Whitelam presents two theses: that ancient Palestinian history should be separate from Biblical studies; and that Western scholarship "invented" ancient Israel while silencing Palestinian history. The first thesis is viable, for the region extending some hundred miles east from the Mediterranean encompassed many peoples in ancient times, but Western scholarship emphasizes those peoples and texts connected to the development of Judaism and Christianity.

The second thesis, however, flounders badly. An ethnic, political, and religious group called "Israel" is a recognizable entity in various ancient documents, including the Hebrew Bible. Scholars debate when this entity came into existence, but to describe the idea of ancient Israel as a modern one is bizarre at best. Arguing that Palestinian history has been "silenced," Whitelam chides modern scholars for referring to ancient inhabitants of Palestine as Canaanite and Amorite rather than Palestinian. Yet the former are appropriate designations given that they (unlike Palestinian) were used in the late Bronze and Iron Ages; Palestine first came into use in Roman times. Whitelam condemns any term that does not explicitly link ancient Canaanite-speakers with contemporary Arabic-speakers in the same area. While it is not wrong to call ancient inhabitants of that area Palestinians (in the same way that ancient peoples of the Western hemisphere can be called Americans), Whitelam's refusal to see the rationale behind any other term evinces the political agenda that dominates his book.

The author devotes much space to establishing that many modern scholars are interested in Palestine because of its significance to Judaism and Christianity. True enough: but precisely why Whitelam finds this shocking is not clear. He seems to believe that uncovering a motive for scholarship discredits it. He makes valid observations regarding the political and theological settings in which Western scholars operate, but these hardly demonstrate that those scholars deny the existence of Palestinian history. To take one example: Does it make sense to say that Norman Gottwald "fails" to write a Palestinian history because of his "distraction" with ancient Israel, given that the Hebrew Bible is Gottwald's topic?" Focusing on matters Biblical does not in itself quash the history of non-Israelites.

Whitelam's point regarding the silencing of non-Israelite voices from ancient Palestine is particularly rich with irony. Twentieth-century histories of ancient Israel are distinguished from their predecessors precisely by their attention to the literature of inhabitants of ancient Canaan/Palestine, who were hitherto known only from tendentious portraits in Biblical and other sacred texts.

Most importantly, Whitelam confuses distinct meanings of the word Palestinian, which refers geographically to anything connected with the region northeast of the Sinai or ethnically to a group of contemporary Arabs. The Canaanites—and David Ben-Gurion, for that matter—were Palestinian in the former sense though not the latter. Whitelam aggressively entangles the two meanings for his political purposes. In the end, he attempts to silence Israelite history in order to invent an ancient Palestine.