I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho. — Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator
On the contrary, former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker notes:
According to genealogical research of the Bedouin families in Israel, the Erekat family belongs to the extensive Huweitat clan, which originated in the area between the Liya valley, near Taif, in the vicinity of Mecca in the northern Hejaz region, close to the town of Hekl in the Sarawat Mountains, 350 km. from the Jordanian border, and northern Aqaba. Bedouin genealogical literature claims that the Huweitat clan is a Sharifi clan allied with their cousins the Hashemites. The Huweitat clan settled not only in Israel but also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sinai Peninsula by Ras Seeder.
A branch of this clan settled in geographic Palestine in several waves of immigration that started some 200 years ago, ending during the period of the Arab Revolt and First World War. Apparently, the family to which Erekat belongs settled in Abu Dis near Jerusalem during the last of these waves, which occurred in the early twentieth century, after the Jewish immigration to the area.
Amb. Baker also quotes Dr. Shaul Bartal of the Middle Eastern Studies department of Bar-Ilan University:
The Palestinians are not the farmers who have lived in Palestine for generations, but rather immigrants who only arrived recently. It was only toward the latter stages of the nineteenth century that the country began to blossom thanks to the emergence of a new presence – Zionism – and the amazing results. In 1878, the population of the country numbered 141,000 Muslims who lived here permanently, with at least 25 percent of them considered to be newly arrived immigrants who came mostly from Egypt.
Various studies done over a span of years by Moshe Brawer, Gideon Kressel, and other scholars clearly show that most Arab families who settled in the villages along the coastal plain and the area that would later become the State of Israel originated from Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan….Other studies show that the waves of immigrants came here in droves from Arab countries during the period of the British Mandate.
Why do I bother (and why did Baker, whose well-documented paper should be read in full)? Not, I think, because being indigenous is of such overriding importance in determining ‘who owns the land’. After all, ‘indigenous’ is a highly relative concept. Yes, the Jews are more indigenous to Judea than the ‘Palestinians’, but probably the descendents of the ancient Philistines (also, incidentally, not the contemporary ‘Palestinians’) have more roots than the Jews in what is today Tel Aviv.
Peoples migrate, assimilate, conquer and get conquered, wax and die out. Legitimacy comes from a combination of factors, of which one is prior possession, but it is not the only one. Modern international law (the UN charter) does not recognize taking land by force; rather, it prefers diplomatic consensus, which is why the Jewish people argue that they legitimately obtained title to the entire land of Israel with the San Remo conference of 1920, and legitimately defended it in 1967. Of course, the reason that the international community chose Palestine for the Jewish homeland was the Jewish people’s historical provenance there.
The Arabs, by inventing their own historical narrative and denying the Jewish one, wish to lay the groundwork to overthrow the just decision that was made by the international community in 1920, before its institutions became corrupted by Arab oil and terrorism as well as postmodern Jew-hatred.
Happily, it is also true that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and today’s Israel is capable of defending itself, as long as it can stay unified — despite some of its intellectuals who appear to have accepted the narrative of their own deadly enemies.