What’s in a name? An often-asked question whose answer is complicated. Why does the media call them Arab towns but Israeli settlements? Why did Greece protest when a new country, located to their north between Bulgaria and Albania, name themselves Macedonia only to be forced by the outcry to rename themselves North Macedonia? Why does my mother insist I am David and not Dave?
The simple answer: Words have meaning. There is history and nuance behind words and names. So here is a little light history. (The ancient dates below are approximate and depending on the source might differ, but the timeline is the same.)
Timeline through history. Abraham, the first monotheist and Jew, was approximately 75 years old when he answered G-d’s call. That would be approximately 2075 BCE as the beginning of Judaism.
Whereas, if we consider the time when Constantine proclaimed the Edict of Milan and declared tolerance (read: acceptance) for Christianity, that would be 313 CE, or about 2,388 years after the establishment of Judaism. (Remember, Jesus was born, lived, and died a Jew. He was the leader of a sect of followers but nonetheless, Jews.)
Although Muhammad was born in the year 570 CE, most scholars typically date the start of Islam to the 7th century (600s). That would make it the youngest of the world’s three major religions: about 2,725 years after the start of Judaism and only 337 years after Christianity.
[To put these numbers into perspective, the United States of America is only 245 years old. The Magna Carta is 806 years old. The Titanic sank 109 years ago.]
The First Temple built by King Solomon in 957 BCE, was destroyed (after standing for 371 years) in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, who sent the Jews into exile but then allowed them to return (538 BCE).
The Second Temple was built 516 BCE and expanded by King Herod during his reign. After standing for 586 years, it was destroyed in in 70 CE by the Roman legions under the command of Titus, in retaliation for an on-going revolt. In an unsuccessful move to try and wipe Israel off the map, Titus renamed Judea “Palæstina” and Jerusalem “Aelia Capitonia.”
Where did Titus get the idea to name this region Palæstina? Well, a few centuries before (12th century BCE), a people known as the Philistines settled in an area on the coast between Israel and Egypt. The area contained the five cities of the Philistine confederacy (Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) and was known as Philistia, or the Land of the Philistines. By the early part of the 7th century BCE, the Philistines became vassals of the Assyrian rulers. Therefore, Titus used the name of a civilization that disappeared about 680 years earlier.
Over time Palæstina became Palestine. It was also referred to as the Holy Land by Christians (note that it was the stated goal of their many crusades). In other words, “Palestine” was always inexorably tied to “Israel.”
Throughout history, there has always been a Jewish presence in the ever-changing area originally called Israel. Over time there have been many conquerors in this territory called Palestine, always referred to as the Holy Land or the Promised Land. Roman to Byzantine, Early Muslim to Crusader, Mamluk to Ottoman.
Therefore, Palestine = The Holy Land = The Promised Land = Israel and the Jews. Not Arabs or Arabs who identify as Palestinians.
Even the United Nations agrees. The UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, Part I (Future Constitution and Government of Palestine), Section A (Termination of Mandate, Partition, and Independence), Paragraph 3 reads: “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948.” (Italics are my emphasis.) Note the specific mention of a Jewish and Arab, not “Palestine,” state as the British Mandate for Palestine was being divided.
The Jewish provisional government accepted UN Resolution 181, the Arabs did not. And upon its ratification by the UN, six Arab armies attacked the new Jewish state, Israel, thus abrogating the terms of the resolution and losing all claims to it terms. The borders were drawn as the 1949 Armistice line and Jerusalem, which was supposed to have been an open international city, was split in half. The Israeli side was an open city for all. The Jordanian side was closed to Jews, Jews were expelled, and Jewish holy sites were desecrated.
Even the Quran agrees. It should be noted that there are many references in the Quran as it pertains to Jews, Moses, and the Land of Israel. The Biblical notion that G-d granted the land of Canaan to the Children of Israel is confirmed by the Quran and therefore Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. (A few examples: Surah (chapter) 10 Jonah/Yunus, verse 93; Surah 17 the Children of Israel, verse 104; Sura 5 Al-Mad’iah verses 20-21.)
Multiple Nationalities or identities. We all have different identities based on different circumstances. Position in our family or community. Geographic, religion, ethnicity. And so on. For example, even if we are a big shot executive, at a family gathering we may merely be so-in-so’s spouse. All this is a good thing as each of these pieces makes us who and what we are as a whole, not to mention contributing to the fabric of society.
As a citizen of a country (by choice or birth) we accept the sovereignty of the government while maintaining one’s ethnic pride and religious freedom.
For Arabs living throughout the Levant and Middle East, are they just Arabs or Iraqis or Saudis or Syrians or Jordanians? Are they Muslim (and if so, what sect?) Or from what tribe or ethnic group? It should be noted that some of their country allegiances are to the many mid-East countries that were newly created by the French and British colonialists as they divided up the Ottoman Empire post World War I (think Sykes-Picot Agreement).
Did you ever wonder why no one ever disputes or challenges the existence, rights, or sovereignty of any country created by these internationally sanctioned agreements or treaties except when it comes to Israel? I do, too.
The modern state of Israel was born on the shoulders of Biblical and Quranic interpretations, archaeological proof, international law, and defensive warfare. Yet constantly it has its legitimacy challenged.
Even by some of its own citizens. During the recent conflict with Hamas in May 2021, there were uprisings and riots in Israeli cities like Lod, Acre, and Jerusalem. The perpetrators were mostly Israeli citizens rioting and killing fellow Israeli citizens. The only difference was that the perpetrators were Arabs, and the victims were Jews.
Keep in mind that the Israeli Declaration of Independence clearly states: “it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” And like other Western countries, who declare a religious affiliation in their charters but also support these freedoms, Israel has also done so.
Can you be a citizen of one country while your loyalties lie elsewhere? Yes but, and it is a big “but,” you cannot foment insurrection of the country you live in. A Russian émigré living in England may be loyal to Russia because of heritage, family, or even sport. But s/he will not try to destroy the government or country s/he lives in.
What’s in a name? Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, Jew, Muslim? Or, as most of us are, a combination of several identities.
The Palestine territory under the Ottoman Empire was very thinly populated. Jews who returned during the various waves of alyiah to join those Jews who never left, were identified as either Ashkenazi or Sephardi, or by the country they came from or by their political or religious leanings. From 1948 on, Jews substituted “Israeli” rather than “Palestinian” to their hyphenated identity.
Trying to separate and differentiate a Palestinian from an Israeli could be considered the most successful Public Relation campaign ever, and infamously one that has caused much death, destruction, and generational hatred.
From Roman times up until 1964, ‘Palestine’ always referred to ‘Israel,’ whether under Byzantine, Ottoman, or British Mandate times. The PLO usurped the name “Palestine,” claimed it as their own, created (and their successors continue to do so) a false history, and demanded a single Jew-free state. Islamist fundamentalists like Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and even Israel’s “partner in peace,” the Palestinian Authority, continue this false and destructive narrative. Their openly stated goal is not a two-state but a one-state solution (“from the river to the sea Palestine shall be free”).
History, archaeology, and international law repeatedly prove the radical Islamist point of view to be wrong and just a big lie.
In fact, living in Israel we are all “Palestinians”, and we are all “Israelis.” Some of us are Jews returning home. Some of us are Arabs who have lived here for many or just a few generations. Some of us are neither but are here because of love or education or a career.
Removing obstacles for peace. So, if we are all in this together, why can’t we live in peace?
Well, there seems to be one major obstacle to peace…acceptance. Acceptance that the State of Israel is a place where all can practice their religion and have access to their holy sites, while building a free and prosperous life for their families. Instead of being a Muslim-run theocracy or a Christian (Catholic, Anglican, etc.) leaning democracy, it is a Jewish democratic-theocracy.
The lack of acceptance, better known as anti-Semitism, or anti-Zionism, started well before 1948 (note the Arab riots of 1920, 1929, 1936-9) under the British Mandate of Palestine, and formalized with the declarations of war upon the State of Israel in 1948 continuing with wars 1956 or 1967 waged by neighboring Arab countries against Israel, Syria’s still existing “state of war,” as well as the ongoing conflicts and vicious terrorist attacks by (the former) PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
The story of the “Palestinian” movement is based on their totally rewriting history and ignoring international conventions (some of which are discussed above) and continuing lies through propaganda and a blatantly biased anti-Israel/Jewish educational system.
This unified Arab position was formalized with Khartoum Resolution of September 1967 called the Three No’s: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.
This wall of non-acceptance started to crack with the Egyptian and Jordanian cold peace treaties with Israel in 1974 and 1994, respectively. The peace treaties recognized the State of Israel and, it is important to note, that the Jordanian peace treaty ceded control of Yehuda & Shomron (West Bank) to Israel, meaning it was no longer illegally occupied.
Acceptance of Israel as a legitimate and permanent Middle East entity, just got more real in the Arab world with the initiation of the warm Abraham Accords in 2020.
There are many reasons to make peace. Love may not be one of them but, political alliances and economic benefits are two major ones. Even though they were initially just signed just a mere year ago (August 13, 2020), the Abraham Accords have already shown great tangible results in trade, politics, culture, and even sports.
So how do we move closer to “acceptance” and peace? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Members of the Abraham Accords need to explain to the radicals that their time is over. Lay down the weapons and terrorism. Change their political structure to a more theocratic-democratic bent. Join the world economy and community. And the result will be peace, prosperity, and religious freedom. Unfortunately, this might have to be an ultimatum.
- Western countries need to join the new Arab world and add their pressure to rogue nations (i.e.: Iran, Qatar) and anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist NGOs/NPOs (too many to list here).
- Importantly, there is a desperate need to properly educate the youth of the region with a more balanced truer sense of history. (UNRWA, are you listening?)
Israel by any other name is still Israel. For those who oppose the sovereignty and legitimacy of the State of Israel, you have a choice. There are many countries that offer you your choice of religion, culture, and/or language as a Moslem.
The world should follow the example set by the signers of the Abraham Accords by finally and totally accepting and supporting the legal sovereignty and historical legitimacy of the State of Israel. As Jews we do not have a choice for a country based on our religion, culture, and/or language. Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. We are not going anywhere. No more territorial concessions. Live with it. Period.
Only when the nations of the world fully accept and support of the legitimacy of the State of Israel, along with replacing truthful education provided to those who have been fed anti-Semitic and anti-Zionistic lies, will there be peace and prosperity for all. Yes, all.