NEW YORK — Yasser Arafat and other Arab leaders have been trying to establish a link between modern-day “Palestinian” Arabs and the ancient people known as the Philistines.
But a scholarly examination of the name “Palestine” suggests there is no connection and that use of the term has always been reserved for the land of the Jews.
Written By David Jacobson in the May-June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, the article entitled “When Palestine Meant Israel,” shows firstly there is a discrepancy between Greek and Latin references to Palestine and the geographical land associated with the Philistines.
Jacobson says the Philistines arrived on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean from Greece or Cyprus by way of Egypt in about the 13th century B.C. The land of the Philistines is clearly delineated in the Bible — a small area along the Mediterranean coast south of what is today Tel Aviv including the towns of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron.
Meanwhile, the ancient literature referring to Palestine referred to a much bigger area — all the land between Egypt and Phoenicia.
Furthermore, Jacobson explains, no more was ever heard from the Philistines after the late seventh century B.C., when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, invaded the land and carried some of them into captivity — much as he did with the Jews 20 years later.
“What happened to the Philistines afterward is a mystery,” writes Jacobson. “They seem to have lost their ethnic identity, for the Philistines, as we know them, simply disappear from the historical record.”
That was nearly 800 years before Christ. The Philistines disappeared. They were never heard from again. Yet, Yasser Arafat is attempting to represent this extinct people 2,800 years later.
There is even more evidence in Jacobson’s article that Latin and Greek texts referring to Palestine were actually referring to another name for Israel — the land of the Jews.
Herodotus said the people of Palestine were circumcised. The Philistines were not, but the Jews of Israel were. Aristotle refers to the Dead Sea being in Palestine. The land of the Philistines was a long trek over the hills and through the wilderness of Judea from the Dead Sea.
The Greek writer Polemo, in writing about the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, mentions that a portion of the Egyptian army was expelled from Egypt and established itself in the country called “Palestinian Syria.”
Later writers — from Rome and Greece alike — make no distinction between the name Palestine and the land of the Jews. They were clearly not referring to the land of the Philistines.
Will any of this evidence make any difference in the Middle East political equation today? Not likely. Because the modern conflict between Jews and Arabs has little or nothing to do with the illusive cause of Palestine. That has always been merely an excuse for the perpetual state of war that has existed between Jews and many Arabs since 1967. The issue of Palestine was rarely ever heard or addressed before then.
Suddenly, Jerusalem, too, has emerged as the third-holiest site of all Islam. How convenient. One wonders why Muslims seemingly avoided it like the plague when it was under the control of the Islamic Ottoman Empire for so many years.
The Jews have always flocked to Jerusalem — even when to do so meant certain persecution.
In 1854, according to a report in the New York Tribune, Jews constituted two-thirds of the population of that holy city. The source for that statistic? A journalist on assignment in the Middle East that year for the Tribune. His name was Karl Marx. Yes, that Karl Marx.
Those population statistics remained through the early part of the 20th century, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica and the Baedaker travel guide published in 1906.
By the way, none of those sources mentions any Philistines. There wasn’t a Philistine in sight — nor had there been for nearly three millennia.
But that won’t stop Arafat’s charade. In fact, for a tyrant like him, the best subjects are the invisible ones, the silent ones, those with whom he will never disagree.
Editor’s note: For an excellent modern-day history of the Arab-Jewish conflict, Joseph Farah highly recommends Joan Peters’ “From Time Immemorial,” now available through the WorldNetDaily online store.