Map of the Vilayets under the Ottoman Empire.
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Palestine has always been a country where Palestinians lived.

Sometimes propaganda hits the heart like a steel blade. Everything seems logical: black is black, white is white, Palestinians live in Palestine. The author of this article tries to analyze historical information. This is also a kind of propaganda. But, after all, there should be a shield against this blade.

The nationalism of Palestinian Arabs is a phenomenon that emerged after World War I amidst the rise of Zionism and, most likely, as a reaction to it.

Palestine has never been exclusively an Arab country, and it certainly was not a territory where Palestinians historically lived (as such, they simply did not exist). Although the Arabic language gradually became the language of the majority of the population after Muslim invasions in the 7th century, there has never been an independent Arab or Palestinian state in Palestine. When the renowned Arab-American historian, Professor Philip Hitti of Princeton University, spoke against the partition of Palestine at the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he stated:

“There is no such thing in history as Palestine, it absolutely does not exist.”

But here is what is interesting. Before the decision to partition Palestine, Palestinian Arabs did not consider themselves a people with distinct national characteristics from others. In February 1919, during the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations in Jerusalem, when representatives were elected for the Paris Peace Conference, the following decision was made:

“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as Palestine has never been, at any time, separated from it. We maintain national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic, and geographic ties with Syria.”

In 1937, the local Arab leader Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi stated during the Peel Commission hearing, which ultimately proposed the partition of Palestine:

“There is no such country [as Palestine]! Palestine is a term invented by Zionists! The Bible does not mention Palestine. Our country has been part of Syria for many centuries.”

The population census of the Ottoman Empire 1887-1908.
The population census of the Ottoman Empire 1887-1908.
The population census of the Ottoman Empire 1887-1908.
The population census of the Ottoman Empire 1887-1908.

In May 1947, the representative of the Higher Arab Committee at the UN proposed submitting a document to the General Assembly, stating:

“Palestine was part of the province of Syria,” and that “politically, the Arab Palestinians did not have independence in the sense that they could create a separate political entity.”

A few years later, Ahmed Shukeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, stated during a Security Council meeting:

“It is well known that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

Why Syria? Because during the time of the Ottoman Empire, the territory of modern-day Israel, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza was part of the so-called Vilayet of Greater Syria (an administrative unit within the Ottoman Empire), the coastal region of which later separated into the Vilayet of Beirut due to the significantly increased economic importance of Beirut (see picture).

It is also worth mentioning the population of this region. During the census that began in 1887 and was published in 1908 (see photo), not a single representative of the Palestinian people was found throughout the entire empire. However, it mentions Jews who lived in this territory, with a population of 80,000.

Source: Stanford Collection of Geography and Travel. Asia, VOLUME II. South and West Asia, A.H. Keen, Ph.D., F.R.G.S. 1909

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