Recently monitored by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) was a remarkable admission from a spokesman from Gaza talking on a live Arabic television programme in Egypt. He was condemning Egypt for its inability to supply fuel to the population of Gaza. He maintained that the 1.8-million people in the entity represented a mere 2% of the 90-million population of Egypt, and that supplying fuel would not be a burden to the country. The demand for energy support wasn’t all, of course. He had another demand – basically support from ‘Arab brothers […] to wage Jihad’ and to free Al-Aqsa, meaning Jerusalem, and the land of Palestine, meaning Israel.
The Gazan then went on to rant about the Arab roots of Palestinians – appealing to his brother Arabs of course – but in doing so made a startling admission. He said that ‘Every Palestinian in Gaza and Palestine can prove his Arab roots whether from Saudi Arabia, Yemen or elsewhere’. He admitted that ‘personally half my family is Egyptian – we are all like that, half of the Palestinians are Egyptian, and the other half are Saudis’.
So… there you have it, and straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Who are the Palestinians? Egyptians and Arabians really, is the answer today. Indeed, Yasser Arafat was certainly an Egyptian. Arabs in the region became ‘Palestinians’ sometime between 1967 and the 1980s. Up until then, there had been a conflict between Israelis and Arabs.
Who are the Palestinians? If that particular question had been asked in the latter decades of the 19th century and the earliest decades of the 20th century – in the time of pre-state-Israel – the answer would most certainly have been, well: the Jewish nation. In Ottoman times and during the British Mandate, references to Palestine ‘this’, or Palestinian ‘that’, referred to agencies and bodies around Jewish infrastructure, Jewish political life, and Jewish business and ownership in the region.
There was the Palestine Communist Party and the breakaway Palestinian Communist Party founded by Jews. There was the Palestine Discount Bank founded by Jews and which is now the Israel Discount Bank Ltd. There was the Jewish energy concern called the Palestine Electricity Corporation Limited, now the Israel Electric Corporation Ltd., which is owed millions by Arab families in Gaza and Judea and Samaria incidentally. There was the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association and the Palestine Land Development Company, and the Palestine Potash Company, a Jewish industrial concern which is now the Dead Sea Works. There was the ‘Palestine Post’, a Jewish newspaper in English, now called the ‘Jerusalem Post’.
‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ have been elastic terms over the past 120-years or so.