“Why is it that on June 4th, 1967, I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian?” — Walid Shoebat
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. He recently wrote a book called, “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017.” The central premise of the book is that Jewish people are foreign invaders to the Land of Israel who have been waging a colonist war against the resisting indigenous Palestinian population. The problem with this claim is that Palestine was never a country, and a hundred years ago there was no such thing as the indigenous Palestinian people. So the propaganda necessary to claim that Palestine was a country that existed in the past has evolved in stages over the last few decades. In this essay, I will explain how the Palestinian people were invented after the emergence of the Zionist movement in order to steal the land from the Jews.
In this essay, I will demonstrate four things: Frist, the Palestinians did not exist and are not mentioned in any source before the first Zionist Conference in 1897. Second, the Palestinians were invented out of the Arab refugees from The 1948 War in order to justify stealing the land from the Jewish people. Third, I will show how Khalidi fabricates a fictional source to claim that the Palestinians existed before the Zionist movement. Finally, I will demonstrate that Khalidi’s book represents a hundred years’ war of Arab propaganda against the Jews. Khalidi’s book is the climax of a 100-year progression of shifting Arab propaganda claims regarding Palestine: The shift from Palestine being a region “inhabited by the Arab subjects of the Sultan” all the way to being “the country of the indigenous Palestinians.”
1. The Palestinian narrative is that the Jews are foreigners to the Land of Israel and the Palestinians are indigenous:
The central thesis of Khalidi’s book is that the Palestinians are indigenous and that the Jews are not indigenous.
Khalidi draws a distinction:
There is of course a difference between the two: most Palestinians are descended from people who have lived in what they naturally see as their country for a very long time, for many centuries, if not many millennia. Most Israeli Jews came from Europe and the Arab countries relatively recently as part of a colonial process sanctioned and brokered by the great powers. The former are indigenous, the latter descendants of settlers, although many have been there for generations now, and have a deeply felt connection and ancient religious connection to the country, albeit quite different from the ancient rootedness in the country of the indigenous Palestinians.
2. The Palestinians narrative is based on a trick on words:
Palestine was never a nation and there was never an ancient group who called themselves Palestinians. So what is the origin of the word “Palestine?” The Aegean people who migrated to the area of Canaan were called in Hebrew, the Plištim, which translates into English as the Philistines, and Philistia refers to the land of the Five Lords of the Philistines. The etymology of the term is described in the Jewish Virtual library: “… the name is believed to be derived from the Egyptian and Hebrew word peleshet. Roughly translated to mean rolling or migratory, the term was used to describe the inhabitants of the land to the northeast of Egypt – the Philistines. The Philistines were an Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.” The Philistines were bitter enemies of the Jewish people in the Bible. Eventually, the Philistines blended into other groups of people and disappeared from history.
In 132 CE, the Jewish people revolted against the Roman occupation and partially regained control of Judea. In 135 CE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian crushed the revolt and then called the territory Syria Palaestina. So the name “Palaestina” has been floating around since the time of the Romans, and sometimes southern Syria would also be called Palestine. The title was merely a reference to a general geographic region, similar to the term “Midwest,” it had no legal borders.
The entire Palestinian narrative is based on a trick on words. People assume that since there was a geographical region that was called Palestine, then there must have been an ancient group who called themselves Palestinians. Yet, there was never an ancient group called Palestinians. Or, people assume that modern Palestinians are the same group as the ancient Philistines. The ancient Philistines and the modern Palestinian Arabs are not the same group of people. They were Arabs who were living as subjects of the Ottoman Empire who started to call themselves Palestinians in the 1960s. At roughly the time of the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a new form of propaganda emerged which transformed the Roman name for Palaestina into the “ancient Nation of Palestine.” In reality, the idea of the nation of Palestine did not emerge until after the 1960s.
3. Palestine was a borderless title for a region under control of the Ottoman Empire:
The Arab League issued a statement which best summed up the history of the region: “Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire subject to its rule of law and enjoying full representation in its parliament, the great majority of its population was composed of Arabs.” According to Professor Muhammad Y. Muslih, “Before the end of World War I, Palestine formed part of the Ottoman Empire. Under the Ottoman Regime (1517-1918), there was no political unit known as Palestine.”
In 1879, Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid II came to power. In 1897, Theodor Herzl organized the First Zionist Congress. The goal of the Zionist movement was to create a Jewish State in their ancestral homeland. The Ottoman Empire was in debt to the European powers, so Herzl devised a plan to offer to pay the debt in return for allowing the Zionists access to Palestine. In 1901, Herzl conveyed that message to Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, who turned down Herzl’s offer. The Sultan told Herzl that the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire and he was unwilling to grant the land to the Zionists. The Sultan is reported to have stated, “I won’t sell anything, not even an inch of this territory because this country does not belong to me but to all Ottomans.”
In 1979, The Arab Studies Quarterly was co-founded by Professor Edward Said. In 1980, the journal published a paper called, “Zionists and the Ottoman Foreign Ministry during the Reign of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909).” The paper was written by a lecturer on International Politics at the University of Istanbul named Bülent Kemal Öke. The essay discussed Herzl’s meeting with Sultan Abdul-Hamid II and his plan to establish a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. In the synopsis of the article it explained, “Palestine, however, was neither empty, nor free of an existing sovereignty. It was part of the Asiatic provinces of the Ottoman Empire, inhabited by the Arab subjects of the Sultan.” And, “It was Abdulhamid II himself who laid the cornerstone of the Ottoman reaction of the Zionists.”
The reason the Ottomans opposed the Zionist movement was because they did not want an independent country to form within their borders and take part of their territory. In fact, the Zionists were not the only group who were threatening to create a nationalist movement within the borders of the empire. The article outlined the other threats to the empire, “At a time when the Macedonian uprisings in the West and the Armenian revolts in Anatolia were threatening the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Government had no desire to nurture another nationality problem within its domains.”
Forty years ago, a journal co-founded by Edward Said published an essay explaining that Palestine was a province under the ownership of the Ottoman Empire, which was inhabited by Arab subjects of the Sultan. Forty years later, Rashid Khalidi published a book where he deceptively claims that Palestine was a country inhabited by the indigenous Palestinians. In his book, Khalidi calls it: “the country of the indigenous Palestinians.” The goal of my essay is to explain how Palestine went from being a region “inhabited by the Arab subjects of the Sultan” all the way to being “the country of the indigenous Palestinians.”
4. The whole world reacted to the First Zionist Congress, but there is no record of the Palestinian reaction:
The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel Switzerland in 1897. The French, Italian, German, and Swiss newspapers reported on the event. Even Mark Twain weighed in on issues, “Herzl has a clear insight into the value of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own.” The Catholic Church opposed the Zionists. Four months before the congress, the Jesuit journal, Civiltà Cattolica, made statements opposing the establishment of a Jewish state in The Holy Land. The Russians also reacted. The man who compiled, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” spread the myth that the protocols were first secretly presented at Basel. There is a global record of the reaction from the Ottoman rulers, the Arab States, the European countries, the Russians, and the Americans. But what is missing? The Palestinians are missing. No newspaper or writer in the world reported on the reaction of the indigenous Palestinian people, because they had not been invented as a concept; they were simply Arabs who lived as subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
5. There is not one single historical document that mentions the Palestinians until after the First Zionist Congress:
The first known usage of the word “Palestinian” did not appear until one year after the First Zionist Congress. In 1897, Theodor Herzl organized the First Zionist Congress. In 1898, the first known usage of the word “Palestinian” appeared. Clearly, the Palestinians were invented after the Zionist movement.
Historian Zachary J. Foster wrote a dissertation called, The Invention of Palestine. In several articles, Foster identified the first known usage of the term, “Palestinian,” or in Arabic, Filastini. The first Arab to use the term “Palestinian” was a translator named Khalil Baydas. Foster writes, “In 1898, he translated ‘A Description of the Holy Land’ from Russian to Arabic… The book mentions the ‘Palestinians’ in multiple places.” Foster clarifies that even though the term “Palestinian” appears in the text, the meaning of the word was still unclear, “We of course don’t know if Baydas called himself or anyone else ‘Palestinian.’ But we do know the word ‘Palestinian’ was circulating in Arabic texts already in 1898.”
6. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica did not mention the Palestinians:
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica defined Palestine as, “a geographical name of rather loose application.” If the Palestinians were an ancient indigenous group, then why did the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica just forget to mention them in the entry on Palestine?
7. The League of Nations did not mention the Palestinians:
The League of Nations existed from 1920-1946, but there is not a single document that mentions the Palestinians. Sha’i ben-Tekoa is an American-Israeli author of the book, “Phantom Nation: Inventing the Palestinians as the Obstacle to Peace.” He reports, “Throughout the quarter-century of the League of Nations’ existence (1919-1945) that had preceded the United Nations – whose legal handiwork was specifically incorporated into the UN Charter – no mention of the ‘the Palestinians’ can be found. The players in Palestine in that period were referred to in League documents as ‘Jews’ and ‘Arabs.’ The term ‘Palestinians,’ as commonly used today was simply not in use.”
8. The Palestinians did not claim to own the land from the River to the Sea until 1968:
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land were placed under the custodianship of the British Mandate for Palestine. The 1948 War led to the creation of the State of Israel. Many of the Arabs living in the region became refugees. During the war, Jordan conquered the West Bank and Egypt conquered Gaza. Many of the refugees settled in these areas. In 1964, The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed with the goal to represent the refugees and to defeat Israel. Since Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled Gaza, the 1964 PLO charter specifically stated that the West Bank and Gaza did not belong to the Palestinian people.
Things only changed when the Arabs lost The 1967 War. During the war, Jordan lost control over the West Bank and Egypt lost control over Gaza. In 1968, a year after Israel gained control over the West Bank and Gaza, the PLO issued an updated charter and announced that suddenly the West Bank and Gaza belonged to the Palestinian people. To sum up the events, without the creation of the State of Israel, there would be no such thing as the Palestinian people who claim to own the land from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.
9. The United Nations did not mention the Palestinians until 1969:
The United Nations never mentioned the Palestinians during The 1948 War or The 1967 War. The first time the United Nations ever used the term, “the people of Palestine,” was in 1969. In the prologue to his book, Sha’i ben-Tekoa documents the first time that the UN used the term, “the people of Palestine.” He reported, “… for the first quarter-century of the UN’s existence as well no ‘Palestinians’ were mentioned either.” It was only during the fall session of 1969 that, “the expression ‘the people of Palestine’ appeared in General Assembly Resolution 2535.” To sum up, the League of Nations and the United Nations did not mention the Palestinians in a single document until 1969.
10. The invention of the Palestinian Replacement Narrative:
Yishai Fleisher is the spokesperson for the Jewish community of Hebron. He views the Palestinian narrative as an updated version of the ancient Christian belief that God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced them with the Church. Replacement theology is the belief that the promises made by God in the Bible to the Jewish people are transferred to the Church. Fleisher argues that the Palestinians have created a replacement narrative where the history of the Jewish people is replaced with a fictional history of the nation of Palestine.
11. The Palestinians were invented as the mirror image of the Jewish people:
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land were placed under the custodianship of the British Mandate for Palestine. In 1922, the League of Nations drafted a resolution that recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home.” This decision eventually blossomed into the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1945, The Arab League was formed and originally composed of six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. At this time, the Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land were still stateless and under the custodianship of the British government. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there was still no concept of a distinct Palestinian people. Instead, the Arabs living in the region considered themselves to be one group with the rest of the Arabs living in the other countries.
In 1948, immediately after the Jewish people declared independence, they were attacked by seven Arab armies. During the fighting, somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 Arabs were made refugees. Many of these Arab refugees landed in Gaza and the West Bank, while the rest went into Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. After the Arabs lost The 1948 War militarily, they needed a new strategy to defeat the Jews in the propaganda war. The Arab States found a solution by facilitating the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which led to invention of the Palestinian people.
Today, there are roughly four hundred and fifty million people in the Middle East who identify as being Arabs. Although all of these people identify as being one single ethnic group, they are separated by the borders of twenty different modern Arab countries. After the Israelis defeated the Arabs, Pan-Arabism dominated Middle Eastern politics for several decades. The goal of Pan-Arabism was to transcend these borders and for all of the Arabs to unite into one massive Arab nation. The goal was to obtain Arab hegemonic power over the entire Middle East, which meant that Israel needed to be erased and replaced with an Arab State called Palestine.
The Arab League States owned land that was 600 times larger than Israel. Since the Jews had only been given a tiny drop of soil in the Middle East, it was impossible for the Arab States to justify wanting more land, but if they invented a brand new group of people who owned the Land of Israel instead of the Jews, then they could repackage the desire to steal the territory that had already been given to the Jews.
The Jews had been living in the Promised Land for over 1,500 years before the Arab invasion, which meant that they were the intrinsic owners. The Arabs could not maintain that their presence in the Holy Land predated the Jewish presence. If the Arabs were going to claim that they owned the Land of Israel, then they needed to fabricate a new group of inhabitants who would claim that they formed as a nation in the prehistoric past before the establishment of ancient Israel. If this brand new group of people testified that they were living on the land before the Jewish people in the ancient past, then it would make them the original owners of the Land of Israel. The Arab refugees filled this need. Presto chango, the Arab refugees from The 1948 War were renamed the ancient Palestinians. Thus, a fictional nation of Palestinians who were living in the land for thousands of years was magically born.
The Palestinians were invented out of the Arab refugees from The 1948 War as a mirror nation to the Jewish people. Out of thin air, the ancient nation of Palestine was invented, which is supposed to have existed for thousands of years exactly like the Nation of Israel. The Palestinian people are supposed to have lived on the Land of Israel for thousands of years exactly like the Jewish people. After this invention, the Israeli-Arab conflict was reframed as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This point was exemplified in an interview with PLO Chairman, Yassar Arafat. A Brazilian journalist named Jordan Jose Arbex, reminded Arafat, “You are struggling for an entity – the Palestine state – that, from a historic and geographical viewpoint, has never existed.” To this accurate statement, Arafat responded by saying, “You must read the Bible, because it contains abundant historic references that demonstrate the existence of a cultural and geopolitical Palestinian identity for many thousands of years.” Despite the claims, the Palestinians never appear in the Bible, the whole myth is propaganda.
All of this means that the difference between the word “Arab” and the word “Palestinian” was artificially created to give the Arabs a connection to the Land of Israel that appeared to be stronger than the Jewish connection to the land. At the same time, the Arab refugees were still aligned with the goal of the Arab League to create Arab hegemonic supremacy in the Middle East, so they had to continue to define themselves as Arabs. The 2003 Constitution of Palestine repeats the same message, “The Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation.” That is why in the Palestinian define themselves as “part of the Arab Nation” and the ancient nation of Palestine at the same time. Moreover, this is why the Palestinians claim to be a group who formed in the Land of Israel thousands of years ago, but also define themselves as Arabs who invaded the Land of Israel some 1,400 years ago.
The creation of the Palestinians was necessary to change the perception of the balance of power. In reality, the Jews were facing a massive Arab majority: By changing the conflict from an Arab-Israeli conflict into a Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Jews were repackaged from the smaller party in the conflict to the stronger party. The creation of the Palestinians also changed the perception of the conflict over the land. Instead of the Arabs wanting to steal the land from the Jews, the conflict was falsely reframed as the Jews wanting to steal the land from the Palestinians.
In real history, Palestinian identity emerged after the Zionist movement. Palestinian identity is a form of Arab nationalism invented with the goal of creating an Arab State called Palestine designed to replace Israel. Palestinian identity is simply a form of modern Arab nationalism that emerged in the 1960s, which was imposed on top of a group of refugees who still define themselves as ethnic Arabs. Truth dictates that the Palestinians are not an unmistakable indigenous group of people.
It should be mentioned, in 1954, Jordan granted many of the Arab refugees living in the West Bank citizenship. Jordan lost control over the region during The 1967 War. In 1988, Jordan finally agreed to relinquish its title to the West Bank. At the same time, Jordan withdrew Jordanian citizenship from the Arabs living in the West Bank and rendered them stateless. In reaction, the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization proclaimed the establishment of the State of Palestine. Surprisingly, 1988 was the first time that any group of people ever declared Palestine to be their nation. This means that Palestine was first declared a nation around the same time as the Karate Kid movies.
12. The three goals of Khalidi’s propaganda:
If the Palestinians are going to claim that they owned the land before the Zionists, then they have to be able to provide at least one source saying they owned the land. The only problem is that the Palestinian people are not mentioned in a single source until after the creation of the Zionist movement. Khalidi’s goal is to find at least one source that mentions the indigenous Palestinians before the creation of the Zionist movement. Khalidi is like an archeologist looking for the missing link that proves the Palestinians existed. In order to do this, I will demonstrate that Khalidi fabricates a false source to try to find a reference to the Palestinians.
In order to rewrite the history, Khalidi has to invent a new imaginary history to replace the factual history. He has to invent three things: First, Khalidi has to invent an imaginary country called Palestine and insert it into the past before the creation of Israel. Khalidi does this by simply repeating over and over in his book and lectures that Palestine was a country that existed before the creation of Israel. Second, Khalidi has to invent a group of indigenous Palestinian people and insert them into the past. Third, since there are no sources that mention the Palestinians, Khalidi has to invent an imaginary source from the Ottoman period that states that the Land of Israel belonged to the indigenous Palestinians.
13. Khalidi’s book invents an imaginary source mentioning the indigenous Palestinians:
Khalidi cannot find a positive reference where the Palestinians are mentioned by name. But he does find an Ottoman official saying in 1899 that, “Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and more gravely, it is inhabited by others.” Effectively, Khalidi takes this vague reference to “inhabited by others” and falsely tries to claim that this is a reference to the indigenous Palestinians.
In his book, Rashid Khalidi spends quite a bit of time discussing his great-great-great uncle the Mayor of Jerusalem Yusuf Diya al-Din Pasha al-Khaldi. He boasts, “Yusuf Diya was heir to a long line of Jerusalemite scholars and legal functionaries.” And, “He was undoubtedly familiar with Der Judenstaat by the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl, published in 1896, and was aware of the first two Zionist congresses in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and 1898.” Notwithstanding, “Yusuf Diya would have been more aware than most of his compatriots in Palestine of the ambition of the nascent Zionist movement.”
Khalidi recounts that on March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya sent a letter to be passed on to Theodor Herzl. In the letter, Yusuf Diya told Herzl that he knows that the Jewish people used to inhabit the land, but he wants Herzl to understand that it was a long time ago, and that the land has been taken over by a different group of people, which are the citizens of the Ottoman Empire.
In the letter, Yusuf Diya encouraged Herzl to abandon the idea of creating a Jewish State. Yusuf Diya told Herzl, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.” Yusuf Diya told Herzl to leave the region alone because Palestine belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Yusuf Diya explained, “Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and more gravely, it is inhabited by others.” Yusuf Diya told Herzl that the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
It was not surprising at all that Yusuf Diya made the pronouncement that the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire because he was simply repeating the policy of the Ottoman government. In 1902, Herzl recorded the response of the Sultan’s representative to the Zionist plan in his diary, “His Imperial Majesty is prepared to open his Empire to Jewish refugees from all countries, on condition that they agree to become Ottoman subjects with all the duties that this imposes.” The quote continues, “Before entering our country they must formally resign to their previous nationality and become Ottoman Subjects. On this condition they may establish themselves in any of our provinces except – at first – Palestine.”
In 1913, the chair of Ottoman Decentralization Party Rafiq al-Azm, wrote in the Filasteen newspaper, “If the Jews were to become genuine citizens of the motherland, they would consequently be similar to other fellow citizens in this land, especially when the Zionist immigration to the country is halted. Thus, no immigrating Jew should be allowed permanent residency in Palestine without becoming a true Ottoman citizen.” Again, the Sultan and Khalidi’s great uncle did not say that the land belonged to the indigenous Palestinians; instead, they both stated that the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
This is the beginning of the problem for Khalidi: His great uncle said that the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire, not to the indigenous Palestinians. Khalidi’s goal is to find a source that says that the land belonged to the Palestinians. This source does not exist in any known document. Hence, Khalidi simply fabricates a source. Khalidi’s goal is to anachronistically insert a reference to the Palestinians in the past. Khalidi does this by latching onto the last phrase in the sentence where his great uncle mentioned that Palestine “is inhabited by others.”
Khalidi takes an enormous leap with the words: “inhabited by others.” He effectively takes this reference to a group of “others” and claims that it is a reference to the indigenous Palestinians. Khalidi follows the phrase “inhabited by others” by claiming that it meant, “It had an Indigenous population that would never accept being superseded.” Presto chango, by manufacturing this interpretation, Khalidi magically invented a source where an Ottoman representative said that the Jews could not own the land because it belonged to the indigenous Palestinians. Although, in context, the reference to “others” is most likely a reference to the Arab subjects of the Sultan living in the region. In the real letter, the Palestinians are never mentioned.
The book description repeats the same fabricated message, “In 1899, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, alarmed by the Zionist call to create a Jewish national home in Palestine, wrote a letter aimed at Theodore Herzl: the country had an indigenous people.” But, Yusuf Diya never mentioned a group of indigenous Palestinians. Yusuf Diya told Herzl that the Jews had no right to try to gain possession of the land, because the land belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Khalidi even admits, “Yusuf Diya’s 1899 letter to Herzl, for example, evokes… Ottoman loyalty.”
Yusuf Diya told Herzl the same exact thing that the Sultan had said to Herzl. Yusuf Diya wrote that there was no way to reconcile creating a Jewish State on land owned by the Ottoman Empire. Professor Khalidi makes up an imaginary story where Yusuf Diya, “knew perfectly well that there was no way to reconcile Zionism’s claims on Palestine and its explicit aim of Jewish statehood and sovereignty there with the indigenous rights and well-being of the country’s indigenous inhabitants.” In real history, Yusuf Diya wrote that there was no way to reconcile creating a Jewish State on land owned by the Ottoman Empire.
Remember, this is Khalid’s great-great-great uncle writing in 1899. One hundred years later, Khalidi writes the exact opposite of what his great uncle wrote: Khalid’s great uncle said in his letter that the region of Palestine belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and there is no mention of any indigenous Palestinians. Like a magician, Khalidi changes it and claims that his great uncle said that the land belonged to the indigenous Palestinians. Khalidi actually published a whole book based on an argument that says the exact opposite of his first-hand source. Not just the exact opposite, Khalidi published a whole book based on an imaginary story about his great uncle talking about a group of indigenous Palestinians that never happened.
14. The Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land did not try to create an independent country for themselves:
After the British defeated the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations began to make countries out of the leftover territory. One exception is that the Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land did not try to create an independent country for themselves. Under the administration of the Ottoman Empire the district of Palestine was administered as merely part of the territory of Southern Syria, rather than an autonomous region. After the fall of the empire, the Arabs living in the region of the Holy Land did not claim that Palestine had always existed as an ancient nation, and that Palestinians were a distinct ethnic identity, and therefore it was unjust to destroy Palestine. Instead they claimed that Palestine was not a nation, and that Palestine had always been part of Syria; and, therefore, the French and the British could not cut it away from Syria.
The Arabs wanted to prevent the Zionists from creating a state. So their goal was to prevent the region of Palestine from being recognized by the British and French as a separate legal territory. In contrast, the goal of the Zionists was to try to get the British and the French to recognize Palestine as a separate legal area and grant it to the Jewish people. Daniel Pipes explained, “To start with, the very delineation of a territory called ‘Palestine’ in 1918 was a Zionist achievement; had Jews not pressed the British government to create such a unit, Arabic-speakers of the area would have continued to see themselves living in a Greater Syria or in an Arab or Muslim nation; there simply would have been no Arab feeling for Filastin.”
In 1920, the French took control over Syria, after the area came under French control, the demand for unity with Syria was dropped. Simultaneously, the Arabs who had been living in the area under the British Mandate still wanted to prevent the Jews from taking control of the region, so they changed their position and argued that Palestine should not be part of Syria. They argued that it should be made part of a massive Arab State connected to the Arabian Peninsula. In summation, the Arabs changed their claims about the history of Palestine depending on whether it helped to prevent the Jewish people from obtaining a state. Khalidi changes the historical fact that Palestine was merely a district under the administration of the Ottomans into an imaginary claim that Palestine was a country. This change is made for the same reason to prevent the Jewish people from having a state.
Khalid’s goal is to argue that the Jewish people currently have no right to own the land, by making up an imaginary historical claim that Palestine was a country that was stolen from the Palestinians. The argument is simple: If the Land of Israel was stolen from the Palestinians, even if it was taken for a good reason like helping the persecuted Jews, then it still has to be returned to its original owner. Hence, when the Palestinians fight to take over the Land of Israel, then they are simply fighting to regain what was stolen from them. According to the Palestinian narrative, justice can only be satisfied by dismantling the State of Israel and giving all of the territory away to the Palestinians.
During a lecture at the University of London, Khalidi announced that the goal of his work is to overturn the Jewish State. Zionism is the goal to create a Jewish State. If someone calls for the elimination of Zionism, then it is the same thing as calling for the elimination of the Jewish State. Khalidi asked the audience: “How can these two peoples: The Palestinians and the Israelis transit to a peaceful post-colonial, post-Zionist future?” In other words, how can these two people transit to a future where a Jewish State does not exist?
15. A timeline of the 100-year progression of shifting Arab propaganda claims regarding Palestine:
- In 1899, Yusuf Diya explained that the district of Palestine belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
- In 1918, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire was defeated, the Arabs living in the region formed a group called the Arab Club. The goal of the club was to prevent Palestine from being given to the Jewish people by arguing that the Land of Israel belonged to Syria.
- In 1919, the Arab Club sent a letter to the British military governor of Jerusalem stating that Syria was a single unit extending from the Taurus mountains in southern Turkey all the way to Rafa in Gaza. The Arabs expressed their willingness to die to prevent the creation of Palestine. Their letter read, “Southern Syria forms a part of the United Syria beginning from Taurus (and extending to) Rafa, the separation of which we do not tolerate under any circumstances, and we are as well prepared to sacrifice ourselves towards its defense.”
- In 1937, the Arab Higher Committee claimed that Palestine was invented by the Zionists, because the land had always belonged to Syria. The secretary of The Arab Higher Committee, Awni Abd al-Hadi, testified to the British Peel Commission, “There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it.”
- In 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization Charter claimed that Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem did not belong to the people of Palestine.
- In 1967, Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza. In response, in 1968, the PLO charter was changed to claim that Gaza and the West Bank all belonged to the people of Palestine. It must be noted that even the updated 1968 PLO Charter specifically did not propose that Palestine was an independent nation. The charter was primarily created by the Arab League who were not interested in creating a State of Palestine.
- In 1976, Golda Meir explained that she had been involved in a, “lifetime of debates with Arab nationalists who vehemently excluded a separatist Palestinian Arab nationalism from their formulations.”
- In 1988, the Chairman of the PLO proclaimed the establishment of the State of Palestine.
- In 2020, Professor Rashid Khalidi published a book making up an imaginary source that claims that in 1899 Yusuf Diya wrote a letter saying that the land of Palestine belonged to the indigenous Palestinians.
Thus, Khalidi’s book represents 100 years of shifting Arab propaganda claims about the history of Palestine: The shift from Palestine being a region “inhabited by the Arab subjects of the Sultan” all the way to being “the country of the indigenous Palestinians.”
Jewish people have thousands of written sources mentioning their connection to the Land of Israel. In contrast, Khalidi tried to find one piece of paper that mentioned the Palestinians before the Zionist movement and failed. There was no such thing as “the country of the indigenous Palestinians.” Instead, they were Arabs who started to call themselves Palestinians in the 1960s. The State of Israel does not need to be dismantled and returned to the ancient indigenous Palestinians because they never existed. The solution to achieve peace is for the Arabs to finally admit that the Jewish people are the indigenous owners of the Land of Israel.