But it depends on how you define “Palestine.” I don’t define it the way she did and just about everyone else does these days.
Helen Thomas died yesterday at age 92. As a White House correspondent, she blazed a trail for women as a pioneer in American journalism. Often called “the First Lady of the Press,” she became the first female president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and the Washington’s Gridiron Club. And she was the first female officer of the prestigious National Press Club. For fifty years, starting in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy, Helen covered ten U.S. presidents. She became well known to the public for sitting in the front row of televised White House news conferences and asking the president penetrating questions that were sometimes exasperating to him. She even wrote a book about it entitled, Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times (1999).
Helen Thomas was a witty, intelligent daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Kentucky and had nine children. Being Lebanese partly explains Helen’s caustic remark in this post’s title. In 2010, she declared what was soon put on YouTube as a video, that “Jews should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home to Poland, Germany,… and America and everywhere else.” It raised quite an uproar, at least here in the U.S. and Israel. Thomas immediately apologized for these words by writing, “They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.” She retired one week later.
By saying “Palestine,” Helen Thomas meant modern Israel. According to her YouTube remark, she obviously was opposed to the existence of the modern State of Israel. Not me. I follow Israel’s former Prime Minister Menachem Begin on this. He used the word “Palestine” to refer to the land the Philistines possessed in antiquity. (The word “Palestine” comes from “Philistine.”) Thus, Begin called the West Bank “Samaria and Judea,” as many Israeli Jews do today. He used to say publically to Israeli Jews, “If this land is Palestine, then it doesn’t belong to you.” Ironically, ancient Philistia was the arch rival of ancient Israel. The Jewish Bible is full of historical records about their many conflicts.
I think we should go back to defining the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean land) according to antiquity and thereby let that be the guide for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, that’s exactly what Israel’s Proclamation of Independence of 1948 demands, that Jews have a “right to … their ancestral land,” which is “Eretz-Yisrael.” In contrast, Israel’s war of independence resulted in much of the modern nation existing in former Philistine land due to the pattern of settlement in modern times.
Where was ancient Philistia located? It was on the coastal plain as a pentapolis of five city-states. The three most prominent of those five cities still exist today: Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod. That’s where I think the heart of the future State of Palestine should be located, which would require a transfer of peoples. It should be a very expanded Gaza Strip that is equal in size to the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip. In order for this to happen, Egypt must agree to forfeit its small territory in the northwestern Sinai Peninsula, between Rafah and El Arish, which is fifty miles southwest. That land never belonged to ancient Egypt.
In fact, the northeastern border of ancient Egypt was usually the Wadi el Arish basin. Recently, Egypt has been experiencing much turmoil in this territory between the Gaza Strip and El Arish. Many Bedouin residing there, including Gazans and incoming Islamic terrorists, are demanding that this territory be separated from Egypt and perhaps joined with the Gaza Strip.
Thus, I propose settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as follows: let the Jews have all of the West Bank, so that the Palestinians get out of the West Bank and live in all of the coastal plain just south of Tel Aviv to El Arish. And I think the eastern border should be the western environs of the Shephelah, Beersheba, and Kadesh-barnea. Although the border between ancient Israel and Philistia was somewhat fluid, this is where it usually was located. So, in that very elongated plain along the Mediterranean coast is where the future State of Palestine should be established. According to this proposal, “Jews get the hell out of Palestine.”
(The ongoing peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been dormant the past five years. Yesterday, new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after conducting much Henry Kissinger type shuttle diplomacy, announced, “If everything goes as expected,” Israel and the Palestinian Authority will resume peace negotiations “within in the next week or so.” My views on this conflict are in my book, Palestine Is Coming: The Revival of Ancient Philistia, and articles on my website kermitzarley.com. This proposal for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not my own. I show in my book that the Jewish Bible predicts that this geo-political arrangement will exist during the endtimes.)