No, Golbarg Bashi, "P" is not for "Palestine"
It's a children's book, designed to be controversial and provocative. Though the Iranian-Swedish-American feminist activist claims that her newest book "P is for Palestine" is "an educational, colorful, empowering way of showcasing the beauty and strength of Palestinian culture", it is a deeply dishonest piece of propaganda lies.
Let us start by quoting the Bookculture Website, whch is launching the book which it says refers to "Palestine (to some also known as the Holy Land)" Intriguing, no? Palestine is indeed to some also known as the Holy Land; but isn't it also know to some others as...as...now what was that name again? Something beginning with an "I", if I remember correctly. I'm sure I saw that name somewhere in an atlas and in the Bible and even in the UN.
It's on the tip my tongue...
OK, let's open "P is for Palestine" to the letter "I" and see if it helps.
"I is for Intifada". Nope, that's not it.
Oh well, I'm sure it'll come back to me soon. Let's dip a little into "P is for Palestine" and see what else it has to offer.
"Can we sing the ABC anywhere?
With a woolly bear or on thin air?
Yes – let's align,
We're going on an alphabetic adventure to PALESTINE!"
This book sounds like fun! I'm getting excited! Golbarg Bashi is going to take us to discover some of "the beauty and strength of Palestinian culture". Let's go!
"A is for Arabic, my tongue,
A language that's the 4th biggest ever sung".
But Arabic isn't really about "Palestinian culture", is it, Golbarg? I mean, not more than it is aboutAlgerian, Bahranian, Comorian, Djiboutian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Moroccan, Omani, Qatari, Syrian, Tunisian, Yemeni, and Zanzibari culture where they all speak Arabic.
That's a long list, almost all the letters from A to Z. Well, we are, after all, talking about learning the alphabet, aren't we?
Let's go on:
"B is for Bethlehem, my birthplace with the best Baklawas,
Put it on a plate, not in a vase!".
Actually, neither Bethlehem (just south of Jerusalem) nor Baklawa have anything at all to do with "Palestinian culture". The first mention in history of Bethlehem is in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 35:19), millennia before the name "Palestine" was even invented (by the Romans). Bethlehem is actually a central feature of Jewish history and culture. The name "Bethlehem" is actually an Anglicised version of the Hebrew Beit Lehem, literally "House of Bread", because of the fertile wheat-fields in the vicinity.
Yes, Arabic-speakers like to claim that it really means "Beyth Lahem", "House of Meat" in Arabic. But the historical fact is that we Jews were here first, we named it first, and our name is the original name. The similarity between the Hebrew word "lehem" (bread) and the Arabic word "lahem" (meat) is irrelevant.
Apparently the Bible knew that, one day, someone would attempt to falsify history by claiming that Bethlehem is "Palestinian" – which is why it specifically calls it "Bethlehem of Judea" (Judges 17:7, 19:1, 1 Samuel 17:12, Ruth 1:1, and others). Judea, the name which the Holy Land bore more than 2,000 years before the name "Palestine" was imposed in it by European colonialist invaders. (But more of that later.)
And Baklawa – indisputably a deliciously sweet dessert – is a Turkish name for a Turkish dish (though it would appear that it originated in Greece). Baklawa was popular throughout the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which for 400 years included the region designated by the Romans as "Palestine" – but that doesn't make it Palestinian Arab, or part of "Palestinian culture", any more than crumpets and Shakespeare are part of Indian culture just because those were popular throughout the British Empire, which included India for four centuries.
"D is for Dabkeh" – again, hardly "Palestinian culture": the dabkeh is a dance which is popular through the Levant and the Middle East. It is as much Moroccan, Libyan, Mauritanian, and Saudi Arabian culture as it is "Palestinian culture".
"E is for Eid" – oh come on, Ms Bashi, I'm still waiting for some "Palestinian culture": Eid is an Islamic festival. It's as much Afghani, Bruneian, Chadian, Iranian, Kyrgyzstani, Malaysian, Pakistani, Somali, Turkish, and Uzbek culture as it is "Palestinian culture".
Enough already. Let's get down to the most basic one of all:
"P is for Palestine".
No, no, no. "P" is NOT for "Palestine".
Remember the first one? "A is for Arabic"?
– Arabic has no letter "P", no letter equivalent to "P". That's why most native Arabic-speakers can't pronounce the "P"-sound. It comes out as a "B".
Nothing racist there, by the way. It's simply the way people are. People who grow up not pronouncing a certain sound are usually unable to pronounce it. That's why most native English-speakers can't pronounce (or find it very hard to pronounce) the "ch" as in the Hebrew "baruch" (they often pronounce it "baruk"). That's why few Westerners can pronounce the Hebrew guttural letters 'ayin and het correctly (native Arabic-speakers get far closer).
Since Arabic has no P-sound, Arabic morphs the P-sound either into an F or into a B. Thus the Hebrew "tapuach" (apple) becomes the Arabic "tufacha", and the Hebrew "parash" (horseman) becomes the Arabic "farres". Arabic for "trousers" is "bantalon" from the French "pantalon", Arabic for "post" (mail) is "bosta", and Arabic for "tomato" is "bandora" from the Italian "pomodoro".
Arabic almost invariably morphs the "P"-sound in place-names into a "B"-sound. Hence the ancient Greek Tripolis (the League of Three Cities), which became the Latin Tripolitania, came into European languages as Tripoli (in Libya and Lebanon), and into Arabic as Tarabulus.
Similarly the Arabic name for Portugal is Bortugal, for Poland Bolanda (in some dialects Bolonya, indiscernible from Bologna), for Cyprus Kubressa, for Nepal Nibal, and for Paraguay Baraghwai.
When the Romans invaded and conquered Israel, they renamed the ancient Hebrew city of Shechem "New City" in Latin, or Neapolis. This European colonialist name morphed into the Arabic Nablus (that P sound turning into a B again) which is the name the Arab colonialist invaders used from the 7th century onwards.
And now we come to the claim that "P is for Palestine". No it isn't. "Palestine" is clearly not an Arabic name. "Palestine" doesn't have any meaning in Arabic. It can't be Arabic, because Arabic has no letter "P".
Where does the name "Palestine" come from, then?
– Like the name "Nablus", it comes from the Romans. And "Palestine" is just as authentically Arabic as "Nablus" – that is to say, not at all. Like "Nablus", "Palestine" is a name imposed on the Land of Israel by European colonialist invaders.
The Romans generally called the countries they conquered by names of the peoples who lived there. Hence the country of the Hispanics they called Hispania; the country of the Galls they called Gallia; the country of the Britons they called Britannia. And the country of the Jews, they originally called Judæa.
But then, in the year 132, the Judæans did something that no other nation in the history of the Roman Empire ever succeeded in doing: they revolted against Roman occupation, and kicked the European colonialist invaders out of their homeland.
For three years there was complete Jewish independence and sovereignty in their homeland.
The Roman Emperor Hadrian, incensed and humiliated, brought his best general, Julius Severus, from Britannia to crush the Jewish rebellion. Beginning with just two legions in 132 (the Sixth and the Tenth, which was the elite of the Roman Army), he increased to 5 legions (80,000 soldiers) in 133, and eventually seven full legions, reinforced by cohorts of another 5 legions and between 30 and 50 auxiliary units, in 134.
All this to reconquer one single province of the Empire!
And the cost to Rome was almost unbearably high: the XXII (Deiotarana) Legion was destroyed; the IX (Hispana) Legion was so attritted that it never recovered its former power, and was disbanded a few decades later; and the crack X (Fretensis) Legion sustained heavier casualties than it had ever sustained in any previous battle, or would ever sustain again.
Having finally defeated the Jews in 135, the Emperor Hadrian was determined to wreak his revenge on the Jews.
Not content with destroying their cities, exiling a large part of the population, and ploughing their fields with salt to render them incapable of growing food and thereby starving them, he took an additional measure: he changed the very name of the country from Ivdæa (Judæa)to Syria-Palæstina, after the Philistines, the deadly enemies of the Jews from more than 1,000 years earlier.
The Philistines hadn't existed since the days of King Hezekiah. But the Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the Jews' country for them, in a deliberate act of final humiliation to the Jews.
And this brings us to the question: What does the name "Philistine" mean?
– "Philistine" is the Anglicised form of the Hebrew name "P'lishti", from the Hebrew "polesh", "invader". The P'lishtim (Philistines) were a sea-faring nation, invaders who came from the Aegean Islands (which is why they dwelt mainly along the Israeli coastline).
This is the true origin of the name "Palestine". The name means nothing in Arabic, and indeed cannot possibly exist in Arabic. This alleged "Palestinian" nation is a nation which cannot even pronounce its own name.
Golbarg Bashi is quoted as saying, "I consider myself Palestinian at heart". A truly interesting sentiment for a woman born in Iran, not even an Arab, who has no connection whatsoever with "Palestine".
But then again, maybe not so strange. After all, the most famous "Palestinian" in history was Yasser Arafat, born in Egypt to an ancient Egyptian family, who served in the Egyptian Army in the 1948 war of attempted extermination against Israel (which turned into Israel's War of Independence) – and who only later morphed into a "Palestinian".
In a surreal world in which the entire identity of "Palestine" is a fictitious narrative which begins with Aegean invaders who were defeated by the indigenous Jews and whose identity was falsely resurrected a millennium later by the European Roman colonialist imperialists, an Iranian can be just as much a "Palestinian" as an Egyptian can.
But still, Ms Bashi, get your alphabet right. "P" is not for "Palestine". "P" is not for any Arabic word. "F" can be for "Filastin", which is about as close as the Arab colonialists can get to pronouncing the Roman colonialists' version of the original Hebrew name of the Aegean invaders.
And "F" is also, of course, for "fraud" and "fake".