From Arab ummah to homeless Palestinian: why, when and how

The name Palestine was specifically created at the San Remo Conference in April 1920, as a mandated state, to be the Jewish National Home.
The connection (legal and ethnological) between “Jews” and “Palestine” existed because both Palestine and the Jewish national Home were created for each other at the same time under international law. This understanding was supported explicitly by Article 7 of the Mandate for Palestine (a LEGAL document) which stated:

The Administration of Palestine shall be responsible for enacting a nationality law. There shall be included in this law, provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine” (emphasis mine).

No such right or obligation existed in favour of foreign Arabs.

As an aside, Palestine was named “Palestine” by the British and the Zionist leaders of the time simply because that was the name that the Zionist programme adopted in 1897 in Basle and was the name of the area most prevalent at the time…. Would that they had listened to loyal Herzl supporter Israel Zangwill’s preference to call the area Judea instead. Perhaps today the “Judeans” would be fighting the Jews of Israel…

So, today’s “Palestinians” therefore have the Jews to thank for even their “national” name and aspirations of “peoplehood”!!

That Palestine was implicitly and explicitly tethered to Jews was also explicated in stamps of the period which supported the abbreviation “E.I.” for Eretz Israel and was supported by Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner, who stated that he “…was aware that there was no other name in the Hebrew language for this land except Eretz Israel.

It is interesting that the Arabs challenged the use of the word “Palestine” on stamps and other Mandate documentation as an “…offense to the Arab nation…” This challenge was rejected on legal grounds (Article 82, 1925 Law Reports of Palestine) because it was adjudged to be a political sentiment and not one of legal ruling.

It is important to note here that the failed legal challenge referred to offense being given to the “…Arab nation…” and NOT Palestinians who were Muslims and Arabs. The concept of the ‘ancient and indigenous’ Arab “Palestinian”, as the Arabs now want to call themselves had not yet been invented.

What is equally important to know is that the nationality law I referred to in paragraph 2 above was explicated in Article 129 of the Treaty of Sevres which stated that “Jews…who are habitually resident, on the coming into force of the present Treaty, within the boundaries of Palestine…will ipso facto become citizens of Palestine…”

What that meant was that Palestinian citizenship was to be granted to foreign Jews on entry into Mandated Palestine.

As Feinberg (1979) pointed out, Arabs living outside Palestine had no legal right to opt for Palestinian nationality even though there was an illegal mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Arabs into the country during the years of the British administration. Census figures show that of 565,000 Arabs in the Mandated territory in 1920, that number swelled to around 1,225,000 in 1947.

In other words, the principle of nationalities was applied to the Jewish people and not to the local Arab inhabitants in the specific case of Palestine per the Balfour declaration, the Treaty of Sevres and the Mandate for Palestine.

However, in the first of many British about-faces which led to the current intractable conflict, the Churchill White Paper of 1922 abruptly changed the term “nationality” to be as broad as possible and no longer recognised the former connection existing between Palestinian nationality and the Jewish nation. In turn, this now meant that Palestine in its entirety was no longer the exclusive Jewish National Home, but a home to be shared with the Arabs.

As most readers in this field know, the Jews accepted this startling re-interpretation of the Balfour Declaration, the Treaty of Sevres and Article 7 of the Mandate for Palestine.

For all that, it was customary throughout the Mandatory period to call all the Jews who lived in Palestine between 1920 and May 1948 by the distinctive name of “Palestinians”.

The non-Jewish Arab residents of Palestine were referred to as Arabs rather than Palestinians.

The Arabs referred to themselves as Syrians as exemplified by the all-Arab Palestine (not “Palestinian”!!!) Arab Congress of February 1919 which supported the country’s inclusion in an independent Syria and where they denied any specific “Palestinian” national identity.

This was explicitly stated by their leading spokesman George Antonius in his testimony before the Palestine Royal Commission of 1937 where he ties the future of the Mandate Arabs to the Arab nation of Syria:

“It is very important to note that the sacrifices made…were common and shared in common by Syrians and Palestinians…There was no distinction between Syria and Palestinian (Moslems and Christians)…. The country was one, it acted as one, and its future was one.” (emphasis mine)

In case the reader does not fully appreciate the import of what Antonius is saying regarding the concept of the Arabs in Mandated Palestine as always being that of an Arab identity and NOT a “Palestinian” one, Antonius explains:

I want to emphasize…that Palestine has always been an integral part of Syria and that what was common to Syria is common to Palestine (Note: NOT “Palestinians”!!!)…The country is one in every way… and what we see in Palestine is not a local movement…but [one of] the Arab world which it followed in common without any distinction between its component parts” (emphasis mine).

Antonius thus emphasizes, in 1937, the Arab concept of qawmiyya, pan-Arabism, and NOT the sudden and mysterious appearance of the wataniyya (state-based nationalism) the PLO later dreamed up for an Arab group undifferentiated in any nationalistic way from ANY of their immediate neighbours. I attempt to highlight below the significance of this difference in the quest to further expose the myth of a ‘Palestinian’ “nation”.

There isn’t much more to be said on this point though I must point out that Arabs who lived in Palestine during the Mandate were indeed called “Palestinian Arabs” in terms of their citizenship and place of residence to distinguish them from Arabs living French-mandated Syria or British-mandated Iraq….

BUT, why and when and how did the Palestinian Arabs or South Syrians or Mandate Arabs of what became the State of Israel become the ancient “Palestinians” (and “indigenous” ones to boot) of the Holy Land now replaced by “foreign Jews”???

If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, read on.

To answer the first of the questions: why. The term “Palestinian” was a switch of national identities and names for fraudulent use since no such nation ever existed. Proof of this is that not once in the literature of the ancient world does the word “Palestinian” ever appear as a proper noun to describe either a nation or a member of that nation. Additionally, the word “Palestinian” is a Hebrew root word used by the ancient Israelites with whom the Arabs never had any historic, cultural or racial affinity. Thus, this Hebrew root does not appear in Arabic, but does in other Semitic tongues such as Ge’ez (classical Ethiopic) where it is (still) called fellashas (Ethiopian Jews) after the root Pe-Lamed-Shin (פלש) of the Hebrew.

The term “Palestinian” to describe the Levantine migrant Arabs in today’s Israel was chosen as part of an overall strategy of inversion and plagiarism by the PLO out of an ancient hatred of Jews as witnessed by the Arab ploy of adopting as their national name, one that is directly traceable to a Hebrew source.

But, more importantly, the ploy was also aimed at convincing Christian nations that Palestine was really the home of ancient “Palestinians” thus hoping to win sympathy for their cause where it was no longer the Jews against 21 Arab states arrayed against them, but actually a militarily strong Jewish state visiting calumny upon a “desperate, homeless ancient Palestinian people”.

The extent to which they succeeded in co-opting a receptive Christian world can be seen in Palestinian propaganda utterings that Nazareth is an Arab city, that Abraham, Adam, Job and Moses were prophets in Islam and that Jesus was a Palestinian.

Thus, as part of the strategy of inversion and plagiarism in order to de-legitmise Jewish history in the land, and particularly after 1963 (more on this later), the PLO abrogated (that would be the most suitable word…) early Israelite history and culture and transformed Hebrew Patriarchs, prophets, judges and kings into Arab ones.

They did this at the same time as denying Jewish genealogy while at the same time adopting a name applied ethnologically and legally to the Jewish people of Palestine 1920-1948 in order to legitimise themselves using a Hebrew root word not found in Arabic.

To this end the Arabs of the PLO era even went to the extent, in some instances, of copying the very programmes and texts of the Zionist Movement, using the same language, as in the case of their so-called Declaration of Independence (from whom??) in Nov 1988 imitating the very words and style of the Israeli Declaration of Independence of May 14, 1948……

But, as Harkabi (1979) put it, the PLO declaration of independence glossed over the need to discuss the problem of the historicity of the “Palestinian” people, noting that in their report (p 130), the self-same 1937 Palestine Royal Commission referred to the Arabs in Palestine only as “Arabs” and summarised their claims under the heading of Arab Nationalism, not Palestinian nationalism.

Ten years later, the UN Partition Resolution of November 1947 divided the mandate territory into “a Jewish state’ and “an Arab state”……

It had not yet dawned on anybody in the Arab world to call the projected Arab state a “Palestinian” state. That would come later.

To summarise, the Arabs now living in what became Israel used, from 1964, identity theft and inversion of history in order to dispel the notion of Jewish historical connection and sovereign ownership over the Land of Israel.

With regards to when and how the name change happened, I think one can firstly keep in mind that Arabs who lived in Palestine during the Mandate period were “Palestinian” only in the legal sense of citizenship.

Together with this, it should be remembered that, outside of the Arab world, nobody had ever heard of the historic Arab “Palestinians”. The term surfaced in Cairo, June 2, 1964 when the Palestinian National Covenant (PNC) was adopted and the PLO was founded with the blessing of the Arab League.

It only came into fashionable broader use in 1969 when Arafat became Chairman of the PLO. After all, UNSC Resolution 242, in November 1967, called Arabs who fled what became Israel ‘refugees’ and not ‘Palestinians’ despite the fact that 3 months earlier, the Arab Summit Conference referred to the rights of the “Palestinian people”.

This shows that the UN and the international community did not, as late as November 1967, consider the fleeing Arabs a nation.

But even the PNC did not talk about a completely separate “Palestinian nation” as evidenced by the introductory part of its own Covenant which repeatedly referred to “We, the Palestinian Arab People”.

As mentioned earlier, this loose focus on who the Levantine Arabs really believed they were (or wanted to be…) changed in the vocabulary they used in their Charter/Covenant as also the politics of the Middle East changed.

In 1964, the Charter spoke of the Palestinian Arab people, but by the time of their revised (sic) Charter in 1968 (after the Six Day War…) they were now talking about the Palestinian People, the Palestinian masses and the Palestinian identity. In 1964, the term used in the Charter was qawm (pan-Arabism). Four years later it had changed to watan or state nationalism…….

Startlingly, the amended (sic) 1968 Charter amended retroactively stated that Jews too could be considered “Palestinian” where Article 6 of the Covenant stated that only

“The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.”

The Zionist invasion was considered to be the date of the Balfour Declaration, November 2, 1917.

The problem with this “revised” PLO Covenant was that all Jews who arrived in Palestine after 1917 were to be evicted and that the idea of mass transfer of Jews to their “countries of origin” was thus written into the very text of the “Palestinian National Covenant” to make it, as Harkabi (1969:47) pointed out, into “an Arab land purified of the alien population. Otherwise it would not be Arab and the Palestinians could not be its full masters” (italics in the original).

Fortunately, none of that ever happened.

Unfortunately, on 10 December 1969, United Nations terminology (with the memory of the first 1967 Oil Embargo still fresh in their minds) referred, for the first time (with considerable Arab pressure…), to the “people of Palestine” and their ‘inalienable rights’.

Then, in a quantum and inexplicable jump, in December 8, 1970, the UN declared the right of “Palestinian” self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations as demanded by the Arafat-led PLO delegation to the UN. Inexplicable because a nation does not come into being on demand, through propaganda or based largely on hate of other. A distinct nation differs from other peoples in beliefs and language and a distinctive culture with its own national literature, traditions and customs. The Arabs who were now calling themselves “Palestinians” differed little from Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians and Iraqis and were essentially created asa strategy to de-legitimise Israel in an executive meeting of the Arab league in Cairo.

Finally, on November 22, 1974, the UNGA granted observer status to the terror group PLO which entitled it to participate, as Palestinians, in UNGA sessions and any international conferences convened under the auspices of General Assembly.

For its part, during these years, the State of Israel did little politically and diplomatically to stem the proliferation of this, the greatest lie and invention of the twentieth century, and thus allowed the astounding award of Israel’s inherited rights and title of sovereignty through millennia over Judea, Samaria and Gaza through lack of successful/ effective challenge of UN resolutions, to an Arab “nation” hitherto unknown in the annals of history, ancient, medieval or modern.

Arguably, in the Arab world, the end has historically always justified the (oft brutal) means.
With the PLO as proxies for an Arab League frustrated by devastating military losses to the Jews, the end point was always the removal of the Jewish state from the ME.

The means was the fraudulent identity switch and the inversion and transformation of documented Israelite history and culture in Judea and Samaria, into an Arab one.

About the Author
Alan Meyer is a retired educator with an interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict, photography and Australian road trips.
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