Middle East studies in the News
When Was the "Palestinian People" Created? Google Has the Answer. [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Jean Patrick Grumberg
In an op-ed in the Guardian on November 1, 2017, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called on the UK to "atone" for the century of "suffering" that the document allegedly wrought on the "Palestinian people." Abbas reiterated the claims he has been making since 2016, to justify a surreal lawsuit he has threatened to bring against Britain for supporting the "creation of a homeland for one people [Jews], which, he asserted, "resulted in the dispossession and continuing persecution of another."
"Palestinians" were the Jews who lived, along with Muslims and Christians on land called Palestine, which was under British administration from 1917 to 1948.
All people born there during the time of the British Mandate had "Palestine" stamped on their passports. But the Arabs were offended when they were called Palestinians. They complained: "We are not Palestinians, we are Arabs. The Palestinians are the Jews".
Bernard Lewis explains:
When Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, five Arab armies joined up to try to kill the infant nation in its crib. After they were routed, some of the local Arabs who had fled the war wanted to return, but they were considered a fifth column and most were not allowed back. The Arabs who had loyally remained in Israel during the war, however, and their descendants, are still there and make up one-fifth of Israel's population today. They are known as Israeli Arabs; they have the same rights as Jews, except they are not legally required to serve in the army. They may volunteer if they wish to.
Israeli Arabs have their own political parties. They serve as members of Knesset and are employed in all professions. The moral is, or should be: Do not start a war unless you are prepared to lose it -- as the Arabs in and around Israel have done repeatedly, in 1947-48, 1967 and 1973.
Incidentally, the land that was being held in trust for the Jews in the British Mandate for Palestine initially included all of what is now the Kingdom of Jordan, which was granted its independence in 1946 as the Kingdom of Transjordan.
Less than a week after the article in the Guardian, Omar Barghouti, the instigator of today's attempts to destroy Israel by suffocating it economically, echoed Abbas in a Newsweek piece, calling the Balfour Declaration "a tragedy for the Palestinian people."
The same sentiment was expressed at the end of September in a lecture delivered by Rashid Khalidi -- the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University -- at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies in New York City: that the Balfour Declaration "launched a century-long assault on the Palestinians aimed at implanting and fostering this national homeland, later the state of Israel, at their expense..."
Khalidi's claims, like those of Abbas and Barghouti, are false. Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, there were no "Palestinians." As the prominent Lebanese-American historian and Mideast expert Philip Hitti stated in his testimony before the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry: "There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not."
Authors Guy Millière and David Horowitz elaborate on this in their 2015 book, Comment le peuple palestinien fut inventé ("How the Palestinian People Were Invented"), illustrating that the purpose of the fabrication was "to transform a population into a weapon of mass destruction against Israel and the Jewish people, to demonize Israel, and to give totalitarianism and anti-Semitism renewed means of action."
The ploy for a while worked beyond expectations. The term "Palestinians" was used across the world -- including in Israel -- to define the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza; it is often employed also to describe Arabs with Israeli citizenship. The narrative that the Jews displaced them by establishing a state completely contradicts the facts.
What are these facts? When was the "Palestinian people" actually created? Simply using the Google Ngram Viewer provides the answer.
Ngram is a database that charts the frequency that a given phrase appears in books published between the years 1500 to 2008. When a user enters the word phrases "Palestinian people" and "Palestinian state" into the Ngram search bar, he discovers that they began appearing only in 1960.
In his November 2, 1917 letter to Walter Rothschild, the leader of Britain's Jewish community, Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour wrote:
Finally, apart from Ngram, there are the words of the PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen, who, in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, stated:
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