TEL AVIV – A historian on Palestinian Authority TV said that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people when the Balfour Declaration was made one hundred years ago, flying in the face of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks calling the declaration “devastating” for the “native Palestinian population” whose “rich heritage” is the “cradle of the Abrahamic faiths.”
In an op-ed published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper last Wednesday, Abbas slammed Lord Balfour for promising the Zionists “a land that was not his to promise,” and in the process creating “severe tensions between European Jewish immigrants and the native Palestinian population.” He went on to describe the Palestinian people as “a proud nation with a rich heritage of ancient civilisations, and the cradle of the Abrahamic faiths.”
However, as Israeli watchdog Palestinian Media Watch noted, just a day before the piece was released, the PA’s own official TV station broadcast an interview with historian Abd Al-Ghani Salameh who declared that in 1917 there was no Palestinian people.
The host of the show asked Salameh: “There always was a historical struggle over Palestine, and many wanted to rule it. How did the aspirations to rule affect the Palestinian existence, the Palestinians’ options, and the Palestinians’ possibilities of development?”
Salameh responded thus:
Before the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration) when the Ottoman rule ended (1517-1917), Palestine’s political borders as we know them today did not exist, and there was nothing called a Palestinian people with a political identity as we know today, since Palestine’s lines of administrative division stretched from east to west and included Jordan and southern Lebanon, and like all peoples of the region [the Palestinians] were liberated from the Turkish rule and immediately moved to colonial rule, without forming a Palestinian people’s political identity.
Abbas’ revisionism doesn’t end with the mention of the existence of a “Palestinian population” one hundred years ago. In his op-ed, he also discusses the “forced expulsion” of Arabs from their homes by Israeli forces after the creation of the state in 1948.
“I was 13 years old at the time of our expulsion from Safed,” Abbas notes.
The Arab residents of Safed were not forcibly expelled, rather they left of their own will. Moreover, Abbas himself admitted as much in a 2013 broadcast on PA TV.