Friday, December 16, 2011
What is Palestine?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the geographic term “Palestine” was predominantly associated – from biblical times until the 1948 establishment of Israel – with the Jewish people, Jewish history and Jewish geography. It was the crux of Jewish national aspirations, the Jewish homeland.
In 135 A.D., Judea was renamed “Palestina” by the Roman Emperor Hadrian following the suppression of the Jewish uprising, in order to eradicate Jewish nationhood and to uproot the inherent Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel. Similarly, Jerusalem was renamed “Aelia Capitolina,” in honor of Aelius Hadrian and the Roman Capitol, in an attempt to obliterate Jewish association with the spiritual and physical core of Judaism. Since 1949, and increasingly since 1967, the term “Palestine” has been employed by Israel’s enemies in order to delegitimize the existence of the Jewish state. In April 1950, Judea and Samaria were renamed “the West Bank” by the Jordanian occupation, in order to assert Jordanian rule and expunge Jewish connection to the cradle of Jewish history. Until 1950, all official Ottoman, British and prior records referred to “Judea and Samaria” and not to the “West Bank.”
“Palestine” is a derivative of the Hebrew term “Plishtim” (invaders), the Biblical name of the Philistines, non-Semites from the Greek islands and from Phoenicia, who migrated in the 12th century B.C.E. to Pleshet, along the Mediterranean. The term “Palestine” was established, in the 5th century B.C., by the Greek historian Herodotus and adopted in 135 A.D. by the Roman Empire in an attempt to erase “Judaea” from human memory.
According to Professor Bernard Lewis, the icon of Middle East historians (International History Review, January, 1980), “the earliest attempts at a territorial definition of the country later known as Palestine are in the Bible.” In its attempts to devastate Jewish national aspirations, the Roman Empire attached Palestine to the province of Syria. In 400 A.D., Palestine was split into Palestina Prima – with its capital in Caesarea – and Palestina Secunda – with its capital in Bethshean, further diminishing the stature of Jerusalem.
Lewis notes that the 7th century Arab conquest of Palestine perpetuated the neglect of Jerusalem, while elevating the status of Lydda, Ramla and Tiberias:
In the early medieval Arabic usage, Filastin [Palestine] and Urdunn [Jordan] were sub-districts forming part of the greater geographical entity known as Syria … Under Roman, Byzantine and Islamic rule, Palestine was politically submerged. It reappeared only under the Crusaders … the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem …
“Under the successors of Saladin, and still more under the Mamluks, the country was redistributed in new territorial units … with its capital in Damascus…. After the Ottoman conquest in 1516-17, the country was divided into Ottoman administrative districts … subject to the authority of the governor-general of Damascus … [The term Palestine] was no longer used by Muslims, for whom it had never meant more than an administrative sub-district and it had been forgotten even in that limited sense …
With the British conquest in 1917-18, Palestine became the official name of a definite territory for the first time since the early Middle Ages…. Palestine at this moment included both banks of the Jordan … On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the U.N. adopted a [non-binding] resolution approving the partition of mandatory Palestine into three components: a Jewish state, an Arab state and an international zone … [The Arab] rejected the partition resolution and went to war to prevent its implementation … The Palestine entity, formally established and defined by Britain, was formally abolished in 1948 with the termination of the Mandate.
The Land of Israel (Palestine) has played a critical role in Jewish history, religion, nationalism, culture, language and personal and communal relationships, compared with the marginal role played by Palestine in Arab and Muslim history. Hence the moral high ground for mandating the establishment of a Jewish state by the 1917 Balfour Declaration (on both sides of the Jordan River) and the 1922 League of Nations’ British Mandate for Palestine (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean). Article 80 of the U.N. Charter upholds the “Mandate for Palestine” which has not been overruled until today.
The fact that most Arab towns and villages in Judea and Samaria have retained their original Biblical Jewish names highlights Jewish roots in the Land of Israel (Palestine). For example, Bethlehem, Hebron, A-Dura is Biblical Adora’yim, A-Ram is Haramah, Anata is Anatot, Batir is Beitar, Beit-Hur is Beit Horon, Beitin is Bethel, Mukhmas is Mikhmash, Seilun is Shilo, Tequa’ is Teqoah, etc.
These sites are not occupied by the Jewish state. They are the epitome of the Jewish moral high ground and statehood in the Land of Israel, Palestine.
Posted by GS Don Morris, Ph.D./Chana Givon at 5:37 PM