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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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Debunking the ‘Palestinians as Native Americans’ Myth

In one anti-Israel protest outside of Nablus, Palestinians even dressed up like Native Americans in order to make a political point.

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Arab Muslims only started to arrive in Israel in the seventh century and only made up a majority of the population in Mamluk times, 1260-1560. Yet, most modern Palestinians are not even descended from Arab Muslims who arrived in the seventh century.

Yoram Ettinger, for example, has written in Israel Hayom that:

Palestinian Arabs have not been in the area west of the Jordan River from time immemorial; no Palestinian state ever existed, no Palestinian people was ever robbed of its land and there is no basis for the Palestinian claim of return.

Most Palestinian Arabs are descendants of the Muslim migrants who came to the area between 1845 to 1947 from the Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, as well as from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Bosnia, the Caucasus, Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, India, Afghanistan and Balochistan.

On March 31, 1977, Zahir Muhsein executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization said in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw,

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.

In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.

There are even some Arab Muslims who are prepared to admit the historic truth that the Palestinians have not been in Israel for all eternity. Even Rashid Khalidi, a prominent anti-Israel, Palestinian academic, wrote in his book Palestinian Identity, “There is a relatively recent tradition which argues that Palestinian nationalism has deep historical roots.” He continued, “Among the manifestations of this outlook are a predilection for seeing in peoples such as the Canaanites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Philistines the lineal ancestors of the modern Palestinians.” Khalidi cautioned against making such assertions and argues that Palestinian national identity is relatively modern.

However, the fact that the Palestinians are not the original inhabitants of Israel nor ever lived as the sole exclusive people within the Holy Land is not the only reason why the UMD Students for Justice in Palestine and other anti-Israel groups are incorrect in their assessment.

While the Native American population has shrunk from 12 million people in 1500 to 237,000 in 1900, the world’s Palestinian Arab population has grown from 660,641 in 1922 to 11.2 million in 2011. Furthermore, while the Native Americans in the Trail of Terrors were forced off their ancestral homeland and sent on a death march, the Palestinians in 1948 were given the option of having their own state on part of the Jewish nation’s ancestral homeland, while the Arab inhabitants of the Jewish state were to be granted equal citizenship rights.

The Palestinian Arab leadership chose war instead and approximately 750,000 Arabs fled their homes, never to return, while 160,000 Arabs refused to flee and became Israeli citizens. To date, the Palestinians have rejected every offer to have a state to call their own on part of the Jewish homeland, while Israel’s Arab population has been thriving and now represents 20 percent of the population. Given these facts, how can one refer to the Palestinian situation as settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, systematic oppression, racism and broken treaties? Ironically, unlike in the Native American situation, the only ones who have broken peace treaties are the very people who falsely claim to be Israel’s Native Americans. As Winston Churchill once stated, “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”

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Rachel Avraham

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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