The Origins of Palestine.


The term Palestine was said to be derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain in the twelfth century BCE. This is the land that became known as Israel and the Gaza Strip. It was the Romans who first used the name Palaestina as reference to Judea (the southern West Bank) in the second century CE following the Jewish Revolt. [1]  The Hebrews settled in Israel around 1300 BCE. At this time, the Israelis were believed to be tribal communities governed by a King named Saul. In about 1000 BCE King David established Jerusalem as the capital and David’s son Solomon built the Temple, which helped to bring the population together as one people.  The land was divided under Solomon’s son who took the northern kingdom (Israel). The Assyrians attacked and destroyed it in 722 BCE.  The southern kingdom of Judah survived until 568 BCE when the Babylonians sacked it. By 135 CE the Jews were driven en-mass out of their homeland. [2]  They would not return until after the Second World War in 1948.

When the Romans governed Palestine, it was also part of Syria and by the time of the Crusades the area stretched from Beirut to the Sinai Desert on both sides of the River Jordan, this area was known as the Holy Land.  The Roman Empires stretched across Europe and the Middle East, it was massive, but much of it was eventually conquered by the Muslims.  After the Christian Crusades to win back Jerusalem the Muslims divided the area into districts. Palestine did not become an official district until the early Middle Ages.[3]  Palestine was the subject of a British Mandate and the official name of a territory called Palestine did not exist until the early Middle Ages. [4]

After World War I, France and Britain drove the Turks back and carved up the Ottoman Empire, this set the boundaries for Palestine. At this time Palestine initially included both sides of the Jordan River until Churchill arbitrarily severed more than three-fourths of the area to create Transjordan. In addition, part of the Golan Heights was transferred from Palestine to Syria. The spoken language was Arabic, but Palestine was never an Arab country, rather one of mixed race. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine.

Palestinian Arab nationalism was largely a post–World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the Six-Day War.  For the duration, Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. Palestinian nationalists made no claims for an independent state. When the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was created by the Arab League to advance the interests of Arab governments it was interested in driving the Jews out of the area, not to create a Palestinian state.[5]


[1]The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name (Yehoshua Porath, The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918–1929, London: Frank Cass, 1974, p. 4).

[2] Max Dimont, Jews, God, and History, NY: Signet, 1962, pp. 49–53).

[3] Bernard Lewis, “On the History and Geography of a Name,” The International History Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1980, pp. 1-12) and Retrieved 28th January 2020.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.