The Palestinian people, (Arabic: الشعب الفلسطيني‎, ash-sha`b al-filasTīni) also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs (Arabic: الفلسطينيون‎, al-filasTīnīyyūn; Arabic: العرب الفلسطينيون‎, al-`Arab al-filasTīnīyyūn), are an Arabic-speaking people with family origins in Palestine. The total Palestinian population, including descendants, is estimated at approximately 10 million, roughly half continuing to live in the region of historic Palestine, an area encompassing Israel proper, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and parts of Jordan. In this combined area, as of 2009, they constitute a majority of 51% of all inhabitants,[1] some of whom are internally displaced persons. The remainder, just over half of all Palestinians, comprise what is known as the Palestinian diaspora, most of whom are stateless refugees lacking citizenship in any country.[2] Of the diaspora, over two and a half million live in neighboring Jordan,[3] one million is shared between Syria and Lebanon, a quarter million in Saudi Arabia, and Chile's half a million is the largest concentration outside the Arab world.

By religious affiliation, most Palestinians are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam, and there is a significant Palestinian Christian minority of various Christian denominations, as well as small Samaritan community. As the commonly applied "Palestinian Arab" ethnonym implies, the current traditional vernacular of Palestinians, irrespective of religion, is the Palestinian dialect of Arabic. For those who are Arab citizens of Israel, many are now also bilingual in Modern Hebrew. Recent genetic evidence has demonstrated that Palestinians as an ethnic group represent modern "descendants of a core population that lived in the area since prehistoric times,"[4][5] largely predating the Arabian Muslim conquest that resulted in their acculturation and established Arabic as the lingua franca, which eventually became the sole vernacular of the locals, most of whom would over time also convert to Islam from various prior faiths.

The first widespread use of "Palestinian" as an endonym to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people by the local Arabic-speaking population of Palestine began prior to the outbreak of World War I,[6] and the first demand for national independence was issued by the Syrian-Palestinian Congress on 21 September 1921.[7] After the creation of Israel, the exodus of 1948, and more so after the exodus of 1967, the term came to signify not only a place of origin, but the sense of a shared past and future in the form of a Palestinian nation-state.[6] The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) represents the Palestinian people before the international community.[8] The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Medieval Arab Palestine

Historical Palestine as described by medieval Arab geographers showing the derived Arabic term Jund Filastin (meaning Division of Palestine) as was used by Umayad khilafat 7th centry AD

The Greek toponym Palestini (Παλαιστίνη), with which the Arabic Filastin (فلسطين) is cognate, first occurs in the work of the Greek historian Herodotus, active in the middle of the 5th century BCE, where it denotes generally[1] the coastal land from Phoenicia down to Egypt.[2][3] Herodotus also employs the term as an ethnonym, as when he speaks of the 'Syrians of Palestine' or 'Palestinian-Syrians',[4] an ethnically amorphous group he distinguishes from the Phoenicians referring to the Aramaeic Samaritans led by Sanbalat and appointed by the Persian kings and the Arabs in Jerusalem referred to also by Ezra (the Bible).[5] The word bears comparison to a congeries of ethnonyms in Semitic languages, Ancient Egyptian Plst or flst, Assyrian as Palastu, and the Hebraic as Plishtim, the latter term used in the Bible to signify the Philistines.[6]

Syria Palestina continued to be used by historians and geographers and others to refer to the area between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river, as in the writings of Philo, Josephus and Pliny the Elder. After the Romans adopted the term as the official administrative name for the region in the 2nd century AD, "Palestine" as a stand alone term came into widespread use, printed on coins, in inscriptions and even in rabbinic texts.[7] The Arabic word Filastin has been used to refer to the region since the time of the earliest medieval Arab geographers. It appears to have been used as an Arabic adjectival noun in the region since as early as the 7th century CE.[8]

During the British Mandate of Palestine, the term "Palestinian" was used to refer to all people residing there, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and those granted citizenship by the Mandatory authorities were granted "Palestinian citizenship".[9] To refer to as "Palestinians" both the native Palestinians of all faiths and the non-Palestinian Jewish settlers alike was consistent with an Orientalist view of all Jews as "eastern" people, also indigenous to that area.[10] Thus, figures such as Immanuel Kant could refer to European Jews as 'Palestinians living among us'.[11] Other examples include the use of the term Palestine Regiment to refer to the Jewish Infantry Brigade Group of the British Army during World War II, and the Palestinian Talmud, a section of the Jewish oral tradition originating from the biblical Land of Israel.

Following the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel, the use and application of the terms "Palestine" and "Palestinian" by and to Palestinian Jews largely dropped from use. For example, the English-language newspaper The Palestine Post, founded by Jews in 1932, changed its name in 1950 to The Jerusalem Post. Jews in Israel and the West Bank today generally identify as Israelis. Arab citizens of Israel identify themselves as Israeli and/or Palestinian and/or Arab.[12]

The Palestinian National Charter, as amended by the PLO's Palestine National Council in July 1968, defined "Palestinians" as "those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father — whether in Palestine or outside it — is also a Palestinian."[13] Note that "Arab nationals" is not religious-specific, and it implicitly includes not only the Arabic-speaking Muslims of Palestine, but also the Arabic-speaking Christians of Palestine and other religious communities of Palestine who were at that time Arabic-speakers, such as the Samaritans and Druze. Thus, the Jews of Palestine were/are also included, although limited only to "the [Arabic-speaking] Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the [pre-state] Zionist invasion." The Charter also states that "Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit."[13][14]


Template:History of the Levant

Palestinian nationalism

The timing and causes behind the emergence of a distinctively Palestinian national consciousness among the Arabs of Palestine are matters of scholarly disagreement.

In his 1997 book, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, historian Rashid Khalidi notes that the archaeological strata that denote the history of Palestine — encompassing the Biblical, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Fatimid, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods — form part of the identity of the modern-day Palestinian people, as they have come to understand it over the last century.[15] Noting that Palestinian identity has never been an exclusive one, with "Arabism, religion, and local loyalties" playing an important role, Khalidi cautions against the efforts of some Palestinian nationalists to "anachronistically" read back into history a nationalist consciousness that is in fact "relatively modern".[16][17]

Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal consider the 1834 revolt of the Arabs in Palestine as constituting the first formative event of the Palestinian people. Under the Ottoman rule (1516-1917), Palestine's Arab population mostly saw themselves as Ottoman subjects. In the 1830s however, Palestine was occupied by the Egyptian vassal of the Ottomans – Muhammad Ali – and his son Ibrahim Pasha. The revolt was precipitated by popular resistance against heavy demands for conscripts, as peasants were well aware that conscription was little more than a death sentence. Starting in May 1834 the rebels took many cities, among them Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus. In response, Ibrahim Pasha sent in an army, finally defeating the last rebels on 4 August in Hebron.[18] Nevertheless, Benny Morris argues that the Arabs in Palestine remained part of a larger Pan-Islamist or Pan-Arab national movement.[19] According to Walid Khalidi, Palestinians in Ottoman times were "[a]cutely aware of the distinctiveness of Palestinian history ..." and "[a]lthough proud of their Arab heritage and ancestry, the Palestinians considered themselves to be descended not only from Arab conquerors of the seventh century but also from indigenous peoples who had lived in the country since time immemorial, including the ancient Hebrews and the Canaanites before them."[20]

Rashid Khalidi argues that the modern national identity of Palestinians has its roots in nationalist discourses that emerged among the peoples of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century, and which sharpened following the demarcation of modern nation-state boundaries in the Middle East after World War I.[16] Khalidi also states that although the challenge posed by Zionism played a role in shaping this identity, that "it is a serious mistake to suggest that Palestinian identity emerged mainly as a response to Zionism."[16]

Historian James L. Gelvin argues that Palestinian nationalism was a direct reaction to Zionism. In his book The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War he states that "Palestinian nationalism emerged during the interwar period in response to Zionist immigration and settlement."[21] Gelvin argues that this fact does not make the Palestinian identity any less legitimate:

"The fact that Palestinian nationalism developed later than Zionism and indeed in response to it does not in any way diminish the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism or make it less valid than Zionism. All nationalisms arise in opposition to some "other." Why else would there be the need to specify who you are? And all nationalisms are defined by what they oppose."[21]

Bernard Lewis argues it was not as a Palestinian nation that the Arabs of Ottoman Palestine objected to Zionists, since the very concept of such a nation was unknown to the Arabs of the area at the time and did not come into being until very much later. Even the concept of Arab nationalism in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, "had not reached significant proportions before the outbreak of World War I."[22]

Tamir Sorek, a sociologist, submits that, "Although a distinct Palestinian identity can be traced back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century (Kimmerling and Migdal 1993; Khalidi 1997b), or even to the seventeenth century (Gerber 1998), it was not until after World War I that a broad range of optional political affiliations became relevant for the Arabs of Palestine."[23]

Israeli historian Efraim Karsh takes the view that the Palestinian identity did not develop until after the 1967 war because the Palestinian exodus had fractured society so greatly that it was impossible to piece together a national identity. Between 1948 and 1967, the Jordanians and other Arab countries hosting Arab refugees from Palestine/Israel silenced any expression of Palestinian identity and occupied their lands more brutally than the Israelis did after 1967. The formal annexation of the West Bank by Jordan in 1950, and the subsequent granting of its Palestinian Arab residents Jordanian citizenship, further stunted the growth of a Palestinian national identity by integrating them into Jordanian society.[24]

Whatever the differing viewpoints over the timing, causal mechanisms, and orientation of Palestinian nationalism, by the early 20th century strong opposition to Zionism and evidence of a burgeoning nationalistic Palestinian identity is found in the content of Arabic-language newspapers in Palestinian Territories, such as Al-Karmil (est. 1908) and Filasteen (est. 1911).[25] Filasteen, published in Jaffa by Issa and Yusef al-Issa, addressed its readers as "Palestinians",[26] first focusing its critique of Zionism around the failure of the Ottoman administration to control Jewish immigration and the large influx of foreigners, later exploring the impact of Zionist land-purchases on Palestinian peasants (Arabic: فلاحين‎, fellahin), expressing growing concern over land dispossession and its implications for the society at large.[25]

The first Palestinian nationalist organisations emerged at the end of the World War I.[27] Two political factions emerged. Al-Muntada al-Adabi, dominated by the Nashashibi family, militated for the promotion of the Arabic language and culture, for the defense of Islamic values and for an independent Syria and Palestine. In Damascus, al-Nadi al-Arabi , dominated by the Husayni family, defended the same values.[28]

The historical record continued to reveal an interplay between "Arab" and "Palestinian" identities and nationalisms. The idea of a unique Palestinian state separated out from its Arab neighbors was at first rejected by some Palestinian representatives. The First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations (in Jerusalem, February 1919), which met for the purpose of selecting a Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference, adopted the following resolution: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds."[29]

After the Nabi Musa riots, the San Remo conference and the failure of Faisal to establish the Kingdom of Greater Syria, a distinctive form of Palestinian Arab nationalism took root between April and July 1920.[30][31] With the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the French conquest of Syria, the formerly pan-Syrianist mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Qasim Pasha al-Husayni, said "Now, after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine".[32]

Conflict between Palestinian nationalists and various types of pan-Arabists continued during the British Mandate, but the latter became increasingly marginalized. Two prominent leaders of the Palestinian nationalists were Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,appointed by the British, and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam.[33]

Struggle for self-determination

Palestinians have never exercised full sovereignty over the land in which they have lived. Palestine was administered by the Ottoman Empire until World War I, and then by the British Mandatory authorities. Israel was established in parts of Palestine in 1948, and in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt, with both countries continuing to administer these areas until Israel occupied them during the 1967 war. Avi Shlaim explains that the argument that "you never had sovereignty over this land, and therefore you have no rights," has been used by Israelis to deny Palestinian rights and attachment to the land.[34]

Today, the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination is generally recognized, having been affirmed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice and even by Israel itself.[35] About 100 nations recognize Palestine as a state,[36] with Costa Rica being the most recent country to do so, in February 2008.[37] However, Palestinian sovereignty over the areas claimed as part of the Palestinian state remains limited, and the boundaries of the state remain a point of contestation between Palestinians and Israelis.

British Mandate 1917-1948

Image-Jerusalem riots april 1920 police controle of arabs civilians

British Indian Soldiers search Arab sheikhs in the streets of Jerusalem during the 1920 Palestine riots


Article 22 of The Covenant of the League of Nations conferred an international legal status upon the territories and people which had ceased to be under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire as part of a 'sacred trust of civilization'. Article 7 of the League of Nations Mandate required the establishment of a new, separate, Palestinian nationality for the inhabitants. This meant that Palestinians did not become British citizens, and that Palestine was not annexed into the British dominions.[38] After the British general, Louis Bols, declared the enforcement of the Balfour Declaration in February 1920, some 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated in the streets of Jerusalem.[33] A month later, during the 1920 Palestine riots, the protests against British rule and Jewish immigration became violent and Bols banned all demonstrations. In May 1921 however, further anti-Jewish riots broke out in Jaffa and dozens of Arabs and Jews were killed in the confrontations.[33]

The articles of the Mandate mentioned the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, but not their political status. At the San Remo conference it was decided to accept the text of those articles, while inserting in the minutes of the conference an undertaking by the Mandatory Power that this would not involve the surrender of any of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the non-Jewish communities in Palestine. In 1922, the British authorities over Mandate Palestine proposed a draft constitution that would have granted the Palestinian Arabs representation in a Legislative Council on condition that they accept the terms of the mandate. The Palestine Arab delegation rejected the proposal as "wholly unsatisfactory," noting that "the People of Palestine" could not accept the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the constitution's preamble as the basis for discussions. They further took issue with the designation of Palestine as a British "colony of the lowest order."[39] The Arabs tried to get the British to offer an Arab legal establishment again roughly ten years later, but to no avail.[40]

After the killing of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam by the British in 1935, his followers initiated the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, which began with a general strike in Jaffa and attacks on Jewish and British installations in Nablus.[33] The Arab High Committee called for a nationwide general strike, non-payment of taxes, and the closure of municipal governments, and demanded an end to Jewish immigration and a ban of the sale of land to Jews. By the end of 1936, the movement had become a national revolt, and resistance grew during 1937 and 1938. In response, the British declared martial law, dissolved the Arab High Committee and arrested officials from the Supreme Muslim Council who were behind the revolt. By 1939, 5,000 Palestinians had been killed in British attempts to quash the revolt; more than 15,000 were wounded.[33]

Abdel Kader al-Husseini flip

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni leader of the Army of the Holy War in 1948

The "lost years" (1948 - 1967)

The establishment of the United Nations did not alter the sacred trust or international legal status of the Palestinian people. Palestine was the sole remaining Class A mandate. Article 80 was introduced and incorporated into the Charter with the specific intention of protecting the interests of the Palestinian people.[41] Religious and minority rights had been declared matters of international concern and placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations. The General Assembly incorporated a religious and minority rights protection system into the partition plan, and placed it under the guarantee of the United Nations. That system was designed to survive the termination of the mandate. The Minority Rights Protection System provided under UN GAR 181(II) was cited in a study of minority protection treaties conducted by the UN Secretariat (E/CN.4/367, 7 April 1950, on pages 22–23). The modern day Chairman-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Minorities subsequently advised that no competent UN organ had made any decision which would extinguish the obligations under those instruments. He added that it was doubtful whether that could even be done by the United Nations (the provision that 'No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants on the ground of race, religion, language or sex.' is enshrined in more than 20 international human rights conventions and the UN Charter itself).[42]

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the accompanying Palestinian exodus, known to Palestinians as Al Nakba (the "catastrophe"), there was a hiatus in Palestinian political activity which Khalidi partially attributes to "the fact that Palestinian society had been devastated between November 1947 and mid-May 1948 as a result of a series of overwhelming military defeats of the disorganized Palestinians by the armed forces of the Zionist movement."[43] Those parts of British Mandate Palestine which did not become part of the newly declared Israeli state were occupied by Egypt and Jordan. During what Khalidi terms the "lost years" that followed, Palestinians lacked a center of gravity, divided as they were between these countries and others such as Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.[44]

In the 1950s, a new generation of Palestinian nationalist groups and movements began to organize clandestinely, stepping out onto the public stage in the 1960s.[45] The traditional Palestinian elite who had dominated negotiations with the British and the Zionists in the Mandate, and who were largely held responsible for the loss of Palestine, were replaced by these new movements whose recruits generally came from poor to middle class backgrounds and were often students or recent graduates of universities in Cairo, Beirut and Damascus.[45] The potency of the pan-Arabist ideology put forward by Gamel Abdel Nasser—popular among Palestinian for whom Arabism was already an important component of their identity[46]—tended to obscure the identities of the separate Arab nation-states it subsumed.[47]

1967 to the present

File:Palestine girl with flag-284x358.png

Since 1967, pan-Arabism has diminished as an aspect of Palestinian identity. The Israeli capture of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War prompted fractured Palestinian political and militant groups to give up any remaining hope they had placed in pan-Arabism. Instead, they rallied around the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964, and its nationalistic orientation under the leadership of Yasser Arafat.[48] Mainstream secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among others.[17] These groups gave voice to a tradition that emerged in 1960s that argues Palestinian nationalism has deep historical roots, with extreme advocates reading a Palestinian nationalist consciousness and identity back into the history of Palestine over the past few centuries, and even millennia, when such a consciousness is in fact relatively modern.[49]

The Battle of Karameh and the events of Black September in Jordan contributed to growing Palestinian support for these groups, particularly among Palestinians in exile. Concurrently, among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a new ideological theme, known as sumud, represented the Palestinian political strategy popularly adopted from 1967 onward. As a concept closely related to the land, agriculture and indigenousness, the ideal image of the Palestinian put forward at this time was that of the peasant (in Arabic, fellah) who stayed put on his land, refusing to leave. A strategy more passive than that adopted by the Palestinian fedayeen, sumud provided an important subtext to the narrative of the fighters, "in symbolising continuity and connections with the land, with peasantry and a rural way of life."[50]

Arafat in Lebanon

Yasser Arafat, leader of the PLO, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, 1978

In 1974, the PLO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the Arab states and was granted observer status as a national liberation movement by the United Nations that same year.[51][52] Israel rejected the resolution, calling it "shameful".[53] In a speech to the Knesset, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon outlined the government's view that: 'No one can expect us to recognize the terrorist organization called the PLO as representing the Palestinians—because it does not. No one can expect us to negotiate with the heads of terror-gangs, who through their ideology and actions, endeavour to liquidate the State of Israel.'[53]

The British historian Eric Hobsbawn says there is some justness in the outsider view that is sceptical and dismissive of the propriety of using the term 'nation' for peoples like the Palestinians: such language arises often as the rhetoric of an evolved minority out of touch with the larger community that lacks this modern sense of national belonging. But at the same time, he argues, this outsider perspective has tended to "overlook the rise of mass national identification when it did occur, as Zionist and Israeli Jews notably did in the case of the Palestinian Arabs."[54]</blockquote>

From 1948 through until the 1980’s, according to Eli Podeh, professor at Hebrew University, the textbooks used in Israeli schools tried to disavow a unique Palestinian identity, referring to 'the Arabs of the land of Israel' instead of 'Palestinians.' Israeli textbooks now widely use the term 'Palestinians.' Podeh believes that Palestinian textbooks of today resemble those from the early years of the Israeli state.[55]


UN commemorating Palestinians rights

The First Intifada (1987-1993) was the first popular uprising against the Israeli occupation of 1967. Followed by the PLO's 1988 proclamation of a State of Palestine, these developments served to further reinforce the Palestinian national identity. After the signing of the Oslo Accords failed to bring about a Palestinian state, a Second Intifada (2000-) began, more deadly than the first. The International Court of Justice observed that since the government of Israel had decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, their existence was no longer an issue. The court noted that the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995 also referred a number of times to the Palestinian people and its "legitimate rights".[56] The right of self-determination gives the Palestinians collectively an inalienable right to freely choose their political status, including the establishment of a sovereign and independent state. Israel, having recognized the Palestinians as a separate people, is obliged to promote and respect this right in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.[57]

Today, most Palestinian organizations conceive of their struggle as either Palestinian-nationalist or Islamic in nature, and these themes predominate even more today. Within Israel itself, there are political movements, such as Abnaa el-Balad that assert their Palestinian identity, to the exclusion of their Israeli one.

Palestinian ethnic identity is based primarily on two elements: the village of origin and family networks. The village of origin holds a privileged place in Palestinian memory because of its historically important role as a center for religious and political power throughout Palestine's administration by various empires. The village of origin also represents "the very expression of their Arabic Palestinian culture and identity," and is a site central to kinship and familial ties. The progressive deterritorialization experienced by Palestinians has rendered the village of origin a symbol of lost territory, and it forms a central part of a diasporic consciousness among Palestinians.[58]

Ancestral origins

Like the Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians, Moroccans, and most other people today commonly called Arabs, the Palestinians are an Arab people in linguistic and cultural affiliation — that is, in ethnic identity. However, like most other peoples today called Arabs, the Palestinians descend from the pre-existing ancient inhabitants of their respective region and those who have come to settle it throughout history; a matter on which genetic studies described below has begun to shed some light.[59]

American historian Bernard Lewis writes:

"Clearly, in Palestine as elsewhere in the Middle East, the modern inhabitants include among their ancestors those who lived in the country in antiquity. Equally obviously, the demographic mix was greatly modified over the centuries by migration, deportation, immigration, and settlement. This was particularly true in Palestine..."[60]
Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist, explains:
"Throughout history a great diversity of peoples has moved into the region and made Palestine their homeland: Jebusites, Canaanites, Philistines from Crete, Anatolian and Lydian Greeks, Hebrews, Amorites, Edomites, Nabateans, Arameans, Romans, Arabs, and European crusaders, to name a few. Each of them appropriated different regions that overlapped in time and competed for sovereignty and land. Others, such as Ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Persians, Babylonians, and Mongols, were historical 'events' whose successive occupations were as ravaging as the effects of major earthquakes ... Like shooting stars, the various cultures shine for a brief moment before they fade out of official historical and cultural records of Palestine. The people, however, survive. In their customs and manners, fossils of these ancient civilizations survived until modernity—albeit modernity camouflaged under the veneer of Islam and Arabic culture."[61]

Much of the local Palestinian population in Nablus is believed to be descended from Samaritans who converted to Islam.[62] Even today, certain Nabulsi surnames including Muslimani, Yaish, and Shakshir among others, are associated with a Samaritan origin.[62]

Politicized Lineages

Salim Tamari notes the paradoxes produced by the search for "nativist" roots among Zionist figures and the so-called Canaanite (anti-Zionist) followers of Yonatan Ratosh.[63] For example, Ber Borochov, one of the key ideological architects of Socialist Zionism, claimed as early as 1905 that, "The Fellahin in Eretz-Israel are the descendants of remnants of the Hebrew agricultural community,"[64] believing them to be descendants of the ancient Hebrew and Canaanite residents 'together with a small admixture of Arab blood'".[63] He further believed that the lack of a crystallized national consciousness among Palestinian Arabs would result in their likely assimilation into the new Hebrew nationalism.[63] Other founding fathers of Zionism believed that the Palestinian people were descended from the biblical ancient Hebrews. David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later becoming Israel's first and second Prime Minister respectively, tried to establish in a 1918 paper written in Yiddish that Palestinian peasants and their mode of life were living historical testimonies to Israelite practices in the biblical period.[63][65] Tamari notes that "the ideological implications of this claim became very problematic and were soon withdrawn from circulation."[63]

Ahad Ha'am believed that, "the Moslems [of Palestine] are the ancient residents of the land ... who became Christians on the rise of Christianity and became Moslems on the arrival of Islam."[63] Israel Belkind, the founder of the Bilu movement also asserted that the Palestinian Arabs were the blood brothers of the Jews.[66] In his book on the Palestinians, "The Arabs in Eretz-Israel", Belkind advanced the idea that the complete dispersion of Jews out of the Land of Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman emperor Titus is a "historic error" that must be corrected. While it dispersed much of the land's Jewish community around the world, those "workers of the land that remained attached to their land," stayed behind and were eventually converted to Christianity and then Islam.[66] He therefore, proposed that this historical wrong be corrected, by embracing the Palestinians as their own and proposed the opening of Hebrew schools for Palestinian Arab Muslims to teach them Arabic, Hebrew and universal culture.[66] More recently, Tsvi Misinai, an Israeli researcher, entrepreneur and proponent of a controversial alternative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserts that nearly 90% of all Palestinians living within Israel and the occupied territories (including the Israeli Arabs and Negev Bedouin)[67] are descended from the Jewish Israelite peasantry that remained on the land, after the others, mostly city dwellers, were exiled or left.[68]

Claims emanating from certain circles within Palestinian society and their supporters, proposing that Palestinians have direct ancestral connections to the ancient Canaanites, without an intermediate Israelite link, has been an issue of contention within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In discussing the root of the controversy to the claim of Canaanite lineage, many renowned scholars have hypothesised on the nature of the controversy itself, although not deliberating on the veracity of the claims, as this is a question that shall ultimately be resolved by geneticists, not by scholars in their capacity as historians.

Historian Bernard Lewis explains that "the rewriting of the past is usually undertaken to achieve specific political aims...In bypassing the biblical Israelites and claiming kinship with the Canaanites, the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine, it is possible to assert a historical claim antedating the biblical promise and possession put forward by the Jews."[60][69]

Some Palestinian scholars, like Zakariyya Muhammad, have criticized pro-Palestinian arguments based on Canaanite lineage, or what he calls "Canaanite ideology". He states that it is an "intellectual fad, divorced from the concerns of ordinary people."[63] By assigning its pursuit to the desire to predate Jewish national claims, he describes Canaanism as a "losing ideology", whether or not it is factual, "when used to manage our conflict with the Zionist movement" since Canaanism "concedes a priori the central thesis of Zionism. Namely that we have been engaged in a perennial conflict with Zionism—and hence with the Jewish presence in Palestine—since the Kingdom of Solomon and before ... thus in one stroke Canaanism cancels the assumption that Zionism is a European movement, propelled by modern European contingencies..."[63]

DNA and genetic studies

Jerusalem cafe du rue 1858

Palestinian coffee house in Jerusalem, c. 1858

Palestinian Kids in Nazareth by David Shankbone

Palestinian children in Nazareth

In genetic genealogy studies, Negev Bedouins have the highest rates of Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) among all populations tested (62.5%) followed by the Palestinian Arab 38.4%, Ashkenazim Jewish 14.6%, and Sephardim Jewish 11.9% according to Semino et al. (2004). Semitic populations, including Jews, usually possess an excess of J1 Y chromosomes compared to other populations harboring Y-haplogroup J.[70][71][72][73][74][75][76] The haplogroup J1, associated with marker M267, originates south of the Levant and was first disseminated from there into Ethiopia and Europe in Neolithic times. In Jewish populations J1 has a rate of around 15%, with haplogroup J2 (M172) (of eight sub-Haplogroups) being almost twice as common as J1 among Jews (<29%). J1 is most common in the southern Levant, as well as Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Arabia, and drops sharply at the border of non-semitic areas like Turkey and Iran. A second diffusion of the J1 marker took place in the seventh century CE when Arabians brought it from Arabia to North Africa.[72]

Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) includes the modal haplotype of the Galilee Arabs (Nebel et al. 2000) and of Moroccan Arabs (Bosch et al. 2001) and the sister Modal Haplotype of the Cohanim, the "Cohan Modale Haplotype", representing the descendents of the priestly caste Aaron.[77][78][79] J2 is known to be related to the ancient Greek movements and is found mainly in Europe and the central Mediterranean (Italy, the Balkans, Greece).

A study found that the Palestinians, like Jordanians, Syrians, Iraqis, and Bedouins have what appears to be substantial gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa, amounting to 10-15% of lineages within the past three millennia.[80]

According to a 2002 study by Nebel et al., on Genetic evidence for the expansion of Arabian tribes, the highest frequency of Eu10 (i.e. J1) (30%–62.5%) has been observed so far in various Muslim Arab populations in the Middle East. (Semino et al. 2000; Nebel et al. 2001).[81] The term “Arab,” as well as the presence of Arabs in the Syrian desert and the Fertile Crescent, is first seen in the Assyrian sources from the 9th century B.C.E. (Eph'al 1984).[82]

In recent years, many genetic surveys have suggested that, at least paternally, most of the various Jewish ethnic divisions and the Palestinians — and in some cases other Levantines — are genetically closer to each other than the Palestinians or European Jews to non-Jewish Europeans.[83]

Results of a DNA study by geneticist Ariella Oppenheim appears to match historical accounts that Arab Israelis and Palestinians,[84][85] together as the one same population, represent modern "descendants of a core population that lived in the area since prehistoric times", albeit religiously first Christianized then largely Islamized, and all eventually culturally Arabized.[84] Referring to those of the Muslim faith more specifically, it reaffirmed that Palestinian "Muslim Arabs are descended from Christians and Jews who lived in the southern Levant, a region that includes Israel, Sinai and part of Jordan." Geneticist Michael Hammer praised "the study for 'focusing in detail on the Jewish and Palestinian populations.'"[84]

While both the Palestinians and the world's distinct Jewish populations have mixed with invading and host populations respectively, Oppenheim's team found "that Jews have mixed more with other populations, which makes sense because they were more likely to leave the Levant."[84]

However, a follow-up study [Nebel et al. 2001] corrected that Jews were found to be more closely related to the peoples north of the Fertile Crescent (Kurds, Turkish "Turks" of Anatolia, and Armenians) than to the Arabic-speakers of Israel/Palestinian and other neighboring now Arabic-speaking Levantines.[86][87]

Arabian origins of the local Bedouin Arabs

The local Bedouins of Palestine — which are a separately-identified and solely Muslim group, distinct from the non-Bedouin Arabic-speakers of Palestine which consists of members of the Muslim, Christian and other faiths — are said to be more securely known to be ancestrally descended from Arabians, and not just culturally and linguistically Arabized peoples. Their distinctively conservative dialects and pronunciation of qaaf as gaaf group them with other Bedouin across the Arab world and confirm their separate history. Arabic onomastic elements began to appear in Edomite inscriptions starting in the 6th century BC, and are nearly universal in the inscriptions of the Nabataeans, who arrived in today’s Jordan in the 4th-3rd centuries BC.[88] It has thus been suggested that the present day Bedouins of the region may have their origins as early as this period.

A few Bedouin are found as far north as Galilee; however, these seem to be much later arrivals, rather than descendants of the Arabs that Sargon II settled in Samaria in 720 BC. The term “Arab,” as well as the presence of Arabs in the Syrian desert and the Fertile Crescent, is first seen in the Assyrian sources from the 9th century bce (Eph'al 1984).[82]

Following the Muslim conquest of Syria by Arabians, the formerly-introduced dominant languages of the area, Aramaic and Greek, were then replaced by the Arabic language introduced by the new conquering administrative minority.[89] Among the cultural survivals from pre-Islamic times are the significant Palestinian Christian community, and smaller Jewish and Samaritan ones, as well as an Aramaic and possibly Hebrew sub-stratum in the local Palestinian Arabic dialect.[90]


Country or region Population
West Bank and Gaza Strip 3,760,000[91]
Jordan 2,700,000[92]
Israel 1,318,000[93]
Chile 450,000-500,000[94]
Syria 434,896[95]
Lebanon 405,425[95]
Saudi Arabia 327,000[93]
The Americas 225,000[96]
Egypt 44,200[96]
Kuwait (approx) 40,000[93]
Other Gulf states 159,000[93]
Other Arab states 153,000[93]
Other countries 308,000[93]
TOTAL 10,574,521

In the absence of a comprehensive census including all Palestinian diaspora populations, and those that have remained within what was British Mandate Palestine, exact population figures are difficult to determine.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) announced on 20 October 2004 that the number of Palestinians worldwide at the end of 2003 was 9.6 million, an increase of 800,000 since 2001.[97]

In 2005, a critical review of the PCBS figures and methodology was conducted by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group.[98] In their report,[99] they claimed that several errors in the PCBS methodology and assumptions artificially inflated the numbers by a total of 1.3 million. The PCBS numbers were cross-checked against a variety of other sources (e.g., asserted birth rates based on fertility rate assumptions for a given year were checked against Palestinian Ministry of Health figures as well as Ministry of Education school enrollment figures six years later; immigration numbers were checked against numbers collected at border crossings, etc.). The errors claimed in their analysis included: birth rate errors (308,000), immigration & emigration errors (310,000), failure to account for migration to Israel (105,000), double-counting Jerusalem Arabs (210,000), counting former residents now living abroad (325,000) and other discrepancies (82,000). The results of their research was also presented before the United States House of Representatives on 8 March 2006.[100]

The study was criticised by Sergio DellaPergola, a demographer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[101] DellaPergola accused the authors of misunderstanding basic principles of demography on account of their lack of expertise in the subject, but he also acknowledged that he did not take into account the emigration of Palestinians and thinks it has to be examined, as well as the birth and mortality statistics of the Palestinian Authority.[102] He also accused them of selective use of data and multiple systematic errors in their analysis. For example, DellaPergola claimed that the authors assumed the Palestinian Electoral registry to be complete even though registration is voluntary and good evidence exists of incomplete registration, and similarly that they used an unrealistically low Total Fertility Ratio (a statistical abstraction of births per woman) incorrectly derived from data and then used to reanalyse that data in a "typical circular mistake".

DellaPergola himself estimated the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza at the end of 2005 as 3.33 million, or 3.57 million if East Jerusalem is included. These figures are only slightly lower than the official Palestinian figures.[101]

Palestinian outside palestine

Palestinians living outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip

In Jordan today, there is no official census data that outlines how many of the inhabitants of Jordan are Palestinians, but estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cite a population range of 50% to 55%.[103][104] In 2009, at the request of the PLO, "Jordan revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians to keep them from remaining permanently in the country."[105]

Many Palestinians have settled in the United States, particularly in the Chicago area.[106][107]

In total, an estimated 600,000 Palestinians are thought to reside in the Americas. Palestinian emigration to South America began for economic reasons that pre-dated the Arab-Israeli conflict, but continued to grow thereafter.[108] Many emigrants were from the Bethlehem area. Those emigrating to Latin America were mainly Christian. Half of those of Palestinian origin in Latin America live in Chile. El Salvador[109] and Honduras[110] also have substantial Palestinian populations. These two countries have had presidents of Palestinian ancestry (in El Salvador Antonio Saca, currently serving; in Honduras Carlos Roberto Flores). Belize, which has a smaller Palestinian population, has a Palestinian ministerSaid Musa.[111] Schafik Jorge Handal, Salvadoran politician and former guerrilla leader, was the son of Palestinian immigrants.[112]


Palestinian refugees

Palestinian refugees in 1948

Sumayya and her cat in front of her demolished home 2002, 2nd Intifada

Internally Displaced Palestinians in Balata refugee camp, 2002

There are 4,255,120 Palestinians registered as refugees with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). This number includes the descendants of refugees who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war, but excludes those who have since then emigrated to areas outside of UNRWA's remit.[95] Based on these figures, almost half of all Palestinians are registered refugees. The 993,818 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and 705,207 Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, who hail from towns and villages that are now located within the borders of Israel, are included in these UNRWA figures.[113]

UNRWA figures do not include some 274,000 people, or 1 in 4 of all Arab citizens of Israel, who are internally displaced Palestinian refugees.[114][115]

Virtually every Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank is organized according to a refugee family's village or place of origin. Among the first things that children born in the camps learn is the name of their village of origin. David McDowall writes that, "[...] a yearning for Palestine permeates the whole refugee community and is most ardently espoused by the younger refugees, for whom home exists only in the imagination."[116]



Interior of the House of a Christian Family in Jerusalem

Inside home of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, ca 1850. By W. H. Bartlett

Dome of the Rock west

Palestinians attending prayers at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Palestinians can be adherents of any religious tradition, though today they are predominantly Muslims, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam. Palestinian Christians represent a significant minority, followed by much smaller religious communities, including Druze and Samaritans. Palestinian Jews — considered Palestinian by the Palestinian National Charter adopted by the PLO which defined them as those "Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion" — today identify as Israelis (with the exception of a very few individuals). Palestinian Jews almost universally abandoned any such identity after the establishment of Israel and their incorporation into the Israeli Jewish population, largely composed of Jewish immigrants from around the world. For a history of Judaism in Palestine, please see History of the Jews in the Land of Israel.

Until the end of the 19th century, most Palestinian Muslim villagers in the countryside did not have local mosques. Cross-cultural syncretism between Christian and Islamic symbols and figures in religious practice was common.[61] Popular feast days, like Thursday of the Dead, were celebrated by both Muslims and Christians and shared prophets and saints include Jonah, who is worshipped in Halhul as both a Biblical and Islamic prophet, and St. George, who is known in Arabic as el Khader. Villagers would pay tribute to local patron saints at a maqam — a domed single room often placed in the shadow of an ancient carob or oak tree.[61] Saints, taboo by the standards of orthodox Islam, mediated between man and Allah, and shrines to saints and holy men dotted the Palestinian landscape.[61] Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist, states that this built evidence constitutes "an architectural testimony to Christian/Moslem Palestinian religious sensibility and its roots in ancient Semitic religions."[61]

Religion as constitutive of individual identity was accorded a minor role within Palestinian tribal social structure until the latter half of the 19th century.[61] Jean Moretain, a priest writing in 1848, wrote that a Christian in Palestine was "distinguished only by the fact that he belonged to a particular clan. If a certain tribe was Christian, then an individual would be Christian, but without knowledge of what distinguished his faith from that of a Muslim."[61]

The concessions granted to France and other Western powers by the Ottoman Sultanate in the aftermath of the Crimean War had a significant impact on contemporary Palestinian religious cultural identity.[61] Religion was transformed into an element "constituting the individual/collective identity in conformity with orthodox precepts", and formed a major building block in the political development of Palestinian nationalism.[61]

The British census of 1922 registered 752,048 inhabitants in Palestine, consisting of 589,177 Palestinian Muslims, 83,790 Palestinian Jews, 71,464 Palestinian Christians (including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and others) and 7,617 persons belonging to other groups. The corresponding percentage breakdown is 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish, and 9% Christian. Palestinian Bedouin were not counted in the census, but a 1930 British study estimated their number at 70,860.[117]


Currently, no comprehensive data on religious affiliation among the worldwide Palestinian population is available. Bernard Sabella of Bethlehem University estimates that 6% of the Palestinian population worldwide is Christian.[118] According to the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is 97% Muslim and 3% Christian.[119]

All of the Druze living in what was then British Mandate Palestine became Israeli citizens, though some individuals from among them identify as "Palestinian Druze".[120] According to Salih al-Shaykh, most Druze do not consider themselves to be Palestinian: "their Arab identity emanates in the main from the common language and their socio-cultural background, but is detached from any national political conception. It is not directed at Arab countries or Arab nationality or the Palestinian people, and does not express sharing any fate with them. From this point of view, their identity is Israel, and this identity is stronger than their Arab identity".[121]

There are also about 350 Samaritans who carry Palestinian identity cards and live in the West Bank while a roughly equal number live in Holon and carry Israeli citizenship.[119] Those who live in the West Bank also are represented in the legislature for the Palestinian National Authority.[119] They are commonly referred to among Palestinians as the "Jews of Palestine."[119]

Jews who identify as Palestinian Jews are few, but include Israeli Jews who are part of the Neturei Karta group,[122] and Uri Davis, an Israeli citizen and self-described Palestinian Jew who serves as an observer member in the Palestine National Council.[123]


Detail felsendom

Arabic calligraphy in Jerusalem

Palestinian Arabic is a spoken Arabic dialect that is specific to Palestinians and is a subgroup of the broader Levantine Arabic dialect. Prior to the development of the Arabic alphabet, the Aramaic alphabet was used by ancient Arab tribal groups in the Levant (such as the Qedarites and the Nabataeans); accordingly Palestinian Arabic, like Syrian Arabic and Iraqi Arabic, exhibits the huge influence of Aramaic.[124]

Palestinian Arabic has three primary sub-variations with the pronunciation of the qāf serving as a shibboleth to distinguish between the three main Palestinian sub-dialects: In most cities, it is a glottal stop; in smaller villages and the countryside, it is a pharyngealized k (a characteristic unique to Palestinian Arabic); and in the far south, it is a g, as among Bedouin speakers. In a number of villages in the Galilee (e.g. Maghār), and particularly, though not exclusively among the Druze, the qāf is actually pronounced qāf as in Classical Arabic.

Barbara McKean Parmenter has noted that the Arabs of Palestine have been credited with the preservation of the indigenous Semitic place names for many sites mentioned in the Bible which were documented by the American archaeologist Edward Robinson in the early 20th century.[125]



Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist, has critiqued Muslim historiography for assigning the beginning of Palestinian cultural identity to the advent of Islam in the seventh century. In describing the effect of such a historiography, he writes: "Pagan origins are disavowed. As such the peoples who populated Palestine throughout history have discursively rescinded their own history and religion as they adopted the religion, language, and culture of Islam".[61] That the peasant culture of the large fellahin class embodied strong elements of both pre-Arabic and pre-Israelitic traditions was a conclusion arrived at by the many Western scholars and explorers who mapped and surveyed Palestine in great detail throughout the latter half of the 19th century,[126] and this assumption was to influence later debates on Palestinian identity by local ethnographers.

The contributions of the 'nativist' ethnographies produced by Tawfiq Canaan and other Palestinian writers and published in The Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society (1920-1948) were driven by the concern that the "native culture of Palestine", and in particular peasant society, was being undermined by the forces of modernity.[63] Salim Tamari writes that:

"Implicit in their scholarship (and made explicit by Canaan himself) was another theme, namely that the peasants of Palestine represent—through their folk norms ... the living heritage of all the accumulated ancient cultures that had appeared in Palestine (principally the Canaanite, Philistine, Hebraic, Nabatean, Syrio-Aramaic and Arab)."[63]

Palestinian culture is most closely related to those of the nearby Levantine countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and those of the Arab World. Cultural contributions to the fields of art, literature, music, costume and cuisine express the distinctiveness of the Palestinian experience, and survive and flourish, despite the geographical separation between those in the Palestinian territories, Israel and the Diaspora.[127][128][129]

Al-Quds Arab Capital of Culture (Arabic: القدس عاصمة الثقافة العربية‎) is an initiative undertaken by UNESCO under the Arab Capital of Culture programme,[1] under the Cultural Capitals Program to promote and celebrate Arab culture and encourage cooperation in the Arab region.

Al-Quds is the Arab name for Jerusalem. However, many of the events were organised elsewhere in the Palestinian Territories. Those that were scheduled to take place in Jerusalem were actively discouraged by the Israeli authorities. The opening event was scheduled to be held on January 2009, but it was delayed until March due to the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza Conflict,[2] and it was launched on 21 March 2009.[3]


Arabischer Mosaizist um 735 001

Mosaic plate at Khirbat Al-Mafjar near Hebron c. 735 CE

Similar to the structure of Palestinian society, the Palestinian field of arts extends over four main geographic centers:[130] 1) the West Bank and Gaza Strip 2) Israel 3) the Palestinian diaspora in the Arab world, and 4) the Palestinian diaspora in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

Contemporary Palestinian art finds its roots in folk art and traditional Christian and Islamic painting popular in Palestine over the ages. After the 1948 Palestinian exodus, nationalistic themes have predominated as Palestinian artists use diverse media to express and explore their connection to identity and land.[131] In the 90s many Palestinian artists started adapting modern styles, and developing a unique look, as well to symbolist style. Among such artists are Salam Dyab, Hisham Zreiq, Issa Dibe and many others.


Il Falafel di Ramallah

A Palestinian youth serving Falafel fast food in Ramallah, West Bank


Kanafeh in a pan

Lch (20)

Musakhan; The Palestinian National dish

Palestine's history of rule by many different empires is reflected in Palestinian cuisine, which has benefited from various cultural contributions and exchanges. Generally-speaking, modern Syrian-Palestinian dishes have been influenced by the rule of three major Islamic groups: the Arabs, the Persian-influenced Arabs and the Turks.[132] The Arabs that conquered Syria and Palestine had simple culinary traditions primarily based on the use of rice, lamb and yogurt, as well as dates.[133] The already simple cuisine did not advance for centuries due to Islam's strict rules of parsimony and restraint, until the rise of the Abbasids, who established Baghdad as their capital. Baghdad was historically located on Persian soil and henceforth, Persian culture was integrated into Arab culture during the 800-1000s and spread throughout central areas of the empire.[132]

The cuisine of the Ottoman Empire — which incorporated Palestine as one of its provinces in 1512-14 — was partially made up of what had become, by then a "rich" Arab cuisine. After the Crimean War, in 1855, many other communities including Bosnians, Greeks, French and Italians began settling in the area especially in urban centers such as Jerusalem, Jaffa and Bethlehem. The cuisine of these communities, particularly those of the Balkans, contributed to the character of Palestinian cuisine.[132][134] Nonetheless, until around the 1950s-60s, the staple diet for many rural Palestinian families revolved around olive oil, oregano (za'atar) and bread, baked in a simple oven called a taboon.[135]

Palestinian cuisine is divided into three regional groups: the Galilee, the West Bank and the Gaza area. Cuisine in the Galilee region shares much in common with Lebanese cuisine, due to extensive communication between the two regions before the establishment of Israel. Galilee inhabitants specialize in producing a number of meals based on the combination of bulgur, spices and meat, known as kibbee by Arabs. Kibbee has several variations including it being served raw, fried or baked.[36][134] Musakhan is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of a roasted chicken over a taboon bread that has been topped with pieces of fried sweet onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts.[36] Other meals common to the area are maqluba and mansaf, the latter originating from the Bedouin population of Jordan.

The cuisine of the Gaza Strip is influenced both by neighboring Egypt and its location on the Mediterranean coast. The staple food for the majority of the inhabitants in the area is fish. Gaza has a major fishing industry and fish is often served either grilled or fried after being stuffed with cilantro, garlic, red peppers and cumin and marinated in a mix of coriander, red peppers, cumin, and chopped lemons.[136][137] The Egyptian culinary influence is also seen by the frequent use of hot peppers, garlic and chard to flavor many of Gaza's meals.[36] A dish native to the Gaza area is Sumaghiyyeh, which consists of water-soaked ground sumac mixed with tahina and then, added to sliced chard and pieces of stewed beef and garbanzo beans.[136]

There are several foods native to Palestine that are well-known in the Arab world, such as, kinafe Nabulsi, Nabulsi cheese (cheese of Nablus), Ackawi cheese (cheese of Acre) and musakhan. Kinafe originated in the city of Nablus, as well as the sweetened Nabulsi cheese that's used to fill it. Baqlawa, a pastry introduced at the time of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, is also an integral part of Palestinian cuisine.[138]

Chick-pea based falafel, which substituted for the fava beans used in the original Egyptian recipe and added Indian peppers introduced after the Mongol invasions opened new trade routes, are a favorite staple in Palestinian cuisine, since adopted as part of Israeli cuisine.[139]

Mezze describes an assortment of dishes laid out on the table for a meal that takes place over several hours, a characteristic common to Mediterranean cultures. Some common mezze dishes are hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, labaneh, and zate 'u zaatar, which is the pita bread dipping of olive oil and ground thyme and sesame seeds.

Entrées that are eaten throughout the Palestinian Territories, include waraq al-'inib — boiled grape leaves wrapped around cooked rice and ground lamb. Mahashi is an assortment of stuffed vegetables such as, zucchinis, potatoes, cabbage and in Gaza, chard.


Palestinian cinema is relatively young compared to Arab cinema overall and many Palestinian movies are made with European and Israeli support.[140] Palestinian films are not exclusively produced in Arabic; some are made in English, French or Hebrew.[141] More than 800 films have been produced about Palestinians, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and other related topics, a good example for that are the film Divine Intervention, The sons of Eialboun, Paradise now, Taste the Revolution, and many other films.


A wide variety of handicrafts, many of which have been produced by Arabs in Palestine for hundreds of years, continue to be produced today. Palestinian handicrafts include embroidery and weaving, pottery-making, soap-making, glass-making, and olive-wood and Mother of Pearl carvings, among others.[142][143]


In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Palestinian intellectuals were integral parts of wider Arab intellectual circles, as represented by individuals such as May Ziade and Khalil Beidas. Educational levels among Palestinians have traditionally been high. In the 1960s the West Bank had a higher percentage of its adolescent population enrolled in high school education than did Lebanon.[144] Claude Cheysson, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs under the first Mitterrand Presidency, held in the mid eighties that, ‘even thirty years ago, (Palestinians) probably already had the largest educated elite of all the Arab peoples.’[145]

Diaspora figures like Edward Said and Ghada Karmi, Arab citizens of Israel like Emile Habibi, refugee camp residents like Ibrahim Nasrallah have made contributions to a wide number of fields, exemplifying the diversity of experience and thought among Palestinians.


The long history of the Arabic language and its rich written and oral tradition form part of the Palestinian literary tradition as it has developed over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.


Poetry, using classical pre-Islamic forms, remains an extremely popular art form, often attracting Palestinian audiences in the thousands. Until 20 years ago, local folk bards reciting traditional verses were a feature of every Palestinian town.[146]

After the 1948 Palestinian exodus, poetry was transformed into a vehicle for political activism. From among those Palestinians who became Arab citizens of Israel after the passage of the Citizenship Law in 1952, a school of resistance poetry was born that included poets like Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, and Tawfiq Zayyad.[146]

The work of these poets was largely unknown to the wider Arab world for years because of the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab governments. The situation changed after Ghassan Kanafani, another Palestinian writer in exile in Lebanon, published an anthology of their work in 1966.[146]

Palestinian poets often write about the common theme of a strong affection and sense of loss and longing for a lost homeland.[146]


Palestinian folklore is the body of expressive culture, including tales, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs, and comprising the traditions (including oral traditions) of Palestinian culture.

The folklorist revival among Palestinian intellectuals such as Nimr Sirhan, Musa Allush, Salim Mubayyid, and the Palestinian Folklore Society of the 1970s, emphasized pre-Islamic (and pre-Hebraic) cultural roots, re-constructing Palestinian identity with a focus on Canaanite and Jebusite cultures.[63] Such efforts seem to have borne fruit as evidenced in the organization of celebrations like the Qabatiya Canaanite festival and the annual Music Festival of Yabus by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture.[63]



Girls in Bethlehem costume pre-1885

Foreign travelers to Palestine in late 19th and early 20th centuries often commented on the rich variety of costumes among the Palestinian people, and particularly among the fellaheen or village women.

Until the 1940s, a woman's economic status, whether married or single, and the town or area they were from could be deciphered by most Palestinian women by the type of cloth, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs, or lack thereof, used for the dress.[147]

Though such local and regional variations largely disappeared after the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Palestinian embroidery and costume continue to be produced in new forms and worn alongside Islamic and Western fashions.


Villagers have danced the Dabke since ancient Canaanite and Phoenician times in celebration of feast days. The Dabke dance is marked by synchronized jumping, stamping, and movement, similar to tap dancing. One version is performed by men, another by women.


Palestinian Dabke folk dance as performed by men

Folk tales

Traditional storytelling among Palestinians is prefaced with an invitation to the listeners to give blessings to God and the Prophet Mohammed or the Virgin Mary as the case may be, and includes the traditional opening: "There was, or there was not, in the oldness of time ..."[146][148]

Formulaic elements of the stories share much in common with the wider Arab world, though the rhyming scheme is distinct. There are a cast of supernatural characters: djinns who can cross the Seven Seas in an instant, giants, and ghouls with eyes of ember and teeth of brass. Stories invariably have a happy ending, and the storyteller will usually finish off with a rhyme like: "The bird has taken flight, God bless you tonight," or "Tutu, tutu, finished is my haduttu (story)."[146]


Kamanjeh, and performer on it, p. 578 in Thomson, 1859

Kamanjeh performer in Jerusalem, 1859.[149]

Palestinian music is well-known and respected throughout the Arab world.[150] A new wave of performers emerged with distinctively Palestinian themes following the 1948 Palestinian exodus, relating to the dreams of statehood and the burgeoning nationalist sentiments. In addition to zajal and ataaba, traditional Palestinian songs include: Bein Al-dawai, Al-Rozana, Zarif - Al-Toul, and Al-Maijana, Dal'ona, Sahja/Saamir, Zaghareet. For over three decades, the Palestinian National Music and Dance Troupe (El Funoun) in Palestine[151] has promoted and developed Palestinian traditional songs and dance. Examples include Mish'al (1986), Marj Ibn 'Amer(1989) and Zaghareed (1997) a collection of Palestinian traditional wedding songs reinterpreted and re-arranged by Mohsen Subhi. (See section on "External links").

The Ataaba is a form of folk singing that spread outwards from Palestine. It consists of 4 verses, following a specific form and meter. The main aspect of the ataaba is that the first three verses must end with the same word meaning three different things, and the fourth verse comes as a conclusion to the whole thing. It is usually followed by a dalouna.

See also


  1. With the exception of Bks. 1, 105; 3.91.1, and 4.39, 2.
  2. Herodotus describes its scope in the Fifth Satrapy of the Perthians as follows: "From the town of Posidium, [...] on the border between Cilicia and Syria, as far as Egypt - omitting Arabian territory, which was free of tax, came 350 talents. This province contains the whole of Phoenicia and that part of Syria which is called Palestine, and Cyprus. This is the fifth Satrapy." (from Herodotus Book 3, 8th logos).[1]
  3. Cohen, 2006, p. 36.
  4. Herodotus, The Histories, Bks. 2, 104: 3.5.
  5. Kasher, 1990, p. 15.
  6. Plesheth, (from the root palash or falash) was a general Semitic-language term meaning "rolling and spreading" or "migratory". It referred to the Philistines' invasion and conquest of the coast from the sea (see Sea Peoples) who were Ancient Greeks.
  7. Cohen, 2006, p. 37.
  8. Kish, 1978, p. 200.
  9. Government of the United Kingdom (31 December 1930). REPORT by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of PALESTINE AND TRANS-JORDAN FOR THE YEAR 1930. League of Nations.!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  10. Chad Alan Goldberg, Politicide Revisited. University of Wisconsin–Madison
  11. 'Die unter uns lebenden Palästiner'.Kant, Immanuel,'Anthropologie in pragmatischer hinsicht,' in Kant Werke, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1968 Bd.10, p.517. I.Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. tr. Robert B. Louden, Cambridge University Press, 2006 p. 100 Note 11. The point is remarked on by Chad Alan Goldberg, Politicide Revisited, ibid.
  12. Isabel Kershner (8 February 2007). "Noted Arab citizens call on Israel to shed Jewish identity". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "The Palestinian National Charter". Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. 
  14. Constitution Committee of the Palestine National Council (Third Draft, 7 March 2003, revised in March 25, 2003). "Constitution of the State of Palestine" (PDF). Jerusalem Media and Communication Center. Retrieved 2007-08-21.  The most recent draft of the Palestinian constitution would amend that definition such that, "Palestinian nationality shall be regulated by law, without prejudice to the rights of those who legally acquired it prior to May 10, 1948 or the rights of the Palestinians residing in Palestine prior to this date, and who were forced into exile or departed there from and denied return thereto. This right passes on from fathers or mothers to their progenitor. It neither disappears nor elapses unless voluntarily relinquished."
  15. Khalidi, 1997, p. 18.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Khalidi, 1997, p. 19–21.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Khalidi, 1997, p. 149.
  18. Kimmerling and Migdal, 2003, p. 6-11
  19. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, pp.40-42 in the French edition.
  20. Khalidi, W., 1984, p. 32.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Gelvin, 2005, p. 92-93.
  22. Bernard Lewis (1999). Semites and Anti-Semites, An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice. W.W. Norton and Company. p. 169. ISBN 0-393-31839-7. 
  23. Tamir Sorek (2004). "The Orange and the Cross in the Cresent" (PDF). Nations and Nationalism 10 (3): 269–291. 
  24. Karsh, Efraim. Arafat's War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest. New York: Grove Press, 2003. p. 43. "Upon occupying the West Bank during the 1948 war, King Abdallah moved quickly to erase all traces of corporate Palestinian identity."
  25. 25.0 25.1 Khalidi, 1997, p. 124–127.
  26. "Palestine Facts". PASSIA: Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. 
  27. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p.48 in the French edition.
  28. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p.49 in the French edition.
  29. Yehoshua Porath (1977). Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion: 1929-1939, vol. 2. Frank Cass and Co., Ltd.. p. 81–82. 
  30. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, pp.49-50 in the French edition.
  31. Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete, p.139n.
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  • Semino et al. (2004) Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J:

Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area

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