Palestine – A Geo-physical Study
The world ‘Palestine’ has a curious meaning. Ethnologically, it means
the land of the Philistines’, a strip of territory along the Levant coast
from El Arish to Jaffa approximately.
The Romans and later the Byzantines gave the word definite and precise
administrative significations and extended the boundaries.
The Arabs, under the banner of Saladin, extinguished Frankish rule at
the decisive battle of Hattin in 1187, to become masters of the area. They
coined the word “Falestin” as their name for one of their provinces.
Since the 16th cent., this region was part of the Ottoman dominions.
For them this was not Palestine. For the Turks and the Arabs, the whole of
the region lying between the Taurus Mts. and the confines of Egypt, was
Syria, a term which had been in use from antiquity. After the ‘Treaty of
Berlin’ in 1870, which insured free access to the holy places to Jews and
Christians, their Jerusalem province came to be known as ‘Palestine’. The
area consisted of Jaffa to Jerusalem, and southwards, covering the entire
Negev Desert to the port of Aqaba (Jordan).
In Europe in the Middle Ages the word Palestine came to mean the Land
of Israel before the Diaspora (Dispersion) as mentioned in the Book of
Judges 20:1-2, “All the Israelites, the whole community from Dan to
Beersheba and out of Gilead also, left their homes as one man and
assembled before the Lord…”
The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916 – the dismembering of the Ottoman
Empire), assigned to France Lebanon and Syria, and to England – Palestine
and Iraq. Between the two zones it was agreed to create an Arab state or
confederation of states; France with priority of rights in the north and
England in the south. (British rule in Palestine began on Dec. 11, 1917.)
The British determined the boundaries of present-day Palestine
mandatory government in 1924. Transjordan was created from the eastern
part (a gift to placate the Royal House of Hussien), extending from the
river Jordan to the eastern boundaries; and Palestine, Sist Jordan – its
borders were from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.
And now to modern history. The British government announced their
intentions to withdraw from Palestine on Aug, 1st, 1948, pushing it
foward to May of the same year. The United Nations in Nov. 1947 had
adopted a partition plan for both Arab and Jewish States based on part of
the Mandates’s geography of Palestine, Sist Jordan. This plan the Arabs
refused and though Israel won its War of Independence, the neighboring
Arab countries occupied the West Bank and Gaza. (And the resolution of a
Palestinian homeland was put aside.)
And so the essential nature of the Arab-Israel conflict has been the
background truth of the origins of the Land of Palestine that has eluded
the world. In its place an illusion has been formed, or rather, a delusion, which has contributed to the root cause of the failure of a settled and lasting peace in the area.