According to a definition cited in the RTD Journal, “Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first people, aboriginal people, native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a place which has been colonized and settled by another ethnic group.”
For several decades, Palestinian leaders, followers and archeologists have touted the notion that Arabs are the true “indigenous people” of what was called Palestine, and are descended from Canaanites and other tribes who lived there before it was conquered by the Jewish people. Although they offer no evidence for this claim, it has become part of Palestinian identity; and, as a belief, it is unquestioned.
Nomadic tribes, such as the Bedouin, cannot be included in this category, because there is no way of knowing from where they originated. Arab tribes who migrated to the land of Israel/Palestine in the modern period left no texts, documents or evidence of their origin or culture. Their tribal/family names, however, often indicate their foreign origins.
Arab Palestinians call themselves “indigenous people” to depict themselves as victims of colonialism and to support their claim that Jews have “stolen the Palestinian homeland” and “occupied” it. Written in the PLO Covenant and Hamas Charter—and advocated by Islamists and organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood—it is used to justify terrorism, demonize Israel and pursue the goal of eliminating Israel.
Arabs who call themselves Palestinians—derived from the word “Philistines,” an invading force from the Aegean Sea—use the word “indigenous” to legitimatize their efforts to carry out their struggle against Israel’s existence. Their self-description as a “people” is refuted by the fact that they have little in common, and are merely a collection of tribes and clans that are often at war with each other.
Indeed, the idea that the Arab Palestinians are an “indigenous people” is a lie, as proven by Biblical and historical texts and archeology, which confirm Jewish civilizations throughout the land of Israel; there are no documents, sources or other evidence that refer to a “Palestinian people.”
As part of the British Mandate, “Palestine” was designated as a homeland for the Jewish people in the Balfour Declaration (1917), League of Nations decisions and the San Remo Conference (1920). In fact, until the State of Israel was established in 1948, references to “Palestinians” meant Jews who lived in Palestine, not Arabs; “Palestinian” meant Jewish.
As the Jewish community in Palestine grew, Arabs from neighboring countries migrated to the area, including to what became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1921. In response, Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, but he did not refer to Palestinians or seek an Arab Palestinian state.
Along with the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who actively supported the Nazis, al-Banna sought to resist colonialism and secularism, promote Sharia (Islamic) law and oppose the Zionist movement. Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is spread throughout the world and continues to support jihad, including the elimination of Israel.
Although Arabs who lived in the area in the 19th and 20th centuries opposed a Jewish presence in Palestine and engaged in bloody massacres, “Palestinianism” and the idea of a Palestinian people and a Palestinian state did not become popular until Yasser Arafat formed the PLO in 1964.
Since Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem (the West Bank) were under Jordanian rule, and the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt, Arafat did not object; his goal was to destroy Israel.
Meanwhile, Jordan became the virtual Palestinian state, since most of its inhabitants consider themselves to be Palestinians. Jordan is the only logical and realistic option for establishing a viable and productive Palestinian state. It can accommodate millions of Arabs, including those who live in UNRWA towns (“camps”) throughout the area and give them homes and a better future.
Supporting the Arab narrative denies the historic and unique connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and rejects Israel’s values, accomplishments and very existence. Trying to appease Arabs by giving them territory, as in the Oslo Accords, and unilateral withdrawal, as in the “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip, resulted in support for terrorism and cost thousands of Jewish lives, as well as those of many Arabs.
The notion that Palestinians are an indigenous people, therefore, supports the goals of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, terrorist groups such as the PLO and Hamas, and efforts by Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, to destroy Israel .
Moshe Dann, Ph.D., is a historian, writer and journalist living in Israel.