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People of Palestine
Pictures from the Palestinian Past
From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so.
Ahad Ha'am (Asher Ginsberg), 'A Truth from Yeretz Israel' (1891)
Amid the bitterness and rivalry of conflict, harsh and indefensible claims or statements are often made, and this is especially true where issues of race or religion are concerned. Denial of the Holocaust is a particularly pernicious example of this, and has quite rightly been made illegal across most of Western Europe and Canada, as well as in Germany, Austria and Israel. Holocaust denial flies In the face of reason and historical fact.
But so does the denial of a Palestinian people. Yet in 1969 Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel from 1964 to 1974, commented to The Sunday Times: 'There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist'. Fortunately most Israelis rejected and continue to reject this fallacy, and in 1993 Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel from 1992 until his assassination In 1995, formally recognised the existence of the Palestinian people and of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as their representative in exchange for Yasser Arafat's recognition of the State of Israel and of its right to exist in peace and security.
Things may not have gone smoothly since that time, but at least the days of Israelis and Palestinians denying each other's existence seems to have passed.
Not so in the USA, however - or at least on the right of the Republican Party. In 2011 the same preposterous and dangerous canard proposed by Golda Meir all those years ago was resurrected, firstly by Rick Santorum, who baldly stated that: 'All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian' (21 November, 2011). This was echoed by Newt Gingrich who claimed: 'I think we have had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs' (10 December, 2011).
Such statements are symptomatic of both ignorance and racism and deserve to be treated with the same disdain as Holocaust denial.
Of course there are Palestinian people, just as there was once a Palestine. And yes, Mr. Gingrich, most Palestinians were and are Arabs, but Arab Muslims, Christians, Samaritans and indeed Jews - as well as Armenians, Greeks, Circassians, Samaritans, Druze, Bedouin and others - really a plethora of peoples, most of whom are still there.
This seems axiomatic. But for those who continue seriously to doubt the present demographic evidence, or perhaps the written word, there remains an indisputable third source of proof - pictures of historic Palestine and its people, taken between the mid 19th century (the first known photograph of Palestine dates from as early as 1837) and the end of the British Mandate in 1948…