People in the Arabic world have forgotten who they are. The people of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and even some "Palestinians," are not Arabs at all. Instead, they are descendents of very ancient peoples, with different cultural and ethnic origins.
Militant Arabs invaded these lands in the 7th century A.D. and forced "Arabic" culture on their ancestors. Mohammad’s new religion of Islam sought world dominion through coerced unity, crushing cultural diversity. But this doesn’t change the original history of the region and its inhabitants’ true, non-Arab ethnic identity.
Lebanon is ancient Phoenicia, dating from 3000 B.C. This land of mountain cedars was an international political identity by 1200 B.C. Some modern historians note the independent spirit of post-Islamic Lebanon, even without considering its exciting ethnic origins.
The Phoenicians of Lebanon were expert mariners and astute world traders. They colonized the Mediterranean. They had their own alphabet, on which the later Greek alphabet was based. They were quite civilized, and fine builders. Some scholars regard Gebeil, (Gebal, or Byblos, 7000 B.C.) as the oldest "city" in the world.
Syria had an ancient civilization. The cities of Ebla and Mari date back to 3000 B.C. Archeologists aren’t sure who built Ebla or Mari, but these cities were well established before the AkkADian invasions from Mesopotamia. Syria has been occupied by many different peoples, being in the midst of world trade routes. Syria’s original ethnicity is mysterious, but the people certainly weren’t Arabic, nor were any of the ancient occupying tribes.
Jordanian earth contains Paleolithic tools dating from 500,000 to 17,000 B.C. There are flint hand axes, knives, and scraping implements. Whose were these? Pottery begins in the late Neolithic period, from 5500 B.C. Amman is the site of much archeological work today, but the original ethnicity of the people is not so carefully exhumed. The Iron Age (from 1200 B.C.) evinces Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, but these were immigrants. The original people of the Jordon region may have been Semitic, but they were not Arabic.
Today’s Iraq is the land of the Sumerians, in the ancient Mesopotamian river valley. Iraq claims most of the glories in ancient civilization. (Egypt and Persia are the only competitors.) Through Iraq pass the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Here we find the renowned cities of Babylon, Ur, and Lagash. Beginning as early as 3000 B.C., the Sumerians developed an artful form of writing, called cuneiform. Babylon apparently had running water, with faucets and flushing toilets. Modern Iraqis may well believe they were better off as Sumerians than Arabs.
Who are the "Palestinians?" "Palestine" comes from the Hebrew (Semitic) word pelesheth, meaning "rolling" or migratory. (The root is pawlash, meaning to roll, or wallow. "Palestine" also means Philistine, or Philistia. Anciently, the Philistines inhabited the coast south of the Phoenicians. The Philistines were a distinct group.
But today’s "Palestinians" are from Syria, Jordon, Lebanon. Arabs want these countries to consider themselves Arab, because Arabs want to surround Israel with anti-Zionists. A modern "Palestinian" rarely claims his immediate national origins, let alone his ancient, indigenous genes.
But "my historical, ethnic ancestry begins 4,000 years ago," Rami, a Palestinian, reminds me by personal e-mail. "I am a Palestinian Melkite Christian of Phoenecian stock." He says the ancient Israelites did not destroy all the Canaanite tribes in Palestine, as commanded (Deut. 7), and therefore, such people still exist in Palestine today. (As a Phoenician, however, Rami is Lebanese, not "Palestinian.")
"There are two kinds of Arabs in this world," Rami continues, "Arabs from Arabia and Arabized arabs who were conquered by Arabs from Arabia. Palestinians consist of the tribes of Moab, Edom, Phonecia, Philistia, and others."
Certainly, Arabs needs an authentic Palestinian people to justify the demand for land and national autonomy. If the claim is based on real ethnicity, however, instead of some vague "Arabized" racial identity and prejudice, the claim may be a lot easier to deal with. It doesn’t involve the Arab’s fanatical hatred of the Jews. The "Palestinians" simply want a place for themselves, on their own ancient lands. Perhaps in this regard alone, a few "Palestinians" might be like American Indians after all.
Unfortunately, today the American Indian identity itself has been denigrated by fraudulent claims of non-Indians. Brett Fromson’s Hitting the Jackpot (2003) tells how a whole "tribe" of claimants not only obtained federal recognition, but created the largest single casino in the United States.
In any case, "Palestinians" should ask the United States for "federal recognition" as Philistine, or Canaanite nations, and shed their Arabized culture. Then they can have their own casinos, and leave Israel alone.