsein, said, “The Palestinian people does not exist. … 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.”

In 2006, Nazmi al-Jubeh, an associate professor of history and archaeology at Birzeit University who has denied the historic link between the Jews and Jerusalem, made plain that Palestinian identity was invented solely to destroy Zionism and Israel.

Those living in Palestine from the time of the Romans, he wrote, were “mostly part of a greater regional or international political entity, which usually housed several nations, ethnic groups and cultures.”

Similarly, today’s Palestinians, he wrote, “are the result of accumulated ethnic, racial and religious groups, who once lived, conquered, occupied and passed through this strip of land.”

“The Palestinian people are the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Jebusites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Aramaeans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Turks, the Crusaders and the Kurds who once settled, conquered, occupied or just passed through Palestine,” he claimed.

What gave the Palestinians their identity, said al-Jubeh, was their “struggle” against Zionism and the State of Israel. “There is no way to understand this identity apart from the conflict.”

So why is the U.S., which claims to be Israel’s staunch ally, giving credence to a false Palestinian identity created to write the Jews out of their own history?

The Biden administration’s sympathy with the Palestinian Arabs is well documented. It has persistently refused to call them to account for their murderous aggression and incitement. It continues to fund them regardless of their “pay-for-slay” rewards to terrorists’ families. It forces Israel to undermine its own security in pursuit of a “two-state solution” that the Palestinian Arabs have refused for almost a century.

In creating a new role of special envoy to the Palestinian Arabs, for which it appointed a man with a record of profound hostility to Israel, Hady Amr, the administration upgraded the Palestinians’ status by giving them direct and public access to the U.S. government. It has also appointed other profound enemies of Israel to several prominent positions within the administration.

But what the Assyrian spoon transfer reveals is that the Palestinian Arab Big Lie is being promoted as truth by none other than the Department of Homeland Security, which was created after 9/11 to protect America against terrorist attacks.

Far from being a key link in the chain of Western security, the DHS has internalized the fiction about Palestinian identity that is promoted as a principal weapon in the war of extermination against Israel—and is in turn the flag behind which march the Islamist foes of the West.

Noll said of the spoon transfer, “This is a historic moment between the American and Palestinian people and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchanges in building mutual understanding, respect and partnership.”

It was certainly a historic moment. What it demonstrated, however, was that the Biden administration is a far more profound foe of Israel and the Jews than most people have yet realized.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir Guardian Angel has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy. Go to to access her work.