A few days ago, I received a message about a video on a history channel that mentioned ‘Palestine’ in a history of Ancient Egypt. I do love a good fairytale, so soon sat myself down to watch it. I have to say, that of all the absurdly inappropriate references to ‘Palestine’ that I have seen, this is one of the most ludicrous. Seeing ‘ancient Palestine’ placed into the history of Egypt over 3000 years ago, makes this one of the most ahistorical documentary series on record.
The documentary with ancient Palestine
In 2016, Prof. Joann Fletcher, an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of York, presented a four-part series titled ‘Immortal Egypt’. It was produced by Lion Television and originally aired on BBC2. The media watchdog CAMERA did reference a single remark about Palestine that Prof. Fletcher had made in the introduction. I do not think anyone ever addressed the actual content of the documentary.
The four-part series was later uploaded by the ‘History Hit Network‘ on their YouTube channel ‘Timeline – World History Documentaries‘. They have 3.87 million subscribers. It is the most successful series the channel has uploaded:
- E1 – 6.9 million views
- E2 – 9.5 million views.
- E3 – 5.9 million views
- E4 – 4.3 million views.
Mention of ‘Palestine’ litters the show, but the episode I want to reference is Episode 2, which has been seen 9.5 million times. That means millions of people were led astray and given a totally bogus version of history.
The ahistorical History Channel
I am no expert on Egypt, so cannot comment on the quality of the other information contained therein, but it is when the history touches on conflicts to Egypt’s north, that I know the narration takes the listener into a nonsensical fantasy land.
These quotes are taken from the narration, and I want to draw attention to three timestamps:
- 49:15 “the north eastern border with Palestine” (map shown) was also fortified with such defences.
- 51:06. Because these Armu of Palestinian origin eventually became the Hyksos and they ruled Egypt.
- 56:05 “they were eventually able to push the Hyksos out of Egypt all the way back to Palestine (map shown).”
There is actually a map shown in the ‘history’ video. Remember this video has had almost 10 million views. The invention of ancient Palestine:
Ancient ‘Palestine’ on a map of ancient Egypt circa 2000bc is the biggest load of ahistorical poppycock you are ever likely to see. They may as well put a picture of Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon in the same image. What on earth were these people thinking?
I sent an email to Prof. Joann Fletcher at York asking her why she uses the misleading and ahistorical term ‘Palestine’, I received a reply from another respected expert and academic from the university. His emails have been thoughtful, detailed and respectful. I have asked if I can publish the exchange, but as yet have not received permission. His key point and one I accept, is that Prof Fletcher is following established academic tradition. That this label is a current academic norm. That’s doesn’t make it right.
Where the Jews get it wrong
It must be said that the blame for this all-too-common falsification of history does not really lie with the Soviets in post-1948, nor with Arafat in 1964. These are errant messages that I see far too often on Zionist platforms. Believe me, that if western society viewed the historical rights of the Jewish people with the import that they deserve, the rantings of the Soviets and the PLO would never have seen the light of day.
Rather, Soviet anti-Zionist propagandists and people like Yasser Arafat saw anti-Jewish sentiment in the west and took a successful piggyback ride upon it. The weakness was in classic Christian antisemitism – ”supersessionism’ – or ‘replacement ideology’. The idea that the ‘new’ testament (the Christians) has replaced (superseded) the ‘old’ (the Jews). This is the true root of the whole notion of ‘Palestine’ in modern western thought.
It cannot be overstated how much of the modern ‘Palestinian’ is a colonial construct. Between 1917 and 1922, the borders of the Palestine mandate were drawn. The name itself was chosen because it was the ‘Holy Land’. Those borders were dictated by colonial powers. A Lebanese man today in Tyre, is Lebanese only because the British and French agreed Tyre would be outside the Palestine Mandate. A Gazan is Palestinian only because the British eventually decided that the southern Negev towns should be cut off from Egypt.
Modern Palestine was a colonial construct in its entirety – an area based around the historical land of the Jewish people, within which to recreate the Jewish homeland. Every identity attached to this land today *apart from* the Jewish identity is a heritage of British colonial rule.
The nonsensical myth of ancient Palestine
Which brings us to the name ‘Palestine’. We know that the Romans renamed Judea as Syria-Palestina circa 135AD. We also know that as the name ‘Palestine’ became ever more politicised in the 21st century, anti-Israel activists pored through every historical document possible to prove the name ‘Palestine’ had historical weight – that it was more than a short-lived example of Imperial arrogance and spite. So desperate have they been that the Wikipedia article on the subject tries to squeeze the ‘Philistines’ into the story. The Philistines (Paleshet) were biblical enemies of the Israelites – invaders from Crete, who were eventually lost to war and history, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.
If you are a pro-Palestinian today and you are somehow trying to squeeze Palestinian history into that of the Philistines, you probably believe that Narnia is a real place too. Which pretty much sums up the intellectual level of the average Wikipedia believer.
A word of Imperial conquest is born
The idea that this was invented by the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem is also a myth – the Greeks had already began to use the term before this. The Greeks and Romans, both Imperial invaders, saw the land differently from the way that the indigenous populations saw it – as foreign conquering invaders tend to – and it is in their writings, that the first mentions of an area called ‘Palestina’ appear.
The ‘Palestina’ is probably little more than European mistranslation. Herodotus taking time to describe it in about 450bc, appears to have placed it chiefly along the coast – which would correlate with the ‘Philistines’, who by then had already left history. He was from Greece (now the southern coast of Turkey), they were from Crete – who knows, maybe there is a political affiliation and message long lost to us in what he was trying to say.
It is this handed-down errant language of imperial conquest that eventually gave rise to the official and spiteful title ‘Syria Palæstina’ around the time of the Bar Kochva revolt.
Historically, ‘Palestine’ was never more than a badly translated word used by European Imperial powers squashing the rights of the indigenous people. Taking place in a land that was soon to be invaded, conquered, and colonised by the Arab Islamic empire. And that would have been that, had it not been for the rise of Christianity and its battles with both the Jews and the Islamic world.
The Christian ‘Palestine’
Following the Islamic conquest, the Muslims never used the term ‘Palestine’. The very fact that neither the Jews, nor the Muslims ever recognised the term ‘Palestine’ before the 20th century, tells you all you need to know. This word survived in Christian replacement terminology. It basically became just another way of saying ‘this is our Holy land, not your Holy Land‘ as they ran their swords through the lives of ‘the natives’ during the Crusades. And for this reason – and this reason alone, the term survived through the European empires, to be officially resurrected when the British needed a name for their mandate.
All of the references to the resurrection of ‘Palestine’ are based in Christian supremacist and supersessionist thinking, and the evidence is easy to find. In 1805 the Palestine Association was founded to promote the study of ‘Palestine’. It was founded by William Richard Hamilton. He was the son of the Archdeacon of Colchester. The better known ‘Palestine Exploration Fund’ was founded in 1865. Its key founders were people like Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, an Anglican Priest.
And this supremacist antisemitic strain kept ‘Palestine’ alive through the crusades, all the way to 19th century England. When the MP Alexander Beresford Hope, an ardent supporter of the Anglican Church, stood up to oppose the emancipation of the Jews in a parliamentary debate in 1848, this is what he said:
“Every Sabbath-day they prayed for their restoration to the land of their fathers; and the sentiment that formed the common bond of union between the Jews of England, America, and Sweden, was, that they were the rightful territorial possessors of the soil of Palestine. The seven words of the declaration which it was proposed to repeal, were something worth fighting for. They might not have, indeed, the strength of a shadow to save a lost soul; but they were at all events better than a negation of belief, and he should object to any concession to the Jews of our present vantage ground, small as it might be.”
Palestine was part of his religious war, as it was for much of Christian Europe. This is further complicated by the mixing of religion into all walks of life – including academia. So when George Rawlinson wrote his ‘History of Ancient Egypt’, in 1881, he mentions ‘Palestine’ many times:
“The invaders may have been Syrians, in a large sense of that word, and may have come from Palestine, or even from the region north of it” (pp190)
Rawlinson’s use of Palestine while describing Egypt circa 1600BC is evidence of how this word survived. Because George Rawlinson was not just a British scholar and historian, he was a Christian theologian. As were most academics and writers back then. This was responsible for installing a Christian supremacist, colonial, and ultimately, antisemitic revisionist narrative – based in replacement ideology – at the heart of academic subjects, such as history and geography. Academia is about new scholars standing on the shoulders of giants. When it comes to ‘Palestine’, they’ve been standing on the shoulders of antisemites.
Which is why when Prof. Joann Fletcher produced a four-part series on ‘Ancient Egypt’, she can create ‘ancient Palestine’ without blinking. When she reads my email questioning her, she will probably think to herself ‘but this is what the area is called’. Except this is not true. It is only true here, remnants of a colonial ‘us and them’ mindset based on Christian supremacist thought.
Jews don’t count
There is something ironic about the western need to hold on to the artificial Christian Palestine. It is also the height of hypocrisy. Because the stronghold sits primarily on the left – with the Quakers, the Methodists, and throughout the Christian world of NGOs. It is promoted inside movements that preach about anti-racism, shudder at the thought of cultural appropriation, spin stories about the need for decolonisation and help tear down the statues of the slave traders.
They stand strong on each point and push these ‘progressive’ values, deconstructing their oppressive, colonial history in every area – except one – Palestine. Because on that issue, they are religiously stuck. Of all the progressive issues – only the rights of the Jews do not count. Progressive cries about tearing down the statues of slave traders are followed by the more traditional refrains that ‘the Jews betrayed god. Palestine is our Holy Land. Long live ancient Palestine!’
This is why each Christmas the Palestinian propagandists play large on the Christmas tale just as they squeeze every last Christian Arab out of Bethlehem. They are piggybacking on an ancient Christian hatred. And in turn explains why so many Church groups, despite the oppression of Christians by the Palestinian Islamists, are so quick to join anti-Israel boycott movements.
And it is important to remember this when you see it. This is not about Soviet propaganda or PLO revisionism. Those are incidental allies. This is the real big bad, it is the root of western hostility to Israel, and it is why it is so unmoveable. It is Christian revisionism – an ideology that wants to wipe the Jews out and spent centuries literally trying to make it happen. It may be an unfortunate coincidence that Prof. Joann Fletcher is based in York, the site of a massacre of the Jews in 1190 which carried the seeds of the total expulsion of Jews from England a century later – but it is still a highly symbolic one.
This anti-Jewish, Christian revisionism has no place in modern society. It has no place in academia. It certainly has no place on the BBC, where they periodically dress up their promotion of Christian replacement ideology in historical documentaries, or as a caring human rights case for the modern Palestinian cause. It is time we draw a line under this, call it out for what it is, and make sure that we never see this type of ahistorical offensive stunt ever again.
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