Debate Magazine

Jewish Palestinians

Posted on the 18 February 2015 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Michael L.
Here is a question.  If there are Palestinian Muslims and there are Palestinian Christians, how is it that there are no Palestinian Jews?
Here is a possible answer.
Prior to 1948 the Jews of the British Mandate of Palestine often referred to themselves as "Palestinian" in a manner not unsimilar to the way that I refer to myself as a "Californian."  The Jerusalem Post was the Palestine Post, the Israeli Opera was the Palestine Opera and so forth and, therefore, the Arabs did not use that attribution.  It was only after the formal establishment of Israel that the Arabs could start comfortably calling themselves "Palestinian" and most did not do so until the late 1960s.
{In this way, I am myself older than are the "Palestinians" as a people.}
So much of our approach to understanding the Arab war against the Jews is trapped in outmoded tendencies of thought that are buttressed by loaded terminology derived from the so-called "Palestinian narrative."  "West Bank," for example, always leaps to mind.  The very term "West Bank" deletes 4,000 years of Jewish history on Jewish land, yet it is used daily by almost everyone who discusses the ongoing war.
The term "Palestinian" serves a similar function, except inside out and backwards.  If "West Bank" erases Jewish history, "Palestinian" invents a distinct nation, with a contrived history, where no such nation was previously understood to exist.  "Palestine" is simply a word that the Romans used to rename Judea and Samaria after the Philistines.  Once the Romans destroyed and scattered the Jewish remnant in the First Century CE they renamed Judea and Samaria (or Yehuda and Shomron in the Hebrew, if you prefer) after the ancient enemies of the Jewish people.
In the twentieth-century, of course, "Palestine" referred to the British Mandate of Palestine.  In this way "Palestine" was merely considered a region or a district and the people who called themselves "Palestinians" were mainly the Jewish residents of the area.  The term was never meant to denote a distinct ethnicity or nation any more than, say, Saharan represents a distinct ethnicity or nation.
Or, for that matter, Californian.

Everyone who resides in the state of California is a "Californian."  No specific ethnic group who live here get to decide that they, and only those of their choosing, can legitimately refer to themselves as "Californian."  Any effort to legalize such ridiculous distinctions would be laughed directly out of the halls of Sacramento.
The biggest mistake that Israel ever made was in recognizing a newly formed and allegedly separate group of Arab-Muslims who started calling themselves "Palestinian."  From a historical stand-point there never was any such distinct people until Arafat and the Soviets conjured them up toward the end of the twentieth-century for the specific purpose of challenging Jewish claims to historically Jewish land.
Before that the local Arabs and Muslims - many, if not most of whom, hailed from surrounding regions - defined themselves according to ethnicity, as Arab, according to religion, as Muslim, and according to both family and tribe.  What they did not do is define themselves as "Palestinians" because until 1948 they generally considered the "Palestinians" to be Jews.
The historical prestidigitation performed by Arafat and friends is nothing short of remarkable and is truly a testament to long-term thinking and creative anti-statesmanship.  They had a specific goal, to obliterate and replace Jewish sovereignty on the land where Jews come from.  In order to accomplish this goal the PLO started referring to the local Arabs as "Palestinians" and once that was accepted by the international community it became easy to suggest that the indigenous Palestinian people are under the jack-boot of Zionist imperialism and oppression... or however else one might wish to formulate the anti-Semitic, because anti-Zionist, talking points.
So, yes, everyone who resides in the former British Mandate of Palestine is "Palestinian," if we insist on using outmoded and counterproductive terms of expression.  But if we must use the term "Palestinian" than we should make it clear that this recent social construction of an identity is entirely "racist" and discriminatory in its essence because those who claim that identity do so in an exclusionary manner.
Not that Jews want to be "Palestinian," of course, but everyone who resides in what was the British Mandate of Palestine is, in that sense, a "Palestinian."
The local Arabs have no right to decide otherwise.

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