One of the most important, but most-overlooked aspects of the meeting between Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli students last month was an exchange about whether Jews could reside in a future Palestinian state, just as Arabs are citizens of Israel. Abbas replied: “You cannot compare the Arabs who live in Israel now, who have been living here for thousands of years, with the settlers, who came yesterday or today.”
Thousands of years?
The very next day, the Israel Antiquities Authority, making a routine announcement, reported the recent discovery of the remnants of a 2,300 year-old village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Dating the findings was made possible in part by the fact that the objects included coins from the reign of King Alexander Yannai.
That’s Yannai, the son of the previous king, Yohanan Hyrcanus, who in turn was a nephew of–Judah the Maccabee. Yes, Judah the Maccabee, of Hanukkah fame. What the Israeli archaeologists had discovered near Jerusalem was yet another ancient Jewish town, going back to the 2nd century BCE.
Oddly, neither the coins nor any of the other objects found in this Yannai-era town made any mention of “Palestine” or “Palestinians.”
Six weeks earlier, at a conference in Jerusalem, Dr. Na’ama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority discussed her analysis on a number of 2,000-year-old fabrics that had been discovered in caves in the Judean desert. Since the Judean desert is in the heart of what many people call the West Bank, and since the Palestinian Authority claims that area is indigenous Palestinian territory, and since Chairman Abbas says “Palestinians” were living there “thousands of years ago,” one would assume that the garments were “Palestinian” fabrics.
No such luck. Dr. Sukenik has been analyzing the fabrics, because they had been dyed the color of “techelet,” a shade of blue mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the commandment to wear a fringed garment which includes that color. That is, the commandment for Jews, not “Palestinians,” to wear the garment. The 2,000-year-old fabrics were clearly of Jewish, not “Palestinian,” origin.
Another interesting artifact was turned up by archaeologists in the West Bank territories not long ago. In November, they discovered an altar that had been used in religious ceremonies in the town of Shiloh, dating back to at least the 6th century BCE. Jewish religious ceremonies, that is. No sign of any “Palestinians” in the vicinity.
Call it the Zionism of archaeology.
Israeli archaeologists, often aided by foreign volunteers, routinely go about their archaeological business, digging up old stuff just for the sake of it, with no political goals or agenda. Yet every discovery bolsters the evidence of an ancient Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. Not a single discovery has ever vindicated claims by Abbas and other Palestinian Authority officials of an ancient “Palestinian” presence.
In fact, the term “Palestine” did not even exist until around the year 100 CE, when the Romans decreed it as a way of trying to stamp out memories of Jewish connections to the area. There were no “Palestinians” then. There weren’t any Muslims, either. Islam did not appear until Muhammad appeared on the scene in 610 CE.
The Muslims who invaded the Land of Israel in subsequent centuries didn’t call themselves “Palestinians.” The various rulers who controlled the land during the years when most Jews were exiled didn’t call it “Palestine,” either.
In other words, Abbas’s claim that the “Palestinians” have been living in the area for “thousands of years” is nothing but fiction. Every new archaeological discovery proves it again. Not with political arguments or treaties or United Nations resolutions, but with spades and shovels.
(Phillips is president of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia Chapter; Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, is chairman of the RZA-Philadelphia / http://www.phillyreligiouszionists.org/)