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July 3, 2013 10:55 am

A ‘P’alestinian Inconvenient Truth

avatar by Yale Zussman

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Members of the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations General Assembly celebrate Nov. 29 upon the vote to upgrade Palestinian status to a non-member observer state Nov. 29. Photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

In the ongoing “battle of the narratives” between Israel and the Palestinians, one minor, but telling, detail rarely gets mentioned:  the Arabic alphabet, the abjad, lacks the letter “P.”  Until the “P”alestinians, no people in history had ever adopted a name for themselves, or for their country, that cannot be written in their own language.  By itself, this detail establishes that the “P”alestinian national narrative is a wholly modern invention.

In Arabic, the “P”alestinians call their country “Filastin” and themselves “Filastiniyun,” but this doesn’t validate their narrative; in fact, it underscores the simple truth about “P”alestine that the world ignores.

There are four issues:

1) The “P”alestinians claim to be part of the Arab people, but the historical Philistines, from whom “Filastin” is presumably taken, came from the Aegean world and were Hellenic, rather than any form of Semites.

2) The archaeological record establishes that the Philistines arrived in Canaan around 100-150 years after the Israelites, and thus even if the “P”alestinians could prove a connection, that would provide no prior claim to controlling territory.

3) The Philisitines conquered only the southwest coast of Canaan, an area corresponding roughly to today’s Gaza Strip, and did not settle the central highland.  Thus, even if the “P”alestinians could connect themselves to the Philistines, that would give them no claim much beyond Gaza.

4) The last identifiable vestiges of Philistine culture disappeared about 2600 years ago.  It is possible they were incorporated into, or became, the Tribe of Dan (a Hellenic tribe known as the Danae disappeared from the south coast of Turkey just before the Philisitines arrived in Canaan), and became part of the Israelites. DNA would provide no help here; 2600 years is roughly 100 generations, which is more than enough for everyone on the planet to have some Philistine DNA.

The name “Palestine” was given to the Land of Israel, more properly Judaea, by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 135 CE specifically to cut its tie to the Judaeans, who would come to be known as Jews.  The name is imperialist in origin, which is  ironic because the “P”alestinians allege that the Jewish presence is inherently imperialistic. Christians continued to use this name over the centuries, so it was natural that the British would call their mandate “Palestine.”

As readers of these pages are undoubtedly aware, the name “Palestinian” referred to the Jewish inhabitants of the Palestine Mandate from its inception in 1923 until the establishment of Israel. During the Mandate, no Arab would call himself a “Palestinian,” rather they were simply the Arabs of Palestine.

So why call themselves “P”alestinians now?  The probable answer is that they have no prior name for themselves, a tip-off that they are a new people, and the name is useful for propaganda purposes. What could be more natural than for a people called “P”alestinians to be the rightful owners of a land called “P”alestine? Except, of course, that their language can’t provide either name and we can see their narrative was created for Western consumption.

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  • Solomon

    Philistines were sons of Ham.

  • Freddie78

    I’m not jewish or Christian although my parents and family are Christian from usa. I’m an anthropology student.
    There should be no debate about this. It’s very clear modern palastines are Minoans who moved into gaza after an earthquake on their land.
    If they claim they are older or more original to the area than the Jews they are liars. Blatant liars!
    From what I can tell, jews have never started anything , they always have to defend themselves from violent people who attack them. It’s amazing they can contribute so much to society in science, art, business, etc.. They are so intelligent and talented. More than any other group of people. I think jews should defend themselves and just wipe out the enemies once and for all so they can get on with their lives in peace!

    • Yale

      >>It’s very clear modern palastines are Minoans who moved into gaza after an earthquake on their land.

      Hi Freddie,

      The Philistines of ancient times were Pelasgian peoples, forced to leave their homelands in the greater Aegean world by the events commemorated as the Trojan War, itself a relic of the replacement of Mycenaean Greeks by Hellenic Greeks.

      The Minoans had been replaced by the Mycenaeans some centuries earlier and were quite gone by the time the Philistines turn up along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean in the Twelfth or Eleventh pre-Christian century.

      The problem, as noted in my article, is that today’s “P”alestinians/Filastiniyuns have no discernable connection with the Philistines, whose name they have taken.

      That makes them not only a people without a country but a people without a real identity.

      • Freddie78

        Thank you for the clarification. I just watched a documentary where they said they were Minoans , it was on the history channel. I’ll have to research more about it .

    • Amanda

      i agree totally with your opinion.

    • Nunya Bizz

      The Palestinians are a people named after a land named after another people. That makes them much like the Macedonians. The question you are ignoring is how long do a people have to live somewhere before they have a right to the land? Certainly, they are largely Arabic, but having been there for generations, aren’t they more entitled to the land than jews born elsewhere? It sounds like another attempt to dismiss hated natives.

      • Yale

        Dear Mr. Bizz,

        I think you’ve missed the point.

        It’s one thing to say a people took its name from the land where they live now, but that’s quite different from saying it has always been their land, because in the latter case, the name of the people would already match the name of the territory. The current “Palestinians” didn’t start using the name until the 1950s; if they were an ancient people, they should have had a name for themselves, but they simply didn’t.

        Much of the “Arab” population of what became the Palestine Mandate arrived during the decades leading up to WW I, largely in response to a need by the Ottomans to settle this frontier zone. For details, see my PALESTINIAN COVENANT REFUTES PALESTINIAN NARRATIVE at http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/02/11/the-palestinian-covenant-refutes-the-palestinian-narrative/ Many of them came in response to economic opportunities made possible by the immigration of Jews, who came exclusively because that was the traditional homeland. The economic logic of this sequence is that the land belongs to the Jews.

      • Larry

        Since returning from the Babylonian exile, Jews have lived on this land continuously. The Roman did kill many and sell some towns into slavery, but many Jews also remained. So, the Jews who are returning are returning to their cousins.

  • Jose Carp

    The Jewish fight for Independance prior to1948 was essentially agaist the British military presence during the Mandate in Palestine and not so much against Arabs from Palestine. Movements such as Begin’s Irgun and Ben Gurion’s Hagganah fought mainly against the British occupation of Palestine and sometimes amogst themselves.

  • Scott Smith

    To add to the author’s response to Zwiren, `J’ in German (as well as many Slavic languages) is equivalent to `Y’ in English. Virtually every proper term in Hebrew with a `Y’ in it has been transliterated as `J’, which in German would not change the pronunciation. However, when going from German to other languages using the same alphabet, the `J’ remained, changing the pronunciation with it. There is no equivalent pattern of any Arabic letter being consistently rendered as `P’ when translated into European languages.

  • Lisa Andrea

    Palestine, an English term, was the 19th century European Christian name for Israel, Anglicized from the Latin palaestina the Romans renamed Israel in the 2nd century in retribution for the Bar Kokhba Revolt, in an attempt to erase the Jewish identity of the land. Palaestina referred to the Philistines, the ancient Greek Sea Peoples who were enemies of the Jews, thus, adding insult to injury. The Jewish Bible records the Philistines as Peleshet, which became Greek Palaistine [Herodotus], Latin palaestina & finally English palestine. Arabs “Arabized” Roman palaestina into Filastin 500 years later after the Arab conquest. They also Arabized the Roman name for Jerusalem–Aelia–into Ilya. There is absolutely no historically legitimate basis for the name palestine, invented by Europeans. Correct historical name of the land is Israel. Lastly, palestine doesn’t appear in the Old Testament, New Testament nor the koran. Israel appears 2500 times, including an entire chapter in koran called Bani Isra’il Children of Israel

  • Yale

    It is Mr. Zwiren’s logic that is flawed.

    “Jew” and “Jerusalem” are names Europeans gave to the “Yehudim” and “Yirushalayim”, terms that are still in common use in Israel. Both words also appear in Biblical texts, which, thanks to the Dead Sea scrolls, we know are largely unchanged in more than 2000 years.

    By contrast, “Palestine” and “Filastin” don’t turn up in Arab or Turkish documents until the 20th century; Turkish does have a “p”, so this absence is particularly significant if the “P”alestinians actually are who they claim to be.

    Mr. Zwiren can be taken seriously only if he can tell us what name the “P”alestinians used for themselves before the land was renamed Palestine by the British.

  • Lynne T

    Given the tendency of Christian pro-Palestinian fanatics to insist on calling Jesus of Nazareth a “Palestinian”, etc., take note of the 135 C.E. date with respect to the application of the name Palestine.

  • Mr Author, tell this to all,I said ALLLL THE MEDIA which perpetrates the JEWISH name of palsitinian as given to Jews by the romans, using it to describe a non existant culture of arabs who rightfully are southern syrians and egyptians. Didnt the brits call JEWS palsitinian and call the arabs simple arabs? Signing the documents in 1947/48 as such I described?

  • Alan Zwiren

    The logic is very flawed. There is no “J” in Hebrew. Using this logic there is no Jew or Jerusalem.

    • Vita HarYarok


      Please do your research. Of course there is no “J/dj” sound in Hebrew (although modern Hebrew spelling has created a way to express this sound), but the original Hebrew “Y” of Yehudi and Yerushalayim were replaced by the “J” of Latin, which was originally pronounced with a Y sound. Thus the Anglicized “Jerusalem,” etc. Same for former Jew “Yeshua”. (Hint: Y -> J, SH -> S.) We on board now?

    • Alan – put down the KOOL-AID

    • Sam

      Don’t think your comparision is accurate. The word “Jew” in English is “yehudi” in Hebrew; “Jerusalem” in English” is “Yerusalayim”. Just like Israel in English is actually “Yisrael” in Hebrew. So, these English words are not actually the same Hebrew words. The writer’s point that there is no “P” in Arabic is valid, because they say they are Palestinians, “Filistinim” – if in fact they come from “Palestine”, which is what this terrority has been called for ages, why can’t they say “Palestinian” in their own language? After all, they don’t say they are from Philistine. It’s quite obvious, the Arabs always try to act like the “real Jews”, they are ones who suffer through a Holocaust, who live in the Diaspora, etc. My question to you, Alan, would be, what is your definition of a Palestinian?

    • Shira Yashin

      The English word “Jews” is only the translation of the original “Yehuda” or “Yehudim.” The Arabs claim to be descended from “Philistines,” the original word being the Hebrw “Pelishtim.” So the original word has a P. Pretty obvious if you know basic Hebrew.

    • Jeremiah

      your a retard! the logic is solid. J is used for transliterations. Where as Arabs just borrowed a word and duped the west.

    • Jeremiah

      Palistinian is also a hebrew word meaning invader. Case closed.

    • LBJeffrie

      So, Allen, I see you couldn’t make it past the first paragraph. The Jews call themselves “Yehudi,” a name the western world is not too familiar with, (well maybe the Germans in regards to “Jude”, pronounced approximately “yuday”). Yehudi means Jews. The Jews named themselves after “Jews,” which is to say they call themselves themselves. On the other hand we have “Philistines,” a word the western world is quite familiar with. I suggest that had the “P”alestinians insisted that they are and were the Philistines (filistin) the rest of the world would simply have had a good laugh, taken their marbles and gone home.

    • Daniel Olgin

      Alan, you are thinking in English. Of course there is no “J” in Hebrew. Its a “Yud” and the words are pronounced Yehudi (Heb) – Jew (Eng) and Yerushalayim (Heb) – Jerusalem (Eng).

      The authors logic is sound because there is no “P” in the Arabic language.

    • shloime

      “yerushalyim” and “yehudi” appear in biblical texts – it is the later christian translations that use a “j”.

      “palestina” was the name given by the romans 2,000 years to the conquered kingdom of judah (“yehuda” if you insist on being a dunce), and for 2,000 years “palestinian” was synonymous with “jewish”.

      so much so that no self-respecting arab would apply the term “palestinian” to themselves prior to 1964. which is why the united nations referred to “the arab refugees from palestine”, and unrwa, the united nations welfare agency exclusively for them, doesn’t include any reference to “palestine” in its name. (unrwa registered refugees with as little as 2 years’ residency – not much for a people claiming “aboriginal” title.)

      as late as 1970, arab leaders candidly admitted that there was never an arab political entity of “palestine”, but rather they were ethnically, historically, culturally, and politically “south syrians”.

      until an egyptian named yasser arafat invented the plo, as a tool of the egyptian intelligence service.

    • Emanon


      I think you walked into a minefield here.

      This might be an appropriate time to start reading some books.