Israel is Jewish – Part One: Is There a “Palestine?”

Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Prime Minister official residence in Jerusalem on July 25, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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This morning I lamented how I consider the Black Lives Matter organization and movement as antisemitic and anti-Israel, based on the erroneous belief that Israel is an apartheid state and an occupier of Arab (Palestinian) land. Since the riots and protests began here in the U.S., I’ve been searching for a way to express how wrong that is, but for a lot of reasons, I haven’t been able to get a handle on it.

Then after receiving an email from a Jewish friend of mine who lives in Israel, and reading the contents, I realized why. The topic is huge and multidimensional. I’d never cram what I want to say into a single blog post, which is why it will have to be a series. I have no idea how it will end, but I do know how it will begin.

It will begin with this idea that there is and always has been this “thing” called “Palestine” that somehow supersedes the Biblical and historical land of “Israel.”

Let’s start with Palestine. Where did it come from?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

Palestine, area of the eastern Mediterranean region, comprising parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip (along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (the area west of the Jordan River).

Oh really? How did that happen? The same source says:

The word Palestine derives from Philistia, the name given by Greek writers to the land of the Philistines, who in the 12th century bce occupied a small pocket of land on the southern coast, between modern Tel Aviv–Yafo and Gaza. The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century ce in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria, and made its way thence into Arabic, where it has been used to describe the region at least since the early Islamic era.

I don’t completely trust the Encyclopedia Britannica because they’re dancing around the facts. When did the Romans rename ancient Israel “Palestine” and why? They don’t say, so I had to look elsewhere.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library:

A derivative of the name Palestine first appears in Greek literature in the 5th Century BCE when the historian Herodotus called the area Palaistine. In the 2nd century CE, the Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained and the area of Judea was renamed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel.

Bingo! The Romans deliberately renamed Israel as “Palestine” to insult and demean the Jewish people and the Jewish right to their own land. We also understand from those two articles, that “Palestine” didn’t always exist as an Arab nation and in fact, wasn’t a nation, Arab or otherwise, at all. Not until it was “invented.”

Okay, I get it. Nations are invented entities. Once upon a time there was no such thing as the United States of America, and if you go back in time far enough, anything you call a country didn’t exist.

Before I go on, let’s revisit the Jewish Virtual Library article:

Though the definite origins of the word Palestine have been debated for years and are still not known for sure, the name is believed to be derived from the Egyptian and Hebrew word peleshet. Roughly translated to mean rolling or migratory, the term was used to describe the inhabitants of the land to the northeast of Egypt – the Philistines. The Philistines were an Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.

Did you get that? “rolling or migratory” people. And “Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.”

So “Palestine” isn’t and never has been an “Arabic” nation…ever. Those original people were more related to Greeks, but does that mean “Palestine” is Greek? No, that’s nuts. The root for what some people now call “Palestine” came into being because that area was conquered about 3,300 years ago.

But what about before then?

According to the Aish.com article Evidence of the Jewish People’s Roots in Israel:

Now, the Bible pictures an Israelite-Jewish population and government there starting in the 12th century BCE and continuing until the end of the Bible’s history about 800 years later. But how do we know if this is true? As scholars, we can’t just say, “The Bible tells us so.” We need to see evidence that could be presented to any honest person, whether that person be religious or not, Jewish or Christian or from some other religion or no religion, or from Mars.

Yes, exactly, and that’s the hard part. I could cite Jewish and Christian sources all day long, but at the end of the day, critics could say those sources were so biased that they’re telling lies. I could call the sources who say that a Jewish Israel never existed the same thing. So what now? Let’s see if this article’s author Richard Elliott Friedman has an answer:

In the first place, the land is filled with Hebrew inscriptions, so I begin with that. These are not just an occasional inscription on a piece of pottery or carved in a wall. Nor should we even start with one or two of the most famous archaeological finds. Rather, there are thousands of inscriptions. They come from hundreds of excavated towns and cities. They are in the Hebrew language. They include people’s names that bear forms of the name of their God: YHWH.

Click the link to get the entire context, but the point is that not only do we find artifacts from ancient times that testify to a Jewish Israel, but from the lands around it. Ancient nations and people groups recognized the Jewish people as having occupied and possessed Israel for many hundreds if not thousands of years before anything like “Palestine” was manufactured.

The people at LiveScience.com believe that:

When scholars refer to “ancient Israel,” they often refer to the tribes, kingdoms and dynasties formed by the ancient Jewish people in the Levant (an area that encompasses modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria).

They presuppose that somehow, nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, plus the increasingly unlikely “Palestine,” can undo, unroll, or unwrite the existence of both ancient and modern Israel, the Jewish Israel.

The article goes on to say:

Scholars draw largely on three sources to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel — archaeological excavations, the Hebrew Bible and texts that are not found in the Hebrew Bible. The use of the Hebrew Bible poses difficulty for scholars as some of the accounts are widely thought to be mythical.

If you don’t believe in the Hebrew God and His miracles, naturally the Bible isn’t going to be considered an authoritative source. I mentioned that before.

But to continue:

The earliest mention of the word “Israel” comes from a stele (an inscription carved on stone) erected by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah (reign ca. 1213-1203 B.C.) The inscription mentions a military campaign in the Levant during which Merneptah claims to have “laid waste” to “Israel” among other kingdoms and cities in the Levant.

The article concludes:

In the millennia afterward, the Jewish diaspora spread throughout the world. It wasn’t until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 that the Jewish people had a homeland again.

You might consider this source a tad more objective, since it’s not Jewish, which is why I included it.

Just for giggles, I read a Quora.com source asking “Does Palestine exist, or is it Israel?”

A lot of people responded since, after all, it is a hot button topic. One person named Shira Barabi answered on February 9, 2019. Please note that English is probably not this person’s main language:

As a israel , Palestine does not exist.

The civilians of so called Palestine are arabs who live in Israel.

This whole concept of another land for the arabs started in 1948 , after Israel declared independence. We had a civil war and won. Actually , we won several wars between us and the surrounding arab states.

So , why is Palestine still a concept? After being ” founded ” in 1988 ( that’s right. 40 years after israel was formed ) there has been total chaos for owning that little piece of land. Obviously , if you choose to take israel’s side then you’re a heartless Zionist that kills innocent children.

Believe it or not , but I live next to an Arab village ( I am a Jew-Moroccan so we settled here ) and every time there’s a terror attack that hurts innocent citizens there are fireworks and parties until the sunrise. Seeing that as a little child made me lose empathy.

We fight for a home constantly. Nobody wants us obviously and we have to fight for the little we have. I still find it petty for the Arabs to want it so badly and be willing to kill so many for it while they obviously have quite a few of their own.

We have offered many peace arrangements to this so called state that doesn’t even have a territory and they were sadly all dismissed. How can we get to peace when they want to eat the whole cake?

I personally think this conflict is absurd. How can people keep calling an official state another name? How is this even normal? Can you imagine calling the USA another name just because some citizens of a minority decide that they want it all to their selves? Can you imagine negotiating with such an absurd group? That’s why I can’t take Palestine supporters seriously. Take a flight to Palestine , I dare you. You will soon find out that it’s Israel.

Let’s embrace what it is. A little country surrounded by enemies and STILL surviving. Thriving! Sadly to the rest of the world , we have god on our side. we were raised in an environment where we were hated. We always had. There is only israel. As it is on all the documents. As it is on the Bible. As it is until the day the world will go down in flames.

That’s not scientific or historical or authoritative, but I kind of like it so I put the quote here.

Going back to evidence, if it does exist and it’s uncontroversial, why does anyone doubt?

Both The Times of Israel and Arutz Sheva chronicle Arab efforts to deliberately destroy artifacts supporting the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the very center of religious life for Jews in the City of David.

A 2017 piece from The BESA Center begins:

The existence of a living Jewish people in a functioning Jewish state threatens the very raison d’être of Islam, which came into being to render Judaism obsolete. For that reason, Arabs and Muslims will never accept Israel as the Jewish State.

So there are nationally, ethnically, and religiously based reasons for many people to object to admitting that the land of Israel is Jewish and not Arabic, that religiously it has been the only nation established by the God of the Hebrews rather than being Islamic.

“Progressive” Europeans, Canadians, and United States citizens, among others, are such a gullible breed. Historically, the world has used the Jewish people as the cause of pretty much everything bad and they are still at it. I guess that’s why it’s so easy for them to believe that Israel is an “apartheid state” and “occupiers” when the evidence is plain that they’re not. Also, according to an image I posted this morning, the British really did establish a Palestinian state. It’s called “Jordan.”

I’ve given you enough to digest for the time being. I welcome comments, but I keep a tight rein on what I do and don’t allow. I’m okay with disagreement, but personalizing conflict here is not permitted. I don’t know what Part 2 will be like exactly. I do know that when Black Lives Matter claims the “Palestinian people” are victims of racism just like African Americans and other people of color, if they’re basing that claim on historical evidence, they are not just wrong, they’re bigoted.

For more, go to The Jewish Journal and Tablet Magazine.

10 thoughts on “Israel is Jewish – Part One: Is There a “Palestine?””

  1. We can also say being anti-Judaism/Jew (or Judaism in Israel) is “the very raison d’être of Christianity, which [wanted] to render Judaism obsolete.” Notice I didn’t say the reason of Jesus/Y’shua to speak nor even the reason for a faith or religion based in him. Are we really interested in history and truth? Or just favored politics? A way to win or be “right.” To simply target Black Lives Matter and progressives (a currently-favored whipping boy of the blindly right-wing while concerns of BLM are being diminished by any means) is to keep ignoring facts that have been studied and shared by Messianic leaders. Maybe some people think it makes sense to criticize or see Christianity for what it is only in whispers and cloistered rooms, perhaps because speaking reality out in the open won’t get votes for the increasingly unhinged? Who is gullible? Who is cynically or designedly selective in what they share of what they know? Who is plainly misinformed or not well-informed (a difference from gullible)? Each person has to search his or her own heart honestly, and (one would hope) go forward solidly in reality.

    The server for the website to which I would link is not responding or is not to be found at this time. I will have to get out the books. But I have shared, before, that developers of the institutions (particularly those leading to establishment) of what came to be called Christianity affirmed dispossessing Israel or Jerusalem of honor, it’s bishop of primacy; hundreds of years later (still early on) pushed Jewishness out the door. Real Messianic congregations are few and far between; even congregations that call themselves messianic when they are really something else (Hebrew Roots, evangelical with pro-Israel rhetoric, what have you) are rare. It’s not surprising teshuva and enlightenment in this regard hasn’t gone far. Yet, there always seem to be a few people who do hear the Spirit of Jesus speaking through recorded words of the gospel writings. Some even hear more directly; sometimes that’s what it takes when the powers that be would steer most astray. How will those who don’t know learn? Not through the politics that undermine freedom or equitable rights every time such energy exibits a breath.

    1. Unfortunately, in news and social media, it’s come down to that, hence my crafting this blog post and whatever follows. For whatever reasons, the U.S. has become severely polarized and the impression I get is that you can’t criticize anything BLM related without being accused of racism. That gives the BLM organization and their supporters a lot of power because they can do pretty much anything they want and get away with it, at least as far as public opinion is concerned. That includes vandalizing a synagogue in Los Angeles and attacking Jews in New York. I’m not saying every single person allied with BLM is antisemitic, but based on this idea that Israel is “apartheid” and an “occupier,” a lot of people feel justified in defending “Palestinians” by attacking American Jews (and Jews all over the world, really). That is what I’m addressing.

  2. By the way, there is an archaeological site only about ten kilometres from my home, on a hill just to one side of the Elah Valley where David defeated the Philistine champion Goliath, where explicit evidence was uncovered showing it to be on the border between a 10th-century BCE Judean monarchy and the Philistine enclave, in perfect alignment with the biblical story of the capture of the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines and their return of it to a field near the town of Beit Shemesh. I attended a lecture by the archaeologist who led the work on that site. The point of this comment is that the biblical record is strongly supported as historically accurate time and again by facts “on the ground”, literally.

  3. I neglected to mention how large is the difference between the few areas occupied by the ancient Philistines, along the southern Mediterranean seacoast in the southwestern territories of ancient Israel and also in some separate locations farther north in the Lebanon, and the much larger area that came to be called “Palestine” by the Romans and the several conquerors who took over the region subsequently such as the Byzantines, the Mamelukes, the Ottomans, and the British Allies of WW1. I should note that the Greeks held the area before the Romans, and at least one of their writers in the BCE era referenced the area as Philaestina. So the Romans weren’t the first to make general references to the area that ignored the small Jewish portion which was Israel.

    Nonetheless, it was this much larger region that the British ended up administering, called the British Mandate for Palestine, which they divided between the Arabs and the Jews in the region as a reward for their assistance during the war, allocating the transjordanian four-fifths of it to the Arabs, which became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the cisjordanian one-fifth for Jews to establish their own modern state Israel. Note that the division of territories for the various administrative mandates for Palestine, Syria/Lebanon, and Iraq, was more or less along lines inherited from the Ottoman definitions of the territories in their Empire which was dissolved after their defeat by the WW1 Allies.

  4. Quote: … if they’re basing that claim on historical evidence, they are not just wrong, they’re bigoted.
    I didn’t realize people who care and are heartbroken about the murdering of black people by police officers and by others (such as Zimmerman and the triplecate of racists [including a retired officer] in Georgia in a more recent hunt) were required to have a master class in history before those they love or who look like them can be murdered. Perhaps those who murder them should be informed of this prerequisite, as I don’t actually think the victims or so-hated can uniformly live up to that expectation.

    As for someone who has spent decades in serious study (as a Messianic believer [and not someone who simply commandeers that modifier or pays lip service as if in respect of Jewish people while really a standard Christian who has adopted politically-correct words to say])… of course, the thing to do in handling her (my earlier) post is to not post through what said person has for sharing. I don’t know why you would choose that course of action other than that what you meant by “personal” wasn’t really what personal means but that you’ll enforce a certain political bent, non-negotiable and curbing discourse.

    1. I wish I could say I was making this up, but I’m not. It’s actually worse since BLM has ties with Hamas, an organization that even the Obama administration considered terrorists. A quick Google search of “BLM and Hamas” turned up links to stories at Arab News, Jewish World News, and reddit:

      https://www.arabnews.com/node/1690701

      https://jewishworldnews.org/letter-rally-for-civil-rights-avoid-blm/

      I’m not accusing African-Americans of being antisemitic, but as an organization, for whatever good BLM has done, they do have a side that is antisemitic.

    2. I do apologize, James. I had refreshed the page, this morning (multiple times), after my post had not only not been posted through yet but had disappeared from the notation (very soon after my posting, last night, but not immediately) of pending moderation. Clearly, I observe the severe polarization in our culture as you do. I’ve even interacted with a “pastor” recently who characterizes Hitler and the Nazis as part of “the left” — which, certainly, is a convenient (but wrong) attempt at a salve for his [in lieu of saying something more descrptive of him] political and spiritual confusion or deceit.

      He blocked more than half of what I said, while repeatedly saying to me and others that he desires interaction. The reality is that most of the comments on his site consist of people saying, “Ditto, you great guy you.” After my having indicated (not explicitly) that I am Messianic (which he ostensibly holds in dear esteem), his next subject matter tore into some random Messianic leader. What an odd “coincidence” — while I don’t remember the Messianic leader’s name and have no familiarity with him. But I fear such a spirit is getting worse. Anyway, I don’t recall you ever doing that.

  5. Getting back into blogging and reading.

    I am wary of joining organizations, and won’t until I’ve done research. As such, while I fully believe that black lives do matter, and that we have a true problem with racism in this country, I haven’t jumped on the “official” bandwagon. Looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

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