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Question: Who are the rightful proprietors of Palestine?

Jodey Bateman answers:

The name Palestine comes from the Philistines, who were Greek-speaking raiders from the islands of the Aegean Sea.

They fought the Egyptians, who defeated them in 1194 BC. The Philistines settled in Gaze and in the coastal cities of Ashkelan and Ashdad, which are now part of Israel.

By 630 BC the Philistines had lost their Greek language and spoke a dialect of Hebrew, according to the few inscriptions they have left.

I am not certain how long the Philistines remained a distinct people, but the coastal area was still called Palestina (Philistine country) in the time of the Roman Empire. After the Romans crushed the Jewish uprising of Ad 66 to AD 70, they united the provinces of Judea and Galilee (which were both predominately Jewish) with the province of Samaria. The new combined administrative unit was called Palestina. The name survived as a province under the rule of the Muslim Caliphs of Damascus and Baghdad.

Samaria was the territory of the ancient kingdom of Israel. The people of Samaria where called Samaritans. They were often in conflict with the Jews. Both peoples considered themselves to be “children of Israel” – descendents of an ancient chieftain named Jacob or Israel.

Shortly after 1600 AD all but a few hundred Samartians converted to Islam. The West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin were originally Samaritan towns. Many Palestinians are of Samaritan origin. Thus the origins of the Palestinian people are mixed. Many of their ancestors were Jews who converted to Christanity. The Palestinian city of Ramallah is still predominately Christian. After centuries of Muslim rule, most Palestinians became Muslims by AD 1300, the end of the Crusader period.

Also the Palestinians are descended from Greeks, Arabs and everyone else who settled in that part of the world. But they are probably just as much descended from the peoples of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah as the Israelis are.

The Israelis are also a mixed people with ancestors from all the peoples of the Middle East and Europe that the Jews settled among.

After World War I all the Arabic speaking people who had been part of the Turkish Empire tried to unite as one country. At that time there was no talk of a specifically Palestinian nationalism. The idea of an “Arab Nation” is an artificial construct based on language. But the Arabic speaking people of the Middle Ease do not have a common orgin. It’s just like the people of Chile, Argentina and Peru are not all Spaniards because they speak Spanish. They are not all descended from a little group of conquerors who came from Spain in the 16th century. In the same way the Arabic speaking people are not all descended from the relatively few warriors who came out of the Arabian desert to conquer the Middle East for Islam in the seventh century AD.

For that matter, the Jews are not all descended from a band of freed slaves who came with Moses out of Egypt.

Palestinian nationalism was created by the pressure of the Zionists on the mixed people of that ancient country. The harder the pressure has become, the more it has welded the mixed Palestinians into a solid mass with stronger national feelings than ever.

If the pressure is relaxed, will the Palestinians and the Israelis both begin to lose their cohesion? Will some Israelis and some Palestinians begin to unit as one people?

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