YNetNews By: Ben-Dror Yemini
MK Anat Berko says there is no suhc sing as a Palestinian people, and MK Azmi Bishara calls Palestinian nationality ‘a colonial invention’. It may be historically true that there once was no such thing as a Palestinian people, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one now.
There is no Palestinian people, said MK Anat Berko, creating a minor uproar. The late Golda Meir said the same thing before her. In fact, this has been an oft-repeated argument in recent decades. Former MK Azmi Bishara told Yaron London in an interview: “I do not think that there is a Palestinian people. There is an Arab nation. The Palestinian nation is a colonial invention. When did the Palestinians exist?”
Historically, Berko is correct. There was no Palestinian people. The name “Palestina” with a P was bestowed by Roman conquerors. It was named after the Philistines, who were not even Semitic, to annoy the Jews. The name was adopted later by the Christians, but not by the Jews. With the Muslim conquest, the “Jund Filastin” district was established, with Ramle being the district capital, not Jerusalem. Starting in the 11th century, this was no longer the case, either.
The name “Filistin” or” Filastin” was thrown around on occasion, but it did not connote a national identity. The whole area was considered part of A-Sham, or Greater Syria. In 1911, two Christian family members created the newspaper “Filistin,” which supported the annexation of the area into Greater Syria.
In Mandatory Palestine, only Jewish institutions used the term Palestine-E.I. The Anglo-Palestine Bank became Bank Leumi and the Palestine postal service became the Israeli postal service. In contrast, the Arabs did not call themselves Palestinians during the Mandate, and no Arab Institution called itself Palestinian. The outstanding representatives were called the Arab Higher Committee rather than the Palestinian Higher Committee. At the head of the struggle against Zionism were Arabs, not necessarily from Mandatory Palestine. The identity that developed, insofar that it did develop, was an Arab one.