Far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich said Sunday that the Palestinian people were “an invention” from the past century and that people like himself and his grandparents were the “real Palestinians.”Speaking in Paris... Smotrich said there was “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people,” a comment that was met with applause and cheers from attendees, as seen in a video from the event posted online.“Do you know who are the Palestinians?” asked the head of the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party and Israel’s finance minister. “I’m Palestinian,” he said, also mentioning his grandmother who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metula 100 years ago, and his grandfather, a 13th-generation Jerusalemite as the “real Palestinians.”
We've discussed this topic many times before, and Smotrich is correct. Palestinian identity is a response to Zionism. Palestinian "culture" is a modern invention, and one that is explicitly political.
Here's an Ottoman map of the region from a 1913 work "Jughrafiya-i Osmani" that doesn't even say Palestine.
Even though there was no subdistrict of the Ottoman Empire known as "Palestine," one would expect every map to at least mention it if it was so important.
But there is another piece of evidence that shows that there was no historic Palestinian people - and that is their surnames.
Even among Palestinians, you can see lots of surnames that show where they originated - al-Masri from Egypt, al-Sham from Syria, al-Hindi from India, al-Mughrabi from Morocco, al-Turki, al-Yamani, and dozens of others.
Have you ever heard of anyone with the name al-Filastini?
I think I may have seen it once or twice, but it is exceedingly rare. Looking through Facebook, I see lots of people who claim that name but they all seem to be pseudonyms - I couldn't find one who listed a relative with the same name. I certainly cannot find anyone with that name in old newspapers or books.
This indicates that even as Arabs would happily take on the names of the cities or even regions they were from (like al-Haurani from the Hauran region of Syria) essentially no one ever thought of themselves as "Palestinian." Nabulsi from Nablus, sure - but Filastini? Essentially no one.
No one can rewrite the history of their family surnames. And when we see so many Arabic surnames that proudly describe where they came from, and practically none say "Filastini," you know that nearly none identified as Palestinian.
UPDATE: I should say "few." Zachary Foster has traced the beginnings of the term Palestinians to refer to the Arabs of Palestine in Arabic and he finds they began at the turn of the twentieth century, largely but not only as a response to Zionism. (h/.t Yoel)
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