September 15, 2009
Wrong use of the 'P word'By Victor Sharpe
Throughout the Arab, and most of the Muslim world, the territory between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea is called Palestine while the name, Israel, is blotted out.
The so-called moderate wing of the Palestinian Authority displays a wall map behind the desk of its Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, showing the State of Israel in its entirety but named Palestine.
Indeed, the PA too often refuses to use the name, Israel, preferring to call it "the Zionist entity." In doing so, it should remove from the minds of objective observers any faith in the Arabs' interest in making a true peace. If the Arabs cannot even bring themselves to name their partner, then the entire peace process is a farce: a disaster waiting to happen.
But the general use of the term, Palestine, in a geographical and historical biblical context is often used just as insidiously as that employed routinely by the Palestinian Authority.
Christian and even Jewish writers, many eminent and admirable, often use the word Palestine along with or even instead of Israel, Judea and Judah when referring to the biblical period. This, consciously or unwittingly, helps to belittle the inextricable links of the Jewish people to their biblical and ancestral homeland.
It is time to restore historical correctness and dispose, once and for all, of the literary and present day propagandistic use of the term Palestine when referring to the biblical period.
Nowhere in the Jewish Bible is the word Palestine used. Nor is it ever used in the Christian Bible. Read the New Testament texts and look for the word, Palestine. It does not exist. But Israel is used. For instance in Matt. 2:20-21:
The Bible, both Jewish and Christian, never employs the name Palestine in reference to biblical times. Any Bible commentary that refers to the biblical period as 'in Palestine' is either committing an historical error or is making a determined and sinister effort to deny the Jewish biblical names of Judah, Israel, Judea, Samaria and Galilee - especially that of Israel. It is, therefore, necessary to review some brief history to understand the monumental error being committed.
During the First Jewish uprising against the Romans, the Roman general, Titus, destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Subsequently Rome issued coins with the phrase, Judea Capta, meaning that the Jewish province of Judea had been captured. However, they did not use the term, Palestine, for it was as yet unknown and certainly never employed in Roman coinage of that time.
The second Jewish Revolt against Roman occupation of Judea broke out under the banner of Bar-Kochba in 132 AD. It was eventually crushed in 136 AD after years of heroic resistance against the legions of Rome's emperor, Hadrian Publius Aelius.
Incidentally, a discovery of 120 coins minted by followers of Bar Kochba, who was known as the Son of a Star, have just been found by Israeli archaeologists near the Dead Sea where the Jewish defenders made their final stand against Rome. The coins all had the words, ‘Freedom for Jerusalem' imprinted on them.
It is intriguing to consider that if the British tribes, at the other end of the empire, had risen in revolt at the same time, both peoples may have prevailed and history would be very different from what it became.
Hadrian destroyed Jewish Jerusalem, plowing the city under and filling the furrows with salt. He renamed it Aelia Capitolina, in part after his own name, and built a shrine to the Roman god Jupiter on the site where the Holy Jewish Temple had once stood.
But he also chose to rename Judea with that of the hated ancient enemy of Israel; the now long extinct Philistines. This was done as a lasting insult to the Jewish people. Hadrian thus renamed the land Philistia, later Latinized into Palestina and, in time, becoming Palestine.
We should note that the Philistines were known as the "Sea Peoples" whom, it is believed, originated from Crete. They settled along much of the south eastern Mediterranean coastline and certainly had nothing to do with the ancestry of any Arabs -- despite the deluded imaginings of the late arch terrorist, Yasser Arafat.
The usage of the Hadrianic term, Palestine, was subsequently absorbed into the lexicon of the Church, which has continued to use the historically incorrect term, Palestine, when referring to biblical history in maps and literature: often replacing the word, Israel.
Interestingly, when the Crusader King Frederick II obtained a lease of much of the Holy Land from the Egyptian Sultan, Al-Kamil, including Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, he called it the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
When Great Britain was awarded the Mandate for the territory in 1920 by the League of Nations, it immediately employed the term, Palestine, on both sides of the River Jordan.
The British term became the geo-political usage for several decades and the Jewish community was obliged to use terms such as the Palestine Post for today's Jerusalem Post and the Palestine Symphony Orchestra for today's Israel Symphony Orchestra. The historically correct name, Israel, was finally revived after the reconstituted State of Israel proclaimed its independence in 1948.
No such place as Palestine existed in Christ's time or at the time of the biblical Jewish Judges or Kings. The Jewish patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, never lived in a place called Palestine, nor did any of the biblical prophets. Canaan would be accurate for patriarchal times but the Canaanites, the Philistines, and a host of other pagan tribes had already long disappeared by later biblical times. Indeed, as we know, no independent state called Palestine has ever existed in recorded history, certainly not an Arab one. Palestine - like, for instance, Patagonia or Siberia - has always been merely a geographical area.
Those still believing in historical correctness, not the dubious and transitory concept known as political correctness, might wish to urge publishers and writers to restore historical correctness to the nomenclature in their works.
It is sad to witness glaring historical errors in such titles as: Palestine in Biblical Times; Palestine under the Time of the Judges; Palestine in the Times of the Kings or Jesus' Palestine, when a geographical territory called Palestine did not even exist during those times.
After all, we do not write of Alexander the Great's journey through Bactria as Alexander in Afghanistan. Nor do we describe the invasion into Carthage of Scipio Africanus as Scipio in Tunisia. So why use the term, Palestine, to describe a historical period and location when that word had not yet been invented?
Surely the use by authors and bible commentators of a name that never existed until at least 135 AD can finally begin to be corrected.
After all, historical correctness must always trump political correctness.
Victor Sharpe is the author of Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.