Photo Credit: Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Rabbi Yaakov Menken

In a recent, now infamous, speech PA President Mahmoud Abbas turned his attention to history’s favorite target: the Jews. He asserted that hatred of Jews in Europe stemmed not from “their religion,” but “usury, banks and so on.” He termed traditional Jewish prayers for Zion a “narrative” which we are “tired of hearing.” He insisted that Israel “is a colonialist enterprise, aimed at planting a foreign body in this region.”

He revived the canard that Ashkenazic Jews come from the province of Khazaria whose people had converted to Judaism: “And those are Ashkenazi Jews,” he said, “which means they are not Semitic and have no relation to Semitism and have nothing to do with the prophets Abraham or Jacob.”


Jew-hatred wears many facades – i.e., rationales to mask the ancient hatred beneath. Today’s facade is “Palestine,” the Arab homeland that Jews are allegedly occupying and stealing from its owners. This is a Palestine that no Israeli Jew may live within, yet Israel is called an “apartheid” country.

What is Palestine? Let us examine seven basic truths.

  1. Palestine is a Roman name steeped in bigotry and ethnic cleansing. As the Romans murdered and exiled the Jews from their homeland, they discarded the name Judea because of its obvious association with Jews and gave the land the name Palestine. Arabs say Falehsteen because Arabic has no phoneme for a “P” sound. Yes, you read that correctly: “Palestinian” Arabs can’t even pronounce the name of “Palestine.”
  2. From the Romans in the year 70 to the Crusaders of the 11th century to the Arab massacre of Hebron in 1929, Jews have never left their homeland voluntarily and have always returned. During the past 2,000 years, Palestine has been home to some of the greatest Jewish scholars: Maimonides of the Guide to the Perplexed, Rav Yosef Karo of the Code of Jewish Law, and the Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Luria (the Arizal). There is even a Palestinian Talmud. The longing for Zion derided by Abbas is no modern political movement, but a fundamental tenet of Judaism.
  3. This fact was known to all who invaded or migrated to this land. The Arabic name for Jerusalem, Al-Quds, is an abbreviation of Bet Al-Maqdas, “The Holy Temple” (in Hebrew, Beit HaMikdash). Over 60 percent of Jerusalem residents were Jews in 1896, prior to the formation of the Zionist movement. The 1938 flag of Palestine in a French Atlas consisted of equal panels of blue and white with a six-pointed gold star in the center.
  4. Palestine has never been an independent Arab country or community, nor has Jerusalem ever been an Arab capital. In fact, “Palestine” was the target of an Arab boycott in 1945. The PA flag, a derivation of that used by dozens of past and present Arab nations, was previously the flag of the short-lived Federation of Iraq and Jordan.
  5. Although every indigenous people’s homeland differs significantly from modern political borders, the PA’s “Palestine” traces precisely that area of British mandatory Palestine that is today Israel. No Lebanese, Egyptian or even Jordanian territory is claimed; neither is an inch of ancient Israel left to the Jews.
  6. The website of the Palestinian Authority declares: “today’s Palestinians are direct descendants of the Arab people and share their culture, language and history.” Not coincidentally, these are the three measures by which anthropologists distinguish distinct peoples. Mahmoud Abbas said in Jordan that “we are one people living in two states” while Hamas leader Fathi Hammad declared on Egyptian television that “half of the Palestinians are Egyptian, and the other half are Saudis.” The Peel Commission of 1937 determined that “Arabs living both east and west of the Jordan River had ties of kinship, language and culture with the Arabs in surrounding countries.”

Zuheir Mohsen, then-leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Pro-Syrian Faction, said bluntly in a 1977 interview: “The Palestinian people do not exist. Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of one people, the Arab nation.”

  1. The objective of the PLO at its founding in 1964 was not to end an occupation or even to establish a country, but to destroy Israel. Zuheir Mohsen said in the same interview that the “Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons… Once we have secured our rights in all of Palestine, we would not postpone the unification of Jordan and Palestine for even a second.”

As Mohsen himself said, and these facts clearly indicate, Arab Palestine exists only to disenfranchise the Jews. To constantly blame Israel is not merely counter-productive, but perpetuates an ancient hatred that still plagues humanity.


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Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.