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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Nowadays, one of the big anti-Israel lies (spread not only by Arabs) is that there has been some sort of "Palestinian people" inhabiting "Palestine" since the stone age. Of course, the notion of a "Palestinian people" is unknown in history. The term "Palestine" was used by some Greek writers [particularly by Herodotos] at a time when Greek knowledge of the Land of Israel and its population was very hazy. Greek sailors and merchants coming from the West encountered the Philistines on the coast and applied their name to the whole country, which was, however, seen as part of Syria. This latter term (also Greek) originated as the name for the area around Tyre and its application spread inland, as did "Palestine." Herodotos calls the Jews "Palestinian Syrians." After Alexander the Great conquered Israel, the usual Greek --and later Latin-- name for the country was Judea [Ioudaia, IUDAEA]. This name was applied to the areas inhabited by and/or governed by Jews. Under the Roman empire, Judea included the Galilee, Golan, Samaria, most of the coastal plain, the northern Negev, areas east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, the territory of the former kingdom of Judah, etc. Judea was the official Roman name for the country until Emperor Hadrian suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt (131-135 CE), and changed the name of Provincia Iudaea to Provincia Syria Palaestina as part of an effort to suppress Jewish nationhood.

There never was a distinct people called "Palestinians," except for Herodotos' name for the Jews as above. But he saw the Jews as essentially Syrians, using the term "Palestinian Syrians." The term Syria originally referred to the area around Tyre and spread from there (just as the name "Palestine" was taken from the coastal Philistines). Tyre was pronounced Tur by early Phoenicians (followed by early Greeks), until a linguistic shift from T to S led to Sur or Sor or Tsor (in Phoenician and Hebrew). Syria was of course pronounced Suria in Latin and Greek. The Hebrew language is closely related to Phoenician, both of which are considered part of the Canaanite family of languages, according to linguists (for some, both are dialects of Canaanite).

But getting back to the big Judeophobic lie of today. Judeophobes (particularly the PLO) claim a "Palestinian people" going back into the mists of prehistory. However, the historical record shows that there have been migrations, in and out of Israel over history, including Arab migrations after the Arab conquest [7th century], not to mention massacres of Jews by Romans, Crusaders, Arabs, etc.

In the Jerusalem region, desolate after suppression of the Jewish rebels led by Bar Kokhba, Jews were eliminated entirely or almost entirely by the Romans, whether they had been slaughtered in the war or were driven out afterwards or fled the desolation. What is significant is that the new political entity set up by the Romans in and around Jerusalem, the polis and colonia of Aelia Capitolina, was COLONIZED by Rome with people belonging to various nations. In earlier posts on this blog, we presented long passages from Cassius Dio (also called Dio Cassius) and from the Christian church father Eusebios attesting to this colonization after the Bar Kokhba war.

Another Church father, Jerome, famous as the translator of the Hebrew Bible into Latin, also attests to this colonization by non-Jews of the Jerusalem region [polis/colonia of Aelia Capitolina].

Colonists [were] taken from various nations to Jerusalem . . .
[Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, X 34, 8ff.]

Et revera si consideremus de diversis gentibus abductas Hierosalem colonias, et iuxta ritum provinciarum suarum, singulas familias propriorum daemonum coluisse portenta, haec omnia in Hierusalem habitasse firmabimus.
[Hieronymos, Com. in Esai, X 34, 8 ff (445)]

In another place, he writes, describing the colonists:

. . . Indeed, men from whose nations people do not come to the [Christian] Holy Places [of Jerusalem].
[Jerome, Letters, 46, 10]

. . . cuius enim gentis homines ad sancta loca non veniunt
[Hieronymos, Ep., 46, 10]

In other words, the polis/colonia of Aelia Capitolina, which stretched from east to west, from about Ma`aleh Adumim of today to about Sha`ar haGay, was colonized by aliens. And it had the Roman legal status of a colonia. That is, a non-Jewish population of diverse origin was settled in the heart of the Land of Israel by the Roman Empire and were given the rights of citizens of a colonia, a specific Roman legal entity. Scholars today disagree whether or not there was a formal Roman decree forbidding Jews to live in the colonia of Aelia --as Eusebios reports-- and whether or not a few Jews may have continued living in remote parts of the Aelia polis in any case, with or without a formal decree banning Jews. On the other hand, by the time Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, the Romans had relaxed enforcement of their ban on Jews in the city of Jerusalem (Aelia) itself, and there apparently was a Jewish community there with a yeshivah (academy). Under Byzantine Christian rule, however, Jews were strictly excluded from the city, except on the Ninth of Ab [Tish`a b'Av] when Jews were allowed to come mourn the remains of their Temple, meanwhile suffering the abuse of Roman soldiers. Jerome describes this too. His testimony is considered reliable in that he lived in Israel, as did Eusebios (Eusebius), and he learned Hebrew from Jewish teachers whom he hired (who lived outside of the colonia of Aelia). He also describes this personal experience. As said above, his purpose was to translate the Hebrew Bible into Latin directly from the Hebrew and not through the Greek Septuaguint translation.

To sum up, the center of the country was inhabited by colonists of non-Jewish origin, and their descendants. Michael Avi-Yonah says that these colonists were predominantly of Syrian and Arab origin. Mary Smallwood calls them "Greco-Syrians." Some historians point out that the Romans settled Aelia with army veterans who had fought against the Jews in the Bar Kokhba uprising, many or most of whom were Syrians or Arabs. Avi-Yonah bases himself on various places in Jerome's vast body of writings, and those of other church fathers. Avi-Yonah's book is called, The Jews of Palestine. The citations from the church fathers in Avi-Yonah can be checked in Coxe's edition of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers. For lengthy quotes on this subject from Eusebios and Dio Cassius go back to earlier items on the Emet m'Tsiyon blog.

The colonization of aliens in the center of Israel by the Romans was followed centuries later by the settlement of Arab tribes in various parts of the country, after the Arab conquest, and the migration of Arabs fleeing the Mongols at the end of the Crusader period. Meanwhile, the Crusaders at the beginning of their rule had massacred most of the Jews in the country (according to Prof. Moshe Gil, among others). The Judeophobic claim (made by Arabs and their ostensible friends) of a "Palestinian people" continuously inhabiting the Land of Israel is a fraud, a big lie, so many of which plague the peace of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Sharon's expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gaza continues. It was preceded by Roman expulsions, Byzantine expulsions, English expulsions [13th century], Austrian and Russian expulsions, etc. The Fiddler on the Roof story, derived from Sholom Aleykhem's stories of Tevyeh, ends with the expulsion of Jews from their shtetl Anatevka. Sharon is acting under orders from the European Union and other Western powers. Now Europe has a 2000 year old history of mistreating Jews. It seems that the New Europe of the EU is not so different from the Old Europe.

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--addition made to the Latin text on 21 September 2005--
One more installment remains to be presented from the Greek monk NeoPhytos' account of the 1834 uprising and persecution of Jews. A picture of the demographic evolution of Jerusalem in the 19th century is coming soon. Arab-Muslims were a minority in the Holy City throughout the 19th century and till today.


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