The Palestinian “Narrative” – descended from the Philistines

Abbas - before Abraham

On March 21, 2016, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas claimed that the ‘Palestinians’ preceded Abraham in the land of Canaan and that the Bible supports his claims:

“Our narrative says that we were in this land since before Abraham. I am not saying it. The Bible says it. The Bible says, in these words, that the Palestinians existed before Abraham. So why don’t you recognize my right?”
Mahmoud Abbas, Official PA TV, March 21, 2016

Abbas’ statement about the Bible relates to the Palestinian’s long-standing claim that they are descended from the Philistines. The text of Scripture that Abbas is referring to is;

And Abraham lived as a foreigner in the land of the Philistines for many days.

Genesis 21:34

Are the Palestinians of today descendants of the Philistines?

I – Palestinians: Not Sons of Abraham

First off, Abbas’ ongoing claim that the ‘Palestinians’ are descendants of the Philistines and predate Abraham, the father of Ishmael poses a major problem for them.   

If the ‘Palestinians’ of today are descended from the Philistines;

  1. the ‘Palestinians’ are not descended from Ishmael
  2. they are not sons of Abraham
  3. they have no inheritance with the twelve Ishmaelite tribes listed in Genesis 17:20; 25:13-18
[Special thanks to Orna W., Pennsylvania, USA]
II – Palestinians – not Arabs that predate Abraham

If the present-day ‘Palestinians’ predate Abraham, they could be Arabs that have no ethnic connection to Abraham, such as the descendants of Shem, and his progeny Aram, Eber, Joktan. All of them lived before Abraham.

  • One of Shem’s sons was Aram (possibly father of the Arameans), another was Arphaxad (whose grandson was Eber).
  • Eber had two children – Peleg and Joktan.
  • Joktan is the patriarch of many Arab tribes, many of whom can be traced to the Saudi Arabian Hejaz and Yemen.

Oh. Wait.

If the ‘Palestinians’ are descended from the Philistines, they cannot be Shemites from Saudi Arabia or Yemen (who are not descended from Ishmael, and not sons of Abraham).

Philistines were Aegeans – Hellenic, like Greeks.

Well done, Mr. Abbas!

You have now succeeded in making the ‘Palestinians’ neither sons of Abraham nor Arabs!

III – Palestinians as Philistines – Aegean (Hellenic)

If the ‘Palestinians’ are descended from the Philistines, what is their ethnic background?

The Philistines arrived from Egypt in the 12 century BCE and preceded the Israelite tribes, the people that call themselves ‘Palestinians’ today, and were a people of Aegean origin. Historical Philistines were closely related to the Greeks, Hellenic — with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia or the Arabs.

From the Biblical Archaeology Review;

“Archaeology has brought the Philistines to life more vividly than perhaps any other Biblical people save the Israelites and the Egyptians. We now know that the Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples that also included the Tjeker, the Denyen (or Danuna), the Shardana and the Weshesh. At the very beginning of the 12th century B.C.—the beginning of the period archaeologists call Iron Age I—the Sea Peoples swept out of the Aegean to make their appearance in the archaeological record and in ancient literary references.”

Wood, Bryant G.,The Philistines Enter Canaan, Biblical Archaeology Review 17:06, Nov/Dec 1991

“The Philistines were only one of several tribes known as the Sea Peoples, however, who invaded the Land of Israel during the 12th century B.C.E. It has recently become clear that these Sea Peoples conquered not only parts of the Land of Israel but virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coastal region, including northern Syria and southern Anatolia. Their attempt to conquer Egypt failed.”

Stern, Ephraim,The Other Philistines, Biblical Archaeology Review 40:06, Nov/Dec 2014

The Philistines settled in the land of Canaan after having been evicted from Egypt in 1176 BCE by Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses III, and there are inscriptions and reliefs from his mortuary temple located at Medinet Habu in Egypt which indicates that Ramses III took credit for defeating them and the other Aegean sea people in the eighth year of his reign (1176 BCE). forcing them to settle elsewhere. Ramses III claims to have “settled them in strongholds, bound in my name”.

Barako Tristan, Yasur-Landau, Assaf, One if by Sea, Two if by Land: How did the Philistines get to Canaan, Biblical Archaeology Review 29:02, Mar/Apr 1013

“The Philistines ended up in one of the choicest areas of Palestine, the southwest coastal region. Archaeologists have been able to track their presence there because of their distinctively Aegean material culture, especially their pottery.”

Wood, Bryant G.,The Philistines Enter Canaan, Biblical Archaeology Review 17:06, Nov/Dec 1991

According to Scripture, the Philistines originated in “Caphtor” (Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7), identified as the island of Crete, supporting that they were of Aegean origin.

Hess, Richard S. 1992 Caphtor. Pp. 869–70 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary 1, ed. David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday

“The Philistines [of the south] established the famous Pentapolis—Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron—in the southern coastal plain. Archaeological excavations at each of these sites, save for Gaza (due to the modern buildings constructed atop its tell), reveal a rich material culture with origins in the Aegean.”

Ngo, Robin, The Philistines to the North, Biblical Archaeology Society, Mar 13, 2015

According to Ephraim Stern, the Philistines of the Bible lived in the northern region of Canaan and were also Aegean Sea Peoples but differentiated from the Sea Peoples who lived in the south, referred to Philistines in the Archaeological literature.

Stern, Ephraim,The Other Philistines, Biblical Archaeology Review 40:06, Nov/Dec 2014

Those that call themselves ‘Palestinians’ today are Arabs, not Aegean (Greek) in origin, thus the ‘Palestinians’ are not descended from the Philistines. 

But The Palestinians are Arabs!

The ‘Palestinians’ are Arabs and could not have ancestors that were in the Land from Biblical times because the Arabs only arrived in the land in 637 CE with the Muslim invasion. 

To frame that with respect to the Jewish presence in the Land, the First Temple was built in Jerusalem from ~833 – 827 BCE by King Solomon, son of King David.

The first Arabs arrived ~1500 years after Solomon build the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and as foreign conquerors.

The Palestinians are Pan-Arabists

Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas’ predecessor and second Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unintentionally revealed in the organization’s 1964 Charter, who they are;

Article 2 of the 1964 PLO Charter reads;

Palestine with its boundaries at the time of the British Mandate is a regional indivisible unit.”

The land under the British Mandate for Palestine is shown below, and includes present-day Israel (in white) and Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) in green.  According to Article 2 of the 1964 PLO Charter, all of this area is Palestine and is an “indivisible unit”.

British Mandate - Israel and TransJordan

Article 24 of the 1964 PLO Charter reads:

“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and on the Gaza Strip.”

Wait. What?

Article 2 of the 1964 PLO Charter states that all of the area under the former British Mandate is “Palestine” and is an “indivisible unit” with the exception of Jordan, the “West Bank” [ Judea and Samaria, in Israel], and the Gaza Strip.

That is, the only land that the Palestinian leadership was claiming for a future “Palestine State” was Israel; not Jordan, not the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria) and not the Gaza Strip!

Why not?

In 1970, Yassar Arafat himself revealed why the ‘Palestinians’ excluded the “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip” from a future Palestinian State in his interview with Italian reporter Arianna Palazzi:

The question of borders doesn’t interest usFrom the Arab standpoint, we mustn’t talk about borders. Palestine is nothing but a drop in an enormous ocean. Our nation is the Arabic nation that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and beyond it….. The P.L.O. is fighting Israel in the name of Pan-Arabism. What you call ‘Jordan’ is nothing more than Palestine.

In 1970 the Palestinians (1) considered themselves to be Pan-Arabists and (2) their purpose to be “to fight Israel in the name of Pan-Arabism.

The Palestinian’s excluded the “West Bank” and Gaza Strip as part of a future “Palestinian State” because as Arabic countries, they were already part of the “Arabic nation”Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlled the “West Bank” and Jerusalem. No problem.

The PLO’s focus was Israel, which it was “fighting in the name of Pan-Arabism“.

Pan Arabism is the belief that all the countries of North Africa and West Asia from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea constitute a single nation, the Arab nation. 

The ‘Palestinians’ clearly had no issue with being “occupied”; they were occupied by Egypt and occupied by Jordan without any problem.  

What Changed?

During the 1948 War of Independence – which began the day after the State of Israel was created in May 1948, Jordan took control of territory on the western side of the Jordan River (hence the name “West Bank“) – including the cities of Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus, as well as the Old City of Jerusalem. They illegally annexed the “West Bank” in April of 1950.

In June 1967, weeks after Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran and cut off Israeli shipping, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, beginning the Six-Day War.

From 1948 until before the 1967 Six Day War, the ‘Palestinians’ of the “West Bank” were under Jordanian rule and the ‘Palestinians’ of Gaza were under Egyptian rule and neither made any demand for self-determination or statehood.

During the Six-Day War, Israel defeated the armies of the surrounding Arab states in a mere 6 days and took control of the formerly Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip as well as the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank.

Suddenly, the ‘Palestinians’ had an issue.

When  occupied by Egypt and occupied by Jordan — no problem, no complaints about “occupation”, no push for “statehood”.  It was only in 1967, when Israel re-claimed its own land which had been theirs for ~3500 years, that the ‘Palestinians’ began to speak of “the occupation“.

What changed was the “West Bank” and Gaza Strip were no longer part of the “Arab nation” of Pan-Arabism.

This is what triggered the PLO to re-write their Charter in 1968.  This was the beginning of the Palestinian nationalism movement as we know it now.

The revised 1968 Charter called for “a war of liberation“, the use of terrorism (called armed struggle and commando actions) in order to achieve their aims and the ‘Palestinians’ now laid claim to every inch of land under the British Mandate not already ruled by Jordan; including the “West Bank” and the Gaza Strip – in other words, all of Israel.

The Arabs of the surrounding area never considered that there was a special, separate entity called “Palestine”;

In 1919:

“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.”

Resolution of the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations, Jerusalem, February 1919

In 1937:

There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.

Local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, to the British Peel Commission

In 1947:

“Palestine was part of the Province of Syria” … “politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.”

Representative of the Arab Higher Committee, Statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations, May 1947

In 1948:

“Palestine and Transjordan are one.”

King Abdullah, Arab League meeting in Cairo, 12 April 1948

In 1956:

“It is common knowledge that that Palestine is nothing by Southern Syria”

PLO founder Ahmed Shuqeiri, to the United Nations Security Council, May 31, 1956

In 1970:

“Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine; there is only one land, with one history and one and the same fate”

Prince Hassan of the Jordanian National Assembly, February 2, 1970

In 1976:

“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.

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, addressing the PLO, July 20, 1976

Revising History – intent and purpose

Central to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) policy is to rewrite history; specifically the history of the land and its inhabitants. The purpose is to legitimize its own alleged claim to the land and justify the destruction of Israel.

Long before the current “knife intifada”, there was the “history intifada”; seeking to erase Jewish history in the Land of Israel and replace it with a fabricated Palestinian history.

This is where the myth of the Palestinians as the ancient Philistines was born.

Palestinian revisionist history has two main goals:

1- erase the Jewish people’s 3,000+ year history in the Land of Israel
2- create an fabricated “ancient” ‘Palestinian’ history in the same land

This historical revision has an intentional political strategy to rewrite history to the political goal of denying Israel’s right to exist.

This strategy was presented by Dr. Yussuf Alzamili, Chairman of the History Department of Khan Yunis Educational Collegeat a 1998 conference of Palestinian historians .  At that conference, Alzamili

called on all universities and colleges to write the history of Palestine and to guard it, and not to enable the [foreign] implants and enemies to distort it or to legitimize the existence of Jews on this land…”

Al-Ayyam newspaper, December 4, 1998

Writing the history of Palestine was very clearly for the purpose of “not enabling the (alleged) foreign implants [the Jews] to legitimize their existence on this land.” Palestinian history is in effect to replace the Jewish history in the land of Israel with their own alleged ancient narrative and by conveying themselves as “a people under occupation” they elicit public support for their political ideology and agenda.

The Palestinian Narrative – alleged claim to the Land

Palestinians claim that they have been the occupiers of the land “since time immemorial” and many, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insist that they are the “descendants of the Philistines”. 

Another tactic of Palestinian ‘historians’ seek to disconnect the Jews of today from the ancient generation of Jews, maintaining that the ancestors of today’s Jews were from places other than the land or Israel (“Palestine”) and thus have no claim to the land. Some of those that make this claim say that the Jews entered the Land as the “Arab Children of Israel tribe” or “Arab Yemenites“, were “weak in number“, “unimportant” and “never ruled” and were “wiped out” – and that the Jews of today are not related to that ancient people.

They maintain that the land has been theirs “since the last Arab immigration 200-300 years BCE” and that the “true owners of the land are Arabs” who have been “invaded” by a series of different people; first the Persians, then the Greeks, then the Romans “and in modern times by the English and the Zionist entity“.

Really, you can’t make this up;

“Palestine is ours since the period of the Canaanites (members of the Kinana Arab tribe), the Arab Jebusites, and the Arab Philistines (the Palestinians) (worshippers of the Arab god Falas in Yemen), and from time immemorial… It is ours since the last Arab immigration 200-300 years BCE, as a result of the collapse of the emirates/regions of the tribes of the Children of Israel (the Arab Yemenite [tribe] in Yemen)… In our land, as the archeologists say today… the Arab Children of Israel tribe, weak in numbers, was unimportant and never ruled, given the existence of dozens of other tribes in Palestine (in general, there is no connection between the people of Israel, the Arab Yemenite tribe which has been wiped off the stage of history and the present Jewish residents of Palestine who are mainly Jews from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, [the region] between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and then east and west Europe – see [the writings of] Shlomo Sand (author of The Invention of the Jewish People, which claims that that the ancestry of most contemporary Jews stems mainly from outside the Land of Israel -Ed.) and Arthur Koestler (author of The Thirteenth Tribe, which advances the thesis that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Khazars Ed.), two fair Jews.) (parenthesis in source) The invasions of Palestine which occurred one after the other – the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and in modern times the English and the Zionist entity – are nothing but a prelude to its redemption by the Arabs, the true owners of the land.”

Source: Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 14, 2015
Author: Bakr Abu Bakr, regular columnist for official PA daily (Fatah Revolutionary Council member)

Professor Omar Ja’ara of Al-Najjah University in Nablus said on Palestinian national television in 2012 that their history is traced to those that defeated the Philistines — asserting that the Arabs that defeated the Philistines were Muslims.  How ludicrous, given Islam only began in 610 C.E;

“We must make clear to the world that David in the Hebrew Bible is not connected to David in the Quran, Solomon in the Hebrew Bible is not connected to Solomon in the Quran, and neither is Saul or Joshua son of Nun [of the Bible]. We have a great leader, Saul, [in the Quran] who defeated the nation of giants and killed Goliath. This is a great Muslim victory. The Muslims of the Children of Israel went out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, and unfortunately, many researchers deny the Exodus of those oppressed people who were liberated by a great leader, like Moses the Muslim, the believing leader, the great Muslim, who was succeeded by Saul, the leader of these Muslims in liberating Palestine. This was the first Palestinian liberation through armed struggle to liberate Palestine from the nation of giants led by Goliath. This is our logic and this is our culture.”

Dr. Omar Ja’ara, Professor Al-Najah University, Nablus, PA TV (Fatah), Feb. 15, 2012

While a minority, there are those that accepts the Israelite presence in historic Palestine starting from Jacob (what the Quran calls “Isra’il”).

Mazen Abdel Latif, a lecturer in the archaeology department of An-Najah University in Nablus told the Times of Israel in a February 2014 interview that as a believing Muslim he accepts the Israelite presence in historic Palestine starting from Jacob (“Isra’il”) through the 12 tribes, down to Moses and King David;

“The Hebrew presence in the area has also gained archaeological support from the Amarna Letters found in Egypt and dating back to 1,300 BCE. The stone cuneiform tablets, written in Akkadian, make reference to a people called Habiru or ‘Abiru, believed to be the Hebrews.”

Mazen Abdel Latif, archaeology lecturer,  An-Najah University, Nablus

In that same interview, he said;

“Modern nations have the right to take pride in their ancestors, imagined or real.”

Final Thoughts

The Arabs calling themselves ‘Palestinians’ could not be descendants of the Philistines, who Aegean – closely related to the Greeks, with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia or the Arabs. Furthermore, the Arabs only arrived in the Land in 637 CE; ~1500 years after the First Jewish Temple was built in Jerusalem.

Palestinian family names speak more than anything to the foreign origin of their bearers; the Al-Masri family from Nablus originated from Egypt (Al-Masri means Egyptian in Arabic), the Chalabis came from Syria and the Houranis came from the Houran region of southwestern Syria, names such as al-Djazair (Algerian), el-Mughrabi (Moroccan / North African) and al-Yamani (Yemenite) bespeak the “Palestinians’ pan-Arab origins.

In March 2012, Hamas’s interior minister Fathi Hammad said this;

“Allah be praised, we all have Arab roots, and every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots — whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties. Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called al-Masri. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptian and the other half are Saudi.”

Fathi Hammad, Hamas’s interior minister

Jews are accused of being “settlers” and “occupiers“, yet it is evident from the words of their own mouths that the Arabs of the surrounding area never considered that there was ever a special, separate entity called “Palestine”.

The desire for a “Palestinian State” is very recent and traceable to the events following the 1967 Six-Day War, stemming from pan-Arabism.

The ‘Palestinians’ had no issue with “occupation” prior to 1967; the ‘Palestinians’ of Gaza were occupied by Egypt and the ‘Palestinians’ of the “West Bank” were occupied by Jordan – from 1948 until 1967 without complaint, and without any demand for self-determination or statehood.

No, “occupation” is not the issue.

Jews in Israel is the issue.

The Palestinians have said it from when the term “Palestinian” was created:

The question of borders doesn’t interest usFrom the Arab standpoint, we mustn’t talk about borders. Palestine is nothing but a drop in an enormous ocean. Our nation is the Arabic nation that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and beyond it….. The P.L.O. is fighting Israel in the name of Pan-Arabism. What you call ‘Jordan’ is nothing more than Palestine.

Yassar Arafat, 1970 interview with Italian reporter Arianna Palazzi

The Palestinians are not descendants of the Philistines and have not been in the Land “since time immemorial“, but are Pan-Arab Hashemite colonialists, descendants of Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians and those from others Pan-Arabist lands. They are Arabs, descended from the conquering Muslims of Arabia that first arrived in the 6th century CE with the founding of Islam, and later enticed by the Ottomans and British to come as migrant laborers, and recruited by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in order to try to prevent a Jewish state from being formed (see earlier post).

They are the settlers and occupiers in the ancient land of the Jews.