In the Beginning was there the Word?

This piece is the second instalment in a series of short articles showing the lie to the Arab (and now, European) claim that Israel and Jews in the Middle East are but a modern convention and lie to the the claim that “Palestinians” are indigenous victims of a (foreign) Zionist colonial enterprise. This is article B.

All information in this synthesised article is the intellectual property of Karen Armstrong, David Margoliouth, Ira Lapidus and Irfan Shahid.

It is said that one day after the Six-Day War in which Israel took legitimate possession of Judea and Samaria (and Gaza), the Arab dwellers in those regions underwent a kind of anthropological miracle and discovered that they were Palestinians – something they did not know the day before.

From that day on, Palestinian leaders like Saeb Erekat claimed two contradictory lineages from ancient peoples that inhabited in the Land of Israel: the Canaanites and the Philistines.

The Canaanites, as this article will show, are indeed historically acknowledged as the first inhabitants of the Land of Israel, before the Hebrews settled there. In fact, the correct geographic name of the Land of Israel is Canaan, not “Palestine” (a vindictive Roman invention…).

In the north of Canaan, along the Mediterranean coast, the northern Canaanites’ main cities were Tzur (Tyre), Tzidon (Sidon), Gebal (Byblos), Arvad, Ugarit, and these northern Canaanites are better known in history by their Greek name Phoenicians. Their language developed from the Arameans, and was closely related to Hebrew, not Arabic. Their current political iteration is, of course, Lebanon, where officialdom refers to itself as the “Lebanese Republic” and NOT the Lebanese Arab Republic. The only mention of the term Arabic in the Lebanese constitution refers to the official language of the state.

If we are agreed that the “Palestinians” are not Lebanese, therefore they are not Phoenicians (Northern Canaanites).

In south Canaan, the people(Phoenicians) lived in the mountain region from the Golan southwards, on both sides of the Jordan River and along the Mediterranean coast from the Gulf of Haifa to Yafo (Jaffa), an area synonymous with the Canaan of Bible fame.

These Canaanites comprised various tribes including Amorites, Hittites Yevusites, Hivvites and Horites, all of them assimilated into the Aramean-Canaanite context. They never constituted a unified, organized state but kept within the tribal alliance system.

When the first Hebrews arrived in Canaan from Ur (Mesopotamia) between 2000-1800 BCE, under the leadership of Abraham, they shared the land with the southern Phoenicians, but did not intermarry, as it was an interdiction for Abraham’s family to marry the Canaanites. Nevertheless, eleven of the twelve sons of Abraham’s grandson Jacob (later Israel) married Canaanite women (the other son married an Egyptian).

These Hebrews, according to Egyptian sources, spoke west Semitic languages, (of which Hebrew is one) and had little difficulty understanding the language of the Canaanites. Not only that, but Abraham and his sons brought with them a religion which worshipped only One God who went by the unpronounceable name of YHWH.

This oneness of God preached first by the prophets of ancient Israel was also adopted, in the 7th century BCE by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, and later on by Christianity. So, with the widening net of contacts among Middle Eastern peoples, and the support of the great empires, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity formed the religions of almost all peoples in the Roman-Byzantine and Sasanian empires. In other words, the Middle East was divided into two great realms of polity and culture, Byzantine and Sasanian, and two overlapping spheres of religious belief, Christian and Zoroastrian.

Centuries later, from the periphery of the Middle East, Arab Muslim conquests began the long historical process that culminated in the absorption of both the Sasanian empire and the eastern regions of the Byzantine empire into an Islamic empire, and the eventual subjugation of the majority of Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian peoples indigenous to the Middle East, to Islam. Therefore, the “Palestinian” Arab Muslim claim to indigenous ownership of the Land of Israel as rooted in history, already appears to languish in the realms of make-believe. More below.

Of course, technically, it is incorrect to refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as Jews, because the terms “Jew” and “Judaism” were not used generally to refer to this nation until approximately 600 years later. But if we are agreed that the Patriarchs were progenitors of the nation of Israel and Judaism, then a Jewish claim to the land Canaan, modern day Israel, is inescapable.

Together with this, it also renders any Muslim or Arab claim to the ancient homeland of the Jews as difficult to substantiate not least because the Quran’s recasting of Abraham as a “Muslim” prophet 2,500 years after the event, a “Muslim” prophet who prefigured Muhammed, both rejected the ancient Jewish (and Christian) version by design, by inventing their own Abraham to serve their own doctrinal purposes.

In other words, it is not inconceivable to hypothesise that the youngest and most continually intrinsically and extrinsically violent of the world’s major religions, Islam, was engineered for obvious political and economic reasons. That is, the Arab conquests were essential, not for religion so much as they were essential for socio-economic bases of empire. This thesis I will explore in a forthcoming article in this series.

To continue: these monotheistic wanderers from Mesopotamia, were not regular desert nomads like the Bedouin, who migrated with their flocks according to the cycle of the seasons, and they were frequently in conflict with the conservative authorities. The cultural status of these Hebrews was usually superior to the desert folk. Some served as mercenaries, others became government employees, others worked as merchants, servants or tinkers. Some became rich and then acquired land and settled down. The stories about Abraham in the book of Genesis show him serving the King of Sodom as a mercenary and describe his frequent conflicts with the authorities of Canaan and its environs. Eventually, when his wife Sarah died, Abraham bought land in Hebron, in the land of Judea, now erroneously referred to as the (Arab) West Bank…..

Scholars generally agree that there were three main waves of early Hebrew (Jewish) settlement in Biblical Canaan, the modern Israel.

One was associated with Abraham and Hebron and took place in about 1850 BCE.

A second wave of immigration was linked with Abraham’s grandson Jacob, who was renamed Israel. He settled in Shechem, which is now the Arab town of Nablus on the “West Bank”. Jacob’s sons, who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel, emigrated to Egypt during a severe famine in Canaan.

The third wave of Hebrew settlement occurred when the descendants of Jacob’s sons arrived in Canaan from Egypt in 1200 BCE. They said that they had been enslaved by the Egyptians but had been liberated by a deity called Yahweh, who was the god of their leader Moses.

After they had forced their way into Canaan, they allied themselves with the Hebrews there and became known as the people of Israel. Although these Israelites were a confederation of various ethnic groups, they were bound principally together by their loyalty to Yahweh, the God of Moses, God of the Jews.

With the arrival of the Israelites from Egypt then, by the end of the reign of King David, most Canaanites were married to Israelites, others voluntarily accepted Torah becoming Israelites, while still others joined up in the Israelite or Judahite army. In time, the Canaanites were no longer distinguishable as a people, because they were eventually assimilated into the Israelite nation.

As a corollary, it is not a matter for dispute that when the Assyrians overran the Kingdom of Israel in the north of Biblical Canaan, they did not spare any “Canaanites” they might have found, as they had all become Israelites by that time. Likewise, when the Babylonians overthrew the Kingdom of Judah in the south, they did not leave any Canaanites alive, simply because there were none to be found. They had assimilated.

In light of this, the only people that can trace back a lineage to the ancient Canaanites are the Jews, not the 2oth century “Palestinians”. Canaanites, despite Saeb Erekat’s revisionist protestations to the contrary, did not exist any longer after the 8th century BCE because they had been assimilated into the Jewish people, not annihilated by them.

But what of the “Palestinian” Arab claim they are descended from the Philistines of Gaza?

Here, I do not want to waste too much time because this particular claim is entirely in the realm of make believe. The Philistines were Aegean sea goers from Crete (Minos) and surrounds who invaded and set up shop on the coast in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. In this regard, then, both the Philistines and the “Palestinians” have something in common: they were/are both invaders.

The Aegean invaders generally stayed close to the coast, never moved deep inland over Judah and never saw either Hebron, Jerusalem or Jericho.

Besides, with regards to the name “Palestine”, why would Muslim Arabs in the 1960s adopt and/or adapt a name for a “sacred Muslim land” from the Latin Palæstina and not take on an Arabic name instead? Was it because there was never a Muslim Arab polity named Palestine? That the vindictive naming of Canaan as Palestine was directed solely at crushing the spirit of the indigenous Jews of the region?

And finally, the Arabic alphabet contains 28 consonants, but not the consonant sound “puh”(P). Because there is no sound for “P” in Arabic, the name “Falastin” (with an “F”) that Arabs today use for “Palestine” is symptomatic of the never ending difficulty Levantine Arabs today continue to have to reconcile a trumped up modern anti-semitic narrative with accepted historiographic fact. Fortunately, however, those facts will never change.

From this very brief overview, it will be acknowledged that Jewish religious, cultural and territorial claim to what is modern day Israel (Southern Canaan) goes back to around 1800 BCE, some 2,400 years before the aggressive welling up of an invading, colonising and occupying force in the Levant known as Arabised Islam.

But more on that later.

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