Somebody seems to have nuked jonmos's writeup claiming that Palestinians don't exist, which is a shame, because it was a well-expressed -- if IMHO flawed -- viewpoint. But the quotes remain:

Palestinians are descended for the most part from the original Arab groups who bought their refugee status and represent a diverse discontented group from around the world.

The above is the most bizarre conspiracy theory I have heard in a long time (and I've heard plenty). If I read that right, you are claiming that the Palestinians

I'd prefer to start with UNRWA's own definition (emphasis mine):

Under UNRWA's operational definition, Palestinian refugees are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.


Got that? No residence in Palestine, no refugee status. Also note that UNRWA was founded in 1949 for the sole purpose of taking care of the refugees.

The term "Palestine" is a Roman invention, and a Palestinian might as well come from anywhere.

Nope. UNRWA uses the term as a reference to Mandatory Palestine, as in the British Mandate before 1948, an area with strictly defined boundaries (which largely correspond to Israel's present-day borders, mind you). All the people living in the area, be they Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze or Samaritans, were Palestinians. "Israel" is a Hebrew term loaded with Jewish religious connotations and it has now been adopted as the name of the Jewish state, along with the word Israeli for those living in the state, so these days the term "Palestinians" refers to the former and current inhabitants of the region who are not citizens of Israel.

What jonmos is saying is a popular extrapolation of the historical fact that many Arabs did immigrate to British Palestine at the turn of the 20th century, some of them illegally. There were many well-paying jobs available working for Jewish settlers in construction, farming, etc, and these were a major draw in an otherwise economically depressed region. However, there was also a lot of Jewish immigration going on at the same time, much of it equally illegal from the British POV, especially towards the end of the Mandate when the authorities started clamping down on it. Is there really a qualitative difference between the two?

Surely (the Jews) have as much right as anyone else within the land that is definately theirs.

As for the historical justification of the Palestinian and Jewish claims, Golda Meir famously stated that there are no Palestinians, and it is quite true that there has never been a specifically "Palestinian" state. The towns of what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories have always belonged to one empire or another. The area was already settled before its conquest by the Israelites c. 1200 BC, and it was to be reconquered again and again, twice by the Jews, the other times by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans... and throughout these thousands of years of warfare, people, the people we now call the Palestinian people, lived here, assimilating influences and immigration from here and there. The First Aliyah, on the other hand, only started in 1882, and the only thing that separates the Jewish claim to the land from all the others is religion, a religion which, needless to say, the other claimants disagree with.

However, the Israelis -- to use your term -- had fate on their side, and now Israel is a fait accompli, wrested by the Jews as their homeland with blood, sweat and tears. But the only way they will ever be able to live in peace with their neighbors, that lovely word shalom bandied about so much, is to acknowledge that the creation of their state led to the dispossession of 3.9 million people (the number of UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees in 2001). The Palestinians are not a product of a conspiracy theory, they are not an anti-Semitic plot, they are a bunch of ordinary people who have gotten royally fucked over by everybody during the last 50 years -- not just Israel, but Egypt, Jordan, Syria, even the PLO itself. They may not have had much of a collective identity before, but that doesn't lessen their individual claims to the lands they have lived on for millenia, and through their shared hardship they have become one nation. Closing your eyes and pretending they are not there will not make them go away. The Israeli people will have to learn to live with them, or continue to face the consequences.

ObDisclaimer: I am not Israeli, not Jewish, not Palestinian and not Muslim. I have spent a lot of time in both Israel and Palestine, and have seen life from both sides of the fence.

And cheers to Albert Herring, ariels, and Spackle for wise comments and improvements.

An interesting note: Ariel Sharon, the right-wing (read: anti-Palestinian) head of the Israeli government, was born under the British mandate in the late 30's. His British-issued passport lists his nationality as "Palestinian".

On the other hand, Yasser Arafat, the head of the PLO, is an "Egyptian".

Arafat's situation has changed since I wrote this writeup. Arafat is now indisputably a Palestinian, so the point I was making about the absurdity of the term "Palestinian" is invalid. Still an interesting factoid, however...

Pal`es*tin"i*an (?), Pal`es*tin"e*an (?), a.

Of or pertaining to Palestine.


© Webster 1913.

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