Sunday, January 07, 2007

Are Modern Palestinians Descended from the Canaanites?

No, of course not. It is not politically correct to make a point of this, of course, but I actually have people asking me about this as an honest question, so I making this post.

The ancient Canaanites were neither Arabs nor did they call themselves "Palestinians." Further, over the course of time, like many ancient peoples, they have vanished from history. In no sense are the Canaanites the ancestors of the current Arab population in Palestine, which arrived there in the course of the current era.

John J. Collins, in his book Encounters with Biblical Theology sums up the actual facts of the matter well:

The land [in question] was not called Palestine in the Late Bronze Age --- the name in fact comes from the Philistines, who were invading the land at approximately the same time as the Israelites.... The modern Arab Palestinians only emerged as the people of this land well into the Common Era. The ancient Canaanites are of no genetic relevance to the modern Palestinians. (p. 42)

I do not intend this post in any way to side with either the Israelis or Palestinians in the current conflict. Nor am I arguing that the Palestinians are not allowed to draw analogies between their situation and that of the Canaanites, if they choose to do so. (I think many might prefer to claim descent from Abraham, a sojourner among the Canaanites.) I simply want to get the actual socio-historical facts straight here for those who have questions or doubts.

9 Comments:

Blogger A. said...

Not true. People don't "vanish" - they change, or blend in.

When I look at Lebanese and Palestinians in my school, I always notice they're similar. Course, there are those that look more Arabic, others that look more Egyptians; migrations and in-breedings happen.

But what you're saying is completely wrong. I think it safer to assume the Canaanites are both the Israelites and the Palestinians. The Israelites probably bred with the Canaanites and merged with them. The Philistines never went beyond their five cities centered around Gaza and Ashdod, but they most probably contributed to the modern inhabitants of those areas as well.

Since the Israelites have absorbed converts and lived in a diaspora, they're not as genetically pure (if by purity, we mean purely Canaanites and Israelite) as the Palestinians who remained in their native land and bred with each other was well as with immigrants.

Mon Dec 20, 09:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Dear A, When you say "the Palestinians...remained in their native land" this conveys exactly the wrong impression. The Palestinians did not descend from the Canaanites but moved into Palestine/Israel in relatively recent times. However, I will grant you the point that Canaanite genes are likely still in circulation in the world. That idea, however, just does not affect the general point being made.

Mon Dec 20, 10:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger A. said...

No they didn't! Palestine has ALWAYS had a Muslim majority for at least 700 years, so if 700 years is a recent time then be my guest. Who were those Muslims? Arabs? No.

My dear friend, ever heard of the term "Arabization"? Look at North Africa; are we Arabs too?

I live in Dubai and I notice that "Arabs" from different countries tend to be completely different to each other. The majority of Palestinians are quite different in appearance from the Arabians. Palestinians blended with the invading tribes, with the Bedouins, with Egyptians, but they're still quite distinct from being primarily Arabic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Palestine#Demographics_in_the_Ottoman_period

Tell me, why do we not hear of Christian or Muslim Jews, if Jews were a race? It doesn't follow. The thing is, "Arab" is a cultural designation that denotes Arabic speakers, not pure, ethnic Arabs. There were Jews who converted to Christianity and Islam too; they were excluded from Israel and lumped with the "Arabs".

The fact is, the majority if Palestinians is composed of Canaanites and Israelites. Palestinians look more like Israelis and the Lebanese than like Arabians.

The Palestinian population growth has been steady. If you notice, the Muslim population almost doubles in the last 16 years. That is quite normal for their culture, and immigration probably contributed but not so significantly.

http://i-cias.com/e.o/iran.demographics.htm

Iran for example increased by 42% in 10 years in response to Khomeini's call. And that was in the 1980's, when the country was going through a bloody war with Iraq. So I really don't find it hard to believe that the agriculturally based society of mandate Palestine multiplied that fast by itself. I have 28 cousins from my father's side myself, and his family has a similar background coming from Jijel, Algeria where they lived based on agriculture.

Tue Dec 21, 01:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Well, A., this is all obviously a very hotly debated topic, and one about which people passionately disagree. I do not have the time right now to devote much more research to this question, but in the interest of fairness let me grant you some of your key points. I'm afraid that that will have to be the end of the discussion for now. First, you are indeed correct that for those who are not Bible scholars or other types of ancient historians figures like 700 years do not really seem "recent." To me, it is "relatively recent" as I said, but your point is well taken. Second, you are indeed correct that the Palestinians may be said to be "Arab" in terms of "ethnic identity" rather than in terms of pure genetic descent. It is not difficult to believe that the Arab settlers of Palestine have mixed with local populations, who have lived in the land for an indeterminate length of time. So, I do agree with you that although the Palestinians are culturally and linguistically an Arab people, they may have some genetic heritage from local peoples already resident in the land. Only genetic studies would seem able to really clarify the question. From what I have read, there is in fact now some initial evidence that Palestine's current Arab settlers did in fact mix with Christians and Jews populating Palestine, who themselves had roots in the land dating back several centuries or even much longer. (These locales of course, would have long since lost any substantial ancient Israelite or Canaanite language or culture.) So then, I hope I have granted you some of your crucial points and we can close of this discussion for now. Peace be with you, A.

Tue Dec 21, 03:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger A. said...

True, that their culture might have died out, but the people themselves did not.

I know that there was an Arab dynasty ruling over the Levant as a Roman client state - the Ghassanids - and they were of the Christian religion.

Arabs did settle in Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, for centuries before Islam arrived. This was triggered by the collapse of the dam of Ma'reb in Yemen. But I do not believe that such a scattered diaspora of Arabs would've been enough to significantly alter the populations of great civilizations.

Although the Romans, Babylonians and others exiled the Jews, there still remained a substantial Jewish population there that remained, along with Christians and Muslims, perhaps not yet referred to as Arabs back then. That population merely changed in appearance and culture, that's all.

Furthermore, I believe most immigrants were attracted more to Andalusia, Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia as they were the cultural, intellectual, political and economic centers of the Muslim world. Well, I shouldn't forget India, Persia, and Bukhara but it does seem that they retained their basic culture today. They might have targeted Palestine too, but I'm not sure in as much significant amounts.

Thank you for granting me some of your time. May peace be with you as well.

Wed Dec 22, 07:47:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger joshua said...

Genetic Studies identified the haplogroup of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians as haplogroup J2, with especially high distribution among present-day Jewish populations (30%) and Southern Italians (20%)
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Zalloua and Wells (2004) identified the haplogroup of the Canaanites and ancient Phoenicians as haplogroup J2. The National Geographic Genographic Project, a multi-year genetic anthropology study that maps historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world linked haplogroup J2 to the site of Jericho, Tel el-Sultan, ca. 8500 BCE and indicated that in modern populations, haplogroup J2 is found in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East, with especially high distribution among present-day Jewish populations (30%), Southern Italians (20%), and lower frequencies in Southern Spain (10%). From “The Atlas of the Human Journey-Genetic Markers-Haplogroup J2 (M172)”

Mon Oct 24, 12:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger joshua said...

Genetic Studies identified the haplogroup of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians as haplogroup J2. Among Present day populations, haplogroup has an especially high distribution among Jews(30%) and Southern Italians (20%)
--------------

Zalloua and Wells (2004) identified the haplogroup of the Canaanites and ancient Phoenicians as haplogroup J2. The National Geographic Genographic Project, a multi-year genetic anthropology study that maps historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world linked haplogroup J2 to the site of Jericho, Tel el-Sultan, ca. 8500 BCE and indicated that in modern populations, haplogroup J2 is found in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East, with especially high distribution among present-day Jewish populations (30%), Southern Italians (20%), and lower frequencies in Southern Spain (10%). From “The Atlas of the Human Journey-Genetic Markers-Haplogroup J2 (M172)”

Mon Oct 24, 12:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To quote Professor Ilene Beatty, highly renowned historian/anthropologist and specialist on the Holy Land: "[being of] Canaanite origin, Palestinians have priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and (except for the 800,000 dispossessed refugees [of 1948 - as determined by Israeli officials at the time]), not including the hundreds of thousands subsequently expelled]), they are still living there, which gives them present possession. Thus we see that on purely statistical grounds they have a proven legal right to their land." (Ilene Beatty - Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan,

Mon Jul 30, 11:04:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previous comments have alluded to Joan Peters' long since debunked book "From Time Imemmorial..." which argues that a large proportion of Palestinians in 1948 consisted of recent immigrants from neighboring Arab countries.

REALITY:

Dr. Porath, one of Israel's leading demographic historians, called Peters’ book a "forgery... [that] was almost universally dismissed [in Israel] as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon."(New York Times, Nov.28, 1985)

Rabbi Arthur Herzberg, vice-president of the WJC, agreed: "I think that she's cooked the statistics.... The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes."(ibid)

To again quote Professor Porath: “The precise demographic history of modern Palestine cannot be summed up briefly, but its main features are clear enough and they are very different from the fanciful description Mrs. Peters gives.... [S]he has apparently searched through documents for any statement to the effect that Arabs entered Palestine. But even if we put together all the cases she cites, one cannot escape the conclusion that most of the growth of the Palestinian Arab community resulted from a process of natural increase.” (“Mrs. Peters’ Palestine” New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.)

In his article entitled “Joan Peters and the Perversion of History,” Dr. Bill Farrell delivers a scathing review of From Time Immemorial: “After investigating Peters’ claims, this just becomes another badly written book with a premeditated bias. It will convince no scholars, or change the historiography of the Middle East. In the future, it will only be remembered by those who already believed its fraudulent assertions before its publication, who desired pulp instead of fact.” (Journal of Palestine Studies, Fall, 1984)

Peters ignored the population figures for Palestine carefully calculated by expert demographers during the 19th century as well as censuses taken by British officials during the British mandate. Her thesis is also riddled with contradictions, easily detected misrepresentations of documented history and invalid data plagiarized from a long since discredited source. Many scholars are convinced Ms. Peters did not write the book herself, but served as a front for others whose motives are obvious.

Mon Jul 30, 11:11:00 AM GMT-5  

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