|Caliph Umar enters Jerusalem in 637, 19th century engraving|
The Colonialism of Palestinian Arab Settlers - Dr. Alex Joffe
It has been claimed that Jews represent an alien population implanted into Palestine to usurp the land and displace the people. Yet a wealth of evidence demonstrates that Jews are the indigenous population of the Southern Levant; historical and now genetic documentation places Jews there over 2,000 years ago, and there is indisputable evidence of continual residence of Jews in the region.
In contrast, historical and genealogical evidence shows Palestinians descend primarily from Muslim invaders, Arab immigrants, and local converts to Islam. The Muslim conquest of Palestine in the 7th century CE is a textbook example of settler-colonialism, as is subsequent immigration, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries under the Ottoman and British Empires.
Palestinians have the right to define themselves as they see fit. What Palestinians cannot claim, however, is that they are Palestine's indigenous population and the Jews are settler-colonialists. Palestinian genealogies that show their own tribes originating outside the Southern Levant are prima facie evidence of Arab settler-colonialism.
Muslim settlers who migrated or were intentionally implanted in Palestine in the 19th century included Egyptians fleeing from and imported by Muhammad Ali from the late 1820s to the 1840s, as well as Chechens, Circassians, and Turkmen relocated by the Ottoman Empire in the 1860s after its wars with Russia. Tribes of Bedouins, Algerians, Yemenis, and many others also immigrated during that century.
There was a 37% increase in the Palestinian population between 1922 and 1931, over 60,000 persons, as the result of illegal immigration. From 1932 to 1946, another 60,000 illegal male immigrants entered the country, with uncounted females imported as brides. These were in addition to the great influx of Arab workers from 1940 to 1945 in connection with the war effort.
The writer, an archaeologist and historian, is a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)