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On the origins of Palestinian Christians
April 15, 2018

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According to Ottoman statistics, in 1914 Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews.

With Easter fresh in mind, it is fitting we ask ourselves, who are the Palestinian Christians? And what are their origins that they outnumbered the Jews in Palestine in 1914?

Several years ago John Loftus, president of the Florida Holocaust Museum wrote: "Historically, the Arabs have hated the Palestinians. Ironically, Palestinians tended to be better educated, more secular, and, oddly enough, much like the Israelis."

While acknowledging he could not source the statement, Loftus also alleged that Saudi King Fahd once said, "Next to the Jews, we hate the Palestinians the most."

It turns out there may have been more truth in Loftus' observation about the Palestinians being "much like the Israelis" than he realized, and - if King Fahd actually did say it - maybe also an explanation as to why the Arabs hate the Palestinians and have done so little for them: Palestinians are Hebrews, descendants of Jacob, not Arab descendants of Ishmael. This is the claim of two Israeli researchers who have published books on the subject, Tsvi Misinai, an Israeli researcher, author, historian, computer scientist and entrepreneur, and Shlomo Sand, Emeritus Professor of History at Tel Aviv University.

In his book Brother shall not lift his sword against Brother (2007), Misinai claims that nearly 90 per cent of the Palestinian people living in Israel proper, the West Bank and Gaza are of Hebrew descent, except in the Gaza Strip where it is almost 91 percent.

In his "The Engagement": A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Misinai proposes a "one state solution for one people." This "one state" would integrate Israel proper with the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one territorial unit. The "one people" would consist of both groups being united as an Israeli-Hebrew nation without Muslims and Christians having to revert to Judaism or endure cultural de-Arabization.

In his book The Invention of the Jewish People (2009), Sand goes further than Misinai in that he maintains that there was no mass expulsion of Jews by the Romans. Sand posits that the worldwide Jewish community is mainly the result of conversion of local non-Hebrew peoples. He favors a two state solution.

None of the above is new. Misinai notes that the first president of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote a book on the subject. Sand's book was on the best seller list in Israel for nineteen weeks.

It appears, then, that indigenous Palestinian Jews, Christians, and Muslims all derive from the same ethnic stock of ancient Hebrews. The differences are due to two main conversions, first from Judaism to Christianity during Byzantine rule and then from Christianity and Judaism to Islam after the Muslim conquest with accompanying Arabization.

Trying to disentangle 2000 year old historical fact from the sticky web of religious and political myth and painful memory is not easy, but it's indisputable that a large Jewish population existed in the Holy Land long after they were supposedly expelled.

Misinai's proposed "one state solution for one people" could be considered nave. But what he writes is thought provoking and no one else has come up with a solution to a conflict that has cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars since it began in 1948 and is on track to get worse. If Misinai's "one state solution for one people" could be implemented, Israel could harness the Palestinians' numbers, skills and energy to become even more powerful and economically successful than it already is. The reader is encouraged to peruse what Misinai and Sand have to say, either by buying their books or Googling their names. While what you find may not fit well with normal Christian eschatology, we should remember that God did not create the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we did.

Dennis Lamb, from Chelsea, Iowa, retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its directorate of operations as a case officer and as an intelligence analyst. His viewpoint above is personal and not the views of his former employer.

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