annonymous: How Did the Land of Israel Become "Palestine"?
How did Israel become a country in the first place?
Social and political developments in Europe convinced Jews they needed their own country, and their ancestral homeland seemed like the right place to establish it. European Jews — 90 percent of all Jews at the time — arrived at Zionism partly because of rising anti-Semitic persecution and partly because the Enlightenment introduced Jews to secular nationalism.
Between 1896 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews resettled from Europe to what was then British-controlled Palestine, including large numbers forced out of Europe during the Holocaust.
The UN partition promised 56 percent of British Palestine for the Jewish state; by the end of the war, Israel possessed 77 percent — everything except the West Bank and the eastern quarter of Jerusalem (controlled by Jordan), as well as the Gaza Strip (controlled by Egypt). It left Israelis with a state, but not Palestinians.
How Did the Land of Israel Become "Palestine"?
In the First Century CE, the Romans crushed the independent kingdom of Judea. After the failed rebellion of Bar Kokhba in the Second Century CE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian determined to wipe out the identity of Israel-Judah-Judea.
Therefore, he took the name Palastina and imposed it on all the Land of Israel. At the same time, he changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina.
The Romans killed many Jews and sold many more in slavery. Some of those who survived still alive and free left the devastated country, but there was never a complete abandonment of the Land. There was never a time when there were not Jews and Jewish communities, though the size and conditions of those communities fluctuated greatly.
The History of Palestine
Thousands of years before the Romans invented "Palastina" the land had been known as "Canaan".
The Canaanites had many tiny city-states, each one at times independent and at times a vassal of an Egyptian or Hittite king. The Canaanites never united into a state.
After the Exodus from Egypt — probably in the Thirteenth Century BCE but perhaps earlier — the Children of Israel settled in the land of Canaan. There they formed first a tribal confederation, and then the Biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the post-Biblical kingdom of Judea.
Israel-Judah-Judea has the only united, independent, sovereign nation-state that ever existed in "Palestine" west of the Jordan River.
From the beginning of history to this day, Israel-Judah-Judea has the only united, independent, sovereign nation-state that ever existed in "Palestine" west of the Jordan River. (In Biblical times, Ammon, Moab and Edom as well as Israel had land east of the Jordan, but they disappeared in antiquity and no other nation took their place until the British invented Trans-Jordan in the 1920s.)
After the Roman conquest of Judea, "Palastina" became a province of the pagan Roman Empire and then of the Christian Byzantine Empire, and very briefly of the Zoroastrian Persian Empire. In 638 CE, an Arab-Muslim Caliph took Palastina away from the Byzantine Empire and made it part of an Arab-Muslim Empire. The Arabs, who had no name of their own for this region, adopted the Greco-Roman name Palastina, that they pronounced "Falastin".
In that period, much of the mixed population of Palastina converted to Islam and adopted the Arabic language. They were subjects of a distant Caliph who ruled them from his capital, that was first in Damascus and later in Baghdad. They did not become a nation or an independent state, or develop a distinct society or culture.
In 1099, Christian Crusaders from Europe conquered Palestina-Falastin. After 1099, it was never again under Arab rule. The Christian Crusader kingdom was politically independent, but never developed a national identity. It remained a military outpost of Christian Europe, and lasted less than 100 years.
Thereafter, Palestine was joined to Syria as a subject province first of the Mameluks, ethnically mixed slave-warriors whose center was in Egypt, and then of the Ottoman Turks, whose capital was in Istanbul.
During the First World War, the British took Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. At the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and among its subject provinces "Palestine" was assigned to the British, to govern temporarily as a mandate from the League of Nations.
The Jewish National Home
Travellers to Palestine from the Western world left records of what they saw there. The theme throughout their reports is dismal: The land was empty, neglected, abandoned, desolate, fallen into ruins
Nothing there [Jerusalem] to be seen but a little of the old walls which is yet remaining and all the rest is grass, moss and weeds. — English pilgrim in 1590.
The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population — British consul in 1857.
There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent [valley of Jezreel] — not for 30 miles in either direction. . . . One may ride 10 miles hereabouts and not see 10 human beings.
For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee . . . Nazareth is forlorn . . . Jericho lies a moldering ruin . . . Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation . . . untenanted by any living creature . . . .
A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds . . a silent, mournful expanse . . . a desolation . . . . We never saw a human being on the whole route . . . . Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country .
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes . . . desolate and unlovely . . . . — Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1867.
The restoration of the "desolate and unlovely" land began in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century with the first Jewish pioneers. Their labors created newer and better conditions and opportunities, which in turn attracted migrants from many parts of the Middle East, both Arabs and others.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917, confirmed by the League of Nations Mandate, commited the British Government to the principle that "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish National Home, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object. . . . " It was specified both that this area be open to "close Jewish settlement" and that the rights of all inhabitants already in the country be preserved and protected.
Mandate Palestine originally included all of what is now Jordan, as well as all of what is now Israel, and the territories between them. However, when Great Britain's protégé Emir Abdullah was forced to leave the ancestral Hashemite domain in Arabia, the British created a realm for him that included all of Manfate Palestine east of the Jordan River. There was no traditional or historic Arab name for this land, so it was called after the river: first Trans-Jordan and later Jordan.
By this political act, that violated the conditions of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, the British cut more than 75 percent out of the Jewish National Home. No Jew has ever been permitted to reside in Trans-Jordan/Jordan.
Less than 25 percent then remained of Mandate Palestine, and even in this remnant, the British violated the Balfour and Mandate requirements for a "Jewish National Home" and for "close Jewish settlement". They progressively restricted where Jews could buy land, where they could live, build, farm or work.
After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel was finally able to settle some small part of those lands from which the Jews had been debarred by the British. Successive British governments regularly condemn their settlement as "illegal". In truth, it was the British who had acted illegally in banning Jews from these parts of the Jewish National Home.