“There were no such thing as Palestinians,” declared Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in 1969. “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
Meir was correct in that historic Palestine was not an independent state but part of the province of al-Sham, or Greater Syria (“the land to the north”). That this supposedly negates the existence of a Palestinian people is another matter, not only because there are references to “Palestine” going back to Aristotle, but because our concept of nationhood is itself a western colonial conceit. Once those arbitrary lines that divided the Levant were drawn up by our good friends Sykes and Picot in 1916, those national identities and aspirations to self-determination crystalised.
The erasure of the Palestinian people is a project that has been occurring ever since and it embroiled Australia in the most unlikely and tragic circumstances with the murder and alleged rape of Palestinian exchange student Aya Maasarwe early last week.