Palestine never used to denote nationality

IN REFERENCE to “Isn’t America made up of an invented people” (Letters, Dec 20), the word ‘’Palestine’’ is Greek in origin and historically refers to a flexible geographical area stretching across Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Israel to Egypt. It was never used to denote nationality. The polyglot population primarily identified themselves by religion, country of origin, clans and tribes. There was just no strong commonality to forge a Palestinian identity.

Palestinian Arabs cast themselves as natives to the land, like the aborigines in Australia or Red Indians in America. But in all the history from the invasion of Palestine by the Arabs of Arabia, the descendents of these Arabs and immigrants from other Arab conquests identified themselves as Arabs, not Palestinians.

In the mother of all ironies, the majority of Jews whether native or immigrant identified themselves as Palestinian Jews! Many of their newly established institutions have the word Palestine e.g. The Jewish Agency for Palestine and The Palestine Post.

In comparison, Arab leaders founded an organisation to combat the increasing influx of Jewish immigrants, naming it the Higher Arab Committee. After the creation of Israel in 1948, the reverse happened. The Jews began to slowly adapt to be being identified as Israelis while the Arabs began calling themselves Palestinians, more so after the establishment of the PLO in 1963 and the 1967 war.

I end with some notable quotes in support – Ahmed Shuqeiri to the UN Security Council in 1949 and later the first head of the PLO: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”; Audi Bey Abdul Hadi to the Peel Commission in 1937: “There is no such country as ‘Palestine’”, Palestine is a term the Zionist invented.”; Abu Iyad No 2 in the PLO in 1987: “We will take Palestine and turn it into a part of the greater Arab nation.’’

Zuheir Mohsein, member of the Supreme Council of the PLO in 1977, said: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for a tactical reason. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity.’’

(www.thesundaily.my / 21.12.2011)

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