by Yehudit Shier Weisberg
Are you unwittingly helping anti-Israel propaganda? Changes in language can cause changes in perception. In order to reject Arab propaganda, we must first understand the origin of terms that reinforce such propaganda.
“Palestine”: When and why did the land of Israel become known as “Palestine”?
The name “Palestine” was chosen by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in order to erase all connection between Jews (the name we have from the tribe Judah and the area known as Judea) and the Land of Israel. He renamed our land after he crushed the Bar Kochva rebellion against the Roman occupation in 136 C.E., and he chose the name “Palestine” because he knew that the Jews once had a terrible enemy called the Plishtim, (Philistines) a sea-faring enemy of the Jews who had disappeared hundreds of years before. Hadrian decided to rename the land of Israel after our former enemies, attached the province of Judea to Syria, and renamed the land Syria, Palaestina, the Greek and Latin corruption of Plishtim. Hadrian’s joining of the territory of Judea to Syria and renaming it Palaestina, or Palestine, was for the sole purpose of attempting to erase the connection between the Jewish people and her land.
We must remember that there was never a country by the name “Palestine”. It referred to a geographical area that included the Land of Israel. Anytime we use the term “Palestine” and not Israel or the Land of Israel (for pre-1948 Israel), we are contributing to the attempt to erase the connection between the Jewish people and her land, and supporting Arab propaganda that there was once a country called “Palestine”. In addition, we should note that what the Arabs label as “Palestine” changes according to what land is in the hand of the Jews. Thus, from 1948-1967, when Judea and Samaria was annexed to Jordan and Gaza was ruled by Egypt, this land was not labeled as “Palestine” and the Palestine Liberation Movement (PLO) did not demand this land for a “Palestinian State”. In addition, over 77% of the land under the Mandate for Palestine eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, yet people do not call this land part of “Palestine”.
The Arabs at first rejected the term “Palestine”. In 1956 Ahmed Shukari, proclaimed from the podium of the U.N., as the Arab League’s ambassador, “such a creature as Palestine does not exist at all. This land is nothing but the southern portion of Greater Syria…”
But after the creation of the Mandate, the Jews enthusiastically took on the name “Palestinians”. For example, the Jerusalem Post, when it was founded in 1932, was, until 1948, called the Palestine Post. Until 1948, the term “Palestinian” referred to Jews living in the Land of Israel! But then, there was a shift. Anyone looking at the map of the Middle East could not help but notice tiny Israel in contrast to the many Arab states. Arab propaganda, under the guidance of the KGB, wanted to change the perception of Israel as the David, and the Arabs as Goliath. So they created a smaller people. Even though they had rejected the name Palestine in the past, they now realized that it could be very beneficial for their cause. They created a “Palestinian People”.
But the question remains: Why would some Arabs take on a non-Arabic name that they cannot even pronounce? Arabs cannot pronounce the letter “P”. Arab propaganda relies on the fact that most people are ignorant of the origin of the name Palestine and its history. By taking on the name “Palestinians”, Arabs could now portray themselves as the original inhabitants of the land “Palestine”, and the Jews as colonialists. Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist, acknowledged:
“As I lived in Palestine, everyone I knew could trace their heritage back to the original country their great grandparents came from… The fact is that today’s Palestinians are immigrants from the surrounding nations!” And he further stated: “Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian? …we considered ourselves Jordanian until the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Then all of the sudden we were Palestinians.”
Anytime we use the name “Palestinians” to refer to Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, we support Arab propaganda that these Arabs are the indigenous people of a land called “Palestine”, the Latin, non-Arabic name for the land of Israel, given by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the year 136 in order to erase the connection of the Jewish people to her land.
When we accept that there is a “Palestinian” people, and accept the Arab’s definition of “Palestine” as land that is under Jewish control, then why shouldn’t these so-called “Palestinians” have their own country, a country in land that is currently controlled by Israel? Instead of calling some Arabs “Palestinians”, which supports Arab propaganda, I use the term “Arabs living in Judea and Samaria”, or just “Arabs”. Alternatively, some use the term “PA (Palestinian Authority) Arabs, or “Palestinian Arabs”, in contrast to “Palestinian Jews.”
Language is very powerful, and influences the way people think about a situation and come to conclusions. In the next part of this article, I will examine the additional terms “West Bank”, “1967 borders”, “Pro-Palestinian” and “the two-state solution”.