Definitions of Palestinian
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This article describes several definitions of Palestinian.
By place of birth
A Palestinian can mean a person who is born in the geographical area known prior to 1948 as Palestine, or a former citizen of the Mandatory Palestine, or an institution related to either of these. Using this definition, both Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews were called Palestinians.
Before the establishment of Israel, the meaning of the word Palestinian didn't discriminate on ethnic grounds, but rather referred to anything associated with the region. The local newspaper, founded in 1932 by Gershon Agron, was called The Palestine Post. In 1950, its name was changed to The Jerusalem Post.
In 1923, Pinhas Rutenberg founded the Palestine Electric Company, Ltd. (later to become the Israel Electric Corporation, Ltd.). There was a Jewish Palestine Symphony Orchestra, and in World War II, the British assembled a Jewish Brigade, to fight the Axis powers, that was known as the Palestine regiment.
Since the establishment of Israel, its citizens are called Israelis, while the term Palestinians usually refers to the Palestinian Arabs.
Britain used the term "Palestinian" to refer to all persons legally residing in or born in the boundaries of the Mandatory Palestine without regard to their ethnicity, religion, or place of origin.
By place of origin
The term "Palestinian" has sometimes been used to refer to a person whose ancestors are originally from the territory corresponding to the Mandatory Palestine (what is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). This definition includes the inhabitants of the West Bank (including the Dom and Samaritans), the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Arab citizens of Israel (including Druze and Bedouins), the Israeli Jews whose ancestors were living there prior to the onset of Zionist immigration (the Old Yishuv), ethnic Jews in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East whose roots are predominantly Palestinian (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrahim, Italqim, and Romaniotes) and the communities of Palestinian refugees all over the world. UNRWA defines the Palestinian refugees as: those (and their descendants) whose normal place of residence between June 1946 and May 1948 was in the land that is now Israel, but they went outside during the 1948 war.
The Jewish Virtual Library uses a similar but slightly narrower definition: "Although anyone with roots in the land that is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is technically a Palestinian, the term is now more commonly used to refer to Non-Jew Arabs with such roots ... Most of the world's Palestinian population is concentrated in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan, although many Palestinians live in Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries."
By ethnic origin
Referring to the Arab subculture of the southern Levant
The word "Palestinian" is occasionally used by ethnographers and linguists to denote the specific Arab subculture of the southern Levant; in that sense, it includes not only the Arabs of British Mandate Palestine, but also those inhabitants of Jordan who are originally from Palestine and the Druze, while excluding both Bedouin (who culturally and linguistically group with the Arabian Peninsula) and ethnic minorities such as the Dom and the Samaritans. However, some of this definition is not accepted. The Samaritans of the West Bank are usually referred to as Palestinian.
Referring to Jews in an ethnic rather than religious sense
The term "Palestinian" used to refer to Jews in Europe who were regarded as an alien presence, usually as reference to their ancestral origins in the Levant. For example, Immanuel Kant referred to European Jews as "the Palestinians living among us." Although re-affirmed by numerous genetic studies on Jews over the past decade, many Palestinian Arabs, and anti-Zionists in general, still reject this designation, usually for political reasons.
The term "Palestinians" tends mainly to be used as a short form for the Palestinian people, defined as equivalent to Palestinian Arabs, i.e., an Arabic-speaking people descended from the people who have lived in Palestine over the centuries. This usage may be intended to imply that other residents of Palestine (historical or otherwise), particularly Palestinian Jews, are not Palestinians.
- Definition of Palestinian (Jewish Virtual Library)
- Amid conflict, Samaritans keep unique identity by Dana Rosenblatt (CNN)
- Kant, Immanuel (1974): Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Translated by Mary J. Gregor. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, cited in Chad Alan Goldberg, Politicide Revisited. University of Wisconsin-Madison