Palestinian By Any Other Name . . .
The truth will come out and at some point, there will be those who ask why proud Arabs chose a name that stands for defeat and humiliation. I have, in fact, asked this question of some Palestinian Arabs and I am still waiting for an answer.
I propose that one major obstacle to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Holy Land lies in the lie of calling the Arabs “Palestinians”.
History of the Name Palestine
By calling their mandated territory Palestine, Britain made cynical use of the name given to this area by the Roman Empire, who themselves adopted a twisted version of the name, Philistines, sworn enemies of the Jews, in order to separate the land from any association with its Jewish history. And now, history repeats itself: if “The” Palestinians are supposedly the Arabs, then this facilitates the promotion of the hateful lie that Israel stole this land from its supposedly rightful indigenous population and has no claim to sovereignty.
Like many other Israelis, I personally know Palestinian Jews who can trace their history on the Land of Israel back many generations: a man born in the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1920s, for example, and a woman born in Hebron, also in the 1920s. They became Israelis the day Israeli independence was declared. The Arabs living in this land before 1948 continued to call themselves just Arabs and rejected the name Palestinians. In fact, to be recognized as “Palestinian” refugees by the UN they only needed to have been resident in the Mandate from 1946.
A Missed Opportunity
In the first half of the last century, nationalism was an unacceptable Christian European implant into this region, and pan-Islamic identity was the more pervasive attitude. With time, national identities grew and Moslems began to acknowledge the borders and the country names that defined them. Had the Palestinian Arabs accepted the partition plan in 1947 and got down to the business of building a country, it is likely that they would have found a different name for themselves, one that more appropriately reflected their true view of themselves and/or culture. But had they decided to use the name “Palestine” and built a peaceful nation, you can be sure that Israel would have been more than happy with this outcome.
The Palestinian Falsehood
In the meantime, the correct term for the Palestinian Arabs is at most just that: Palestinian Arabs. It may be natural for the Palestinian Arabs to call themselves by this name for now. However, I am afraid that by allowing themselves to be called “The” Palestinians, they are basing their growing national identity on nothing more than
1. rejection of and hatred toward the Jews; and
2. exploitation by other Arabs who used them as pawns in their war against the Jews.
Rather than a name that celebrates their own culture, whether this distinguishes them from Arabs in other countries or not, they have adopted a name that represents victimhood and loss of sovereignty.
If this comprises their defining experience as a new people, will they ever really feel free to make peace with their Israeli neighbours? Furthermore, is this a healthy basis for the foundation of a proud new nation? How will they justify this when they teach their school children about their history decades into the future?