Palestinians as a people

Yes, the Palestinians are a people.
But, as a people, they have only existed since about 1980.
Before then, they were simply the Arabs living in Palestine.
Before then, they did not even have a name (not even a name by which they called themselves).
Persons without any name are not a people.
Under the Turks (the Ottoman Empire), Palestine was simply a couple of sub-districts of the country of Al-Shams (Greater Syria), and the capital of Palestine was Damascus.
(Technically, that did not include Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which being Muslim-minority cities, were ruled directly from Istanbul.)
Arabs (and, of course, Jews) could move freely between different parts of Greater Syria, since they were the same country.
There was large-scale Arab immigration into Palestine in the mid-nineteenth century, and again in the 1920s and 1930s: the majority of present Palestinians are from families who did not live in Palestine in 1800.
With such fluidity, and no national boundary, the Arabs in Palestine were even less a separate people than eg the English in Lincolnshire.
In the 1930s, and in the 1941 appeal to Hitler by their internationally recognised spokesman (Amin al-Husseini), the Palestinian Arabs asked for independence as part of a greater Arab state (in Husseini’s case, “independence and unity of Palestine Syria and Iraq”, thus reversing Sykes-Picot’s dismemberment of Greater Syria:
Even in 1970, the PLO sought, by war, to take over Jordan (the PLO lost the war, and were expelled to Lebanon).
There are no instances of Palestinian (as a noun) referring to Arabs in Palestine before about 1980, neither in English nor in Arabic.
That the word Palestinian (as a noun) was unused by Arabs is shown by its adoption by Jews in Palestine from about 1920: Jews supporting Jewish immigration into Palestine were called Zionists, but a separate name was needed for the Jews who actually went there: these non-armchair Zionists were called Palestinians.
This Jewish usage was taken up by mainstream English newspapers, and for example appears in the name Anglo-Palestinian Club. There was no confusion, since nobody else was using the name.
In 1948, of course, these Palestinians became Israelis, and the name Palestinian again became unused.
The Arabic for Palestinian (which begins with an F sound) is the same as that for Philistine.
Since the Muslim view of Philistines is much the same as the Christian or Jewish view (and for the same reasons) – as an uncivilised people – calling an Arab a Palestinian or Philistine would have been an insult (like calling a Christian a Philistine).
In 1970, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation, founded in 1964 to liberate Israel from Israel) fought a war with Jordan and were expelled.
They went to Lebanon, where in 1975 they became a third party in the civil war (between Lebanese Muslims and Lebanese Christians). Both the other parties started to hate the PLO so much that they started insulting the PLO by calling them Philistines (in Arabic).
The PLO realised that, although in Arabic it was an insult, in English – as Palestinians – it was a marketing triumph.
Palestinian (like Whig or Tory or suffragette) moved from insult to proudly-adopted name.
Sometime between 1948 and 1990, the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza became for the first time a separate people, with the name Palestinians.


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