The Department of Corrections: Ben-Hur, the LA Times & a place called Palestine

on 55 Comments
“You know the law – every son of Israel must have some occupation.”
Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Chapter IV

ben hur charlton hestonOn September 26, The Los Angeles Times ran a short Calendar section item on the new belated 50th anniversary, fully restored DVD and Blu-Ray editions of William Wyler’s 1959 blockbuster biblical epic Ben-Hur. The film, which was based on an 1880 novel by former Civil War general and New Mexico territory governor Lew Wallace, is described by the paper as a “period drama [that] revolves around Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a Palestinian nobleman who is enslaved by the Romans, engages in one of the most thrilling chariot races ever captured on screen, and even encounters Jesus Christ.”

As no innocuous (or factual) mention of “Palestine” goes unpunished, especially when the culprit is a major American publication, the Zionist advocacy group, The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), was immediately on the case.

The same day the Ben-Hur blurb appeared, CAMERA issued a call to its supporters to contact the Times and complain about its usage of the term “Palestinian nobleman” to describe Ben-Hur’s title character, claiming, “Of course, there was no such place as ‘Palestine’ in the time of Jesus, since the Romans didn’t rename Judea as ‘Palestina’ until a hundred years after the death of Jesus.”

Considering CAMERA’s supposed interest in “accuracy”, it should be noted that its condemnation calls Ben-Hur a “1951 Hollywood blockbuster.” In reality, the film was released in November 1959. 

Nevertheless, two days later, as a result of CAMERA’s complain-campaign, theLA Times printed a correction to its original item. It apologized for referring to Ben-Hur as a “Palestinian nobleman” and continued:

“The character Ben-Hur was a Jew from Judea who lived long before the place now known as Palestine was given that name.”

Unfortunately, the paper was far too quick to issue this correction and should have checked some primary sources rather than merely rely on the flurry of emails and phone calls from outraged and misinformed Zionists for their historical information.

To call CAMERA’s claim that “there was no such place as ‘Palestine’ in the time of Jesus” is a matter of revisionism is an understatement. The allegation is not only simply false, it is a deliberate lie.

Specific references to “Palestine” date back nearly five hundred years before “the time of Jesus.” In the 5th Century BC, Herodotus, the first historian in Western civilization, referenced “Palestine” numerous times in chronicle of the ancient world, The Histories, including the following passage describing “Syrians of Palestine”:

“…they live in the coastal parts of Syria; and that region of Syria and all that lies between it and Egypt is called Palestine.” (VII.89)

The above translation by Harry Carter is featured in the 1958 Heritage Press edition of Herodotus’ famous work. Both older and newer versions corroborate the accuracy of the reference. A. D. Godley’s 1920 translation of the crucial line states, “This part of Syria as far as Egypt is all called Palestine”, while Robin Waterfield’s 1998 updated Oxford translation renders the passage this way: “This part of Syria, all the way to the border with Egypt, is known as Palestine.”

A hundred years later, in the mid-4th Century BC (still nearly four hundred years before the birth of Wallace’s fictional hero), Aristotle made reference to the Dead Sea in his Meteorology. “Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said,” he wrote. “They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them.” (II.3)

Two hundred years later, in the mid-2nd Century BC, ancient geographer Polemon wrote of a place “not far from Arabia in the part of Syria called Palestine,” while Greek travel writer Pausanias wrote in his Description of Greece, “In front of the sanctuary grow palm-trees, the fruit of which, though not wholly edible like the dates of Palestine, yet are riper than those of Ionia.” (9.19.8)

Despite the claim “the Romans didn’t rename Judea as ‘Palestina’ until a hundred years after the death of Jesus,” contemporaries of Jesus also routinely referred to Palestine as, well, Palestine. For instance, in the first decade of the 1st Century, the Roman poet Ovid mentioned Palestine in both his famed mythological poem Metamorphoses and his erotic elegy The Art of Love. He also wrote of “the waters of Palestine” in his calendrical poem Fasti. Around the same time, another Latin poet Tibullus wrote of “the crowded cities of Palestine” in a section “Messalla’s Triumph” in his poem Delia. Incidentally, Ben-Hur’s childhood friend and subsequent betrayer is named Messala.

The bulk of the action of Ben-Hur takes place in the third decade of the 1st Century CE. The noted Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, writing around the very same time, opined, “Also Syria in Palestine, which is occupied by no small part of the very populous nation of the Jews, is not unproductive of honourable virtue.” (XII.75)

The Jewish historian Josephus (c.37-100 CE) was born and raised in Jerusalem, a military commander in Galilee during the First Jewish Revolt against the occupying Roman authority, acted as negotiator during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE and later penned vital volumes of Levantine Jewish history. His The Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews, and Against Apion all contain copious references to Palestine and Palestinians. Towards the end of Antiquities, Josephus writes,

“I shall now, therefore, make an end here of my Antiquities; after the conclusion of which events, I began to write that account of the war; and these Antiquities contain what hath been delivered down to us from the original creation of man, until the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, as to what hath befallen the Jews, as well in Egypt as in Syria and in Palestine, and what we have suffered from the Assyrians and Babylonians, and what afflictions the Persians and Macedonians, and after them the Romans, have brought upon us; for I think I may say that I have composed this history with sufficient accuracy in all things.” (XX.11.2) [emphasis added]

Josephus’ own emphasis on accuracy appears to be far more credible than that of CAMERA.

The claim that the Roman emperor Hadrian, eager to punish Jewish inhabitants of Judea after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, officially changed the name of the region to “Syria Palaestina” or simply “Palestine” in 135 CE and forced the Jewish community into exile is dubious at best, especially when, by then, the terms “Syrian Palestine” and “Palestine” had already been in use for over six hundred years.

It should certainly be pointed out that Wallace’s original text of Ben-Hur makes no mention of “Palestine” and consistently refers to “Judea”, “Judeans”, “the land of Israel” and “Israelites.” With this in mind, I agree that an appropriate description of the Ben-Hur character would be as a “Judean prince” or even a “Jewish nobleman.” Nevertheless, referring to him as a “Palestinian” is not at all inaccurate or incorrect, nor should it be in any way offensive or cause of umbrage. To lead a charge against such a reference is to promote not only the rewriting of history, both ancient and modern, but also to encourage the continual Zionist efforts to erasedestroy and deny Palestinian history and culture in their own historic homeland.

And yet, the major U.S. newspaper went out of its way to announce that “Ben-Hur was a Jew from Judea who lived long before the place now known as Palestine was given that name,” a statement clearly lacking in any semblance of accuracy. 

It appears to be time for the Los Angeles Times to issue a correction on their correction.

Nima Shirazi blogs at Wide Asleep in America. You can follow him on Twitter at @wideasleepNima.

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog,, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.

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55 Responses

  1. annie
    September 30, 2011, 2:32 pm

    great article nima, tweeted.

  2. pabelmont
    September 30, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Wonderful history of the use of the name “Palestine”. I look forward to the L.A. Times publishing a retraction — or correction — of its correction! Go to it!

    As a musician, I have been impressed that the Palestine Symphony was in full swing in 1937. Under that name!

    In the 1930s, the word “Palestinian” was often used to describe the Jews of Palestine, including new arrivals.

    CAMERA’s attempt to erase “Palestine” as a name for the territory is an obsession no-one needs. It is, of course, really an attempt to deny the use of the word “Palestine” in any Jewish context — and probably in any favorable context.

    • Charon
      September 30, 2011, 4:04 pm

      Erasing the name Palestine from the territory is already an obsession shared by right-wing Israelis. They like to put Palestine and Palestinians in quotes which is a deliberate attempt to undermine their existence. They like to say “There never was a Palestine” which is hurtful and false. These revisionists are becoming more successful at re-defining history all the time. Israelis refuse to even validate this nonsense with external sources, they just take it at face value and call you a liar

    • Sumud
      September 30, 2011, 9:12 pm

      In the 1930s, the word “Palestinian” was often used to describe the Jews of Palestine, including new arrivals.

      When the dust has settled pablemont, it will be so again. ‘Israeli’ is fast on track to becoming a dirty word.

      CAMERA’s attempt to erase “Palestine” as a name for the territory is an obsession no-one needs. It is, of course, really an attempt to deny the use of the word “Palestine” in any Jewish context — and probably in any favorable context.

      It’s an attempt to wipe Palestine from the map.

      As is common with zionists, what they bleat about the most is what they are in fact guilty of. Multiple instances of the “big lie”.

      • Mooser
        October 1, 2011, 7:28 pm

        “We Jews-Israeli-Zionists have nothing to be ashamed of in the name “Palestine”.

        No you have an extraordinary amount to be ashamed of, and your smarmy and hypocritical adoption of the name Palestine could be added to them, if it wasn’t of such insignificant magnitude compared to the others.
        That Zionists have none of the shame of normal people we already know, but hey, thanks for reminding us, Sam.

      • Mooser
        October 1, 2011, 7:29 pm

        Sorry , this was a response to “Samuel” below.

    • Samuel
      October 1, 2011, 5:21 am

      The Jerusalem Post was formally the “Palestine Post”

      The Joint Israel Appeal used to be called the Joint Palestine Appeal even into the 1970’s

      My father who was brought up in England, when subject to frequent anti-semitic invective, was often told by British citizens to “go back to Palestine”.

      We Jews-Israeli-Zionists have nothing to be ashamed of in the name “Palestine”. I am proudly Palestinian. But anyhow, rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

  3. Real Jew
    September 30, 2011, 2:45 pm

    How petty and childish. Shame on the LA times. These Zio bullies are constantly gaining these small victories. We need to implement the same tactics if we are to compete.

  4. Gellian
    September 30, 2011, 2:56 pm

    In point of fact, Nima’s references are right. You don’t need to worry about translations. I just checked the originals of some (Herodotus, Ovid). In fact, the list could easily be extended just by looking in the right dictionary. A big Latin dictionary, for instance, shows that references to Palestine or Palestinians appear in Pliny, Ovid, Tibullus, Statius, Jerome, the Vulgate, and the Historia Augusta.

    But also in point of fact, the Zionists are right about this one. It’s ridiculous to refer to Ben Hur as a “Palestinian”. That’s the name Hadrian gave to what had been called Judaea by the Romans previously. The Greek gospels constantly refer to Ioudaioi (= Judaeae in Latin script), i.e. Judeans. A Roman in the time of Jesus called the place Judea.

    That’s not a point in favor of the Zionist mythology, though. It’s just a historical observation.

    • David44
      October 2, 2011, 12:29 am

      “References to Palestine or Palestinians appear in Pliny, Ovid, Tibullus, Statius, Jerome, the Vulgate, and the Historia Augusta”.

      “It’s ridiculous to refer to Ben Hur as a “Palestinian” … A Roman in the time of Jesus called the place Judea.”

      But Pliny, Ovid, Tibullus and Statius WERE all “Romans of the time of Jesus” (approximately – Tibullus wrote a couple of decades before him, Ovid around the time of his birth, Pliny and Statius a couple of decades after his death but well before Hadrian”). Hence your statements are contradictory.

      The reason for your confusion is that you fail to distinguish the question of the official name of the province (which was “Judaea” until Hadrian changed it) from the question of what names were popularly used for the region (one of which was “Palestine”). For a particularly neat example of the latter, you might note that Jesus’ Jewish contemporary Philo is one of those who refers to the region as “Palestine” (e.g. “Life of Moses” 1.163).

    • Citizen
      October 2, 2011, 5:23 am

      This article says the original Palestinians (Philistines) came from Greece. Seems the only thing everybody agrees on is that the original dwellers in the subject land were the Canaanites. Joshua took care of them?

      • DBG
        October 2, 2011, 6:38 am

        so basically the Tanakh is a work of fiction, unless you want to use it to defame Judaism.

        Got it.

      • Elliot
        October 2, 2011, 9:38 am

        DBG –
        What bothers you about Citizen’s source?
        The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) associates the Land of Israel/Palestine primarily with the Canantites. The text names the territory “Canaan”. It places the Philistines along the coastal plane, as a seafaring nation. The Tankah also references the five lords of the Philistines חמשת סרני פלשתים.
        I don’t see why even the most traditional Jew would find offense in any of this.

      • Elliot
        October 2, 2011, 8:40 am

        Citizen –
        The link you provided is liberal Zionist. They seem to be anti-settler, pro-Israel. (I could find no names for the site’s authors.) Check out its small FAQ section: How is the UN anti-Israel? why Israel is not an apartheid state? Other sections focus on Zionist history and advocate for Zionism.
        I wonder at the loose statement that the original “pre-patriarchial” Philistines were not Arab.
        What period is that? What did it mean to be an “Arab” four millenia ago as opposed to an outsider from Asia Minor?

        On another note, the site’s linguistic explanation for the “Philistine” is that the root p.l.s. פלש means “rolling or migratory”. Interestingly, the Israeli Hebrew meaning of that root is “to invade”.

        So, perhaps Israel’s military history qualifies Israelis as modern-day Philistines/Palestinians.

  5. tod
    September 30, 2011, 3:42 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks the protests will continue until the caption will read:
    “The character Ben-Hur was a Jew from Judea who lived long before the place now known as Israel was given that name.”

    I mean, this is revisionism at its best. Palestine never existed. Nor does it exist now.

  6. GalenSword
    September 30, 2011, 3:43 pm

    Latin and Greek sources often refer to Judeans as Palestinians. I think the authors were trying to avoid the confusion that resulted because the rulers of Judea often were not Judeans themselves and these rulers ruled non-Judean territories.

    One can speak about Judaic populations outside of Judea like the Judaic community of Alexandria, but the terms Jew or Jewish should restricted to the time period after Saadyah Gaon (i.e., the 10th century CE).

    • GalenSword
      October 1, 2011, 12:57 pm

      BTW, Jesus was the subject of the non-Judean King of Judea, but Jesus was himself Galilean.

  7. pjdude
    September 30, 2011, 4:11 pm

    it should also be noted that the etymology of the word palestine is older than archeological evidence of a jewish state.

    • Elliot
      September 30, 2011, 8:04 pm

      pjdude – isn’t there archeological evidence of a Jewish/Israelite state dating to 3,000 years ago?

      • MRW
        September 30, 2011, 9:32 pm


        The short answer is “no evidence has been unearthed that can sustain this chronology.”

        But you can read it yourself:

        Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho
        By Professor Ze’ev Herzog, Tel Aviv University

        From Wikipedia:

        Ze’ev Herzog (Hebrew: זאב הרצוג‎, born 1941) is an Israeli archeologist, professor of archaeology at The Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University specializing in social archaeology, ancient architecture and field archaeology.

        Ze’ev Herzog has been the director of The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology since 2005, and serves as archaeological advisor to the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority in the preservation and development of National Parks at Arad and Beer Sheba.

        P.S. Herzog ends with [Israel] is not up to adopting the archaeological facts that shatter the biblical myth. The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently too threatening, and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye.

      • Elliot
        September 30, 2011, 10:15 pm

        MRW, well, I was off by a couple of hundred years. In the link you provided, Herzog affirms the many archeological finds from the Jewish/Israelite Hebrew-speaking society in Jerusalem close to 2800 years ago.

        So my question to Pjdude stands: what is your source for saying that “the etymology of the word palestine is older than archeological evidence of a jewish state.”

      • MRW
        October 1, 2011, 1:29 am

        I think calling it a “Jewish state” is a misnomer. Herzog does not say there was a Jewish state. He said the Israelites were a bunch of nomads and farmers who banded together (and dipped into Egypt once a year) eventually for agricultural purposes, and that archaeological findings of the ‘united monarchy’ of David and Solomon (“The Bible describes this period as the zenith of the political, military and economic power of the people of Israel in ancient times”) were “meager in scope and power.” And “Thus, the great united monarchy is an imaginary historiosophic creation, which was composed during the period of the Kingdom of Judea [ca. 800 BCE] at the earliest. Perhaps the most decisive proof of this is the fact,” Herzog emphasizes, is “that we do not know the name of this kingdom.”

        All the bible/zio sites now are claiming that the Hebrews pulled off some heist of Egyptians lands and Palestine in 1500 BC–this has been going on for two years–which is another imaginary historiosophic creation. (Can’t even find the really ancient maps that were available a few years ago.)

        Palestine was named in the third millennium BC, as I recall, after Palestinians who were tied up with the Canaanites and all those other groups that you have to do a web search to find out (not interested right now). I remember reading that archeologists found inscriptions on stones with the letters PLST in the mid-3rd C BC that indicated their presence. Maybe that’s the etymology.

      • Samuel
        October 1, 2011, 5:29 am

        I think you mean Phillistines – the name Palestine comes from the Biblical arch-enemy of the ancient Israelite nation who probably came to the middle east from Crete after a tsunami washed out their civilization there. They are often refered to as the “un-circumcized” being the only people in the area at the time who did not ritually circumcize, and thus were strangers to the area.

      • Elliot
        October 1, 2011, 9:12 am

        MRW – As Samuel point out, I think you are confusing Palestine with Philistines. Sounds reasonable that the names are related etymologically. But that’s where it ends. What is the archeological record for the Philistines. Surely nowhere near as extensive as the modern definition of “Palestine.” Is there any cultural or biological connection between the Philistines and the Arab Palestinians? Do the Palestinians see themselves as successors of the Philistines? What about all the other tribes that had their mini-kingdoms in the area?

        The article traces “Palestine” to ancient Greece, no earlier than that.

        The size of the actual “kingdom” of ancient Judea is not significant in the context of tracing the roots of Judea vs. Palestine.

      • Potsherd2
        October 1, 2011, 9:54 am

        The Philistines were non-Canaanites who invaded the country and established their own state on the coast, centered on Gaza and the territory north of it. They warred with the Canaanite nations and were eventually absorbed into the population.

        The Romans renamed the province “Palestina” after the Philistines, knowing that they were traditional enemies of the Judeans, but this was long after the Philistine nation had ceased to exist, even if the name was still in use to refer to the region where they had lived.

        The Hebrews were of course Canaanites, and Canaanite would be the best name for the region and the population now, as they are the same people, divided by religion.

      • Elliot
        October 1, 2011, 1:02 pm

        The Romans renamed the province “Palestina” after the Philistines, knowing that they were traditional enemies of the Judeans, but this was long after the Philistine nation had ceased to exist
        So, the State of Israel is right. “Palestine” is all about putting the Jews down. The Romans started it and the Arabs want to finish it off!

        The British administration of Israel/Palestine, in an attempt at even-handedness, used used “Palestine – the Land of Israel” as its official Hebrew term for the territory. The double-barrelled term was too long to fit in around the rim of the British Mandate’s coinage, alongside the English and the Arabic. So, in the Hebrew, H.M. Royal Mint shortened the “Land of Israel” to an acronym. The Zionists took umbrage at the truncation of “the Land of Israel.” They accused the British of declaring that Palestine wasn’t Jewish. (The acronym for “Land of Israel” can also stand for “not Jewish”).

      • MHughes976
        October 1, 2011, 3:10 pm

        The ‘Peleset’ in the Egyptian record of the ‘Sea Peoples’, dated to around 1175 BCE, are regarded as Philistines – this would be the earliest non-Biblical record of them. (The Stela of Merneptah, regarded as containing the first reference to ‘Israel’, is dated to about 30 years earlier.)
        There is archaeological trace of their presence around Gaza, notably in the form of pottery in early Greek style. A large and impressive hearth has also been found and this gives some credence to the etymology ‘People of the Hearth’ – phyle and hestia. They originally formed a state with ‘five lords’ – I sometimes suggest that they were the only democracy in the Middle East. How long this continued and how long they maintained cultural connections with Greece is not known. Presumably they merged into the wider Greek-speaking population of ‘Palestine’ when the Greek language became widely spoken there after Alexander’s time, so I don’t think that we should say that they ever ceased to exist. The name ‘Canaan’, unlike ‘Palestine’, seems to have fallen into disuse rather earlier.
        The alternative tradition, found in Genesis 20, that makes the Philistines/Palestinians a more ancient people, there even before Abraham, shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s testimony to the continuing presence in the period, I’d think fairly late, when Genesis was written, of Philistines/Palestinians in Palestine.

      • john h
        October 4, 2011, 10:39 pm

        “The Hebrews were of course Canaanites”

        Not according to the bible, which some Jews and others consider to be history. It says Canaan was the son of Ham, and Eber was a descendant of Shem (Genesis 10:6, 21-24). Shem and Ham were sons of Noah.

  8. LanceThruster
    September 30, 2011, 5:02 pm

    The whole concept of “erasing” history is ironic –

    from –

    [begin excerpt]We next find Moshe Dayan addressing the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa (as quoted in Ha’aretz, 4 April 1969). Dayan had no idea how much his statement has awakened thousands of sleeping horses who have dedicated themselves to proving him wrong:

    “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu’a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” [end excerpt]

    It is also tragically ironic that the CAMERA acronym is supposed to be indicative that it is meant to ensure “accuracy in Middle East reporting.”

    All I have to say to that is…


    • Doz
      September 30, 2011, 5:46 pm

      Even the Jerusalem Post was originally called the Palestinian Post. This is not revisionism it is the classic big lie.

  9. Tzombo
    September 30, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Wow, that whole ‘there was no mention of Palestine before the Romans renamed Judea’ routine is such a standard that I’ve always believed it. It did seem odd that the Romans named it after a people that had not been heard of for centuries, so this makes a lot more sense.

  10. MRW
    September 30, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Of course, there was no such place as ‘Palestine’ in the time of Jesus, since the Romans didn’t rename Judea as ‘Palestina’ until a hundred years after the death of Jesus.”

    From one of the country’s most significant map collection: the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the Univ. Of Texas

    Asia Minor under the Greeks and Romans

    Map of the Assyrian Empire and the region around the Eastern Mediterranean 750-625 BC

    The growth of Roman Power in Asia Minor

    Rabbi Joseph Schwarz wrote the Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine in 1850.

    • Bumblebye
      September 30, 2011, 6:28 pm

      On the issue of Awlaki, I have just heard Michael Schuer(sp?) declare emphatically that international law is irrelevant in time of war. When pushed on the implications, remained steadfast. The insanity of ideology.

  11. Jeff Klein
    September 30, 2011, 7:22 pm

    Unpublished letter of King George III to the Continental Congress in 1776:

    “Never in history was there a sovereign independent state called “America” and there has never been such a thing as ‘the American People’ or the ‘United States People.’ For a century after its redemption from the savages the land was always called ‘New England’ or some variation of that, so the the idea of a country called the United States has no historical validity. America has been and should by rights remain an English colony. We will never recognize such an absurdity as ‘The United States of America.'”

  12. kapok
    September 30, 2011, 8:04 pm

    I don’t care to compare lineages off ancient tribes; it’s a mugs game of who’s-got-the-shard. It’s enough to realize how productions such as Ben-Hur are so damn MOCKABLE! They’re jokes when it comes to describing the past. And that leads to the ultimate question: why would the producers of this dreck insult our intelligences so? Los Zionistos sure got some ‘splainin todo!

    • Castle Keep
      October 1, 2011, 6:09 am

      thanks for that insight, kapok. Important point how Hollywood fiction has morphed into historical reality.

  13. Elliot
    September 30, 2011, 8:09 pm

    …and the origin of “Palestine” is in the Biblical “Plishtim”
    i.e. Philistines. So even by the standards of Jewish apologists, the origin of “Palestine” is contemporaneous with any Jewish claims to ownership.

    • Tzombo
      September 30, 2011, 9:23 pm

      And the Arabic for Palestine (and Palestinians) is Filistin. Filistini is Palestinian. It’s pretty obvious if you think about it.

    • MRW
      October 1, 2011, 1:46 am

      Yes, and predates it.

  14. lobewyper
    September 30, 2011, 8:54 pm

    Nice example of speaking power to truth!

  15. DICKERSON3870
    September 30, 2011, 10:16 pm

    RE: “the major U.S. newspaper went out of its way to announce that ‘Ben-Hur was a Jew from Judea who lived long before the place now known as Palestine was given that name,’ a statement clearly lacking in any semblance of accuracy.” ~ Nima Shirazi

    MY COMMENT: I’m not certain, but I think it has something to do with the Ministry of Truth, Newspeak (tenth edition) and the infamous ‘memory hole’.


    Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix[1] in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—”thoughtcrime”, or “crimethink” in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

    SOURCE –

    ALSO SEE: “1984” R 110 minutes (streaming until 10/1/11)
    This movie adaptation of George Orwell’s eerie, dystopian tale — filmed during the year for which it’s named — follows the “reeducation” of two people who break the law in a totalitarian state by falling in love while Big Brother is watching. The film turned out to be Richard Burton’s last, but it’s also notable for its intriguing technique of shooting specific scenes from the novel on the exact dates they were specified in print.
    Director: Michael Radford
    Netflix Availability: DVD availability date unknown, streaming until 10/1/11
    P.S. ON YouTube:
    BBC Television’s live production of George Orwell’s “1984”. Produced in 1954.
    P.P.S. Has everyone heard about Obama’s most recent “glorious victory” (extrajudicial/summary execution) on the Malabar front? Praise be to Alla…um…er…I mean Yahweh!

  16. Justice Please
    October 1, 2011, 2:43 am

    I learned a lot, thanks!

  17. Peter in SF
    October 1, 2011, 3:39 am

    Wikipedia has a scan of the original handwritten copy of the Basel Program of the First Zionist Congress of 1897. The declaration is in German, and it has two references to a place called “Palästina”. In the Jewish Virtual Library‘s version, “Palästina” in German is helpfully translated into English as “Eretz­Israel”.

    • Justice Please
      October 1, 2011, 5:55 am

      Nice catch. It’s also notable that the document doesn’t say “Palestine” in quotes, as if the author(s) would want to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the word, but state it plainly as fact: Palestine.

    • Elliot
      October 2, 2011, 9:26 am

      “Eretz Yisrael” was too foreign for the Hungarian ex-pat, Theodore, who last read anything in Hebrew at his Bar Mitzvah.
      When I did this kind of thing I found translating Hebrew texts from pre-State of Israel times a challenge. You can’t render פלשתינה Palestine as Palestine. And Eretz Yisrael/Land of Israel makes me you sounds like a settler.
      Which might be the point of this discussion. The terminology and reality cannot be resolved under the old Israeli categories.

  18. Remax
    October 1, 2011, 6:08 am

    Nation states are a fairly recent idea. On the ground, in that area, and all over Europe, the people in various groupings were subject to chiefs, princes, kings etc. who were themselves more often than not under the thumb of distant overlords. The areas under such local control were not thought of as ‘nations’ in today’s sense of the word. There was, of course, religious identity, the same that sent groups of adventurers from all over on the Crusades and unifies the Islamic and Jewish worlds today but it had nothing directly to do with nationalism, which rather grew out of the cooperation and conflicts of local rulers, and their later unification under single charismatic leaders. This happened in England, France, Italy, Germany, the US, all over, mostly in the 19th century. It really only meaningfully happened with Jewish people when Israel was founded sixty odd years ago and any effort to make it appear otherwise is to impose a particular, and somewhat dubious, historical perspective on one group while denying it to others.

    Palestine has always been where it is. The numerous instances listed above are all from historians and others making reference to some aspect or event in that area. That is the way the place was referred to, it was an area like ‘Europe’ or the ‘Far East’ with all sorts of people living in it including disparate groups of Jews with their common religious focus centred of Jerusalem, just like Roman Catholics or devotees of Islam. It is true that the Jews were in Jerusalem earlier than Christians or Muslims but to employ that as a justification for some kind of exclusivity is rather like claiming a particular section of a public beach on the grounds that your family occupied it yesterday.

    Jews are not people from Israel, only Israelis are people from Israel, but Palestinians decidedly are people from Palestine and it scarcely matters what name you give them, there they have ever been and there they are.

  19. traveller
    October 1, 2011, 8:15 am

    TheDersh on twitter:

    “If Palestinians recognize Israel as anything but the Official Alan Dershowitz Commemorative Jewish State for Jews™, they’re all anti-Semites”!/TheDersh

    LOL. That feed brightens up my day everytime.

  20. CitizenC
    October 1, 2011, 9:22 am

    Another interesting question is whether Ben Hur could even be made today. I happened to see it recently. There are scenes of the Sermon on the Mount and the miracles of loaves and fishes and the crucifixion. At the end of the film, the Judean nobleman and his family, by then impoverished proletarians, convert to Christianity. Judean nobility is part of the illusion and falsity of This World, to be exchanged gladly for Christian redemption in the next.

    It’s all perfectly innocuous, with no disparaging of Jews or Judaism, nothing like what one heard about Mel Gibson’s passion play (which I did not see). Still, one wonders if such an outcome would be produced today by a major studio. (Gibson used his money, and was chancy with distributors I think)

    • Potsherd2
      October 1, 2011, 9:58 am

      Ben Hur could only have been made then because it was based on a 19th century bestseller, from a time when it was manifestly obvious that the entire world should be converted to Christianity.

  21. tommy
    October 1, 2011, 12:59 pm

    In Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence Palestine is mentioned, too, providing an early Twentieth Century validation of its geographical existence.

  22. Elliot
    October 2, 2011, 9:19 am

    I’m enjoying all the new information folks are contributing about the origin of the name “Palestine.” When Mondoweiss has an archive of topics, I vote for this thread to be included.

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