The Foundational Falsehood Underlying Palestinian Claims

Of all the falsehoods that have been mythologized regarding Israel and Palestine, none has been more pervasive and damaging than the claim that Israel constitutes “Occupied Palestine.”

Why? Because this claim underlies all other Palestinian claims of being the legitimate and persecuted inhabitants of Israel. Take away this keystone myth, and Palestinians lose all other claims of Israeli/Jewish victimhood and justifications of decades of violence propagated against Jews, Arabs, and Europeans.

These pernicious claims of Palestinian originalism have been promulgated since Israel’s founding by a range of bad actors, including radical Arab countries, the Soviets, and European and American Progressives…not to mention the Palestinians themselves. Ask your average American or European why Palestinians deserve their own country, and one is likely to be told, “because they were there first, and they were displaced by European Jews.” Wrong!

Image: The Western Wall from the Second Temple era by DGtal. CC BY-SA 4.0.

What is “Palestine”?

Definitions of “Palestine” and “Palestinian” have always been fungible. Technically, “Palestine” refers to a historically amorphous area that encompassed Israel, Lebanon, parts of Syria, parts of Egypt, and parts of Arabia. It was the location of multiple migrations by many tribes over millennia. The area was part of the Mamluk Egyptian Empire from the mid-1200s until 1516 when it was captured by and integrated into Ottoman Turkish Empire by Sultan Bayezid II. Modern “Palestine,” in the 19th-century, referred to the part of the Ottoman Empire encompassed by modern-day Israel (East of the Jordan River) and Trans Jordan (West of the Jordan River).

This area remained part of Ottoman Turkey until the Turks were defeated in World War I, and the British took effective control of both “Palestine” and Trans-Jordan in 1923 with the goal of eventually ceding independence to its inhabitants. Earlier, in 1917 (during WWI), the British had committed themselves to partitioning the area between Jewish and Arab inhabitants in the area under the Balfour Agreement.

Jews and Palestinians in Palestine

Not all Jews left the area during the diaspora of the Roman era; many remained in the area and drifted back to Jerusalem. More Jews arrived after Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II turned the Ottoman Empire into a refuge for Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal during the 16th-century Inquisition-mandated expulsions.

Over time, more Jews migrated into Palestine, especially Jerusalem. Although the area was predominantly Arab (Druze and Bedouin) and Turk during this period, the 1880 Ottoman census tallied 275,000 people in a land that Mark Twain, in his 1867 travel memoirs, described as “desolate” and “barren.” Of this total, about 10% were Jewish, mostly concentrated in Jerusalem. Jews continued to migrate to Palestine, purchasing land from Turkish and Arab landowners.

By 1900, Jews comprised the largest ethnic segment of Jerusalem’s population. Also by the early 1900s, European Jews began to arrive into the area as part of Zionist-inspired “Aliyah” migrations. Just before Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Palestinian mandate’s population was about 1.3 million people, of which 30% were Jewish, but after Palestinians out-migrated the area upon partition (confident that the Arab armies would finish off the Jews), the population fell to 800,000, 82% of which was Jewish. This marked the beginning of “Israel.”

So, what about the Palestinians? They initially claimed to be the descendants of the region’s Biblical-era Canaanite and Jebusite tribes. However, the Canaanites and Jebusites were already spoken for: they were the Phoenicians who settled neighboring Lebanon (ask a Lebanese Christian today whether the Lebanese are Arabs, and you risk a rather impolite response). The other Arabs in the area were primarily Druze and Bedouin, both of whom inhabit Israel today and count themselves as loyal Israeli citizens.

The “Palestinians” migrated to Palestine during the 19th Century at about the same time as the Jews, some coming from Syria but most immigrating from Egypt. Most of the Palestinians migrated into Trans Jordan (currently Jordan), where they make up the bulk (70%-plus) of today’s population in a country ruled by a Hashemite Bedouin minority. Demographically speaking, Jordan could be called a Palestinian nation.

Sometimes, the mask slips, and Palestinians will openly confess their Egyptian origins. Yasser Arafat—the Palestinian leader, Soviet tool, and master terrorist—would brag to fellow Palestinians about his Egyptian birthright. Then there are examples such as this:

“Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called al-Masri, whose roots are Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the north, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians; we are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are part of you. Egyptians! Personally, half my family is Egyptian – and the other half are Saudis.” --- Hamas Minister of the Interior and National Security, Fathi Hammad, March 23, 2012.

Hamas, need it be said, is the terrorist organization that rules Gaza today.

Word Games

International definitions of the term “Palestinian” have deliberately been muddled for political reasons: in today’s political-speak, a “Jordanian Palestinian” only refers to those Palestinians who fled to Jordan after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence victory, not to those who resided there previously and constitute Jordan’s majority population today. At that time, Jordan controlled Israel’s West Bank. Jordan subsequently lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, a war launched by Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt with the goal of destroying Israel. Israel won again.

The 300,000 Palestinians who live in the West Bank today live in the only part of Israel that could arguably be labeled “occupied,” but only as “occupied Jordan” (the formerly Syrian Golan Heights are a different story). It is ruled by the Palestinian National Authority, a viciously corrupt police-state entity that depends upon Israel for its economic survival while simultaneously offering bounties on dead Jewish babies.

As for Palestinian Gaza, it was part of Egypt until Israel captured it in the Six-Day War. Gaza was given independence from Israeli occupation as part of the 1997 Oslo Accords, and the last Israelis evacuated Gaza in 2005. The 780,000 Palestinians living in Gaza, renowned for their industriousness, entrepreneurship, and high level of education, could have turned Gaza into another Singapore-type city-state on the Med. Instead, they opted to turn it into a terrorist state and rocket platform from which to attack Israel. Whatever. Gaza was never “occupied Palestine” but “occupied Egypt.”

From Egyptian Mamluks to Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to modern-day Israel, there has never been an “original” Palestinian population within the boundaries of Israel, nor has there ever been an original Palestinian people, nor has there ever been a Palestinian nation. Palestinians today could reasonably claim that they had similar claims to the land as did the Jews by virtue of their 19th-century migrations (ignoring the Jews’ 3,000-year continuous residence), but those Palestinian claims were recognized by the original partition of the British Mandate into Israel and Palestine at the end of 1947. The Palestinians, though, weren’t satisfied: with the help of Arab armies, the Palestinians opted to try and grab it all…and lost. The Palestinians lost again in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In this author’s humble opinion, Palestinian demands for nationhood should stand pretty much at the very back of a long line of similar claimants worldwide by virtue of their undying commitment to the destruction of Israel and Jews, whose economic assistance and basic humanitarian patience they depend upon for their existence today.

Understandably, many (most?) Palestinians don’t want war with Israel but only want to live in peace. However, they aren’t the ones running things. Until that situation changes, there are no “legitimate claims to statehood.” Contrary to popular mythology, they were never “there first,” and there is no such place as “occupied Palestine.” The lie of Palestinian originalism serves only the interests of Palestinian terrorists, international and American Progressives, and other anti-Semites. It’s a lie that needs to be called out…every time!

Danny Lemieux (a pseudonym) is an American writer living in Virginia. He would like his readers to know that, while he admires Israel, he is neither Jewish nor Israeli.

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