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Native Population almost wholly descended from Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity, and later Islam, not Arab in origin

In Palestine the "small" number of Arab invaders who had been imported by the Arabian conquerors were wiped out by disease. Thus the "myth" of the "Palestinian Arab" descending "from the Arab conquerors" appears to be factually incorrect for all but perhaps a few. Supporting Hogarth, Hitti, and Lewis, the Reverend Parkes found that
During the first century after the Arab conquest the caliph and governors of Syria and The Land [Palestine] ruled almost entirely over Christian and Jewish subjects. Apart from the bedouin [nomads], in the earliest days the only Arabs west of the Jordan (not all of whom were themselves Muslims) were the garnisons... "
They "were small," and were "decimated" by epidemics within two years after the capture of Jerusalem. After a law, prohibiting the Arabs from owning land there, had been rescinded, "rich Arabs" came into ownership of "a good deal of the country."[83]

"But this change of owners" -- often through the dispossession of Christian owners -- "did not involve any extensive change in the nature of the population." Jews and Christians still worked the land, because the Arabs had neither the desire nor the experience for agricultural toil; they "heartily despised" both the toil and "the tiller" [84]

In fact, during the brief time of actual Arab rule -- the Omayyad from Damascus -- that rule was military only.

The clerical or theological view favoring a providential interpretation of Islamic expansion, corresponding to the Old Testament interpretation of the Hebrew history and to the medieval philosophy of Christian history, has a faulty philological basis...

Not until the second and third centuries of the Moslem era did the bulk of the people in Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia profess the religion of Muhammad.  Between the military conquest of these regions and their religious conversion a long period intervened. And when they were converted the people turned primarily because of setf-interest -- to escape tribute and seek identification with the ruling class.[85]

Islam and the Arabic language were disseminated by a multi-ethnic Muslim community that at first included "numbers of Arabians in the provinces," but by by the tenth century onwards," yet another "new ruling race, the Turks" joined the seemingly endless parade of conquest -- a kind of periodic rape of the Holy Land.

"From the tenth century" a multi-ethnic native population, which perhaps still included some few descendants of the Arabian invaders -- all together under the rule of the Turks -- commingled, and the possibility of singling out the Arabs as a people became unworkable; Arabic-speaking people would be a more accurate term. Already in the tenth century "the word Arab reverts to its earlier meaning of Bedouin or nomad, becoming in effect a social rather than an ethnic term."[86]

With the Crusaders' slaughters -- including mass murder in 1099 of all the 70,000 Muslims in Jerusalem -- the deterioration of the land in Palestine acelerated.

... Massacres and the fear of massacre had greatly reduced the number of Jews in Palestine and Christians in Syria.[87]
The "vast majority" remaining in Palestine was "native Christians," of "mixed origin ... carelessly known as Christian Arabs."[88]

Because the population was "decimated" by the endemic massacres, disease, famine, and wars, one Muslim ruler "brought in Turks and Negroes." Another "had Berbers, Slavs, Greeks and Dailamites." The Kurdish conqueror,[89] "Saladin, introduced more Turks, and some Kurds."[90]

"The flower of the Saracenes who fought the Crusaders were Turks," chronicled Philip Graves.[91] "The Mamluks brought armies of Georgians, and Circasians. For his personal security each monarch relied on his own purchase."[92] "In the Palestinian towns Greek was the common tongue..." [93] In 1296, 18,000 'tents" -- families -- of Tartars entered and settled in the land of Palestine. [94]

Thus, not only was Arab rule "extraordinarily short," but the "pure Arab peoples in Palestine for millennia" -- a romanticized notion discredited by serious scholars -- actually consisted of a non-Arabian, multi-ethnic procession of immirants.

In the fourteenth century, the identity was specifically a religious one. According to Bernard Lewis,

The majority belonged to ... the community or nation of Islam. Its members thought of themselves primarily as Muslims. When further classification was necessary, it might be territorial -- Egyptians, Syrian, Iraqi -- or social-townsman, peasant, nomad. It is to this last that the term Arab belongs. So little had it retained of its ethnic meaning that we even find it applied at times to non-Arab nomads of Kurdish or Turkoman extraction. [96]

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source: "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters, 1984
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Portions Copyright © 1984 Joan Peters, Portions Copyright © 2001 Joseph Katz
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