At a speech in Ramallah on Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas perpetuated a myth that is one of the main Palestinian talking points.
“We are the Canaanites,” Abbas was quoted in Asharq Al-Awsat as saying.
“We will remain in our homeland, and the outsiders on this land has no right in this country. The land is for its inhabitants, this land is for the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago, and we are the Canaanites.”This claim has been made frequently by Palestinian leaders despite its blatant lack of historical veracity.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, stated that all Arab peoples first arrived in the land of Judea with the Muslim invasion from the Arab Peninsula in 637 CE.
“This includes the Palestinians who are proudly Arab,” Dr. Kedar told Breaking Israel News.
“Since we Jews claim we came back to our forefathers’ land, the Palestinians needed to create an entirely new version of history.”Dr. Kedar explained that this rewriting of history, or what he called “the earliest form of fake news”, was inherent to Bedouin and nomadic culture and has been a part of the Middle East for thousands of years.
“The culture of the Middle East is based on the Thousand and One Nights,” Dr. Kedar said, referring to a Persian classic collection of fables in which a newly-married queen named Scheherazade put off execution by telling her husband, King Shahryar, a new story every night.
Dr. Kedar explained that tall-tales, or constructive fibbing, was an inherent part of the culture.
“Imagine a Bedouin tribe whose water has dried up,” Dr. Kedar explained. “They move at night to a place where there are trees and water. They settle in and pitch their tents. In the morning, when the residents show up and ask what they are doing there, the Bedouins answer that they have lived there for thousands of years and they are indigenous.”
“They do it because they have to live because if they admit that they are not from this place, they must go away and they will die. They create history just as any culture creates something they need to survive. And they don’t even blink when they say it. Whether they believe it themselves or not is irrelevant.”
Rabbi Yosef Dayan, a member of the Sanhedrin and a descendant of King David, reacted to Abbas’ claim with humor.
The rabbi related that the last time Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Abbas, he told him that he was willing to make concessions but first, he wanted to settle an old and outstanding debt between the Palestinians and the Jews.
“When Moses came down from Sinai, a Palestinian stole the stone tablets. We want them back. They are precious artifacts worth millions of dollars.”
“No,” Abbas retorted. “We don’t have them and we don’t keep those laws. We weren’t there.”
“Exactly,” Netanyahu countered. “Now let’s talk about whose land it really is.”
Not only is the Palestinian claim to be descended from Canaan inconsistent with the history and archaeological evidence but it is also problematic from the Jewish side. If we accept Abbas’ claims, the Torah requires the Jews to annihilate the Canaanites that live inside Israel.
When Hashem your God brings you to the land that you are about to enter and possess, and He dislodges many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations much larger than you. And Hashem your God delivers them to you and you defeat them, you must doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter. Deuteronomy 7:1-2
Rabbi Dayan emphasized that since the Palestines were certainly not the Canaanites, this commandment does not apply to them.
“But even if they are not Canaanites, there is no place in the land of Israel for the Palestinians,” Rabbi Dayan said. “This is not racism against them. It is specifically because of their actions. They have made it clear that they will never change their goals or their actions even if we come to an agreement.”
Rabbi Dayan noted the Bible commanded the Israelites to first kill the Canaanites and then to destroy their idols.
“If you destroy their idols and leave the people, they will just make new idols,” Rabbi Dayan noted. The same is true of any evil they do. With the Palestinians, it is terrorism. Terrorism comes from terrorists and people who support it. If you want to stop terrorism, you need to relate to the source, which is the people.”
The rabbi noted that allowing evil people to dwell in Israel went counter to the Bible.
“We are commanded to hate evil,” Rabbi Dayan said, citing a verse in Psalms.
O you who love Hashem, hate evil! He guards the lives of His loyal ones, saving them from the hand of the wicked. Psalms 97:10
“Trying to be smarter, or more holy, or more merciful than God always leads to trouble,” Rabbi Dayan said. “That is how the world comes to grief. If you do what God tells you to do, the whole world will benefit from it.”
Abbas claim would be no less problematic to Christians in light of the Palestinian claim that Jesus was a Palestinian.
This would necessarily mean that Jesus was a Canaanite which contradicts explicit references to Jesus’ Judean origins in the New Testament.
Abbas’ claim also contradicts scientific findings. A 2017 study sequenced the Canaanite genome from the remains of five individuals buried around 3,700 years ago in the ancient port city of Sidon, Lebanon. The results were compared against the DNA of 99 modern-day Lebanese residents. The study determined that more than 90 percent of the genetic ancestry of modern Lebanese is derived from ancient Canaanites
The claim that Palestinians have direct ancestral connections to the ancient Canaanites without an intermediate Israelite link is an ideology that is contentious even among Palestinians since it concedes that the conflict with the Jews predates European Zionism.
The claim is also inaccurate, conflating disparate historical and Biblical timelines.
It appears that Abbas is claiming the Palestinian presence in Israel predated Biblical Abraham. The Bible names the pre-Abrahamic residents of Israel as the Philistines.
And Avraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days. Genesis 21:34
In historical reality, the Philistines were a Biblical people of Greek origin who settled on ancient Israel’s coastal plain around the 12th century BCE. Approximately 600 years later, both the Philistine and Israelite nations were exiled by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Philistines in 604 BCE and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE.
The Philistine nation and identity were subsumed into the conquering Greek culture and the Philistines disappeared as a people soon after. The Israelites returned to Israel 70 years later and rebuilt the Temple. The true Philistines, now non-existent, have no ancestral or historical connection to today’s Palestinians. The Arabs arrived in the region a full thousand years after the disappearance of the Biblical Philistines.