The Arab and Palestinian History

  • 6 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 1, 2022

So what about the Palestinians

So covering Palestinian history is a bit harder because there are not many details out there and not a lot of actual historical information. I remember getting excited that I finally found a book that seemed serious about Palestinian history, but it offered a blank page. I’m not kidding, A fake author called Asaf Vol decided to create an entire book on Amazon as a prank, and somehow he sold quite a lot of copies. Anyway, I have invested a year trying to find the Palestinian story. To find different interpretations considering that it’s not my history.  I really believed that the key to making peace is not to take away someone else’s identity. For me, understanding the Palestinians’ connection to the land does not contradict my connection as a Jew.

I wanted to do something that has not been done on any unapologetic Zionists Media platform before. I wanted to treat Palestinian history with the utmost respect.

Unfortunately, I was not successful.

I was looking for leaders; I was looking for kings; I was looking for famous Imams; I was looking for flags, currencies, and even poets that called themselves Palestinians or Philistines. I simply couldn’t find much. I searched for books that would clearly take on historical Anti-Israel or Pro-Palestinian narratives. There were plenty of books that started from 1948, but there was almost nothing on ancient history. Considering this has been one of the most heated conflicts in the world for about 70 years, not having historical books was a bad sign. I even went as far as reading some creative Pseudo-Historians who claimed that Palestinians are descended from any community that lived in the Levant region. This includes the Nabateans, Arameans, Jebusites, and even the ancient Canaanites. But then I spent weeks trying to find any backing to this; there was none. Any legitimate historian or archeologist would agree most Palestinians are closely related to the Arabs that originate from Rashidun Caliphate or the Umayyad Caliphate.

But in the end, I did find some information and even a book. The most left-leaning Pro-Palestinian book with some real historical backing. It was called the history of Palestine by Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal. The Authors, who are extreme left-leaning Jews, definitely had a long history of criticizing Israel. So I thought I was in good hands to find the Palestinian narrative.

So what did the book say?

The first time the Arabs in Palestine developed an identity was in 1834. There was a revolt by local Arabs against Egyptian leader Mohammad Ali. He wanted to split from the Ottoman Empire and industrialize the whole region. They were fighting against forced conscription to a war that was considered by most to be a death sentence. This seemed to be the first uniting factor for the Arabs in Palestine. However, once Mohammad Ali was defeated, they gladly returned to the Ottoman Empire. No national aspirations this time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But then there was a mention of an official Nationalist Identity that happened in the 20th century when the first Arab newspaper called Al-Karmil appeared in Haifa in 1908, focusing primarily on preventing Arabs from transferring land to Jews. At the same time, Palestinian Arabs were elected to the ottoman empire with the same agenda. Three years later, a more official Newspaper called the Filastin was launched.

In 1919, we started seeing Nationalist Arab clubs and groups that even launched the first Arab Palestine congress, also known as the third Syrian congress.

Now here’s the resolution of that first congress in Damascus:

  • “We consider Palestine nothing but part of Arab Syria, and it has never been separated from it at any stage. We are tied to it by national, religious, linguistic, moral, economic, and geographic bounds.”
  • Rejection of French claims to the area
  • “Our district Southern Syria or Palestine should be not separated from the Independent Arab Syrian Government and be free from all foreign influence and protection”.

So they clearly claimed a deep connection to Syria. In case you don’t know, in summary, the Palestine region often was considered part of the Syrian Province of many Islamic Empires. Therefore, it’s natural that they wanted to be Syrians. Still no Palestinian national identity here.

Also, another interesting tidbit, in any official event, they never seem to call themselves Palestinians but Arabs in Palestine. Like the leadership was called the Arab High committee. And when they tried to make a political party, it was Palestine Arab Party.

Another tidbit that I found from discussing with knowledgeable Palestinians:

Some Palestinians believe their history started with Zahir al-Umar, a Northern ruler who succeeded in uniting Northern Ottoman Palestine in the 18th century. So we are talking about 270 years ago, and even if technically the region was still part of the Ottoman Empire, he was very much an autonomous leader. Again, there is no real mention of people called Palestinians, but he was a ruler who unified people in that region, So maybe.

Some might interpret the history that I mentioned here as dismissing the connection between the Palestinian Arabs and Palestine, but it does not. Because whether you believe that the Palestinian national identity is 200 or 50 years old, there is no doubt that the Arab people have settled in the region for more than a millennium and could be considered indigenous.

So let’s talk a bit about the Arabs.

In 610CE, nearly 500 years after Judah was conquered by the Romans and named Palestine, the Muslim religion was born where it has been told that the prophet Mumahmmed had received a revelation from G-d. After establishing a movement in Medina in 622 and conquering Mecca in 630, the Arabian region became politically unified under Islam. Muhammed died in 632, just when his Father in Law and personal friend Abu Bakr, initiated the first caliphate or the first rule of Muslims.

For all who are confused with the term Caliphate, it means an Islamic state run by a spiritual leader who claims to take over Muhammad’s role, also known as a Caliph. But when there is a discussion of the Caliphate in history, it is often concerning regions that Arabs and Muslims have conquered and declared their own. There were 4 generations of the Caliphate conquering.

One of their first key possessions was the Levant region, where they managed to conquer Jerusalem from the Byzantines (which played a role in Palestinian identity from the Christian part but let’s focus on the Arab Muslim part this time) in 635.

From 685 to 705, Caliph Abd Al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock mosque on top of the historic site of the first and second temple. His son Walid, likely built the Al Aqsa Mosque (some sources credit his father)in the same region between 715-717 as the third holiest place of Muslims.

As I explained in the previous History article, the Crusaders conquered in 1099, and Salah al-Din reconquered Jerusalem again in 1187 under the Third Caliphate. Then Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire, as part of the Fourth Caliphate, took over the region till recent history.

Now, this is the story that most historians accept of how Arabs Arrived in the Palestine/Levant region. To be fair, there was also a pre-Islamic Nomadic Arab population called Nabatean who specialized in transporting goods. While they mostly roamed the Arabian peninsula, they did make it all the way to the southern part of Palestine with their goods. They had a kingdom during the 4th Century CE centered in Petra, where today is Jordan.

So this is the best I could have done for Palestinian Arab History in that region. I will accept to learn more info and add it here.

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