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Palestinians = Philistines?

30-09-2011 - Posted by Andre Piet

In response to my weblog “Perils around Palestine” I received a few reactions. I had written:

… the Philistines or, if you prefer, the Palestinians? (in Hebrew it is the same name) …

It seems beneficial to take a closer look at this expression.

Palestine – Philistia

In general, the expression Palestine is considered a corruption of the Hebrew word ‘plesheth’, which in turn is derived from the verb ‘palash’ (=roll, see Wikipedia for more details). To us, the difference between the words Palestine and Philistine is considerable, but in Hebrew the difference disappears due to the Hebrew word does not have any vowels. In Arabic, Palestine is: Filastin, Falastin, Filistin. It is peculiar that the reference to Israel’s south-west coast (Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Ekron and Gath) later gained reference to the entire land area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. After the deportation of Judah (the Babylonian exile), the entire area went, justifiably, ‘to Philistines’. The writer Herodotus and later on also the Roman emperors regarded Palestine to include ‘Eretz Yisrael’. Such a stretching of the meaning of words has occurred more often. So is Asia in the Bible, initially, referring only the western coast of Turkey, but subsequently, it was applied to the entire country of Turkey (>Asia Minor), whereas today, it refers to the whole continent, including most of Russia, China and Indonesia. Not descendants but heirs The preceding paragraph requires a little more information. When I state that in Hebrew the concepts Philistine and Palestine are identical, then it may not, at all, be concluded that, consequently, the present Palestinians are descendants of the earlier Philistines. Even if there would be genetic connections, then it is still not what this is all about. The Palestinians are not the offspring, but the heirs of the Philistines. In the Biblical sense of the word, they are their sons. They have not only inherited their name, but they also fulfill the same role as the Philistines in the past. It were the Philistines who constantly challenged Israel’s claim to the land, and who were ever in a state of conflict with them, precisely as is the case, today. This explains the persistent conflict since 1948. Along with this, it is peculiarly noteworthy that the present-day Palestinians live in the same area where also the Philistines of the past resided, namely, in the Gaza Strip. Old times revived In brief and to the point: in conjunction with the fact that the Palestinians have succeeded in presenting themselves on the world stage (a great deal of the motions in the UN are in support of them), is the fact that after thousands of years, Israel’s classical arch-rival, has returned from total obscurity. ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema