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In a speech delivered in March 2023 in France, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich asserted that “the Palestinian people are an invention that is less than 100 years old.” He is a Palestinian he said. Why? Because “my grandfather, who was the 13th generation [of my family] in Jerusalem, is the real Palestinian. My grandmother, who was born in Metula more than 100 years ago to a family of pioneers, is Palestinian.”

Smotrich explained that according to international law, there are five criteria that define a nation: “history, culture, language, currency and historical leadership. Who was the first Palestinian king? What language do the Palestinians have? Has there ever been a Palestinian currency? Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t any.” [1]


The French government and the Biden administration widely denounced Smotrich’s speech. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre condemned it as “infuriating and irresponsible.” [2] The rebuke of Smotrich exposed a limited understanding of the strategy used by the Arabs to deceive the West into believing there is a separate Palestinian Arab nation whose citizens are victims of the Zionists, who destroyed their society, stole their land, and forced them into appalling exile.

The Myth of a Palestinian Nation

In an interview in March 31,1977 with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, Zuhair Mushein, Palestinian Arab who was leader of the pro-Syrian Al Saika faction, a terrorist organization, and head of the Executive Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), exposed the myth of a Palestinian nation with a separate “Palestinian identity,” when he declared, “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are part of one people, the Arab nation… Only for political reasons do we carefully emphasize our Palestinian identity. The fact is that it is in the national interest to encourage the existence of the Palestinians against Zionism. Indeed, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new means of carrying on the struggle against Israel and for Arab unity…. After we have gained our rights to all of Palestine, we must not for a moment postpone the reunification of Jordan and Palestine.” [3]

Prior to entering the Knesset in 1996 as head of the Arab Balad party, Azmi Bishara declared: “Well, I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so and I did not change my mind. I do not think there is a Palestinian nation, I think it’s a colonialist invention – Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did it come from? I think there is an Arab nation. I never turned to be a Palestinian nationalist, despite my decisive struggle against the occupation. I think that until the end of the 19th century, Palestine was the south of Greater Syria.” [4]

Syrian President Hafez Assad admonished Yasser Arafat for using the term Palestinian People, since it was known this was a contrived and factitious identify: “You do not represent Palestine as much as we do. Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people, Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people.” [5]

A Palestinian Ancient Homeland?

Notwithstanding Arab claims, Palestine was never a separate country as Bernard Lewis has explained: “From the end of the Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British rule, the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries; it was a group of provincial subdivisions, by no means always the same, within a larger entity.” [6]

With regard to the Palestinian Arab population, a study of Jewish, Arab and British policies conducted by the Esco Foundation for Palestine published in 1947 concluded: “It is highly improbable that any but a small part of the present Arab population of Palestine is descended from the ancient inhabitants of the land.” Aside from those brought to Palestine through conquest, “Palestine, like Syria, has been from time immemorial been peopled by the drifting populations of Arabia, and to some extent by the backwash of its harbors.” [7]

Furthermore, if Palestine was their ancient homeland, asked Michael Medved radio show host and political commentator, what did the Palestinian Arabs produce throughout the period? Who was the most eminent of all their kings, prime ministers or other prominent leaders? Which Palestinian Arab poet, author or intellectual affected humanity with their moving words and stimulating philosophies? Which eminent Palestinian Arab scientist, inventor, musician, physician or artist achieved worldwide or even regional prominence? There were none, because as has been noted there never existed an Arab or Palestinian state in this region. [8]

Language, Culture and National Anthem

They claim they are a nation, but how can they define themselves in this way? As historian Ofir Haivry notes, there is no Palestinian language, and Palestinian Arab culture and religious streams are no different from the culture and religions of other Arabs in the Middle East. The one area the Palestinian Arabs are united is in denying Israel’s right to exist, extolling terror and inciting hatred against Jews and Israelis. [9]

They did not even have their own national anthem until 1972, which is called “Fida’I,” “Anthem of the Intifada,” or “Anthem of the Palestinian Revolution.” [10]

Not long after Field Marshal Lord Herbert Plumer, a small man with a distinctive moustache and “twinkling” blue eyes, became the second High Commissioner in Palestine (August 25, 1925, to July 31, 1928), he, his wife and daughter attended a Jewish sports meeting in Tel-Aviv writes Christopher Sykes. At the end of the event, he and his party stood as they played “G-d Save The King.” As the band began playing Hatikva, the Zionist national anthem, Plumer removed his hat and asked his party to rise again. The next day, the Arab press protested that he stood for Hatikva, and a delegation of notables was dispatched to register their unequivocal disapproval.

Plumer, who had no idea what they were playing, tried to appeal to their honored sense of hospitality. While waiting for a response, he asked them how they would have acted in such circumstances if he had come to one of their festive occasions and they played their national anthem. The group was silent. “By the way,” Plumer asked, “have you got a national anthem?” They were embarrassed to admit they did not. In that case,” he said in concluding the interview, “I think you had better get one as soon as possible.” [11]

A Final Note

The assertion that “the Palestinian Arab people forged its national identity” in ancient times is false. As historian Daniel Pipes shows, Palestinian identity started in 1920, not in antiquity. No “Palestinian Arab people” existed at the beginning of 1920, but by December their identity emerged in a form like what we observe today. [12]

Pipes concludes that “Ultimately, Palestinian nationalism originated in Zionism; were it not for the existence of another people who saw British Palestine as their national home, the Arabs would have continued to view this area as a province of Greater Syria. Zionism turned Palestine into something worthy in itself; if not for the Jewish aspirations, Sunni Arab attitudes toward Palestine would no doubt have resembled those toward the territory of Transjordan — an indifference only slowly eroded by many years of governmental effort. Palestinian nationalism promised the most direct way to deal with the challenge presented by Zionist settlers — a challenge never directly felt on the East Bank.” [13]

The absence of genuine Palestine Arab history has not prevented them from inventing their own by establishing Palestine Museum with the support of Birzeit University near Ramallah. According to the Aga Khan Foundation, the museum, established May 18,2016, was built to celebrate Palestinian Arab heritage and with a stated aim to ‘foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance’, the museum is a flagship project of Palestine’s largest NGO.” [14]


[1] “Smotrich in Paris: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” Israel National News (March 20, 2023).

[2] Biden Admin: Smotrich’s comments ‘dangerous and offensive,’” Israel National News (March 21, 2023); “France condemns ‘infuriating and irresponsible’ Smotrich Paris speech,” Israel National News (March 21, 2023).

[3] James Dorsey, “Zoehair Mohsen vertrouwt alleen op Syrie; ‘wij zijn alleen Palestijn op politieke reden'”, Trouw, (March 31, 1977), 7; Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (HarperCollins Publishers, 1998, 2nd ed), 118; Friedman described him as “a bovine figure with silver hair and a diamond dripping wife Syrian wife, Alia.” He was known as “Mr. Carpet, because of all of the Persian carpets he and his men had stolen during the Lebanese war….He split an apartment he kept on the famous La Croisette Promenade in Cannes, probably the most expensive stretch of real state on the French Riviera.” Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (HarperCollins Publishers, 1998, 2nd ed), 118.

[4] Avi Yellin, “Bishara: No Palestinian Nation! The Zionist Freedom Alliance has been spreading a video this week exposing former MK Azmi Bishara denying the existence of a “Palestinian” nation.” Israel National News (November 27, 2009). Please see video; According to The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), “Balad [founded in 1996] is at the far left of the spectrum of Israeli parties, and it champions turning the State of Israel into a “state of all of its citizens.” (

[5] Melanie Phillips, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 60.

[6] Bernard Lewis, “The Palestinians and the PLO, A Historical Approach,” Commentary (January 1975): 32; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: Norton, 1999), 164.

[7] Palestine, A Study of Jewish, Arab, and British Policies, Volume I (New Haven Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1947), 462-463.

[8] Michael Medved, “An Open Letter on Middle East Confusion,” Town (June 20, 2013).

[9] Ofir Haivry, “Was there ever a Palestinian ‘nation’? Ynet (June 29, 2007).


[11] Christopher Sykes, Cross Roads to Israel (London: Nel Mentor Books, 1967), 106.

[12] Daniel Pipes, “The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine,” Middle East Review (Summer 1989); Daniel Pipes, “The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine,” Middle East Review (September 13, 2000).

[13] Ibid.



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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.