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What Palestinians?

One of the young Israeli men who were picking fights with young Palestinian men on the ancient streets of East Jerusalem a few days ago, assured a BBC journalist that there were no Palestinians in the city – or anywhere in Israel for that matter – in fact there were no Palestinians anywhere, they had never existed. There were only a bunch of Arab troublemakers.

The young Israeli man’s argument was bolstered by a 2010 book entitled The Complete History of the Palestinian People by Dr. Marcus Rose who follows what seems to be a perfectly sensible table of contents with eight blank pages consisting only of a series of horizontal lines followed by some sketchy notes, including the statement, “An Arabic independent state called ‘Palestine’ never existed.” So there. There are no Palestinians, never have been. Case closed.

We thought this rather odd since there have of course been Palestinians in Palestine dating back at least to Roman times – Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of Judaea (37-4 B.C.) was after all a Palestinian Arab himself, having been born and bred in the place, as were many of his subjects.

Fast forward to 638 A.D., when a large number of yet more Arabs moved into Palestine after Caliph ‘Umar captured the area from the Byzantines. These Arabs of course inevitably became Palestinians themselves as time went on. How long do you have to live in a place called Palestine to become a Palestinian?

These 7thcentury Palestinians were in their turn the direct ancestors of the present-day ones. To give you some numbers: the population of Palestine in the early 19th century was 350,000, in 1860 it was 411,000 and in 1900 about 600,000, of which 94% were Arab Palestinians. In 1914, Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Palestinians, 81,000 Christian Palestinians and 59,000 Jewish Palestinians.

Following the end of World War One, the British promised their new colony of Palestine simultaneously to both the European Zionists and the Palestinians. A compromise was finally reached in 1947, when the United Nations allocated 56.5% of Palestine to a new Jewish state called “Israel” and 43% to a Palestinian state, called nothing much at all.

As soon as the state of Israel was officially born in 1948, the Israelis drove three-quarters of the Palestinians (over 750,000 people) out of Palestine, leaving them to fester in ghastly refugee camps until this day.

In 1967, Israel beat the Palestinians in a rather nasty war that resulted in Israel expanding its territory to cover 78% of Palestine, leaving the Palestinians with 22% (the West Bank and Gaza).

Ever since 1967 right up to the present day, Israel has never ceased grabbing more and more of the choice bits of the West Bank of Palestine for its “settlers,” until only about 40% of the West Bank remains to the Palestinians. In very round numbers this means that the Palestinians’ 22% of their former homeland is now reduced to only 40% of that 22%, i.e. 8.8%. (Some “Two-State Solution” someone will have to dream up with one of these states having 91.2% of the former Palestine and the other 8.8%). And even this measly bit of Palestine being chopped up into tiny isolated fragments of the worst land in the West Bank, where the Palestinians are barely surviving in some of the most appalling conditions anywhere on the planet.

To add insult to injury, the U.S. has just had the brilliant idea of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s new “capital city” East Jerusalem, which until 1967 had belonged to the Palestinians, who were rather hoping it might one day be their own capital city.

The Palestinians are understandably just a tiny bit miffed about all this, resulting in the recent grotesque spectacle of, on the one hand, almost entirely unarmed young Palestinian protestors being mown down by heavily armed Israel troops, killing over 60 of the protestors and wounding nearly 3,000, and on the other hand, an idiotic slum landlord from the US named Jared Kushner and his equally moronic wife joyfully opening the new embassy with 13 minutes of sycophantic drivel.

This included the following gem:“Our strong commitment to lasting peace, a peace that overcomes the conflicts of the past in order to give our children a brighter and more boundless future. As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

So stick that up your 8.8%.

David Stansfield’s PBS television series “The Middle East” was selected for the Academy Awards Best Educational Documentary category. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Durham University in Modern Arabic, followed by further studies in the same language at Cambridge University, the Sorbonne and the University of Toronto, whereupon he was recruited by MI6. Most recently, David served as the Arabic consultant on the Netflix TV series “House of Cards.” He is the author of a number of books, including a thriller set in the midst of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict entitled “Take Nothing For Granted.”

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David Stansfield is a former PBS writer-producer and the author of “Take Nothing For Granted,” a thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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