A Badly Invented People

...Even Arab place names invariably lack historicity. The Arab name for Jerusalem is Al-Quds or the holy city. It's a little like calling New York, Big City and pretending that it means you saw it first, when it actually means that you saw it last and are piggybacking on its existing identity.

The Arabic for Hebron is a translation of the Hebrew. The same goes for Bethlehem. Ah but what about Nablus? The Jews may call it Shechem, but the Arabs have a unique name for it. Surely Nablus is part of the great and ancient Palestinian heritage. Not a chance. Nablus isn't Arabic, it's the Arabic mispronunciation of Neapolis, which if you happen to know Latin means "New City".

Nablus has the same relationship to Neapolis, as Filistin does to Palestine, it's the Arabic mispronunciation of the Latin. The name "Nablus" is every bit as regionally authentic as Naples, in Italy or Florida, which has the same meaning.

But what of the "Occupied Territories"? The Jews call them Judea and Samaria. The Arabs call them ad-difa’a al-gharbiya or the West Bank. Nothing says ancient history like bluntly descriptive names. But what of Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Authority, that at least is an Arabic name. And that's true. It is an Arabic name. A name almost as ancient as the city which dates back to the 16th century when a group of Christian Arabs crossed over from what is today Jordan fleeing Muslim persecution. Under Jordanian rule, Ramallah was overrun by Muslims and today it has a Muslim majority.

When the capital of your ancient people was founded by Christians from the other side of the river in the 16th century, and it wasn't actually your capital until the bygone days of the 1990's, and it only became your capital because you drove off its residents in the 1950's, then your ancient civilization has a problem. It doesn't actually exist.

The Arabs are not indigenous, they are colonizers who overran the land in tribal groups. There is no Palestinian people. For that matter there isn't a Jordanian people or an Egyptian people. Just clans living behind one set of colonial borders drawn by European mapmakers in the 20th century. Those clans moved back and forth. Prosperous families lived like feudal lords. There was no common culture or national identity....

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