Ilan Eichner W
Lawyer & Law Professor

The Museum of Palestinian History is empty

Created by ChatGPT with DALL-E, 2024.

The enduring conflict between Israel and Palestine is a highly intricate issue, deeply rooted in history and subject to intense academic and political debate. Amidst this complexity, an important question arises: do Palestinians hold a history extending millennia in the region, as is often claimed? The most direct response is no.

If one were to consider the Palestinians as a people with a significant historical presence, as they assert themselves to be, one may ponder what artifacts would be on display in a hypothetical “Museum of Palestinian History”. Upon careful examination, it becomes evident that the historical record before 1948 would likely feature a noticeable absence of items, which can be supported by substantial evidence.

When considering the Palestinian people, it is notable that there is a lack of prominent leaders, significant ancient structures, economic records, and documented religious rites within their civilization. This absence raises queries about the legitimacy of their cause and the validity of the claims they make.

The query of who was the first in the region is of significant importance, particularly in light of the commonly acknowledged principle “first come, first served”. Archaeological and documentary evidence provide valuable insight into the antiquity of the Jewish presence in the region. For example, the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE serves as a notable testament to ancient Jewish civilization. This revered site, which served as the religious and cultural hub of Judaism, substantiates the Hebrew presence in Jerusalem. Furthermore, archaeological sites such as the synagogues of Masada and Gamla furnish evidence of the communal and religious life of Jews in ancient times.

It is important to consider the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a significant piece of evidence, as it was constructed on the esplanade of the Temple of Jerusalem. The latter underscores the likelihood that the original Jewish structure predates the Muslim construction at that location. The Jewish Temple preceded the Muslim buildings on the Temple Mount. The premise of constructing the upper layer of a building before its foundation is logically unsound. Similarly, the concept of a hypothetical Museum of Palestinian History filled with comparable claims would be deemed as surreal.

Historical evidence robustly attests to the Jewish presence in the region, with no mention of Palestinians in ancient times. A notable example is the Arch of Titus in Rome, which commemorates the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE, documenting the Jewish presence and narrating the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of the indigenous Jewish population. Furthermore, the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BCE, references the Jews as a settled people in what is now Israel. Additionally, Flavius Josephus, a Jewish-Roman historian of the 1st century CE, extensively chronicled the history of his people in the region yet made no mention of Palestinians in his detailed accounts of the Jewish-Roman wars and the fall of Jerusalem.

Additionally, Egyptian records provide further evidence of the Jewish presence. The Merneptah Stele, dating back over 3200 years, mentions the Hebrews as a significant group in Canaan, which corresponds to modern-day Israel. Assyrian and Babylonian archives also document numerous interactions with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, such as the Assyrian conquest of Samaria in 722 BCE and the Babylonian exile of the Jews following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. In contrast, there is no evidence of historical interactions with a Palestinian civilization during these periods.

Moreover, the wealth of archaeological and historical evidence substantiates the enduring Jewish presence in the region. At the same time, the lack of corresponding Palestinian artifacts and records prompts scrutiny of the historical assertions made by Palestinians.

A Museum of Palestinian History featuring exhibitions from ancient times would be notably sparse, as there is an absence of records mentioning Palestinian people in the annals of ancient civilizations. Notably, Palestine is the sole Arab nation with a name derived from a non-Arabic origin. The term “Palestine” originates from “Philistia,” used by the ancient Greeks to denote the land of the Philistines, a people who inhabited the southeastern Mediterranean coast. During the Roman era, the region was renamed “Syria Palestina” following the Jewish revolt in the 2nd century, with the intent to diminish Jewish identity in the area.

When considering the historical presence of the Palestinian people, it is natural to question the identities of their leaders throughout history. Jewish history boasts a rich tapestry of influential figures, including Moses, Joshua, Aaron, King David, King Solomon, and King Saul, all of whom played significant roles in the establishment and protection of their Civilization. These individuals are not only featured in religious texts but are also supported by various historical and archaeological evidence. In contrast, the Palestinian Museum’s collection of leaders appears conspicuously empty. The absence of records regarding prominent Palestinian figures before the 20th century raises inquiries about historical documentation and the representation of leadership within the Palestinian community.

A significant question revolves around the architectural and cultural heritage left by the ancient Palestinians. The Jewish civilization has left a lasting legacy through enduring structures and cultural contributions. The Temple of Jerusalem mentioned previously, stands as a testament to the advanced architecture and profound religious dedication of the Jewish people. On the contrary, the hypothetical Palestinian Museum, purporting to exhibit significant and ancient constructions, would, according to their narrative, be devoid of such displays. There is a lack of substantial archaeological evidence supporting the existence of an ancient Palestinian people with comparable achievements.

It is important to consider the economic aspects of the Palestinian people if they indeed had a significant historical presence. Civilizations that have made a mark on history typically have well-documented records of their economic systems, trade exchanges, and contributions to the global economy. For instance, the Jewish community has extensive historical documentation of their trade and economic activities in the region, including the use of the shekel as their currency. In contrast, the Museum of Palestinian History likely lacks similar economic records. This leads us to inquire about the nature of their trade, their trading partners, and the currency they used.

A segment of the Museum of Ancient Palestinian History could delve into a pressing inquiry: what constituted the religious practices and sacred scriptures of the ancient Palestinians? Judaism and Hebrew have constituted pivotal facets of Israeli identity since ancient eras. The Hebrew Bible refers to Jerusalem over 600 times, underscoring the city’s prominence in Jewish religion and culture. The use of Hebrew, both as a sacred tongue and in daily discourse, serves as evidence of the historical and cultural perpetuity of the Jewish people within the region. In contrast, Islam and Arabic made their entry into the Middle East at a much later stage.

Islam, which recognizes Jewish and Christian traditions as its predecessors, was established in the 7th century CE and quickly spread throughout the region, including the Land of Israel. Since Muslims arrived later, their connection to the region does not have the same deep historical roots as the Jewish connection. With the Islamic expansion, Arabic became the predominant language of the Middle East, but there is no evidence of significant use of Arabic in the region before this period, unlike the extensive use of Hebrew and Aramaic.

The Quran indirectly mentions the importance of Jerusalem a few times, but it does not explicitly refer to the Holy City. However, the Quran does acknowledge the land of Israel as given to the Jewish people (Sura 5:20-21). The term “Palestine” is not explicitly mentioned in either the Torah or the Quran, which raises questions about the antiquity of the term in historical and religious contexts. As a result, the section of the Museum of Palestinian History dedicated to its religion before 1948 would be empty.

The absence of economic records, religious texts, and archaeological evidence substantiating the claims of an ancient Palestinian presence stands in stark contrast to the substantial historical and cultural heritage of the Jewish people in the region. This noticeable disparity emphasizes the importance of critically evaluating historical assertions and recognizing verifiable historical evidence.

The investigation of religious texts as divine sources and historical records of ancient beliefs is particularly pertinent when assessing their significance. To further this comparison, it is paramount to consider the monumental achievements of other ancient civilizations. The Egyptians, for instance, are celebrated for the construction of enduring architectural marvels such as the pyramids of Giza, the temples of Luxor, and Karnak. Conversely, the Palestinians’ architectural legacy remains a topic for exploration. Ancient Greece is renowned for its profound contributions to philosophy, politics, and science, as well as the construction of iconic structures like the Parthenon and the Agora of Athens. The Palestinians’ cultural contributions and interactions with other civilizations pose intriguing questions. Moreover, the Romans’ impressive infrastructure, including the Colosseum and aqueducts, bear testimony to their far-reaching influence in Europe. It is crucial to ascertain the extent of Palestinians’ interactions with other ancient societies. The Chinese innovations such as the invention of paper, gunpowder, and the printing press have had a profound global impact. Hence, exploring the antiquity of the Palestinians’ innovations is integral to understanding their historical contributions.

Given the aforementioned points, it is important to acknowledge the historical context when promoting the preservation of Palestinian traditions and culture on social media. It is necessary to carefully consider historical evidence before making such statements. A thorough analysis of archaeological evidence, documentary references, and the contributions of various civilizations to humanity reveals a well-documented Jewish presence in the region of Israel and Jerusalem. In contrast, the narrative of a longstanding Palestinian people lacks substantial support.

It is important to acknowledge that recognizing this fact does not in any way refute the current existence of the Palestinian people or their right to self-determination. Instead, it contextualizes their modern origins within the appropriate historical framework. Empirical evidence indicates that while Jews have maintained a continuous and well-documented presence in the Middle East since ancient times, Palestinian identity has emerged more recently, notably since 1948.

The recognition of the historical context does not undermine the validity of Palestinian national aspirations; rather, it is an essential component for a comprehensive understanding. The right to self-determination is inherent, and the Palestinian people, like any other, deserve the opportunity to shape their future. It is, however, crucial to anchor discussions and policies in a precise comprehension of history. Only by doing so can we progress towards a fair and enduring resolution of the conflict, honoring the rights and historical background of all involved peoples. We hope that the Palestinians can establish a museum to showcase their valuable contributions to humanity.

In conclusion, it is imperative to take into account the historical context. It is crucial to acknowledge the enduring Jewish presence in the region while also acknowledging the relatively recent emergence of Palestinian identity. This comprehensive understanding is instrumental in shaping equitable and efficacious policies that uphold the rights and historical narratives of all parties involved.

About the Author
Lawyer, Law School Professor, Zionist activist, and writer, specializing in the geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East. His work, published in various esteemed journals, focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, offering in-depth analyses that blend historical, legal, and ethical insights. Known for his ability to unravel complex geopolitical issues, he provides insightful and nuanced viewpoints on contemporary challenges in the region.
Related Topics
Related Posts