The validity of a Palestinian identity has been rejected by the Israeli minister. The clan of his grandpa would be wiser.
Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, disregarded the history and existence of the Palestinians in a speech he gave on March 19 in Paris.
Smotrich, who was born in 1980 in settlement of Haspin in the occupied Golan Heights, delivered these words while standing in front of a lectern draped in a flag depicting Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as being a part of Israel.
A portrait of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of revisionist Zionism, was also displayed on the platform adjacent to Smotrich.
Compared to the perspective Smotrich has presented, Jabotinsky’s statements from November 1923 seem to reflect a different vision of Palestine.
Jabotinsky wrote, “There can be no voluntary agreement between the Palestine Arabs and us […] it is impossible to acquire the voluntary assent of the Palestine Arabs for changing ‘Palestine’ from an Arab country to a country with a Jewish majority.”
Every indigenous community in the globe opposes colonizers so long as it retains even a remote possibility of being able to free itself from the threat of colonization.
The comments of Jabotinsky serve as a reminder that the radicals of the 1920s had no trouble acknowledging both the Palestinians’ existence and that of the region that has been referred to as Palestine for many centuries.
On the other hand, the current Israeli finance minister said that his grandfather, “who was the 13th generation in Jerusalem, was a true Palestinian,” even though his family is of Ukrainian descent (Smotryc is the name of a town in western Ukraine).
The equivalent of thirteen generations is roughly 300 years, if not more. This suggests that some of Smotrich’s ancestors may have crossed paths with the mufti Khayr al-Din al-Ramli, a prominent lawyer in 17th-century Ottoman Palestine, who resided in the city of Ramla, from where he derived his surname.
Since Jews in Palestine spoke Arabic as their first language, they might have also come across al-manuscripts Raml’s and the idea of “Filastin,” which he referred to as “laguna” (Arabic for “our homeland”) in his writings.
Unsurprisingly, Filastin was frequently mentioned in much older works as well. For example, the Qadi of Jerusalem, Mujir al-Din, used the phrase “‘Ard Filastin” (the Land of Palestine) 22 times in his 1495 book al-Uns al-Jalil bi-Tarikh al-Quds wa’l-Khalil (The glorious story of Jerusalem and Hebron).
The phrase “the holiest place on Earth is Syria; the holiest location in Syria is Palestine; the holiest place in Palestine is Jerusalem [Bayt al-Maqdis]” was used in an 8th-century work attributed to the scholar Abu Khalid Thawr Ibn Yazid al-Kalaai.
Several additional manuscripts from the 9th and 10th centuries also contain thorough references to Palestine, some of which are not strictly religious. According to the Persian explorer al-Istakhri, “Filastin is the most fertile
among the provinces of Syria.
A traveler would require two days to traverse the entire length of Filastin, which extends from Rafah to the edge of Al Lajjun (Legio), and [this is] the amount of time required to traverse the province’s breadth from Jaffa to Riha (Jericho).
So who else inhabited this area with some of Smotrich’s relatives in earlier centuries?
The British government carried out the first official census in Palestine in 1922. There were 757,182 people in total, 590,890 of them were Muslims, 83,794 were Jews, and 73,024 were Christians.
According to the most accurate projections from the previous century, Palestine had a total population of 250,000 in 1800 and 500,000 in 1890. According to American demographer Justin McCarthy, of the 411,000 people living in Palestine in 1860, the vast majority were Sunni Palestinians, while there were also sizable populations of Christians, Shi’ites, and Druze.
In the words of British author Elizabeth Finn, who was the wife of the British consul in Jerusalem in the middle of the 19th century, they demonstrated their ties to their land “with the tenacity of aboriginal inhabitants,” speaking Arabic, using the Ottoman lira (before 1844, the common currency was the kurus), and living dispersed among 700 villages.
The communities were largely found in the hilly and mountainous areas that run between Galilee and Jabal al-Khalil from north to south (Hebron). This was mostly because the flat areas, like the coastal area, were more vulnerable to Bedouin attacks that occasionally occurred as well as the spread of diseases like malaria.
The remainder of the population resided in mixed cities like Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberias, Jaffa, and Safad, which the majority of the Jews of Palestine also called home. Or in entirely non-Jewish cities like Yaffa, Beisan, al-Lidd, Ramla, Ramallah, Bir al-Saba, Beit Jala, Jenin, Khan Younis, Gaza, Bethlehem, Acca, and Nazareth, Shefaraam, which was the most prosperous city in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries.
These historical layers won’t vanish or be “wiped away,” as happened to 450 Palestinian communities in 1948 and, more recently, as Smotrich himself suggested about the Palestinian village of Huwara.
But, to create a symmetrical conversation in an asymmetrical reality, school curricula, exhibitions, and museums can contribute to illuminating this rich but terrible past.
Trauma in a person decontextualized over time, resembles a personality, according to author Resmaa Menakem. Over time, a family’s trauma becomes decontextualized and resembles family characteristics. Decontextualized over time, a trauma in a population resembles culture.