Were Arab in Early Century 20th Century Called Palestinians?

  • 1 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • December 1, 2022

It is very hard to climb the Propaganda tower and figure out if individual Arabs in Palestine called themselves Palestinians, but the leadership most certainly did not. The leadership organization of that time was called the Arab High Committee, and the gathering event was called the Palestine Arab congress, which declared Palestine to be a southern region of Syria. Also, Unrwa, the refugee organization dedicated to the Arab refugees of the Palestine war (which also does not have Palestinians in their title), declared Anyone that lived 2 years before the war in Palestine a Palestinian. While whoever left before was immediately absorbed by the Arab country. Yet after the war, any refugee sustained this title forever.

The haters will argue that Palestinian existed for centuries, and It has already been shown in previous articles that there simply was never a Palestinian leader, a king, a Palestinian currency, a flag, or a language unless you are referring to Jews. These are all necessary things to declare yourself an ethnicity or population and most certainly an indigenous population.

But what about the Arabs in early 20th century Palestine that already started to create a national identity? Did they consider themselves to be Palestinians? Did they consider themselves a unique identity within the Arab population?

Considering the high level of today’s propaganda, it is hard to figure out if some individuals considered themselves not just Arabs but this unique group called Palestinians.

But I can offer some hard facts about the leadership. The political Arab representative of the region called themselves the Arab High Committee, not the Palestinian High Committee.

The main army that fought the Jews during the 1948 Independence War was called Arab Liberation Army/Arab Salvation Army. To be fair, this army included volunteers from other Arab countries.

The gathering of the leaders in the region to make decisions about Palestine was called the Palestine Arab congress. Not the Palestinian congress. And btw, the resolution that they agreed on in the first congress was to declare Palestine as a southern region of Syria.

The term Palestinian people (ash-sha‘b al-Filasṭīnī) or Palestinians (al-Filasṭīniyyūn), was rarely used, if ever. The term Palestine (Filasṭīn) was used more often, referring to the region, and it was often combined with the word Arab (as in the Arabs of Palestine).

The UN organization dedicated to Palestinian and Jewish refugees was called UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). Again no mention of the word Palestinians. The first time that Palestinian as a national identity was clearly announced, is when the PLO was established in 1964, and all the Arab refugees of the Palestine Civil War have officially been declared Palestinians.

When the British originally mapped all Arab nations, the Palestine region included what is considered to be Jordan. Even before that, most maps of the Palestine region included a big chunk of what is Jordan today. Saying that, the Jordanians are proud of their identity and rarely reflect back on the previous Palestinian identity that they supposedly had.

For that matter, no Arab that had left or escaped Palestine before the 1947 civil war was considered to be a Palestinian. Actually, UNRWA, the organization that was in charge of the Palestinians, declared anyone who had lived in Palestine for 2 years before the war to be a Palestinian. Just 2 years.

So before the war, it was very simple to opt in and Opt out of that identity. Clearly, it was not taken seriously as an identity until it was used as an open sore to keep the conflict going.

It is hard to go back to history and check if any individual Arabs considered themselves Palestinian but it was clearly not a popular or at least not an established notion at the time.

Jews, on the other hand, were often referred to as Palestinians.

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