Early Palestine


(extracts from the book “Encyclopaedia of the Palestine Problem” by Issa Nakhleh, (1915-2003), Senior Adviser UN Palestinian Delegation and represented the Higher Arab Committee for Palestine for some 40 years)


Palestine was known in ancient history as the Land of Canaan. When Abraham migrated to the Land of Canaan it was a well-developed country. The Philistines entered the Land of Canaan from Crete about 1250 B.C. and settled in the coastal areas. They established five kingdoms, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath and Ekron. They were the people who gave Palestine its name, and the Land of Canaan since Roman times has been known as Palestine.

About 1100 B.C. Israelite tribes entered the Land of Canaan at Jericho. They conquered a part of the Land of Canaan and established a kingdom in Judea about 1000 B.C. About 935 B.C. the kingdom was divided into the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. About 725 B.C. the Kingdom of Israel was conquered and many Israelites were taken to Babylonia. About 600 B.C. the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians. The Israelite tribes were either exiled to Babylonia or were absorbed by the Canaanites. This means that Israelite rule over a part of Palestine lasted only about 400 years, during which time the majority of the population were Canaanite and mixed Canaanite-Israelite. Many of the Israelite kings of the two kingdoms followed Canaanite religions.

The Greeks conquered and ruled the Land of Canaan from 330 B.C. until 70 B.C. The Romans conquered and ruled the country from 63 B.C. until 614 A.D. Jesus Christ was born and Christianity spread in the country. Many Jews in Palestine became Christians. Many of the apostles were Jews.

As a result of strife between Jews and Christians many Jews left Palestine for neighboring countries. The Arabs conquered Palestine in 638 A.D. and exercised a profound influence on the country. The indigenous population of Palestine at that time adopted the Arabic language and many became Muslims. Arab rule over Palestine lasted from 638 to 1517 A.D., except for a brief period of Crusader rule. The Ottoman Turks ruled Palestine from 1517 until 1918, during which time the indigenous population of Palestine remained Arabic in language and culture.

Jerusalem under the Ottomans 1516-1917
Jerusalem under the Ottomans 1516-1917

The Palestinians of today, who call themselves Palestinian Arabs, are Muslims and Christians. They are the descendants of all the races and nations which have lived in and conquered Palestine from the times of the Canaanites to the British occupation of Palestine in 1918. They are the cohesion of all of those races. The Christians among them are descendants of the first Christians, who adopted Christianity at the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The Muslims are those who were either Christians or pagans and who adopted Islam after the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century A.D.

Modem scholars have proved that it was in Babylonia that Judaism became that which it was and still is, maintaining that not only the Jewish religion, but all the traditions of Judaism, were developed in Babylonia during the exile. Professor H. Graetz states that “the Babylonian rather than the Jerusalem Talmud became the fundamental possession of the Jewish race, its life’s breath, its very soul.”

In recent centuries, the center of Talmudic studies, and thus of Judaism, was in Eastern Europe among the descendants of the Khazars. The Khazars are a people of Turkish origin who lived in the kingdom of Khazaristan in the south of Russia. They were converted to Judaism in the 9th century A.D. Approximately 90% of the Jews of today are of Khazar origin and have no ethnic or historical relationship with Palestine.

Therefore the Zionist historical claim to Palestine is unfounded and cannot be justified on historical, ethnic, legal or religious grounds. Chapter 39 of Nakhleh’s book contains thorough documentation of these facts based on historical, archaeological, ethnographic and scriptural sources which prove the falsity of the Zionist claims to Palestine and that Palestine has never been “the land of Israel.”



Bethlehem 1930s
Bethlehem in the 1930s

In order to create an alleged justification for the crime of genocide they have committed against the Palestinian Arabs, the Zionists have tried to convince the world that Palestine was practically uninhabited, “A Land Without People for a People without a Land.” They created and propagated the myths that the Palestinian Arabs were nomads or seminomads without a culture and civilization, that the Palestinians had neither a national identity nor existence, that the Palestinians lacked an economic structure and roots in the land.

The continuity of the Palestinian roots in the land in fact goes back to antiquity. Absorbing or outlasting various conquerors, Palestinians tenaciously tended their ancestral farmlands, whether as freeholders or as tenants and mortgagees, and by the end of World War 11, mostly as unfettered freeholders again. In his study of the history of landholdings in Palestine, Abraham Granott, formerly Managing Director of the Jewish National Fund, admits:

When the kingdom of Byzantium was subjugated by the Arabs, practically the whole of the land belonged to the big proprietors, the Emperor, the municipal authorities, and religious bodies, as churches and so on, while the soil was cultivated by the former owners who had remained on their plots as tenants after the land had passed into the hands of large owners.(1)

Thus the Palestinian fanners expelled by the Zionists in 1948 were the lineal descendants of the most ancient owners of the land. The Palestinian Arabs are the indigenous population of Palestine, the descendants of the Philistines and of all the Semitic peoples who have lived in Palestine since the time of the Canaanites. Successive waves of newcomers, such as Philistines from Crete, Semites from Iraq, Romans, Greeks and Arabs came and intermarried with the native stock.

The historical record disproves the Zionist lie that Palestine was undeveloped before the establishment of Jewish settlements in Palestine, Muqqadisi, a native of Jerusalem who died in 986 A.D., enumerated the principal products of Palestine in the tenth century:

..among which agricultural produce was particularly copious and prized: fruit of every kind (olives, figs, grapes, quinces, plums, apples, dates, walnuts, almonds, jujubes and bananas), some of which were exported, and crops for processing (sugarcane, indigo and sumac). But the mineral resources were equally important: chalk earth, marble from Bayt Djibrin, and sulphur mined in the Jordan Valley, not to mention the salt and bitumen of the Dead Sea. Stone, which was common in the country, was the most generally used building material for towns of any importance.(2)

The following description also provides evidence from the late tenth century: “Palestine is watered by the rains and the dew. Its trees and its ploughed lands do not need artificial irrigation. Palestine is the most fertile of the Syrian province.”(3)

In 1615 the English traveler George Sandys described Palestine as “a land that flows with milk and honey; in the midst as it were of the habitable world, and under a temperate clime; adorned with beautiful mountains and luxurious valleys; the rocks producing excellent waters; and no part empty of delight or profit.”(4)

A British missionary who lived in Beirut and visited Palestine in 1859 described the southern coastal area as “a very ocean of wheat,” and the British Consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, reported that “the fields would do credit to British farming.”(5)

The German geographer Alexander Scholch concluded that between 1856 and 1882 “Palestine produced a relatively large agricultural surplus which was marketed in neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Lebanon, and increasingly exported to Europe. These exports included wheat, barley, dura, maise, sesame, olive oil, soap, oranges, vegetables and cotton. Among the European importers of Palestinian produce were France, England, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Malta.”(6)

Lawrence Oliphant, who visited Palestine in 1887, wrote that Palestine’s Valley of Esdraelon was “a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands; and it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive.”(7) This Palestinian wheat had historically played an important part in international commerce. According to Paul Masson, a French economic historian, “wheat shipments from the Palestinian port of Acre had helped to save southern France from famine on numerous occasions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”(8)

Agricultural techniques in Palestine, especially in citriculture, were among the most advanced in the world long before the first Zionist settlers came to its shores. In 1856, the American consul in Jerusalem, Henry Gillman, “outlined reasons why orange growers in Florida would find it advantageous to adopt Palestinian techniques of grafting directly onto lemon trees.”^ In 1893, the British Consul advised his government of the value of importing “young trees procured from Jaffa” to improve production in Australia and South Africa.(10)

All of this historical evidence from unimpeachable eyewitnesses destroys Israel’s contention that it developed Palestine through its colonization. The legend that the Zionists have created, that they made “the desert bloom with roses,” is totally without foundation. It is a ploy to gain donations from naive Jews throughout the world and to help extort economic aid from the American Congress. The economic achievements of Israel today are built totally on the capital base of lands, property and possessions usurped from the Palestinian Arabs.

Palestinian family home in Jerusalem
Palestinian family home in Jerusalem

The Zionists tell tourists, mainly Americans, that they “liberated this land when it was but a desolate desert.” They point to the Arab orchards and citrus groves which they usurped and claim that Israeli “pioneers” planted them. They point to the twelve cities which were either entirely Arab or of mixed Jewish and Arab population, in which the Palestinian Arabs owned more than 75% of the houses and apartment buildings, as well as commercial and industrial buildings, and claim that they were built by Zionistenterprise. They changed the names of Arab towns and villages, settling Jews in Arab homes and on usurped Arab lands, and deny that Palestinian Arabs ever lived in these places.

Zionist myth-makers may persuade the innocent of their alleged achievements, but they themselves know the truth. In the words of Moshe Dayan:

We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is, a Jewish State here. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahalul; Gevat in the place of Jibta; Sarid in the place of Haneifa and Kefar Yehoshua in the place of Tell Shaman. There is not one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.(11)

General (Reserve) Rehav’am Zeevi, who as a member of the Palmach and Haganah in 1948 took part in expelling the Palestinians, and who was Chief of Staff, southern command and central command, from 1955 to 1964, when he took part in theexpulsion of more Palestinians, addressed a symposium on the 2nd of March, 1988, of 150 Zionist leaders in the Zionist organization (Jewish Agency) House in Jerusalem. He was propagating the idea of the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. Joshua Brilliant, correspondent of the Jerusalem Post, who attended the meeting, stated the following:

Zeevi argued that “transfer” would be humane because the Palestinians would no longer be in the battle zone between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Arab armies. Seeking legitimacy for his views in Israeli history, he said that more than 400 Arab localities which were still in existence in the late ’40′s had been replaced by Jewish settlements, including some affiliated with Mapam’s Hashomer Hatzair. Moreover, Levi Eshkol, the prime minister during the Six Day War, had set up an intelligence unit to deal with the question of expulsions. However, he was vague as to how the expulsions should take place. When pressed by a former intelligence chief, Aluf (res.) Shlomo Gazit, he advocated making Israel unattractive for Arabs. If they face unemployment, and a shortage of land and water, then “in a legitimate way, and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, we can create the necessary conditions for separation.”(12)

These Arab towns and villages were not merely place names on a map. They were developed communities containing farms, factories, stores and schools, with an infrastructure of doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, merchants, mechanics, industrialists, workers and farmers which would be the envy of any developing country today. Yet the Zionists not only deny the developed state of the Palestine which they usurped or destroyed, but even deny the identity and existence of the Palestinians. They claim that the “British created the Palestinian identity .” This is easily belied by such evidence as the existence of a modem Arabic-language newspaper named Filastin, which addressed its readers as Palestinians in 1911, six years before the Balfour Declaration and well before the commencement of the British Mandate.(13)

But truth has never been important to the Zionists. What they destroyed or usurped has to be presented as nonexistent. Thus in 1969 Golda Myerson (alias Meir), a Russian-born U.S. citizen and Israeli Prime Minister, had the audacity to ask at a press conference in the United States, “Who are the Palestinians?”

The Palestinian Arabs are Christians and Muslims of great Arab cultural tradition and civilization, who had a well developed and prosperous economy before its destruction in 1948. Before 1948 they resided in twelve cities or major towns and 830 small towns and villages. Arab homes in the cities were either luxurious stone villas with beautiful gardens, or apartments with two to five bedrooms. These residences were well-furnished with modem furniture and household goods. No Arab home of the middle and upper classes contained less than eight valuable Persian carpets. All of these homes and their furnishing were usurped by Israel.

Even today, reduced to a refugee nation, the Palestinian Arabs have a high level of educational achievement. Palestinians hold many professional positions as doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers, and operate successful commercial enterprises not only in the Arab world, but in the United States, Latin America, Western Europe and the British Commonwealth as well.

The growth rate of the Jewish economy in Palestine was artificial. In Mandate days, as in Israel today, it was totally dependent on outside subsidies to cover perpetual operating losses.

Contrary to the Zionist-created mythology, statistically and historically:

1. A prosperous, dynamically growing Palestinian Arab economy was destroyed by the Zionists, reducing the Palestinians to the status of a refugee nation.

2. Most of the Palestinian Arabs’ lands, homes and possessions were usurped by the Zionists, and their owners were expelled.

3. These lands, homes and possessions rightfully and legally belong to the Palestinian Arabs and provide the underlying capital base of everything of value in Israel today.

The political advancement of the Palestinian Arabs

The Zionists’ claim that the Palestinian Arabs were without preparation for self-government is belied by the historical record.

The indigenous Palestine Arab population was recognized by Paragraph 4 of Article XXII of the League of Nations Covenant as “a provisionally independent nation.” Palestine was placed under a Class A mandate, the very status of which indicated that the indigenous population was well advanced toward self-determination. It was solely the Zionist desire to bring about a Jewish majority in Palestine through immigration, opposed by the Palestinian Arabs almost unanimously, that obstructed imminent Palestinian independence.

The Palestinian Arabs were recognized by the mandatory power as the majority of the inhabitants of Palestine to be fit for independence by the White Paper of May, 1939. It stated that the object of his Majesty’s Government is the “establishment of an independent Palestine state which should be one in which Arabs and Jews share in government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community are safeguarded.”

Comparison between Arab and Jewish economies in Palestine
Economically, the Palestinian Arabs had been developing at an extraordinary rate made possible by the high profitability accompanying their productivity. The Jewish settlements in Palestine were unable to compete in profitability with the Palestinian Arabs. The Jewish social and economic stmcture was dependent upon outside subsidies both for capital expenditures and for operating expenses.

Contrary to the myths created by the Zionists, the Jewish settlements in Palestine were never self-supporting. The only profitable sector was comprised of those private Jewish citrus growers who engaged Arab labor, and British Colonial Office records show that these farmers were often the victims of murder, arson and extortion perpetrated by Zionist terrorists because of their employment of Arab labor.

The Jewish National Fund (Keren Hayesod Ltd.) is illustrative of the unprofitability of the Jewish settlements in Palestine. At least 63% of the donations received by the Keren Hayesod Ltd. between its founding in 1921 and 1945 was utilized to subsidize annual operating expenses. “The bulk of these donations derived from the United States of America, which provided 60-65% of the total.”(54)

In contrast, the Palestinian Arab economy received no outside assistance, yet had extraordinary real growth based upon high profitability and reinvestment.

This is amply illustrated by the Palestinian Arab development of the Negev. By 1935 Palestinians were farming 2, 109,234 dunums in the Negev, while Jewish landholdings in the Negev in 1946 did not exceed 21,000 dunums.(55)

The desert did not bloom because of financial contributions to the Zionists by naive American Jews, but because of the industriousness and profitability of the Palestinian Arab economy.

Of all the Mandates of the League of Nations, the Palestinian Arabs were the most developed on a per capita basis. An advanced nation was destroyed by the Zionists, replacing a socially developed nation which was economically viable with an artificial colonial entity which is an economic disaster dependent upon outside assistance to survive.

The Palestine Arab Labor movement and trade unions

The Palestinian Arab labor movement was very advanced compared with other countries in the Middle East. It differed fundamentally from the Jewish labor movement in Palestine as follows:

1. The Palestinian Arab labor movement was primarily concerned with wages, working conditions and the health and well-being of its members, whereas the Jewish labor movement was largely motivated by political Zionist and Socialist ideology;

2. The Palestinian Arab labor movement endeavoured to reach equitable agreements with Arab employers, whereas the Jewish labor movement in Palestine endeavoured to replace private employers with businesses owned by the labor movement itself;

3. The Palestinian Arab labor movement was modeled on the American trade union concept of recognizing that the health and growth of the businesses where they were employed was important, whereas the Zionist labor movement was organized on the Marxist principle of eliminating employers in due course;

4. The Palestinian Arab labor movement was nationalist, but not racist, whereas the Jewish labor movement was, through the Zionist ideology, racist and colonialist in purpose and activity.

The Palestine Arab labor movement was a growing pool of skilled labor, whereas the Jewish labor movement stifled the growth of the economy by reducing even their laborowned enterprises to near bankruptcy, requiring subsidies from abroad to cover enormous annual deficits.

The Zionists destroyed the independent Palestinian Arab trade union movement.