The Two Big Myths about the Middle East

Propagation of myths has consequences.  Let us examine a couple and see where they have led.  

Myth 1. The State of Palestine

This so-called state is like Brigadoon, with two exceptions:  

a. It never appeared.  

b. It refuses to go away.  

Neither a country nor a state of Palestine has ever existed.  

The Kingdom of Judah is named after Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah.  The Kingdom of Judah was formed after the death of King Solomon, when the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  The two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained loyal to Rehoboam, and they formed the Kingdom of Judah.  

Etymologically, “Jew,” Judah,” and “Judea” are related.  

late 12c., GiwJeu, “a Jew” (ancient or modern), one of the Jewish race or religion,” from Anglo-French iuw, Old French giu (Modern French Juif), from Latin Iudaeum (nominative Iudaeus), from Greek Ioudaios, from Aramaic (Semitic) jehudhai (Hebrew y’hudi) “a Jew,” from Y’hudah ”Judah,” literally “celebrated,” name of Jacob’s fourth son and of the tribe descended from him.  

We are dealing here with the land of the Jews.  

The Kingdom of Judah lasted for about 350 years, until it was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.  The Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people to Babylon.  However, the Jewish people eventually returned to their homeland, and they rebuilt their community in Judea.

Following their return, the Jews of Judea were variously ruled by themselves, the Persians, the Greeks, and themselves again.  

Enter the Romans.  

In 63 B.C., Judea was conquered by the Roman Republic.  Judea was initially ruled as a client kingdom, but it was later made a Roman province.  Roman rule in Judea was often marked by tension and conflict between the Jewish people and the Roman authorities.  

In 66, the Jewish people revolted against Roman rule.  The revolt lasted for seven years and ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  

The name Judea was changed to Syria Palaestina by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 135, following the Bar Kokhba revolt.  The revolt was a Jewish uprising against Roman rule, and Hadrian crushed it.  It resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews.  In an effort to suppress Jewish identity, Hadrian renamed the province.  The name “Palaestina” was derived from the Philistines, a people who had lived in the region centuries earlier.  The addition of the name “Syria” was intended to emphasize the province’s status as a Roman province.  

Renaming was an attempt to render extinct the Jewish nature and history of the land and to humiliate the restive Jews.  It was a reminder of the Roman Empire’s power.  The name Syria Palaestina remained in use until the 7th century, when the region was conquered by the Arabs.

The Arabs ruled until the Crusaders took land back, then lost it to Arabs, who lost it to the Ottomans (a Turkic people) in 1517.  

As a consequence of their loss in WWI, the Turks gave control of the region known as Palestine to the British n 1917.  

Between 1917 and 1920, Palestine was under the control of the British military after their conquest of the region.  

In December 1917, British forces under General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem, ending Ottoman rule.  

From 1917-1920, Palestine was occupied by the British and governed by the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA), part of the British military.  

In 1920, Britain was officially granted control of Palestine by the San Remo Conference. The British Mandate for Palestine then governed the region from 1920 until 1948.  

Between the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and the formal start of the British Mandate in 1920, Palestine was under British military occupation and administration. It did not constitute a formal state entity.  

According to the resolutions of the San Remo Conference held in April 1920:  

Britain was allocated the mandate for Palestine after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI.  

The preamble of the mandate’s text stated that Britain was responsible for putting into effect the 1917 Balfour Declaration in Palestine.  

The Balfour Declaration had declared Britain’s support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, without prejudicing the civil or religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.  

Article 2 of the San Remo resolution specifically stated that Britain shall be responsible for enacting the Balfour Declaration and facilitating Jewish immigration and settlement within Palestine.  

Article 5 restricted the sale of state lands to Jews, meaning that the Jewish national home would be formed through purchased settlement on private lands.  

Article 6 called for facilitating Jewish immigration under suitable conditions while ensuring the rights of all inhabitants were not prejudiced.  

The San Remo Conference resolutions required Britain to facilitate the creation of a Jewish national home in Mandatory Palestine per the policies of the Balfour Declaration.  

Before moving on:  

  • There never was a Palestinian state or country.  
  • There never was rule by anything called a Palestinian.  
  • The land of Mandatory Palestine was to be the Jewish national homeland in an area occupied continuously by Jews for millennia.  
  • Jewish rule and occupancy antedated the advent of the newcomer religion Islam by millennia.  
  • Mandatory Palestine, set aside for the National Homeland of the Jews, had its territory diminished by around seven eighths, in contravention of their mandatory obligations by the British to create Transjordan (now commonly known as Jordan).  

Myth 2. Palestinians  

No state, no nation, no people.  Palestine never existed, hence Palestinians never existed, do not exist.  Full stop.  

Don’t believe me?  Take it from the mouth of a bona fide Palestinian terrorist.  

Zuheir Mohsen, leader of the Palestinian terror group As Saiqa, explained in a 1970 interview with James Dorsey for the Dutch newspaper Trouw why the “Palestinian people” had been invented:  

The Palestinian people do 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.

Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only 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.  

There are many more myths — e.g., “land for peace,” “the West Bank,” “it is a territorial conflict,” etc.  

But we can stop here and get on to the ultimate point of this essay.  

Those of us who follow AT, and especially those who contribute, should display a certain integrity of thought in our approaches.   Anyone who has followed this site for a week or two knows that we lament the overtaking of language by the left and its use as a weapon.  Time after time, we complain about how the loss of truth in language packaging has served to propagandize the public.  

Lamenting is an action plans as feckless as hoping.  If we want to do as we say and walk the walk we claim as our path, then we should act accordingly.  

Our language should reflect the precision we assert is missing.  We should not use the term “Palestine” to describe Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Israel, or any other territory.  We should not refer to the so-called Palestinians as a real people.  We should not refer to Judea and Samaria as the “West Bank” (a term basically invented after 1967).  

Myths have consequences.  In the context of the myths presented here, the consequences are the slaughter of Jews, the rise of antisemitism in such frenzy that there are calls for the extermination of the Jews, and the peril of a broad-ranging international war.  

We lead by taking action.  We should act as we say.  Otherwise, we are hypocrites.  

Image: scottgunn via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

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