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Post Palestinians, Philistines, and Ethnicity
Created by John Eipper on 05/31/21 7:25 AM

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Palestinians, Philistines, and Ethnicity (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 05/31/21 7:25 am)

This is an interesting and thought-provoking post by Luciano Dondero (May 29th).

I would hasten to add that although "Palestine" was probably named after the Philistines--and the name goes back millennia (Herodotus used the term, and even the Egyptians; see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_name_%22Palestine%22 )--the modern-day people who call themselves "Palestinians" having nothing whatsoever to do with the Philistines, who were likely an Indo-European people, one of the "Peoples of the Sea."

During long periods of ancient times, the whole Levant south of Phoenicia was referred to as "Palestine," and the Romans at one point merged Judea and Syria into "Syria Palaestina." The Ottomans also referred to the area as Palestine. I'm not sure why we talk about the "British Mandate" today--the legal term was "Mandatory Palestine," created by a decision of the League of Nations as part of reorganization of the defeated and collapsed Ottoman Empire.

What concerns the Palestinian people --they are the closest genetic relatives to Ashkenazi Jews, even closer related than Sephardic Jews. They are mostly descended, like the Ashkenazi Jews, from people who have inhabited the region for thousands of years, including Canaanites, Samaritans and Hebrews. Like many peoples, they have called themselves many things over the millennia, and I'm not sure how that is relevant to anything. They probably called themselves simply "Arabs" for long periods of time, but so what? That was a different kind of identity (and also not exactly ethnic), which arose after the Arab conquest and the process of Arabization.

Because "Palestine" is a demonym, and not an ethnonym, and has been for millennia, the ancestors of the modern Palestinians probably could consider themselves simultaneously Arabs and Palestinians; probably the Hebrews themselves called themselves Palestinians at various times in history. "American" is another demonym, and with no ethnic connotations at all.

So in my view, this is a bunch of nothing. It is always futile to try to determine that justice of drawing borders this way or that, according to supposed claims of people based on ancient history. There is no nation in the world, that I am aware of, which has been inhabited continuously by one people since homo sapiens evolved. Borders move continuously; peoples come and go, get conquered in successive waves--that's the nature of human history. Just look at Britain--the Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons who conquered the Danes who conquered the Anglo-Saxons previously who conquered the Celts after the Romans weakened who conquered Celts once before who conquered Hyperboreans and God knows who else. Whose land is Britain? The "victims" of one conquest were the aggressors in the previous one, and on and on and on. The main thing is to do some kind of justice now, which fairly balances the interests of different people involved.

JE comments:  "A bunch of nothing"--a memorable turn of phrase!  The futility of drawing borders based on ancient history has been proven on many occasions, but the attempts continue.  Probably the most successful such effort was Zionism itself and the creation of modern Israel.  Reconstructed ancient "identities," together with language and religion, are the principal building-blocks of nationalism.

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