During the joint White House press conference on February 15 featuring President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the latter said, “The Chinese are called Chinese because they are from China. The Japanese are called Japanese. And the Jews are called Jews because they came from Judea.”
Not surprisingly, a columnist in Israel’s hard-left newspaper Haaretz, Carolina Landsmann, sarcastically fired back in print, “Maybe at the next press conference Netanyahu will be so kind as to explain why the Palestinians are called Palestinians.”
Since that is not likely to happen, I will answer her for him. We call the Palestinians “Palestinians” because it is basic to this generation’s politically correct way, post-Holocaust, of hating Jews, and here’s why:
In every generation, people hate Jews because they are believed to commit evil deeds, and their current crime is the theft of Palestine from the Palestinians. And never mind that these “Palestinians” were never mentioned in the documentation of the League of Nations (1920-1945) that in its 1922 Mandate for Palestine explicitly identified the country as the “historic homeland of the Jewish people.” In its three decades of existence, the League referred only to Jews and Arabs, never “Palestinians.”
Then, after WWII, when the League morphed into the United Nations Organization, for the UN’s first quarter-century no document referenced any “Palestinians” either.
This should not surprise, because for a Biblical generation of forty years after the Mandate kicked in, the Arabs themselves said there was no such country as Palestine and no such people as “Palestinians.” Only the Zionist Jews in this period happily called themselves Palestinians. The Arabs’ leader. the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, said that what Jews and Christians called “Palestine” was for Muslims “Bilad a-Sham,” historic Syria and had always been that.
Indeed, when in early 1919 the post-WWI Paris Peace Conference created the League of Nations and incorporated the Balfour Declaration into its Mandate for Palestine, Haj Amin fought back by launching a newspaper in Jerusalem he called Al-Suria al-Janubia/Southern Syria, whose purpose was to oppose the creation of a jurisdiction called Palestine that had never existed in fourteen centuries of Islam.
Muslims never had an outline of such a country in their heads called Falastin — as they call this land today. There never was a government of Palestine led by a king or sultan, pasha or president. No one ever called himself a “Palestinian” or was called that by others. There never was a Palestinian language. No “Palestinians” ever minted their own money. No army of “Palestinians” ever defended “their” country from enemy invaders.
And this denial of the existence of a country called Palestine was the official Arab position into the 1960s. Not until March 29, 1959, in a meeting of the Arab League of States, was the idea of a kiyan falastini/“Palestinian entity” raised by Arab League Chairman Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt when discussing the ten-year-old cease-fire with Israel. He proposed a new conceptual framework for, as they were called at that time “the Arab refugees.” His suggestion was to imitate what was going on in Algeria at the moment where the Muslims there were in their fifth year of a terror war to drive out the French colonial regime that had ruled since 1830. Nasser was an active supporter of Algeria’s Muslim rebels by hosting their leaders of the FLN (Front de Liberation National) in Cairo, providing them with radio facilities to broadcast instructions and coded messages into Algeria, allowing them to smuggle weapons and ammunition across to the Sahara to the terrorists.
Nasser also was aware of the FLN’s success in winning political support in France among the intellectuals by couching their struggle in political terms as a “war of national liberation,” when among themselves they identified not as “Algerians” but Muslims. To this day, their official newspaper is El Moudjahid.
So Nasser proposed that henceforth the generic label “the Arab refugees” from Israel, which was accurate because most of them were not natives of Palestine but a mixed bag of migrant workers from all over the Middle East in the country a short time when they fled the fighting, be rebranded the “Palestinian nation” — and never mind there was nothing “Palestinian” about most of them.
Coincidently that fall, in a similar and competing effort, eight of these “Arab refugees,” all raised in the Muslim Brotherhood, met in Kuwait to form their own imitation FLN to fight Israel. All had been born in Mandatory Palestine except for one. He was not a refugee but a native Egyptian named Rahman al-Qudwa, who would nonetheless emerge as their leader. Later, Rahman would be known to the world by his nom de guerre, Yasir Arafat.
After these eight Muslim Brothers in their thirties decided to create their own anti-Zionist terror cell, they searched for a name. Half wanted something like Algeria’s “National Liberation Front”; the others preferred something Islamic. Arafat led this faction and in the end a clever verbal compromise was reached. They chose Fatah, the name of the forty-eighth sura/chapter of the Koran’s 114. It means “conquest” but really in context “conquest of the infidel,” and in this case the Zionists who were in revolt against their age-old, oppressed status. The Koran dictates that Jews living in Dar al-Islam must be “oppressed and humiliated,” and so they were for most of Islam’s fourteen centuries. The very idea of a state of Jews living free of Islamic domination was blasphemous. The choice of Fatah thus had nothing to do with “Palestinian” nationalism and everything to do with religion.
And it was a clever choice because it satisfied the other half that preferred a non-religious, nationalist name. Reading the consonants of fatah backward, they could stand for “Palestine Liberation Organization.”
And the rest is history.
Today’s “Palestinian” national identity was therefore not conceived until a decade after Israel came into being in imitation of Algeria’s FLN (that still rules that country) and other post-WWII, Third World “wars of national liberation”– and never mind that its invention constituted a complete, 180-degree U-turn in Arab propaganda and public diplomacy. No self-respecting Arab 1920-1960 would have been caught dead calling himself a “Palestinian.” Only Zionist Jews did that. Today, though, the Arab-Muslims insist they are the ancient “Palestinian people” — and never mind there was no mention of them in any UN document until the 1970s.
Ironically, the “Palestinian” identity was also coinvented by post-religious, dejudaized Israelis a.k.a. Leftists who refused to acknowledge the religious dimension of the Arab-Muslim war against them. Israel’s leftists had long preached that if the terror in Israel and threats from a nuclear Iran were perceived as religion-based, then there is no hope for peace. Therefore, they remain adamant on using nationalist terms so that the conflict can be seen as a struggle between two “normal” nations over some real estate that can be solved by compromise, goodwill and mutual respect. There are no greater “Palestinian patriots” than the Jewish Left who gave birth to the Rosemary’s Baby of the delusional Oslo Peace Process that produced not peace but the bloodiest wave of terror in Israel’s history.
In sum, people call the Palestinians “Palestinians” as way of perpetuating the eternal hatred of Jews via this generation’s central anti-Semitic myth: that the Jews’ stole Palestine, the ancient homeland of the indigenous, putatively Paleolithic “Palestinian” people, and refuse to return even a small part of it so the “Palestinians” can have the state they have been dreaming about since the dawn of Man.
Palestinian Nationalism has replaced anti-Semitism as this generation’s kosher way of lying about and hating Jews enough to justify slaughtering them in terrorist atrocities.
Sha’i ben-Tekoa’s PHANTOM NATION: Inventing the “Palestinians” as the Obstacle to Peace is available at Amazon.com.