In fact, from the 1880’s onward Arab nationalists protested the use of the term “Palestine” because “Palestine,” as they explained, was really southern Syria (as-Suriyeh al-janubiyeh). Even the most vitriolic and vociferous Arab nationalist in Southern Syria, the Hajj Amin el-Husseini, opposed the Mandate because it created “Palestine” separate from Syria.”[i] The General Syrian Congress of 1919 stressed an exclusively Syrian identity for the Arabs of “greater Syria” (i.e., including Lebanon and Palestine): “We ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine . . .”[ii] George Antonius , as noted above, defined Palestine as part of Syria. Akhmed Shukairi, the PLO delegate to the UN, asserted in 1956, eight years after the birth of the State of Israel and the creation of the “Palestinian refugees,” that “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria.”[iii] As late as 1974 Syria’s President Hafez al-Assad asserted that: … Palestine is not only a part of our Arab homeland, but a basic part of southern Syria.”
This original “Nakba,” thus, was not the catastrophe that Ashrawi described in such searing terms. Rather it was a spontaneous rebellion by the Arabs of southern Syria (which would soon become known as British Mandatory Palestine), in protest against the division by the European victors of World War 1 of Arab-populated lands of the former Ottoman (Turkish) Empire into the British and French mandates of Palestine, Syria and Iraq.
This “Nakba” had nothing to do with Jews or Zionism, and nothing to do with demands by “Palestinian” Arabs for national self-determination or political self-realization. To the contrary, this original “Nakba” stands as historical testimony to the fact that the Arabs of British Mandatory Palestine saw themselves as Syrians. They had no perception of themselves as “Palestinians.”
I’d like to go ahead and get it on the record that I do sympathize with the Palistinian (or South Syrian, as the case may be) people for wanting self-rule. When I was in Israel a few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with some Palestinian Christians in Nazareth, and frankly liked them a lot. I still have the little clay lamp they gave me, which I use every year in the cleasing of the leaven ceremony.
However, I also condemn the Palestinian leadership for their hypocritical refusal to acknowledge that Jews also have a right to self-rule (or even to exist), for constantly changing definitions, narratives, and even history to suit their political purposes, and for causing their own people to continue to live in a never-never land of eternal hatred and war by their hypocrisy and deceit.
Oh, and for persecuting the Palestinian Christians to the point where they were forced to flee Bethlehem, leaving the city of Yeshua’s birth bereft of His followers.
As always, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.