Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich dismissed the existence of a separate Palestinian people in a speech he delivered in Paris on Sunday. This has caused predictable outrage from the Arabs, from the EU’s Josep Borrell, and from the Bidenites, who found his remarks on this matter “unhelpful.” But is his statement false? A preliminary Jihad Watch report is here, and more on Smotrich’s speech can be found here: “Israel’s Smotrich: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” by Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, March 20, 2023:
“There is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” said Smotrich who heads the Religious Zionist Party.
“Who are the [real] Palestinians? I am Palestinian,” he said.
He recalled his family’s 13 generations in the Land of Israel, mentioning his grandmother who had been born in the northern border town of Metula over a hundred years ago before the creation of the state.
His ancestors and his grandmother were “Palestinians,” he said.
Before 1948, the territory that now encompasses the modern state of Israel had been called Palestine. The Romans used that term to refer to that territory after they conquered the ancient state of Israel.
Smotrich might have added that the place name Syria Palaestina, which was then shortened to “Palestine,” was given to the Roman province of Judaea in the early 2nd century AD. The renaming is often presented as having been performed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the wake of the 132-135 AD Bar Kokhba revolt. Scholars suggest it was enacted to “disassociate the Jewish people from their historical homeland.” Certainly “Palestine” helped to efface the Jewish connection to the land that had been made manifest in the toponym “Judea.”
This truth [that there is no such thing as a separate “Palestinian people”] needs to be heard by the Arabs in Israel. This truth needs to be heard by the Jewish people in Israel who have gotten confused. This truth needs to be heard in the Elysee and in the White House. This truth must be heard by the whole world because this is the truth.”
When modern Zionists at the end of the 19th century spoke of a return to their land, they spoke of going to Palestine, a name that appeared on all documents and currency relating to pre-state Israel.
Smotrich is among a number of far-right politicians who do not accept the adoption by regional Arabs of the term Palestinian to describe their ethnicity and national movement as well as their aspirations for self-determination in a state which will be called Palestine.
It is not only “far-right” politicians who disbelieve in the existence of a separate “Palestinian people.” So do all those Arab leaders who before, during, and for decades after, the 1948 war never once referred to the “Palestinian people.” In the run-up to the Six-Day War, for example, Gamal Abdel Nasser made many speeches to Cairene crowds. The recognized leader of the Arabs, Nasser nowhere spoke of the “Palestinian people.”At the UN, between 1949 and June 1967, no Arab ambassador ever mentioned the “Palestinian people.”
It was not until the mid-1960s, and then only on a very few occasions, that the “Palestinian people” started to be mentioned. But after the “naksa” (setback) of the Six-Day War, the phrase was constantly repeated, quite deliberately, so that it quickly become the common currency of the Arabs, and subsequently, the phrase was adopted by most of the rest of the world. Their defeat in that war had made the Arabs rethink their strategy, so that the military option was put off until Israel could be squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines. Clearly, the Arabs needed to transform the conflict with Israel so that no longer would it seem like a monstrous Arab gang-up on tiny Israel. Instead, that conflict could be presented as a struggle between the “Palestinian people” and the Jews who had usurped the land on which the “Palestinians” had lived since time immemorial.
After the Six-Day War, no Arab leader could open his mouth without mentioning the “Palestinian people.” According to the Romanian intelligence chief, Ion Pacepa, it was the KGB that first advised the Arabs to use the phrase “Palestinian people.”…
Smotrich compared Jewish history in the region which dates back thousands of years with that of the modern-day Palestinians, whose history, he said was absent.
Jews have lived continuously in the Land of Israel since at least the 10th century B.C. The Muslim Arabs arrived in the land only 1700 years later.
The Palestinian nation has existed for less than one hundred years,”[in fact, the claim of a separate Palestinian people goes back only 55 years, to 1967] noting that they do not meet the international standards for nationhood since they are lacking a unique history, culture, language and currency.
“I ask you who was the first Palestinian King, what [unique] language do they have, was there ever a Palestinian coin. Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t. There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation.
Smotrich is, of course, right. The “Palestinian people” were invented for propaganda reasons, a fiction that has been a smashing propaganda success. But there is no defining characteristic that distinguishes the “Palestinian people” from the other Arabs in the immediate region. They do indeed lack a “unique history, culture, language, and currency.”
It was Zuheir Mohsen, leader of the Palestinian terror group As Saiqa, who in a moment of candor, explained in a 1970 interview with James Dorsey for the Dutch newspaper Trouw why the “Palestinian people” had been invented:
The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
It is too bad that Smotrich did not quote, verbatim, Zuheir Mohsen’s paragraph above. Possibly he’s unaware of it. Providing that damning paragraph could have a devastating effect on Palestinian” propagandists and those they have deceived. Smotrich can still use it, of course, in responding to all those who have been so outraged by his original statement that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”
Smotrich might also point to the statements of Golda Meir, whom no one would describe as “far-right,” who in an interview given to the Times of London in 1969 said: “There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist.”
In a 1970 interview with Thames TV, Meir said that: “When were Palestinians born? What was all of this area before the First World War when Britain got the Mandate over Palestine? What was Palestine, then? Palestine was then the area between the Mediterranean and the Iraqian border. East and West Bank was Palestine. I am a Palestinian, from 1921 and 1948, I carried a Palestinian passport. There was no such thing in this area as Jews, and Arabs, and Palestinians, There were Jews and Arabs. […] I don’t say there are no Palestinians, but I say there is no such thing as a distinct Palestinian people.”
The Palestinians, he said, are regional Arabs who arrived in the Land of Israel at the same time as the first major waves of [Jewish] immigration at the end of the 19th century….
Once the Zionist pioneers started to settle in Palestine, beginning around the turn of the 20th century, the resulting increase in economic activity attracted Arabs from elsewhere.
“What happened? They created a fictional nation and then worked for their fictitious rights to the Land of Israel just to battle against the Zionist movement. That is the historical truth and the bBblical truth. That is the truth and there is no alternative,” Smotrich said.
“This truth needs to be heard by the Arabs in Israel. This truth needs to be heard by the Jewish people in Israel who have gotten confused. This truth needs to be heard in the Elysee and in the White House. This truth must be heard by the whole world because this is the truth,” Smotrich stated.
United States National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told Channel 12 that such remarks were “unhelpful.”
Smotrich’s remarks may have been “unhelpful” in the view of the Bidenites, but are they false? Look again at the evidence. Why is it that in none of the speeches of Arab leaders before the 1948 war, or before the 1967 war, are the “Palestinian people” mentioned? Why, in the transcribed records of endless Arab speechifying at the UN, are the “Palestinian people” suddenly to be found only after the Six-Day War? And why is it that beginning in the summer of 1967 the “Palestinian people” are mentioned all over the place, most notably in the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967, where all of the Arab states gave their “three Nos” to Israel: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.” which were immediately followed by this: “and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their country.”
The European Union said it “firmly deplores yet another unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich ”which should not be “tolerated.
Such remarks are “wrong, disrespectful, dangerous and counterproductive in a situation which is already very tense,” the EU said.
“We call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to work together with all the parties involved to defuse tensions,” the EU said.
Israel cannot possibly “disavow” Smotrich’s remarks about the non-existent Palestinian people because Israelis, including those who for other reasons oppose Smotrich, know that his statement, just like those of Zuheir Mohsen and Golda Meir, happens to be true.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Smotrich’s words were racist, ahistorical, and fueled anger among the Palestinians and ran counter to efforts by its government to halt a violent outbreak during the month of Ramadan which begins on March 22 and which will overlap with the Passover and Easter.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office and Prime Minister Mohammed Shytayyeh denounced Smotrich’s remarks as well as the graphic at the podium from which he spoke….
The graphic put up at the podium shows the territory of both Israel and Jordan. This has been taken by the Arabs as a sign that Smotrich wants a “Greater Israel” that would incorporate Jordan into a single state with Israel. That’s not at all what Smotrich meant. He was merely reminding the world that the territory originally assigned to the Mandate for Palestine included territory on both sides of the Jordan River, and that it was the British who in 1921 for reasons of their own — to provide a country for the Hashemite Emir Abdullah — removed all of Palestine that lay east of the Jordan from the terms of the Mandate, and ended Jewish immigration to that area. Smotrich simply was reminding the world of that fact, so often ignored.
Shtayyeh said that Smotrich was repeating the myth that Palestine is “a land without people and a people without land” in contrast to “historical and archeological evidence” proving ancient Palestinian roots in their land.
Where is this historical and archaeological evidence that proves “ancient Palestinian roots in their land”? There are thousands of archeological sites in Israel — 2000 of them in Jerusalem alone. They are full of Jewish artifacts — pottery shards, tools, eating utensils, oil lamps, menorahs, coins, not to mention the examples of writing, such as the spectacular Dead Sea Schools found in eleven caves in Qumran between 1947 and 1956. Where are the “Palestinian” archeological sites, where are the Palestinian artifacts that date back, at the earliest, to the late 7th century? There aren’t any. Instead, the Palestinians claim to be the descendants of various ancient peoples — the Canaanites, the Jebusites, the Philistines — to provide themselves with a fictitious past in the Land of Israel.
There are Palestinian Arabs. There are individual Palestinians. But there never has been a distinct Palestinian people living in the Land of Israel, between the river and the sea.