Who Are the Palestinians?

Who Are the Palestinians?

Who are the Semitic peoples?
Have Jews and Arabs always fought?
Why are Arabs opposed to Israel?
What are the differences between Palestinian Christians and Muslims?
Do the Palestinian authorities deny the existence of Israel?
Do Palestinian parents deliberately put their children into danger?
Why are the Palestinians so poor and the Israelis comparatively rich?

are the Semitic peoples?

The word “Semite” refers to a language and cultural group made up of
ancient and modern people.  Semitic languages include:
 Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Moabite, Hebrew, Phonecian, Assyrian, and
Babylonian.  (Biblically they are considered the descendants of Shem, son
of Noah.) 

According to
the Oxford English Dictionary, the first usage of anti-Semitic for a person who
discriminates against or is prejudiced against Jews, was in the 1880s (about
the same time as the rise of Zionism.) 

If we return
to the original meaning of Semitic, it is difficult to call Palestinians and
other Arabs anti-Semitic, since they are themselves Semites.  Palestinian
Arabs oppose the state policies of Israel that deny them legitimate human and civil
rights and the right to a state. 
Have Jews and Arabs always fought?
Arabs and Jews have not always been in conflict.  Before the formation
of the State of Israel there were Arab Jews as there were Arab Christians and
Arab Muslims.  Many times in history Jews and Muslims were allied and
worked together peacefully.  In 1492, Christian rulers expelled both Jews
and Muslims from Spain, although now Spain cherishes its background of all
three religions.  Most Jews who fled moved to Arab lands.

Jews and Muslims have worked together and have lived as neighbors in the Middle
East for centuries and some still do.  One hears many stories from
Palestinians of the friendships they had with their Jewish neighbors and vice
Why are Arabs opposed to Israel?

A review of the history shows that Israel was founded on territory that
belonged to indigenous Palestinian Arabs and ever since has undertaken to expel
many of them from their homelands.  Israel’s continued occupation of the
West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, and its mistreatment of the
Palestinian population has been the cause of much resentment and hostility as
well as the focus of Palestinian resistance.  At this point in history,
though, most Arabs accept the existence of Israel as a state but are concerned
about the ways in which that country has been preventing the formation of a
Palestinian State and the development of Palestinian society.  The UN
partition plan of 1947 called for a Jewish state and an Arab state on the land
known as “historic Palestine” or Mandate Palestine.

Many people
other than Arabs are opposed to what Israel has done and is doing.  Human
rights groups, churches, Christian and Muslim organizations, and many non-Arab
countries have criticized the policies of Israel, especially with respect to
the occupations.

are the differences between Palestinian Christians and Muslims?
Both Christians and Muslims consider themselves Palestinians with one ethnic
and geographic heritage; they share the experience of living under occupation;
and relative to the occupation, they are united in their attitudes toward
Israel.  The difference occurs in terms of personal life and religious
belief and practices.  In the Middle East, religion is much more a part of
people’s identity than it generally is in the West.  Religious
distinctions between Christian and Muslim Palestinians manifest themselves
through celebrations, family rituals, and who can be marriage partners or even
close friends.

It is said that
the people in the Middle East have long religious memories and that they view
the past as part of today.  Historically both Christians and Muslims have
wielded power over each other, and there is still an assumption that Christians
side with Western culture.

Do the
Palestinian authorities deny the existence of Israel?

The Oslo Accords made it clear that the PLO, as the representative of the
Palestinian people, recognizes the existence of the State of Israel.  In
the letters exchanged on September 9, 1993 between Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin,
Mr. Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stated “The
PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and
security.” In return Mr. Rabin recognized the PLO as the “representative
of the Palestinian people.” In a subsequent meeting, which was televised,
the Palestinian National Council voted to uphold the agreements made in the
Oslo Accords.
Do Palestinian parents deliberately
put their children into danger?

parents are human beings just like anyone else.  They love their children
and try to keep them from harm.  A tactic of war called “demonizing
the enemy”, this charge about children is designed to make Palestinians
seem less than human and, as such, is racist.

Palestinian children have also been killed or wounded by Israeli soldiers while
going about their normal activities, such as attending school and
playing.  Parents tell of their fear that their children will not return
when they go to school, to church or mosque, or to play.  The Palestinian
Authority has provided some financial compensation to very poor families who
have lost a child, although the amount cannot be compared to the value of the
life of a child.  It is dehumanizing to imply that any financial support
would be an incentive to parents to endanger their children.

It is also
true that youth have always been in the forefront of popular uprisings such as
in South Africa and in the American South during the civil rights
movement.  Too often, in those cases as well, the authorities have
responded with lethal force.

are the Palestinians so poor and the Israelis comparatively rich?

The occupation has prevented the Palestinians from developing economically and
so they have become dependent on Israel for employment.  When those means
of employment become unavailable because of Israeli military closures of
Palestinian areas in West Bank and Gaza Strip, unemployment rates jump rapidly
and there are few local businesses and jobs to fall back on.  Much of the
Palestinian agricultural land has been confiscated and fruit and olive trees
have been destroyed.

In addition,
the United States government (and private citizens) have given and still give
large sums of money to develop the Israeli economy.  Official aid from the
U.S. government totals more than $3,000,000,000 (three billion) per year (all
military aid).


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