“Fly KLM to Palestine” (1931 Ad)


“Palestine never existed.” Or so I’ve been told many times. A Google search of this phrase currently turns up 430,000 results. While it’s true that Palestine wasn’t a nation, it certainly was a region, a territory with its own flag, with hundreds of thousands of people living there who were called Palestinians (in the same way that people who live in America are called Americans).

Fly KLM to Palestine

Source: Duke University Libraries (1931 New York newspaper ad)

Can you imagine flying to a place that didn’t exist? Neither did the people who boarded those flights. 

Notice that these flights were bound for Lydda, Palestine. Tragically, Lydda was ethnically cleansed 17 years after this ad was featured in a New York newspaper. According to a Wikipedia entry (with 118 documented sources, “1948 Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle,” 50,000 – 70,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle in July 1948. Although these towns were located “outside the area designated for a Jewish state in the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and inside the area set aside for an Arab state in Palestine,” they were “transformed into predominantly Jewish areas in the new State of Israel, known as Lod and Ramla.”

From the Israeli perspective, the conquest of the towns averted an Arab threat to Tel Aviv, thwarted an Arab Legion advance by clogging the roads with refugees, forcing the Arab Legion to assume a logistical burden that would undermine its military capacities, and helped demoralize nearby Arab cities.[6][7] On 10 July, Glubb Pasha ordered the defending Arab Legion troops to “make arrangements…for a phony war”.[8] The next day, Ramle surrendered immediately, but the conquest of Lydda took longer and led to an unknown number of deaths; Israeli historian Benny Morris suggests up to 450 Palestinians and 9–10 Israeli soldiers died.[9] Once the Israelis were in control of the towns, an expulsion order signed by Yitzhak Rabin was issued to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stating, “1. The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.…”,[10] Ramle’s residents were bussed out, while the people of Lydda were forced to walk miles during a summer heat wave to the Arab front lines, where the Arab Legion, Transjordan‘s British-led army, tried to provide shelter and supplies.[11] Quite a few of the refugees died from exhaustion and dehydration. Estimates ranged from a handful to a figure of 350 based on hearsay, which is why the events are also referred as the Lydda death march.[12]

The events in Lydda and Ramle accounted for one-tenth of the overall Arab exodus from Palestine, known in the Arab world as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). Many Jews who came to Israel between 1948 and 1951 settled in the refugees’ empty homes, both because of a housing shortage and as a matter of policy to prevent former residents from reclaiming them.

…Father Oudeh Rantisi, a former mayor of Ramallah who was expelled from Lydda in 1948, visited his family’s former home for the first time in 1967: “As the bus drew up in front of the house, I saw a young boy playing in the yard. I got off the bus and went over to him. ‘How long have you lived in this house?’ I asked. ‘I was born here,’ he replied. ‘Me too,’ I said…”

[Father Rantisi’s heart-wrenching story can be read in more detail here.]

In Israel’s first months, largely Arab cities emptied as inhabitants were forced to flee.

(Source: The New Yorker – October 21, 2013 Issue – very informative article written by Ari Shavit, an Israeli reporter, writer, and Senior Correspondent for Haaretz)

File:RefugeesEscortedFromRamlaOperationDanny.jpg

(Refugees Escorted from Ramla; Source: Wikipedia)

Other details about this ethnic cleansing can be seen at Palestine Remembered.

Nazareth - الناصرة : NAZARETH - Late 19th, early 20th c. 55 - circa 1905 - Bird's-eye view (Per Reem Ackall)

(Nazareth in 1905; Source: Palestine Remembered)

Jaffa - يافا : Jaffa's famous al-Hamra Palestinian cinema (1937) in Jamal Basha street. Note the Palestinian flag at the tower.

(Jaffa’s al-Hamra Cinema with Palestinian flag on the tower, 1937; Source: Palestine Remembered)

A photograph from Bethlehem in 1880.

(Bethlehem in 1880; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Street scene inside Damascus Gate. Jerusalem, Palestine. 1900-1920. Photograph: Matson Collection

(Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, 1900 – 1920; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Bethlehem Christmas, early 1900s

(Bethlehem on Christmas Day, early 1900’s; Source: Pinterest and Palestine Remembered)

Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Armenian Christians, men and women, different clothing styles and a thriving cityscape of Jerusalem. In 1896, 85% of the population in Palestine was Muslim, 10% Christian and less than 5% Jewish (half the population of Jerusalem, however, was Jewish - this was also the period during the first aliyah).

(Jerusalem, around 1900; Source: Pinterest)

See many more photos of pre-1948 Palestine on Pinterest here.

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The Land of Palestine From 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)


Here are two videos portraying life and society in Palestine from 1896 to 1948. This is great history.

The first video is 2.5 minutes long and features footage from 1896 when there were about 500,000 inhabitants in Palestine, including about 30,000 people in Jerusalem. Jews made up roughly 50% of Jerusalem’s population, but less than 5% of the population elsewhere. Outside of Jerusalem, where more than 90% of Palestine’s population lived, Muslims made up about 85% of the population and Christians made up about 10% of the population.

The second video is 10 minutes long, and features quite a number of still photos spanning the decades prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. There are universities and colleges, sports matches, and other evidences of a vibrant society. The music that this video is set to is pretty neat too. This video footage was included in a French documentary called “Palestine, Story of a Land.”

This footage might bring to mind the expression that has been attributed to early Zionists, that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Within the last couple of years I’ve learned some things about the origins and development of this expression. As Diana Muir points out in a well-written 2008 article, it appears to have its roots in a statement made

“by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy, remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are “a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.”

Muir goes on to give examples of other Christian writers and leaders adopting this phrase in some form before Israel Zangwill in 1901 apparently became the first Zionist to use it, saying, “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.”

In any case, as these videos show, Palestine had much more of a thriving society before 1948 than many people have been willing to acknowledge. By numerous accounts, Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs also got along quite fine during that time period. For example, Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian Arab who was nine years old when Israel became a nation, wrote about a childhood experience he often witnessed in the village of Biram:  

“Many of these Jewish neighbors came to Biram to trade as well. When they stopped by our house for figs, father welcomed them with the customary hospitality and a cup of tar-like, bittersweet coffee—the cup of friendship” (Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers, 2005, p. 24).

If one looks past the awful headlines that are currently dominating the news concerning this part of the world, one can find examples of Palestinians, Jews, and others actively working for peace there. Elias is one of them. May the people of this region soon experience the healing and the restoration that they need.

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A reader, PJ Miller, pointed out another interesting video depicting life in Palestine, this one being nearly 180 years old: