Pursuant to a question about the philosophy of Zionism and its position on the political and cultural identity of the Palestinians, it has been claimed that the Palestinian identity is a recent invention by anti-Semites in Europe:

Zionism has nothing to say about the Palestinians. A number of Zionists have exposed the political fiction, invented by anti-Semitic Europeans in the mid 20th century that the Palestinians were a distinct ethnic group. This allowed them to accuse Israel of racism, even though by any objective measure, ethnic Jews are of the same race as the ethnic Palestinians. In fact, the Palestinians are ethnically and culturally indistinguishable from the people of Syria and Jordan. – David Gudeman

Now, I have provided two sources that dispute that claim:

  1. The 11 Biggest Myths about Israel-Palestine which labels such claims Myth #5.
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica which refers to "Palestinian Arabs":

In the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, the Palestinian Arabs shared in a general Arab renaissance. Palestinians found opportunities in the service of the Ottoman Empire... The population of Palestine, predominantly agricultural, was about 690,000 in 1914 (535,000 Muslims; 70,000 Christians, most of whom were Arabs; and 85,000 Jews).

Does the Arab Palestinian political identity (self-claims about identity, representation, and the right to self-determination) predate the 1940's and the formation of modern Israel, or is the claim that Arab Palestinian identity was a recent innovation in opposition to the creation of the nation-state of Israel?

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    I suggest you edit and clean up your question. Because what you have written in bold is not congruent with the rest of the question nor its title. Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 21:14
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    @JD This is a claim that is generally used to deny Palestinian claims to statehood and equality. It's basically the anti-Palestinian equivalent of the anti-Jewish claim that Jews have no historical connection to Israel.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 22:50
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    @JD - What does it mean for two people to be the "same race"? Race is a slippery social concept: in the US, a person whose ancestors mostly came from around Cape Town and those whose ancestors mainly came from around Addis Ababa, some 4000 miles apart, might well be classified as the same race, whereas two people whose ancestors came from Kyiv and New Dehli might be classified as being of different races. One could say that many Palestinians and Israelis are the "same race" because much of their genetics comes from roughly the same region. Or not.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 22:59
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    Who is this David Gudeman and what makes him more an authority on the matter than my Uncle Bob? Is he this fine gentleman? that's the only hit I got on that name besides a now dead 99 yr old in Kansas. What's his expertise on the subject? Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 4:39

1 Answer 1


I would say it's the other way around. Denying the notion of Palestinian identity is used to argue that Palestinians deserve little.

Some items to keep in mind:

  • Current nation states in the 21st century are, for the most part, rather different than what an observer might have seen 200 years ago, so excessive focus on history is disingenuous. For example, Italy and Germany, as we understand them now, did not exist. Go back 200 years back in many parts of the world and the notion of nation states is fuzzy.

  • The entire Middle East is easily dismissed as a construct of colonial powers. This has for example been said about Iraq. Some may blame Western powers for that, and there's certainly a bit to be said about the slicing and dicing post WW1. But another way to look at it is that the whole area was part of the Ottoman Empire. So, by definition, not comprised of existing nation states. Note btw that the Ottoman Empire was a foreign empire to the locals: Turks are not ethnically Arab.

  • Ultimately, what does it matter? The descendants of the people who were living in Palestine before 1897 * can call themselves whatever they want and don't need your, or my, opinion. That was the land they were living on and they have the right to self-determination, just like everyone else. Jordan itself was also subsumed under Ottoman rule so making a big point about is also hypocritical. Of course, if you start to claim, as I have been told in person by an Israeli (nice guy otherwise) that there was no one living there besides nomads, then you can dismiss the whole notion of national aspirations.

  • The notion of equating support for Palestinians with anti-Semitism is rather tiresome (though there is admittedly sometime an overlap as with some supporters of Corbyn, if perhaps not Corbyn himself). But it is very convenient to deflect criticism of how Israel treats the Palestinians. Many of us supposed "anti-Semites" are strongly supportive of Israel's existence, in the context of a two state solution. As per UN resolution 242 and an actual good faith application of the Oslo Accords. And many of us supposed "anti-Semites" think rather well of Jewish people in general, dislike actual Nazis and anti-Semites. Many of us were just as supportive of Israel in 1967 and 1973 as we are of Ukraine now, back when Israel was the plucky underdog fighting for its existence.

  • by any objective measure, ethnic Jews are of the same race as the ethnic Palestinians. Well, yes, if one disregards a different language, a different religion and culture and a different alphabet they are "just the same". Meanwhile, you know who else makes a big stock about Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians and a whole lot of others being "the same"? ISIS, that's who.

  • Genetics has little to do with nationhood so comparing genetics between Israelis and Palestinians is, another, mendacious argument. By that "logic", why not let Germany take over France? Our genetics are probably just as hard to tell apart. What about Russia and Ukraine? Same race, right?

  • If you were to look at actual modern European anti-Semites, you'd find rather large majority of them are just as anti-Arab as anti-Jewish, making this claim rather laughable. They are, first and foremost, White Supremacists and dislike anyone not of whatever they see as "European roots" equally, it's just that anti-Semitism has a lot longer, and more horrific, tradition in Europe than racism in general.

Very few other people are subjected to that level of scrutiny in the 21st century as to why they might want to have their own country. Heck even a, too small, minority of Jewish people think Israel is not behaving well.

* It's important to be careful about when you start counting, otherwise one would fall for China's claims that a majority of Xinjiang or Tibet residents are supportive, after they've flooded the area with Han people. I'll take 1897 as the start of the modern Zionism project - a term I am using neutrally in the sense of "return home" and without accusing Israelis or Jews of anything.

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    The people who were living in Palestine before 1898 are pretty much all dead. Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 21:36
  • @Fizz Lol. Not unlike the 1914 people alluded too in the question. Hordes of sprightly 108 year olds asides ;-) Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 0:05

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