It’s been ever so graciously pointed out that the Ortzion website, from which I excerpted a bit of historical narrative in my Friday afternoon post, is a “Messianic Jewish” site. And it’s further been pointed out that I’m not generally a fan of such sites or of the people who sponsor them. That’s quite correct, and had I not been rushing to get that post up, I likely would have selected one of the other dozens of sources that provide the same factual, historical information in its stead. Sloppy posting on my part and, for that, I apologize.
Nevertheless, as others have noted, the facts presented are no less valid just because they were published by people with whose approach to my religious and ethnic identity I tend to disagree. And there aren’t too many discussions of the relationship between the Biblical Philistines and today's “Palestinian Arabs” on websites without some sort of religious or ethnic affiliation. There are any number of Arab and/or Muslim websites claiming direct lineage and there are many Jewish and/or Zionist websites claiming the opposite. No surprise there.
This Christian website, run by the Restored Church of God, isn’t aimed at Jews.
Palestinians today insist that they inhabited the land of Canaan before God gave it to Israel. But they are either seriously misinformed or willfully ignorant. The Canaanites described above were definitely not of Arab descent. The Arabic peoples are descendants of Ishmael, who descended from Shem. The peoples of Tunisia, Malta, Algeria and Sicily of today are of similar descent as these Canaanites.Nor is this one.
Modern-day Palestinians, according to that school of belief, are not the descendants of people who drifted from the Arabian peninsula in recent centuries, as most historians believe, but are the direct descendants of the Philistines, Aegean Sea people who settled on the coast of Canaan in the 12th century B.C. Palestinian archeologist Dr. Adel Yahya argues that "Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Canaanites themselves, who were present in the land before the Israelites arrived."Wikipedia.org is a “free universal encyclopedia,” which attempts to provide a neutral point of view in its articles by examining issues from as many sides as possible. While I obviously don’t agree with all of their conclusions, I find this historical account to be about as non-partisan as it’s possible to get in this “debate.” There’s quite a bit more than I have space to quote here.
Though there is no physical evidence to back these assertions, they have been popular among Palestinian academics for at least a decade. Mainstream international archeologists flatly reject that belief. Palestinian Islamists also shy away from the theory, which would make them descendants of pagans.
Over the last thousands years the population of Palestine was comprised of various ethnic groups, including Syrian Arabs, Egyptian Arabs, Arab immigrants from the Arabian peninsula, Bedouin Arabs, Druze (who are not Arabs), Jews, Turks, as well as smaller number of people from other areas.So now we get down to the proverbial nitty-gritty. Yes, you could say that there really is no argument over “the existence of a Palestinian nation today." Random House Webster’s Dictionary defines “nation” as “a body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.” By that definition, I don’t think anyone could argue that the palestinians aren’t a “nation.” They claim a particular territory as their own and they seek their own government. But where exactly does that get us? Certainly not to the conclusion that this “nation,” in its current manifestation, is “entitled to a state.”
Today, many Arabs, especially Palestinians, look back at the peoples in this land over the last millennium and hold them to be an indigenous Palestinian people. Most historians would disagree with such a romantic attitude, saying that this view is a historical anachronism. There's little historical evidence that the various Arab ethnicities ever saw themselves as a united people or nationality. It was only with the creation of modern Arab nationalism in the beginning of the 20th century that this perception began to change.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir claimed that
"There was no such thing as Palestinians... It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."While obviously inconsiderate of the Arab nationalism, that had had a long history even prior to Israel's establishment, the statement was not meant to imply the absence of Arabs in the land before 1948, but rather that they lacked a single national agenda. Ironically, the original Arab position, including the position of the PLO was the same as that of Prime Minister Meir. For example, in March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. He claimed that
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. 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. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan." Palestinians today take great exception to any such former view. They interpret such views to mean that Israelis deny the existence of various Arab peoples in the land before 1948. The former position is often rejected, or (more often) its existence ever is denied. While the historical situation is often argued about, there's no party in the Middle East conflict that would deny the existence of a Palestinian nation today - which, as many believe, is entitled to a state.
About two months ago, with tongue planted loosely in cheek, I posted an "explanation" of why I spell "palestinian" with a small "p". That post has generated a few puerile responses that have entirely missed the point, preferring instead to speculate as to what other populations I might arbitrarily decide to deny a capital letter. To those who have accused me of denying the “validity” of a group of people who have chosen to call themselves “Palestinians,” I can only say, read it again. The focus of that post was the propensity of that particular group of people to invent their own history and to deny the national identity of the Jewish people through the cynical manipulation of language and historical record. It’s a game two can play.
What the Wikipedia article points out with exceptional clarity is that the palestinian “nation” can’t depend upon the falsification of history either to substantiate its own validity or to obliterate that of others. Its existence is a fact that must be dealt with. Where we part company is the assertion that every “nation,” no matter what the basis and nature of its claims may be, no matter how it goes about asserting them or whether it demonstrates any interest in living at peace with its neighbors, is necessarily “entitled to a state.” That is a notion that I do, in fact, unequivocally reject.
But the issue I suggested as “food for thought,” regardless of the source of the quote, was simply this: were the Biblical Philistines or Canaanites the ancestors of those who today call themselves “Palestinians?” As indicated above, the research and the evidence say “no.” The patriarch Abraham, from whom the palestinians also claim descent, was the precursor of the Jews and of the Arabs. But the Philistines weren’t Arabs, and neither were the Canaanites. Nor, it is clear, were they Muslims.
Throughout the thirteen centuries following their initial conquest of the region, no Arab or Muslim “nation” ever asserted a claim to “Palestine” or made the slightest attempt to establish an independent state there. Not until the Jewish remnant began to organize itself as a national community. Why is that? Why is it that during the 19 years of “occupation” of the West Bank by Jordan not one voice was raised for the “liberation” of that territory as a “Palestinian homeland?” And why is it that the mere mention of these verifiable historical facts provokes such sputtering outrage in those who claim to seek peace on earth?