Pictures Don’t Lie: Refuting #there_was _ no _ Palestine

One of the common assertions one finds in Zionist propaganda is that there “was never any Palestine.” This odd allegation is simply not true. Palestine has been used for a very long time to refer to the geographical area south of Sidon and north of the Sinai. There are medieval Muslim coins from a mint in that area with “Filastin” (Palestine) written on them. In the nineteenth century, diaries survive of locals who visited Damascus e.g. and wrote about how they missed “Filastin”, i.e. Palestine. At the Versailles Peace Conference, the Class A Mandate of Palestine was created, and in 1939 it was scheduled for independence within 10 years. I.e. British colonial administrators believed there was a Palestine and that it would soon become an independent country (as happened to similar Class A Mandates in Lebanon & Syria and Iraq).

There is currently an ironic Twitter meme by Palestinians, #there_was_no_Palestine, to which people are contributing visual evidence of Palestine. In 1920 when the League of Nations created the Palestinian state, it had a population of 700,000, of which about 76,000 were Jews. Almost all of the latter had immigrated in the previous 70 years. In 1850 only 4% of the population had been Jewish. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte found only 3,000 Jews. There had been hardly any Jews in Palestine since about 1100 AD.

So not only was there a Palestine, full of hundreds of thousands of people, over millennia, but there was a very long period of near-absence on the part of Jews. This absence was not because of a forcible expulsion. Rather, Jews in Palestine had converted to Christianity, and then many of those converted to Islam.

If what is being alleged is that there was no nation-state called Palestine, at least before the League of Nations created one, that is banal. There were no nation-states until the 19th century. There was no “Italy” before 1860. Venice was Austrian, Genoa French. There was no “Germany” before 1870. Lots of small principalities, some of them under other rule or influence. It is common for Romantic Nationalists of the early 19th century variety to imagine that the Greece that came into being in the 1820s (after having been an Ottoman province for some 300 years) was somehow a revival of the ancient land known as Greece. But it isn’t. That is a naive “Sleeping Beauty” theory of nationalism. There was no nation-state of Israel before 1948. That some ancient tribes might have been called that is irrelevant. Ancient tribes were also called Philistines, a form of the modern Palestinian.

In essence, the assertion by Zionists that there “was never any Palestine” has to be seen as a cruel boast, since it was their ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-48 that forestalled British and League of Nations plans to see an independent country of Palestine created, and which made most Palestinians refugees and stateless.

Here’s a sample of the Twitter campaign, embedding the tweets and accompanying photos:

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British Pathé: “In Palestine Today (1938)” [British propaganda short about the 1936-1939 Arab Rebellion in Mandate Palestine]

32 Responses

  1. Fascinating. I have often read variations of the assertions, “there was no Palestine” or “there was no Palestinian people.” It is a strange notion; it is hard to understand the mentality of the person who says such things.

    • What you call a “strange notion” is found in the earliest UN documents on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. “Palestinian nationalism, as distinct from Arab nationalism, is itself a relatively new phenomenon, which appeared only after the division of the ‘Arab Rectangle’ by the settlement of the First World War.” Report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, 3 September 1947, GAOR, II, Supp. 11 (A/364) Vol. I.

      • all nationalism, including Israeli and Italian, is recent; peoples are older, and there were people in the 19th century who thought of themselves as from Palestine when there were no people who thought of themselves as from Israel.

  2. Actually, I have usually seen the claim stated as ” there were no Palestinian people before (1967, 1993, ?), they were just considered ‘arabs’ “.

  3. Okay, so not only is there really a Palestine, the folks who are currently living there ACTUALLY ARE the ancestral Jews from the Bible? And the modern-day Israelis are ethnically Europeans and Turks who migrated into Europe, before their triumphal exodus (aka “return”) into “Israel”??

  4. Tori

    . This is not a comment on the photo shared, but on the idea that photos don’t lie — they sure do: as any photographer can tell you

    • Some photographers may lie at times. Since you are being technical, I must point out that photographs are inanimate objects incapable of speech themselves of any sort. But the main, is that you are missing the point. It’s called a straw man argument.

      • The human eye can see images where there actually are none. A very famous one being the “Face on Mars.” Although that particular one is not the image lying, the point is photographs most certainly can be misinterpreted and misappropriated (for propaganda purposes say).

        And of course photos (even film prints not just digital images) can be doctored to, um, lie.

        • Oh. I did not mean to say any image related to this post is a lie! Just saying that it is possible for photos/images to be etc.. (Is my foot in my mouth? Ugh)

  5. Even though I am a firm believer in the right of the State of Israel to exist, I have always thought the claim “no Palestine” to be silly. I have Jewish friends born in Jerusalem before 1948 whose birth certificates state they were born in Palestine.

  6. If I’m not mistaken, it was the Romans who first called it Palestine or Syria Palestina.

    Regardless, the fact that the region was part of some large empire and not an independent state didn’t give European Jews the right to ethnically cleanse it of its native population in order to set up their own nation.

  7. Your facts will be trumped by AIPAC’s campaign finance donations and all but a few elected officials in Congress will give Netanyahu standing ovations the next time he addresses his puppets.

  8. Truth is that the Jews in those days called them selves Palestinians…a prominent American Zionist of those days named his champion horse…Palestinian..(big winner by the way)..however as Jordan took over the West Bank..when Israel came about,there never was a Palestine…Palestine was and many still think Palestine is the name of the whole area.much like the Balkans,or north or South America…that is not to say that the Arabs living there can not call themselves palestinians

    • Palestine has been historically defined as the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In 1948 the King of Jordan made a sleazy deal with Israel to split Palestine between them. He was later assassinated.

  9. Sherifa Zuhur

    Of course, you are correct. Strange as the claim is, many believe it. Still remember an Israeli marching into a Palestinian costume exhibit organized by a group of students at UCLA c. ’89 with our own & borrowed pieces who began yelling “There was no Palestine.” I was afraid he might damage something, but he left. Same response to an Arabic music concert I organized at MIT in ’91 by an Israeli visitor who said “there is no Palestinian music. There is no Arabic music, he (Simon Shaheen) is inventing a tradition.”

  10. About 20 years ago I bought a 1912 Brittanica. Under the heading Palestine about 27 or 28 pages. Under Israel: not even one word. Unfortunately my wife did some housecleaning and threw the encyclopedia out about 2 years ago.

  11. Although some ignorant or opportunistic politicians and some revisionist historians have tried to falsify historical records, historically there is no doubt about the continuous existence of Palestine and the Palestinians. The term Palestine (old form Peleset in Hieroglyphic texts) appears in Egyptian texts, dating back to c 1150 BC, even predating the Kingdom of Israel, which was established in 1020 BC. In the 5th century BC Herodotus wrote of Palaistine, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley, as forming part of the 5th Persian satrapy. The Hebrew name of Palestine, translated as Philistia in English, is used more than 250 times in the Bible. There are numerous references to Palestine during the Byzantine period.

    Muslims conquered Palestine in 636 AD, and with the exception of a relatively short interval of the reign of the Crusaders (1099-1187) it was ruled by various Muslim dynasties until after the First World War.

    The Ottoman Turks ruled Palestine from 1516-1917. At times, they divided Palestine into different Eyalet or Sanjak, sometimes becoming part of the Eyalet of Damascus until 1660 and later it became part of the Eyalet of Sidon, but the term Palestine was still very much in use as a collective term for its different component parts. Thomas Salmon’s 18th century book, Modern History, states: “Jerusalem is still reckoned the capital city of Palestine.” (Thomas Salmon, Modern History or, the present state of all nations, London, Longman, p. 461)

    So only those who deliberately wish to distort historical facts can doubt the continuous existence of Palestine and Palestinian people.

  12. Historically it has been called a variation of Palestine for over 3000 years. The origin of of the name Palestine comes from Egypt in the time of Ramses III (c. 1150 BCE) when the people there were referred to as Peleset. The Assyrians in c. 800 BCE referred to the region as Palashtu or Pilistu. In 450 BC Herodotus wrote in The Histories about Palaistine. A century later Aristotle referred to Palestine. Later Romans referred to this area as part of Syria Palaestina and is how it historically appeared on maps. In the bible they were referred to as Philistines – biblical scholars trace the root to the Semitic p-l-s meaning “cover” or “to invade”. In contrast Israel does not appear on a map for the area until the mid 1940’s (except for one propaganda map from the 1920’s).

    There is a straight contiguous line from that 1150 BCE mention of the land of the Peleset people by the Egyptians to the Palestine of today. What existed of the kingdoms of Israel were wiped off of the map by the Assyrians in 740 BCE. Babylon conquered the lands Israel claims they own in 597 BCE. By 538 BCE, the lands claimed by Israel were conquered by the Persians, then by the Seleucids, then by the Romans, then by the Muslim Caliphate, then by the Ayyubid Sultanate, then by the Mamluk Sultanate, then by the Ottoman Empire. Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after WW1, a separate and distinct Palestine country re-appeared.

  13. It is important to note that the native Jews in Palestine were very similar to the Arabs in their dress – often wearing the fez.

    It was the Jewish refugees from Europe in the late 1940s that aggressively formed settlements and wore Western garb.

    There are photos from November 29th, 1947 when the U.N. partition vote was announced that showed the celebrations among Jews and news accounts commenting their clothing was European in style, as opposed to native born Jews in Palestine.

    The primary impetus of the creation of Israel was to relocate Jewish refugees from Europe who were displaced following WWII. Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, was bitterly opposed to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to declare a Jewish state in 1948 and considered himself a non-Zionist until he died a few years ago In Poland.

    Palestine is a region and denotes neither an Arab nor Jewish identity – just like Montenegro is a region of Yugoslavia that is populated by various ethnic groups. Palestinian-Americans often have Palestinian currency from the 1930s and allude to its trilingual components as proof that Jews and Arabs in the region were treated on an equal basis under the Mandate.

    A professor from Birzeit University in the West Bank published in the 1980s a genealogical history of the Christian clans of the city of Ramallah going back 400 years. Those same families have intermarried for hundreds of years while continuously inhabiting Ramallah. These inhabitants were part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of WWI, and it was after establishment of the British Mandate that the concept of independent Palestinian statehood began to form as an eventual goal.

    In the 1930s Fouad Shatara, a Christian from Ramallah had spearheaded the creation of a Palestinian state at a regional convention where he sought the support of other Arabs in the Middle East also seeking independence from colonial powers.

    There were however influential Jewish interests in the U.S. led politically by Congressman Goldberg from New York that goaded the United States government to support the creation of a Jewish state. The United States was able to use its foreign aid leverage with U.N. member states to get them to vote for the U.N. Partition Plan.

    David Ben-Gurion and a young diplomat named Abba Eban were very skilled in forming relationships with President Truman an U. N. leaders to convince them to support Israel’s continued existence. Ben-Gurion presided over the signing of the Israeli declaration of independence ceremony while gunfire could be heard between Arab and Jewish militias outside the building in Tel Aviv. Ben-Gurion’s next goal was the obtaining of a nuclear bomb capability with the help of a young Defense Ministry official named Shimon Peres, which he obtained via the establishment of a close diplomatic relationship with French President De Gaulle. By 1967-69, Israel became the sixth nuclear power in the world and became in a position to consolidate their national security from outside aggression.

    • Mark…very well done…quite correct…the achievement of bringing Israel to life and to its remarkable success was not without skulduggery..and skulduggery is the main line of defense,along with a very strong military..it’s so unfortunate that the Arabs of the day could not find a way to accept Israel, if they had Israel would have no excuse to expand,one must admit that the wars of 48,67and 73 were disasters for all concerned as far as the peace process..

      • As I recall from reading Benny Morris’s “Righteous Victims” Jews and Palestinians lived in relative harmony until the Zionists among the Jews became aggressive.

      • Although Jews made up just one third of the population of Palestine, the UN partition plan allotted them 55% of the country, and the Arabs’ views were not considered, even though self-determination is a UN principle. Zionists cynically accepted the partition but their plan to expand farther and ethnically cleanse out Palestinians was well known. Using Jewish terror groups, Ben Gurion started ethnic cleansing in 1947 and in 6 months there were 750,000 refugees. Arab armies tried to come to the rescue but were no match for the Western-armed Israelis. The UN realized the partition was a mistake and sent UN mediator Count Bernadotte to devise a new plan, but a Jewish terror group assassinated him. Then in 1967 Israel started the land-grabbing Six Day War and murdered our sailors on our intel ship the USS Liberty who were watching in international waters.

  14. The propagandists today deny Palestine and lump all Arabs together to try to make the case that since Israel is so small and Arab lands so vast, they have the right to keep the occupied land. They try to shift the blame to neighboring countries for not permanently absorbing refugees. Imagine if Syrian refugees were told they could never go home and that neighbors would just have to cope.
    We hear a lot about Holocaust-deniers, but what about Palestine-deniers, occupation-deniers, ethnic cleansing-deniers, apartheid-deniers, etc.?

    • If Palestine is not a state, neither are Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. – all with majority Arab populations

  15. Juan–

    You’re forgetting the best proof of all: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Steven Spielberg. Indy’s plane flies over … PALESTINE!

  16. “The Oslo criminals: A mendacious narrative” by Uri Avnery – link to counterpunch.org…”On that day (September 10, 1993), the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel exchanged letters of mutual recognition. Yasser Arafat recognized Israel, Yitzhak Rabin recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.”

  17. You missed the great Irony.
    The Palestine Post, established 1932 is now pumping out Zionist propaganda as the Jerusalem Post.

  18. “Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompense? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head;”

  19. Putin presumably looks at Netanyahu doing his messianic schtick over ancient Judea and Samaria, and asks why he cannot do the same thing over “New Russia”. Israel is in very bad company here.

  20. As pointed out in some previous comments, the term “Palestine” derives from the “PLST” or Peleset, an Indo-European or Aegean people, one of many, who appeared in the historical record around 1177 BCE as described in the new book by Eric Cline about that very year.

    Israel already existed at that time since it is mentioned in the Merneptah Stele referring to a confrontation in around the year 1210 BCE. The writer using the 1020 BCE date may have been referring to the traditional date for the kingdom of Saul and not the origin of the Israelite people.

    The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BCE and not 740 BCE as mentioned in another comment. A few years later in 716 BCE, Sargon II relocated some Arabs to Samaria, the former capital of the kingdom, present day Nablus. This is the first mention of Arabs in the land. The first reference to them at all is from 853 by Shalmaneser III when Arabs using camels were part of an anti-Assyrian alliance which included Aramaeans from the cities of Damascus and Hamath (they had been enemies) and Israel under Ahab, husband of Jezebel in the time of Elijah.

    The Philistines remained independent for a few more years before it to fell under Assyrian domination. It did intrigue with the still independent kingdom of Judah under Hezekiah against Assyria which really backfired when Sennacherib, Sargon’s successor, devastated the land in a campaign in 701.
    BCE.

    So one could say that for the last 2700 years, the land of Philistine/Palestine has not been an independent political entity and never really was since it became Moslem and Arab.
    Israel was an independent political entity for awhile under the Maccabees and sought to be twice under Roman rule. so in that regard 1948 marks the first time in millennia that anyone in the land was independent. Perhaps one day, everyone there will be.

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