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The original inhabitants of "Palestine"

Reader comment on item: Congress: Stop Subsidizing Biased Middle East Studies
in response to reader comment: Changing opinions

Submitted by Michael S. (United States), Nov 4, 2014 at 06:13

Hi, Jana

Thank you for the post. I didn't know you were trying to present a "Biblical historian's" point of view; but that's no problem to me. Biblical historians are a mixed bag. When they CORRECTLY divide God's word, which isn't an easy task, then what they write is simply reality. Non-Biblical historians can also accurately present reality, if they look into history with an eye to find the actual facts. It is when either camp seeks to "prove" pre-conceived notions by misinterpreting either the Bible or non-Biblical information, that we get strange and misleading results.

A case in point is the notion of a "Palestinian" nation. Even a casual study of the Bible reveals who the ancient occupants of what is now Israel were. For the record, I will cite some passages:

Genesis 10:
[15] And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth,
[16] And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite,
[17] And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite,
[18] And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.
[19] And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.

Gen. 15:
[18] In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
[19] The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
[20] And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
[21] And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

The first thing we notice, is that the "Arabs" are not mentioned, nor "Palestinians", nor their namesakes the Philistines (These came hundreds of years after Abram, around 1200 BC. More on this below). The peoples listed were:

The Canaanites. These were early Central Semitic-speaking peoples, who appear to have given the Hebrews both their language and their alphabet. The Bible makes it clear that the Hebrews (ancestors of the modern Jews) and Ishmaelites (ancestors of Muhammed's clan) came from a different root than the Canaanites: The latter were related to the Egyptians, whereas the former were descended from Eber, a Mesopotamian clan. The Hebrew and Arabic languages have a common root with Canaanite. Canaanite itself was best represented by ancient Phoenician, which has died out.

The Jebusites. These were the original inhabitants of Jerusalem, eventually conquered by King David. They may have been the Yabusi'um of western Mesopotamia, perhaps an Amorite tribe. There are no survivors today.

The Amorites. These were Central Semitic-speaking peoples who began as nomads, roughly in modern Syria. Shortly before Abraham's time, they conquered much of Mesopotamia, including Abraham's city of Ur. They died out, assimilated by neighboring peoples.

The Girgasites. These were a Canaanite clan, of which nothing is known. They have disappeared as a people. Some believe they were among the colonists of Carthage in modern Tunisia, where they were eventually absorbed by the Arabs.

The Hivites. These were also Canaanites. The best known Hivites were the inhabitants of Shechem (present-day Nablus) and Gibeah (the ones who deceived Joshua into making a pact with them). They were ultimately bsorbed by the Israelites and Lebanese (who, in turn, were absorbed by the Arabs).

The other tribes were similar. All worshipped pagan gods. The Philistines, from whom the name "Palestine" is derived, were invaders from the sea ("Peleset"), akin to the Pelasgians of Greece and Asia Minor. They are associated with Asia Minor and with Islands of the Mediterranean. In the time of Samuel the Prophet, they worshipped the fish-god, Dagon. They were conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Macedonians, and never heard from again.

After the Israelite conquest, and the subsequent Jewish kingdoms, all the people of the land, including the Jews, began speaking Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Middle East. After the Macedonian and Greek armies overran the land, the non-Jews became "hellenists", adopting Greek culture. The Romans who followed the Greeks were themselves culturally hellenistic, speaking Greek and worshipping the gods of Greece and other parts of the Roman Empire. When the Roman Emperor ultimately abolished paganism, these became Christian. Their descendants today are not the "Palestinians"; they are the Arab-speaking Christians who are now classified as "Aramaens".

The Arabic-speaking "Palestinian" Muslims of today are not descended from any of the above; their origins are in what is now Saudi Arabia. There has never been a "Palestinian" people, nor a "Palestinian" state, until they were invented by Yasser Arafat in 1964.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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