Last updated on: 5/12/2008 1:02:00 PM PST

Was Palestine a "Land without a People?"

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Alan Dershowitz, LLB, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University, in his 2003 book The Case for Israel, wrote:

"There have been two competing mythologies about Palestine circa 1880. The extremist Jewish mythology, long since abandoned, was that Palestine was 'a land without people, for a people without a land.' (This phrase was actually coined by the British lord Shaftesbury in his 1884 memoir.) The extremeist Palestinian mythology, which has become more embedded with time, is that in 1880 there was a Palestinian people; some even say a Palestinian nation that was displaced by the Zionist invasion. The reality, as usual, lies somewhere in between."

2003 - Alan M. Dershowitz, LLB 

PRO (yes)

Mark Twain, American author, in chapter 56 of his 1867 book "Innocents Abroad", wrote:

"They [Jewish settlers] arrived in a desolate, sparsely populated region and drained the swamps, irrigated the desert, grew crops and built cities. They introduced industry, libraries, hospitals, art galleries, universities -- and the concept of individual rights."

1867 - Mark Twain 

Yaron Brook, PhD, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institue, and Peter Schwarts, Board Chairman, in a 2001 article "Israel has a Moral Right to Exist," wrote:

"Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren... The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent... It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies... Nazareth is forlorn;... Jericho...accursed... Jerusalem... a pauper village... Palestine is desolate and unlovely."

2001 - Peter Schwartz 
Yaron Brook, PhD 

CON (no)

Avi Shlaim, PhD, Professor of International Relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, in his 2001 book The Iron Wall, wrote:

"It is not say that the Zionists were unaware of the existence of an Arab population in Palestine or of the possiblity that this population would be antagonistic to the Zionist enterprise."

2001 - Avi Shlaim, PhD 

Shimon Peres, President of Israel, in a May 1998 La Monde Diplomatique editorial titled "Why Israel needs a Palestinian state," wrote:

"When Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, spoke of 'a people without a land' looking for 'a land without a people', he was not aware of the presence of an Arab population in Palestine or its future evolution."

May 1998 - Shimon Peres 

Alan C. Brownfeld, Executive Director of the American Council for Judaism (ACJ), in a 2001 Media Monitors Network essay "The Myth of Palestine as 'A Land Without People," wrote:

"The early Zionists, as they promoted the slogan, 'A land without people for the people without a land,' completely overlooked the fact that the land in question was already populated and was hardly 'empty.'"

2001 - Allan C. Brownfeld