First documented in the late Bronze Age, about 3200 years ago, the name Palestine (Greek: Παλαιστίνη; Arabic: Filastin), is the conventional name used between 450 BC and 1948 AD to describe a geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and various adjoining lands.
The Palestinians are the indigenous people of Palestine. Their roots are deeply embedded in the soil of Palestine and their autochthonous identity and historical heritage long preceded the emergence of a local Palestinian national movement in the late Ottoman period, and the advent of the Zionist settler-colonialism before the First World War.
The history of Palestine, unlike the myth-narratives of the Old Testament, has multiple ‘beginnings’; and the idea of Palestine has evolved over time from these multiple ‘beginnings’ into a geo-political concept and a distinct territorial polity. The concept of Palestine is often approached in abstract or ahistorically, rather than as a contextualised representation of an entity whose boundaries – physical, administrative, territorial and cultural – have evolved and changed across three millennia.
There are no pure ideas or an ideal concept of Palestine per se; empirical evidence and human experience are fundamental to the formation of ideas and knowledge about Palestine. The classical Greek scholars — who were among the first to popularise the concept of Palestine — conceived time in two distinct ways: khronos, the way human beings measure time quantitatively and chronologically, through days, months, years, centuries; and kairos, the way human beings experience and remember particular moments or events from and with a particular perspective.
Although there are multiple beginnings and multiple meanings to the idea of Palestine, the important question is not so much about the ‘origin’ of the idea of Palestine, or where the idea came from, but how the identity of Palestine has evolved and been experienced through and across time.
Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History is available now.