The land of Israel has been referred to throughout history by various names: Canaan, the Southern Levant, Southern Syria and Palestine. The Hebrew word for Palestine appears in the Torah and refers to the strip of land on the southern coast of modern-day Israel, the first area the Philistines conquered when they came onto land from the Mediterranean.
The root of Philistine and Palestine in Hebrew is the same and it means, invader. It is not known where they are from, nor how they called themselves in their own language. It is unlikely that these are the forefathers of today's Arab Palestinians since they were probably not Semitic.
The Romans called this area, Syria Palestina, after having gained control of Judea and in order to cut the land off from its association with the Jewish people.
During World War I, the French and British had reached a secret deal for this division of the Middle East between them (the Sykes-Picot Agreement). With Turkey allied with Germany, the British promised the Arabs independence if they helped them, the British and French, defeat Turkey. But, the British also made a deal with the Jews to support their bid for a national homeland if, among other arrangements with world Jewry, the wealthy British Jews supported the British war effort (The Balfour Declaration). In other words, Jews would get Palestine if they helped the allies win the war against Germany. It must be emphasized that Palestine was never a country, but only the name given to the British Mandate over territory that was later divided up between Israel and Jordan. This fact must, of course, be kept separate from the fact that there was an Arab population living on the land who had the right to remain.
When the Ottoman Empire was finally broken down by Turkey's losses in World War I, the League of Nations handed France a mandate over territories that are, today, Lebanon and Syria and a mandate to Britain over territories that are, today, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Iraq. When it became clear to the Arabs that the British were not going to honour their promise to give them all the territories of the mandate (because the Arabs did not live up to their promise to the allies), they revolted against their Jewish neighbours and the British who they felt had double-crossed them.
It should be noted that the British promised the Jews a sovereign state only if their numbers exceeded those of the Arabs by the end of the war and protection if they did not.
Still the Arabs did not claim the name, Palestinians. In fact, the Jewish inhabitants were the Palestinians of that day. Their newspaper was called The Palestine Post (later changed to The Jerusalem Post).
Somehow the name "Palestinian" came to be associated only with Arabs. Their acceptance of this name is not unanimous and, I argue, it can even be humiliating. In this article I explain why.
Image Credit: Copyright American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Reprinted with permission.