Arabs in The Land of Israel Prior to Zionism

One of the claims of the Palestinians regarding their alleged right to the Land of Israel is that Arab Muslims have an emotional connection to the land in “Palestine”—a connection forged by a consistent presence in the land for thousands of years. If we look at the facts, we discover quite a different picture:

  • The Land of Israel was never a region of special importance to the Arabs.
  • Historian David George Hogarth wrote in 1877, that when examining the history of the caliphates, one would see that the period in which an Arab Kingdom existed was brief: the Arabs ruled over Arab inhabitants for less than a hundred years. This of course contradicts the claim that the Land of Israel has been Arab for 2000 years. The Arab claim of ownership or sovereignty over “Palestine” has been debunked by numerous historians, including many praised by the Arabs themselves. Among other things, the fact that Arabs never gave a name to the land, a name that could prove a sense of belonging, contradicts the claim even further. “Palestine” was never an independent country, there was never any “Palestinian” rule over the land, and no modern country was established in the land until the Jewish state was established (p.153).
  • The few Arab invaders who took part in the Arab conquest of the Land of Israel, were wiped out by diseases; so the legend by which Palestinians are descendants of the Arab conquerors is inaccurate, to say the least. According to historians Hogarth Hitti and Lewis, during the first century of the Arab conquest, the Caliphate and the governors of Syria and the Land of Israel ruled almost exclusively over Christians and Jews. The Bedouins were the only Arabs who lived west of the Jordan river. The Arab conquerors became the new owners of the lands by expelling previous Christian landowners—this didn’t mean a change in population, since the Christians and the Jews continued working the land. The Arabs had no interest in becoming farmers, nor did they have any experience in such work (p.155).

The name “Palestine” has no connection to the Arab people and it doesn’t prove the existence of a Palestinian entity:

  • A Saudi envoy to the UN declared in the early 1950’s that Palestine is nothing more that southern Syria (p.145). In 135 AC, following the Bar Kokhba revolt, the name “Judea” was nullified, and the name “Palestina” came into use. This was an attempt by the Romans to erase the Jewish-Historical identity of the Land. Numerous researchers have examined the many fabrications around the name. The name “Palestina” derives from the “Philistines”, a nomad tribe from the Even though the tribe ruled the land for just a few decades, the Land of Israel was given the name “Palestina” thanks to them. The name “Palestina” is not mentioned in the Old or New Testaments, or in the Koran (p.144).
  • Many researchers, including Lewis, argue that since the fall of the ancient Kingdom of Judea and until the beginning of the British mandate, the territory referred to as “Palestina” wasn’t a country and had no set borders, only administrative delimitations (p.145).

Until the mid-19th-century, the Land of Israel was abandoned and almost unpopulated:

  • In the mid-18th Century, British archeologist Thomas Shaw wrote:
    “The Land of Israel lacks people who can work its fertile land”.
    French writer and historian Constantin François Volney wrote in the 18th Century:
    “A ruined and desolate land”. And in the 19th-century, the English writer James Silk Buckingham described his visit to the land in 1816:
    “Yafo looks like a neglected town, everything seems desolate.
    Ramleh, like most of the Land of Israel, seems more ruined than populated”.
    In a German encyclopedia from the year 1827 The Land of Israel is described as a
    desolate land where gangs of Arab raiders can be found in every corner.
    In 1840, an observer who toured the area wrote: “The area that was previously populated from Hebron
    to Bethlehem is now abandoned and desolate, the cities in ruins. Many houses in Jerusalem are unstable and in ruins.
    The number of residents is estimated to be 15 thousand, with half of them being Jews” (p.162).
  • In 1857, the British Consul to the Land of Israel reported: The land is mostly empty of inhabitants, therefore the biggest need is population.
    During the 1860s it was reported by the merchant J.B Forsyth that the population was continuing to drop,
    and researcher Henry Baker Tristram wrote that cultivation of the land in the Sharon valley was coming to a halt as numerous towns were erased from the map by Bedouins.
    Following his visit to the Jezreel Valley in 1867,
    Mark Twain wrote: “It is possible to ride 10 miles without encountering 10 people, the land of Israel is covered with sack and ashes, desolate and unsightly”. Similarly, explorer Colonel Claude Reignier Conder described the Land of Israel as destroyed and noted:
    “The Arab race is not multiplying but rather decreasing” (p.163).
    In an effort to describe the character of The Land of Israel History Professor David Landes explained
    that the reasons for the decrease were hundreds of years of neglect and oppressive rule by the Ottomans, and added:
    “due to assignments made by the different occupiers, the land was abandoned to the swamp, to the Anopheles mosquito, to tribal disputes, and to Bedouin raiders” (p. 164).