“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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Pre-1948 Advertisements by the Jewish Agency for Palestine


A small series of decades-old photo advertisements was posted recently in a Facebook group called “Christians United for Peace.” These interesting advertisements (see photos below) were created by the Jewish Agency for Palestine at some point prior to 1948, when the nation of Israel was founded. This organization “began as the Palestine Office…founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization.” Then in 1929 this organization was “renamed, restructured and officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland.” It took on the name “Jewish Agency for Israel” after Israel became a nation in 1948 (source)

 

 

 

These advertisements are not only interesting and historical, but they also reveal [1] the fact that there was a region known as Palestine and [2] the push for “a Jewish State” (despite only 7% of the people in Palestine being Jewish in 1914, 11% being Jewish in 1922, 17% being Jewish in 1931, and 30% being Jewish in 1942 – source).

To some, the first point might be a no-brainer, but a simple Google search will turn up all kinds of claims that there never was a Palestine and there never were people called Palestinians before Israel became a nation. Dean Obeidallah, whose father was born in Palestine in the 1930’s, recently published an article in The Daily Beast titled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” According to Obeidallah, “People will tell me to my face that there has never been a Palestine and there are no such thing as Palestinians. To them, I guess Palestinians are simply holograms.” He notes that this claim contradicts the official summary of the United Nations in 1947 that “Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it.” Dean’s article is an interesting one, and his perspective is worth considering.

What do you think of the seven photos above?

Related post: The Land of Palestine from 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)

Postal Stamp from 1850 (Photo Source); Khan Yunis is now a rapidly growing city in the south Gaza Strip, and was the site of a massacre in 1956

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:

“The Stones Cry Out”: New Documentary Challenges Evangelical Bonds With Israel


I’m interested in seeing this documentary when/if the opportunity arises. In the meantime, if anyone who comes across this post has seen it, I’d be glad to know what you think about it.

Graham Liddell has written an article for Ma’an News Agency highlighting a new documentary called “The Stones Cry Out.” The documentary is directed by Yasmine Perni, an Italian-born journalist who has lived in various places in the Middle East, including Israel. I’ll share an observation that jumped out at me after viewing one of the links in Graham’s article, but first here’s the article itself:

A new documentary about Palestinian Christians is challenging mainstream evangelical assumptions about the Holy Land in the United States.

As evangelical organizations hold events across the US presenting an unbreakable bond between Christians and Israel, first-time director Yasmine Perni tours American churches with a film that instead documents the plight of Palestinian Christians at the hands of Israel.

“The (Palestinian) Christians have never been covered like this before,” Perni told Ma’an Saturday.

“The Stones Cry Out” starts by documenting the history of Kifr Biram, a predominantly Christian Palestinian village that was destroyed by Israel after the Nakba.

Former residents of Kifr Biram tell the story of being expelled from their homes by Jewish militants in 1948 and becoming refugees in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. Many attempted to return, but in 1953, they watched as their village was demolished on orders from the Israeli government. Israel has since converted the village lands into a national park.

Perni wants Western audiences to hear the story of Kifr Biram firsthand while they still can. Many of the original residents have already died, including three elderly men who passed away during filming.

“And so I feel that telling their story is a way of keeping their memory alive and their struggle to find peace,” Perni said.

The film moves to an overview of the Six Day War and Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Footage of the events overlaps with Palestinian Christians’ accounts of their experiences throughout the First Intifada – during which Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians – and throughout Israel’s 2002 siege on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity during the Second Intifada.

“Most of the Christians abroad were silent (during the siege),” Bethlehem pastor Rev. Mitri Raheb says in the film.

He says Christians “like to sing about the little town of Bethlehem in the churches on Christmas Eve, but I felt at that time that actually Bethlehem was abandoned.”

Featured prominently in the film, Raheb told Ma’an Friday that the story of Palestinian Christians is little known in the West, and even less “among Evangelical Christians.”

He said he hopes the documentary reaches as many people as possible.

Hopes for impact on Western audiences

Christian Zionism – the belief that the modern State of Israel is a manifestation of God’s biblical promise to the Jews – is a significant force in US politics. One Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel, is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. In addition to lobbying Congress and contributing financially to pro-Israel causes including illegal settlements, CUFI holds regular “Nights to Honor Israel” in US churches using scripture to back up pro-Israel political action. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at one such event last Sunday.

“I think that is using the Bible as a weapon,” Perni told Ma’an.

Though she hopes Christian Zionists will see the film, they are not necessarily her intended audience.

“The film is for everyone. … I’m not a theologian. I’m a journalist. I report the stories that I see,” Perni said.

Without dwelling on theology, “The Stones Cry Out” simply tells “the Palestinian story, but through the eyes of the Christians.”

Despite widespread Christian support for Israel in the US, Raheb told Ma’an that he was optimistic about changing evangelical mindsets on Palestine.

“It’s not a hopeless case,” Raheb said. “The first time I went to the States in 1991, most of the people I met knew nothing about Palestine. That has changed a lot.”

“I see among the evangelical Christian community more openness towards the Palestinians.”

Christians under Israeli occupation

In 2012, former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal in which he blamed Christian emigration from Palestine on Muslims.

Raheb says in the film that Israel “would love” Palestine to be free of Christians, “because then they can sell this conflict as a Jewish-Muslim conflict, as a religious conflict.”

“Oren at the end of the day really is interested in fueling Islamophobia because this sells well with certain groups,” Raheb told Ma’an, “as if Israel actually is the one defending the Western value.”

He said that in an academic study he conducted, less than 1 percent of emigrating Christians said they were leaving because of tensions with Muslims, and most actually left due to political and economic situations imposed by the occupation.

The documentary, Perni told Ma’an, “reveals my own discovery of what it really means to live under occupation.”

Though she lived in the Arab world throughout much of her life, she said that the reality of the occupation only set in when she moved to Jerusalem and visited Bethlehem. A major hub of Christianity in the West Bank, Bethlehem is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. A wall constructed by Israel beginning in 2002 separates Palestinians not only from Israel, but in many cases from their own property.

One Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem shows in the film how the wall encases her house on three sides, rendering access to her backyard impossible and turning her home “into a tomb.”

“Christians are hit by the occupation the same way Muslims are,” Raheb told Ma’an.

Unfortunately, Perni said, many in the West are unaware of the very existence of Palestinian Christians. When they meet Christians from Palestine, “people in America ask them when they converted.” 

“The Stones Cry Out” premieres in cities across the US in late October and early November.

In this article, Liddell pointed to a link describing how the former village of Kafr Bir’im had been turned into a national park by Israel. I was struck by the revelation that Kafr Bir’im “was located in an area which IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] wanted, for security reasons, populated only with Jews.” So in November 1948 “most of the inhabitants were evacuated by the IDF ‘temporarily’ to the town of Jish further south ‘until the military operations are over.'”

The reason this struck me is because in numerous conversations I’ve had with Christian Zionist individuals, I’ve been told that the Palestinians were advised by Arab outsiders (e.g. from Jordan, Egypt, etc.) to temporarily take refuge in Arab lands until an Arab alliance could wipe out all the Jews. Therefore, I’ve been told, these Palestinians relinquished their right to the land, and only the Arabs are to blame for leaving them in limbo. This (Israeli) source, on the other hand, indicates that at least Kafr Bir’im was largely cleared of Palestinians by the IDF.

Removing one people group from an area in order to replace them with another people group is not only racist, but this fits the definition of ethnic cleansing. Elias Chacour, another Palestinian Christian, shares similar first-hand stories in his book, “Blood Brothers.” In some of the stories he shares, it wasn’t just ethnic cleansing that took place, but genocide as well.

In any case, I’m glad to see that more Palestinian Christians are being given a chance for their voices to be heard.