Palestine history meme misses 2,500 year mark

A Facebook meme claims the first mention of a land called Palestine was made by former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat 57 years ago.

The allegation is false. The experts said AAP Fact Check historical records referring to an ancient land of Palestine date back thousands of years.

The Facebook meme (archived here) was shared by the Australian Jewish Association (AJA) on September 13.

The meme reads: “The very first mention of an ancient land called Israel was made by an Egyptian (sic) pharaoh, Merneptah, 3429 years ago. The very first mention of an ancient land called Palestine was made by an Egyptian opportunist, Yasser Arafat, 57 years ago.

The message states that the first mention of an ancient land called Palestine dates back to Arafat 57 years ago.

The meme appears to be from a post by British Zionist group Likud UK on September 8.

AJA President David Adler said AAP Fact Check via email: “While the term Palestine was a derivation from the Philistines by the Romans who renamed Judea, it was only a district name. It was never a country, state or land distinct.

However, the claim ignores several other historical sources that mention an ancient land of Palestine, says Dr. Daniel Miller, professor of religion at Bishop’s University in Canada.

“As regards a geographical entity with the name ‘Palestine’ (the anglicised form), the assertion made in this Facebook post is entirely incorrect – by millennia,” he said. AAP Fact Check in an email.

Dr Miller said that although there is no reference to Palestine in the Bible, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus mentioned it as early as the fifth century BCE.

Professor Julia Kindt, an ancient historian at the University of Sydney, reiterated Dr Miller’s assessment.

Professor Kindt said Herodotus’ name leaves Palestine in Book 3, Chapter 91 of Histories, as part of a list of provinces that paid tribute to the Persians.

“The fifth province was the land (except the part belonging to the Arabs, which paid no tribute) between Posideion, a city founded on the Cilician and Syrian frontier by Amphilochus son of Amphiaraos, and Egypt; it paid three hundred and fifty talents; in this province was all of Phoenicia, and that part of Syria called Palestine, and Cyprus,” writes Herodotus.

The Old City of Jerusalem.
The World Heritage-listed Old City of Jerusalem is home to many important religious sites.

The name Palestine is thought to derive from the Philistines, a group of migrants from ancient Greece who appear several times in the Old Testament.

Originally, Palestine referred only to the strip of coastal land along the Mediterranean where the Philistines settled and was distinct from the land of Judea to the east where the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah ruled.

Palestine later came to refer to the wider region under Roman rule, according to the pro-Israel Jewish Virtual Library.

“In the second century CE, the Romans crushed Shimon Bar Kokhba’s revolt (132 CE), in which Jerusalem and Judea were conquered, and the region of Judea was renamed Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel,” it says.

The name Palestine entered common usage in modern English and continued to be used into the modern period.

In 1920, a Mandate for Palestine, covering the approximate territory of modern Israel and Palestine, was established by the League of Nations and administered under British rule until the formation of Israel in 1948.

The verdict

The claim that Yasser Arafat made the first mention of an ancient land called Palestine in 1965 is false. History experts have confirmed AAP Fact Check that historical records refer to a land called Palestine 2,500 years ago and that the name continues to represent a territory in the region to the present day.

Fake – The request is incorrect.

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