Israel freed Palestinians from occupation

by Ant Katz | Oct 01, 2013

Israel freed Palestinians from

Colonialism and Occupation

I had a thought yesterday: “The State of Israel, in 1967, was the first party ever to grant the people who self-identify as Palestinians a release from colonialism and occupation.”

The Israelis themselves had been able to cast off their two thousand-odd years of colonial occupation in 1948. But Palestinians remained “occupied” and “colonised” by Egypt and Jordan for a further twenty years. They had no self-government or independence until Israel defeated Egypt and Jordan – along with Syria – in 1967.

That was the year that triumphant Israelis, in the Six day War, pushed the armies of Egypt and Jordan out of the Palestinian Territories and handed the latter an opportunity to self-govern for the first time in their history.

History, however, has always been a matter of interpretation. Whose historical account would Palestinians agree with? History is a multi-layered parable written from a multitude of standpoints. Could I draft my hypothesis in such a way that everyone would agree with it? Conflation between Zionist views on the one hand and the factual journalistic viewpoint on the other. Could I find a middle road between the emotional and the practical?

Could I find commonality in the haze of different understandings of the same events?


What is history?

I understand that history has never been an exact science in the past – even though it will be in the future. Just as I understand that ten million Zionists probably have ten million personal definitions of exactly what Zionism really means.

As a journo I am moulded to believe that nothing is a fact unless irrefutable proof exists and there is only one truth on the table. One has to view history unemotionally, as if it was an issue between China and India over Tibet.

I view history as a hearsay account by wordsmiths from the retelling by those who were actually involved in the occurrence of events.

The re-tellers, themselves, can only offer events as they recall interpreting them as first-hand hearsay – not a credible scientific process at all.

For my thesis to pass muster with both Zionists and anti-Zionists, I would have to cut through the clutter of historical departure and find historical commonality. But common history simply doesn’t exist.

The saying ‘History is written by victors’ (which is questionably attributed to Winston Churchill as no record of where or when he may have said it exists) argues that the victors overwhelmingly influence historical accounts. If this were, in fact, the rule, there are certainly many exceptions that spring to mind.

I decided that, to prove my point that Palestinians had never been free before 1967, I would use Wikipedia as my reference. It is updated and peer-reviewed by everyone equally. It should take everyone’s interpretation of history into account.

I did learn two useful things about the term “Palestine.”

Firstly, I learned that while the conventional wisdom that the Middle East was first named Palestine by the Romans to eradicate the name Judea was close to the truth geographically - but a far cry from correct historically.

The second epiphany was that the word Palestine (Palestinian) seems to have been a mistranslation of the original term Philistine which was bounced up and down in transliteration at various times from hieroglyphs to Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Roman – and each from the other.

The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples since the pre-historical reigns of the Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. Later, the Ancient Greeks ruled, followed by the Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, the Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, and the Ottomans.

While the boundaries of the region have changed throughout history, they were last defined in modern times by the Franco-British boundary agreement (1920) and the Transjordan memorandum of 16 September 1922, during the mandate period. That is commonly accepted history.

After that, interpretations differ.

Since 1922, the territorial borders have never been commonly redefined. Although the region today comprises the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, history, rather than agreement, has shaped the de facto modern borders.

After WWII, the British and French wanted to be shot of the Middle East as soon as possible. The fledgling United Nations, in 1947, drew up a plan for the independence of the region and a “Partition Plan” – essentially a map which proposed the borders of two new states, Israel and Palestine, and for Jerusalem to be placed under international control.

The pre-Israeli Jews accepted the 1947 Partition Plan map as it offered them statehood and self-determination. Today, most Jews and all Israelis would be shocked to see what our forefathers were prepared to accept – but at that time in the history it was acceptable.

The pre-Palestinian Arabs rejected it out of hand.

On this basis the 1948 withdrawal of the Brits left no clear map in place – they pulled out of “Palestine” leaving the two new territories without defined borders.

This was immediately followed by all of ‘Arabdom’ invading the newly-independent territory in the hope that they would make short work of the now-independent Jews and create their own map - with no Israel appearing on it at all.

Of course this was not to be. After Arabdom cried Uncle, Israel and her neighbours - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – signed the 1949 Armistice Agreements and agreed to a <a href=""_blank">GREEN LINE</a> (so called because of the green ink used by the negotiators to draw it on the map) demarcating what would become commonly but incorrectly called “the 1948 borders.”

At that time this should have been common history as the five bordering sovereign states all signed the armistice. Egypt chose to retain occupation and control of the Gaza strip and Jordan of what is today called the “West Bank.”

The “West” Bank

 The name West Bank, of course, speaks to the history of the place. From the Jordanian point of view it was the west bank of the Jordan River – extending west up to Israel. To Israel, it is the east bank of the river, or just the Jordan River. Unless one has both banks, one has no need to separate them by name. South Africa, for example, has both the north and south banks of the Vaal River - whereas the Free State province only has one Vaal River, as does Gauteng, with no need to define north or south.

 Today, the Green Line border is commonly referred to as the "pre-1967 borders" – as evidenced by Israel, Palestine, the US and the United Nations in texts and resolutions.

And so it was that the modern, current, present-day existing Green Line border between Israel and Palestine came into being in 1949. Did it cover less territory than was indicated on the 1947 Partition Plan? You bet it did! But Arabdom united in rejecting the 1947 map and accepted the 1949 Green Line version.

Today history is journo science

‘History is Written by Victors’ - while this sounds like something Churchill might have said, no competent, authoritative quotations source unequivocally attributes this quote to him.

But history is often told from the standpoint of those who were oppressed by and/or the victims of the exploits of the victors. "History is written by victors" may in itself be an example of history written by the losers – as the victors would be unlikely to make such an admission!

In fact many historical events have questionable outcomes. Take the Vietnam War, for example, while it could be debatable that the US lost the war, they certainly didn't win it. Yet the overwhelming majority of historical documentation for the war comes from the US.

Back to my hypothesis: “Did the State of Israel give Palestinians their first release from colonial occupation in 1967?” Written historical evidence is simply a monolithic interpretation of events. It is often rewritten many times over many years – and often hundreds or even thousands of years after the events occurred – by individual historians who are often acting under instruction of the powers that be.

More recent history is, of course, less easy to distort. The growth in media and communications also ensures that most of the history we are making right now is being recorded first-hand by journalists who, in effect, have become the history-recorders of our age.

So, today, history has become a scientifically provable account of events. And, as media and communications technology has been evolving over the past sixty five years, the definition of the term history has evolved too.

Would Israel and her neighbours be able to agree on a common interpretation of the events of the late Forties? Maybe, or maybe not. But, come 2080, there is little doubt that the events of 2015 will have been recorded for posterity as scientifically provable fact by today’s historians – the media.


Optional read…

The old definitions of History…

“History is only the register of crimes and misfortunes,” wrote prolific Frenchman Voltaire – the nom de plume of Frenchman François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778). He was a philosopher and historian famed for his wit and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire regularly defined history as it was in his day.

“History is nothing but a pack of tricks we play on the dead,” he wrote to his friend Pierre Robert Le Cornier de Cideville in a 1757 letter.

“The first foundations of all history are the recitals of the fathers to the children, transmitted afterward from one generation to another; at their origin they are at the very most probable, when they do not shock common sense, and they lose one degree of probability in each generation.” That, too, is how Voltaire saw history. How different it is today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

The American editorialist, journalist, writer and satirist Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (Gwinnett?!?) wrote in his 1911 satirical reference book ‘The Devil's Dictionary’ that history is: “An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. Of Roman history, great Niebuhr's shown 'tis nine-tenths lying. Faith, I wish 'twere known, ere we accept great Niebuhr as a guide, wherein he blundered and how much he lied.”

Wikipedia on the history of Palestine…

If we can believe that, as an open source peer-reviewed encyclopaedia, <a href=""_blank">WIKIPEDIA</a> offers the closest to an all-encompassing definitive history, here is what it has to say on Palestine:

The term Peleset (transliterated from hieroglyphs as P-r-s-t) is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighbouring people or land starting from c.1150 BCE during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt. The first mention is thought to be in texts of the temple at Medinet Habu which record a people called the Peleset among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign, and subsequently on Padiiset's Statue.

The Assyrians called the same region Palashtu or Pilistu, beginning with Adad-nirari III in the Nimrud Slab in c.800 BCE through to emperor Sargon II in his Annals approximately a century later. Neither Egyptian nor Assyrian sources provided clear regional boundaries for the term.

The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece. Herodotus wrote of a 'district of Syria, called Palaistinê’ in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean Mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.

Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition in Meteorology, writing "Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them," understood by scholars to be a reference to the Dead Sea.

Later writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region. This usage was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus.

Other writers, such as Strabo, a prominent Roman-era geographer (although he wrote in Greek), referred to the region as Coele-Syria ("all Syria") around 10-20 CE. The term was first used to denote an official province in c.135 CE, when the Roman authorities, following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, combined Iudaea Province with Galilee and other surrounding cities such as Ashkelon to form "Syria Palaestina." There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, although the precise date is not certain, and the assertion of some scholars that the name change was intended "to complete the dissociation with Judaea" is disputed.

Biblical scholars often trace the Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth), from the Semitic root p-l-sh (Hebrew: פלש‎) which means to divide, go through, to roll in, cover or invade, with a possible sense in this name as "migrant" or "invader" is usually transliterated as Palestine in English and equated to Philistia, which is used in the Bible more than 250 times.

Other scholars mention a theory "proposed by Jacobsohn and supported by others, is that the name derives from the attested Illyrian locality Palaeste, whose inhabitants would have been called Palaestīnī according to normal grammatical practice." The Greek word Palaistínē (i.e., Παλαιστίνη) is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – Land of Philistieim (Γη των Φυλιστιειμ, transliteration from Hebrew) – was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia. In the Torah/Pentateuch the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.

During the Byzantine period, the entire region (Syria Palestine, Samaria, and the Galilee) was named Palaestina, subdivided into provinces Palaestina I and Palaestina II. The Byzantines also renamed an area of land including the Negev, Sinai, and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula as Palaestina Salutaris, sometimes called Palaestina III.

The Arabic word for Palestine is فلسطين (commonly transcribed in English as Filistin, Filastin, or Falastin). Moshe Sharon writes that when the Arabs took over Greater Syria in the 7th century, place names that were in use by the Byzantine administration before them, generally continued to be used. Hence, he traces the emergence of the Arabic form Filastin to this adoption, with Arabic inflection, of Roman and Hebrew (Semitic) names. Jacob Lassner and Selwyn Ilan Troen offer a different view, writing that Jund Filastin, the full name for the administrative province under the rule of the Arab caliphates, was traced by Muslim geographers back to the Philistines of the Bible.

The use of the name "Palestine" in English became more common after the European renaissance. It was officially revived by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and applied to the territory that was placed under the Palestine Mandate.

1 Comment

  1. 1 adam levy 05 Dec

    Is this a joke or what. Well with your main reference being  wikipaedia - one cannot expect much more from you.

    Israel merely continued the colonisation and occupation of palestine - in a much more brutal and racist form. more than the turks, british,  egyptians or jordanians.

    the ethnic cleansing continues into the modern world - just look at the negev or galilee.

    history is written by victors - but facts are not.


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