The Invention of Palestine


by Michael Freund

What a remarkable breath of fresh air.

For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.

“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.

Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.

Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.

Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.

Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”

A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.

Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.

Thanks to the left and the media, the Palestinians’ claims to the Land of Israel became amplified and even accepted by a large percentage of people around the world, many if not most of whom do not know the first thing about the history of the Middle East. Sadly, even many Jews are no longer cognizant of or familiar with the historical record and have come to accept Palestinian assertions as true.

But as Gingrich correctly pointed out, there has never in all of history been a Palestinian state.

His comments echoed similar remarks made by the late Golda Meir. In an interview with the Sunday Times on June 15, 1969, Meir said, “There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state?”

Furthermore, she noted, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”

To our ears, such assertions may sound jarring because they are so at odds with what has come to be accepted as the conventional wisdom. But that is merely because we have succumbed to decades of pro-Palestinian propaganda and indoctrination.

Needless to say, the reaction to Gingrich’s remarks by the Palestinians and their supporters was predictably swift and vitriolic. The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi accused Gingrich of “ignorance and racism,” while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called his assertions “despicable” and “the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach.”

Neither, of course, dared to challenge Gingrich with evidence, presumably because they have none in their favor. They know he is on to something, and so they resort to name-calling and venom in an effort to delegitimize the opinions he expressed.

But we cannot allow them to succeed. The brouhaha surrounding Gingrich’s statements provides an important opportunity for pro-Israel activists to right the historical record and begin to undercut decades of successful Palestinian propagandizing.

We must seize on this opening to remind people of what many have forgotten: Palestine is a myth with no basis in historical reality. Last Saturday night, during a Republican presidential debate, Gingrich was asked about his comments regarding the Palestinians. Refusing to back down, he reiterated that what he said had been factually correct, and added that, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth.”

Here’s hoping others will follow in his wake.

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Mr. Cohen
3 years 11 months ago

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine
by Joan Peters, has been attacked by liars and hypocrites, including Arabs,
Muslims and their traitorous Jewish Liberal allies, but it has not been debunked.
The enemies of Israel are afraid of that book because it tells the truth,
so they do everything they can to slander it.

I also recommend Churchill and the Jews by Martin Gilbert
for all true pro-Israel activists.
For those who do not have time to read the book, read these quotes instead:

Churchill and the Jews, chapter 5, page 46:
Negotiations with the Arab leaders beyond… Read more »

Charlie Hall
3 years 11 months ago

“From Time Immemorial:The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict
over Palestine (chapter 2, page 14) by Joan Peters, 1984, JKAP Publications”

We also do ourselves no good by citing Peters’ thoroughly debunked work.

Charlie Hall
3 years 11 months ago

“They disdain the rule of law in their daily lives, but we still expect our legal arguments to be heard?”

Israel’s government disdains the rule of International law with its continuing willful violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Of course its arguments will not be heard!

Charlie Hall
3 years 11 months ago

“Palestine was divided into two parts.
The part east of the Jordan River (78%) for Arabs.
The part west of the Jordan River (22%) for Jews.
The Palestinian Arabs already have a state; it is called Jordan.”

Jordan is the one Arab state that really IS at peace with Israel and you want to destabilize it? STOO-PID!

In addition, your history isn’t even correct. Trans-Jordan was never administratively part of the Palestine Mandate. The Hashemites marched an army in and took it before the Mandate took effect; Trans-Jordan then became a separate Mandate. Furthermore, the Palestine Mandate itself does NOT say that Palestine is to… Read more »

Isaac Betech
3 years 11 months ago

Mr. Cohen
Could you please provide any source of the Islamic law mentioned?

Mr. Cohen
3 years 11 months ago

My great-grandfather made aliyah from Chutz LaAretz to Jerusalem in 1877, 71 years before the modern State of Israel.

He married my great-grandmother, whose family had been living in Jerusalem continually since 1492, having fled the Spanish Inquisition.

I still have relatives in Jerusalem whose are part of a Jewish family living in Jerusalem continually since 1492.

500 American Indian nations gave up their land in exchange for peace. Most of them are now extinct.

“People tend to forget that the doctrine of territories for peace was used by Hitler in 1939,
when he declared that he would leave Europe in peace if… Read more »

Mr. Cohen
3 years 11 months ago

According to the laws of Islam, ANY Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East
is forbidden, regardless of its size or the shape of its borders.

Even if Israel withdrew to the pre-1967 borders, its continued existence
would still be a violation of Islamic law,
and Muslims would still be compelled by their religion to destroy it.

Even if Israel shrank to the size of a football stadium,
its continued existence would still violate Islamic law,
and Muslims would still be required by Islam to destroy it.

This principle is rarely discussed in America, yet it is innermost essence
of the… Read more »

Bob Miller
3 years 11 months ago

Exactly what persuasive arguments for Israel will move today’s international community and international institutions, all corrupt to the core? In the US and very few other places, our Biblical claims can have some resonance in some quarters, but, worldwide, money talks. They disdain the rule of law in their daily lives, but we still expect our legal arguments to be heard?

L. Oberstein
3 years 11 months ago

Although it is much more satisfying to agree with Mr. Cohen that we should insist on the original partition plan that gave Transjordan to the Arabs and the entire West Bank to the Jews, I have to admit that Rejewvenator is much closer to reality in his comment:

“It’s absurd that a people who had to go back 2000 years to find a claim to their land will deny the claim of those who lived on that land for 1400 years because the residents forgot to make their own flag”

The “reine emes” the undiluted truth is that the Modern… Read more »

Mr. Cohen
3 years 11 months ago

Palestine was divided into two parts.
The part east of the Jordan River (78%) for Arabs.
The part west of the Jordan River (22%) for Jews.
The Palestinian Arabs already have a state; it is called Jordan.

Leon Zacharowicz MD
3 years 11 months ago

Note to Newt: don’t confuse us with the facts,

3 years 11 months ago

Newt Gingrich says one right thing, that is otherwise irrelevant, and some Jews rejoice. Meanwhile, a real candidate, Ron Paul, is running on a platform of Eisav laying down its weapons, and Jews the world over have no idea what to do if the guy actually wins.

For those who question the “Eisav” approbation:

The US is the most militaristic nation on earth. It alone spends over 50% of world military expenditures. If you take into account direct (eg foreign aid) and indirect (subsidies, loan guarantees etc), I wouldn’t be surprised if the US is responsible for something north of 60%.

The US… Read more »

Micah Segelman
3 years 11 months ago

I object to the rejectionist and deligitimizing posture towards the Palestinian position that seems to be implicit in this article.

As believing Jews, we consider it axiomatic that we were given the Land of Israel. From this perspective, no other claim can possibly have standing. However, if this were our only claim, then no matter how correct it is, we would not have legitimacy in the eyes of the world. The claim that gives us standing is that we have a historical and legal claim to the Land.

But we are deluding ourselves if we ignore the fact that the Palestinians can… Read more »

Tal Benschar
3 years 11 months ago

The writer, seems to have misunderstood, why, so many of us are desperate for a Palestinian State. It’s because we love Israel. We know that without a Palestinian State, Israel – as a Jewish State – is not possible.

The problem is, Reubi, that those who push for a Palestinian state fail to appreciate the converse of this point — that Israel cannot survive WITH a Palestinian state, because such will never accept it as a legitimate neighbor and be in a perpetual state of hostility, if not war, with it. (see Gaza strip as Exhibit A).

So there really is… Read more »

Barry Dolinger
3 years 11 months ago

To echo some of the other comments, I’m not really sure why it matters when the Palestinians developed a unique national consciousness; they have one now. That the Israelites developed a national consciousness long ago doesn’t make our claims more legitimate per se. Every nation develops its consciousness for a variety of reasons at a given point in time; it has to happen that way. I think these types of comments are a distraction from the real issues.

Bob Miller
3 years 11 months ago

We entered Canaan with Joshua when the Canaanites were well established. For all we know, Canaanite city-states had flags. Regardless, we had a Divine command to conquer the Land and make it a demonstration project for Torah values. If our presence there was reduced for many years because of oppression, that is no reason to let the most recent oppressors continue to occupy it.

Reubi Friedman
3 years 11 months ago

The irony of the above piece, is that, the writer stops where we need him to elaborate – the alternative to a Palastinian State. Could the writer possibly add a new piece where he describes this alternative?

The logical conclusion of the writers argument is a ‘one state solution’. A state where all the peoples between the Jordan and Mediterranean are equal citizens; where all its population are able to vote in elections(unless he advocates ethnic cleansing or apartheid – which I sure he isn’t). That wld (in the medium to long-term) be the end of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ State.

The… Read more »

Charlie Hall
3 years 11 months ago

Yes, Palestinian nationality is a new creation. It was created by the League of Nations Mandate, which took effect in 1923. (The terms Palestinian Arabs, and Palestinian Jews, were commonly used.) Israeli nationality is even newer, coming into existence on May 15, 1948. Yes, Am Yisrael is an ancient people but there is a difference between Am Yisrael and Israelis — I am not Israeli, as I have always lived in the diaspora, and 20% of Israelis are not members of Am Yisrael. There are over 50 sovereign states in Africa alone and almost every one was created, along with… Read more »

Mr. Cohen
3 years 11 months ago

Historians possess detailed genealogies for the kings of:
southern England, central England, northern England, Russia,
Spain, China and numerous of other lands.
But there are no genealogies of Palestinian kings of Palestine,
because there was never an independent nation of Palestine.

“…what the Arabs envisioned was something that could
achieve Israel shrinking to indefensible size…”
SOURCE: From Time Immemorial:The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict
over Palestine (chapter 2, page 14) by Joan Peters, 1984, JKAP Publications

[Mohamed] Heikal [editor of the influential Al Ahram Egyptian newspaper,
in year 1971] called for a change of Arab rhetoric: no more threats of
throwing Israel… Read more »

Bob Miller
3 years 11 months ago

Obama’s public persona was manufactured in much the same way as the “Palestinian people”, as a political tool serving a radical agenda.

3 years 11 months ago

It’s absurd that a people who had to go back 2000 years to find a claim to their land will deny the claim of those who lived on that land for 1400 years because the residents forgot to make their own flag.

Tal Benschar
3 years 11 months ago

I was born in Israel, and while I came to the U.S. in 1969, I visited there on numerous occassions. The people in question where always referred to by my relatives as the “Arabs,” not Palestinians, until well into the 1980s.

That said, I am not sure what all of this gets you. The indigenous Arab population has a distinct language, culture and religion from the Jewish/Israeli polity that governs the State. While it is true that there never was an independent “Palestine,” there was an Ottoman Empire, and the area in question was made up of mostly… Read more »