A Google search (2023-03-22) for "Smotrich" occurring within the past week produces:
- Bezalel Smotrich - Wikipedia
- Top stories:
- CNN - Israeli minister says there's 'no such thing as a Palestinian people,' inviting US rebuke
- Al Jazeera - Palestinians ‘an invention’ of past century: Israel’s Smotrich
- CBC -Ottawa condemns Israeli minister's 'shameful' remarks about Palestinian people
- Times of Israel - US joins condemnations of Smotrich’s ‘concerning and dangerous’ Paris speech
- AP News - Top Israeli minister: 'No such thing' as Palestinian people
- Also in the news …
- The Times of Israel - Smotrich says there's no Palestinian people, declares his ...
- Haaretz - Far-right Minister Smotrich: There's No Such Thing as the ...
- The Guardian - Israeli minister condemned for claiming 'no such thing' as a ...
- Le Monde - Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's ultra-nationalist minister, delivers ...
- Middle East Eye - Israel's Smotrich: 'There's no such thing as Palestinians'
- Jerusalem Post - Israel's Smotrich: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people
Speaking in Paris on Sunday, Smotrich said there was “no such thing as a Palestinian” because “there is no such thing as the Palestinian people”.
“Do you know who are the Palestinians? I’m Palestinian,” Smotrich said, going on to describe his late grandfather, who he said was a “13th generation Jerusalemite” as “the true Palestinian”.
“The Palestinian people is an invention that is less than 100 years old,” added Smotrich …
Clearly, that was a very controversial statement, which has been widely condemned by politicians around the world.
And the implication in these headlines is that the statement is blatantly false.
Does this implied notable claim that the statement is false have any merit?
Why I'm skeptical:
Until I saw the dismissive headlines, my understanding had always been that Smotrich's statement is fundamentally true and was never in doubt.
My Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of Today's World, Volume 3, printed in 1962, doesn't mention the term, and its map shows Gaza as a part of Egypt and the West Bank as a part of Jordan. It does mention that many Arabs fled into Jordan after the founding of Israel, but does not call them Palestinians.
Google Ngram Viewer shows that, except for a blip in 1904, the term "Palestinians" was almost never used until the late 1960s, and I suspect that the earlier instances of the word included Jews, Turks, and other non-Arab residents.
The people today called Palestinians are simply descendants of those Arabs that happened to be living in that area a century ago (when the Ottoman Empire was divided up by the WWI victors). There were also Jews, Turks, and other people living in the area, and all of them were referred to as Palestinians at the time because the geographic area was called Palestine, but today, only the Arabs are referred to as Palestinians.
Certainly they have developed a culture (or had one forced on them) over the last century, but historically, until recently they could not be considered a separate people. The Arabs living in Palestine (the land west of the Jordan River) are identical to Jordanians and other Arab neighbors. In fact, the aim of the Arab Revolt of 1916 was "to create a single unified and independent Arab state stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.", with no suggestion that the Arabs living in Palestine were to be considered as a different people.
The concept of Palestinians as a separate people or race is a creation of 20th century politicians.
At least that has always been my understanding.
Is the media wrong?
I recently watched the 1960 movie Exodus about some of the events leading up to the 1948 founding of Israel.
Interestingly, The character played by Paul Newman introduced himself as a Palestinian freedom fighter (opposed to the British occupation). Obviously, Jews that lived in Palestine at that time considered themselves to be Palestinians, just as much as the Arabs, Turks, Europeans, etc. that lived there.
(Note that I'm not claiming that the movie was 100% accurate, but that as late as 1960, referring to a Jew as a Palestinian was an acceptable statement.)
The name referred to the area, not to any one people. It wasn't until much later that the Arab Palestinians claimed the name for themselves. Before that, the concept of a Palestinian "people" didn't exist.