Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s son took to Twitter on Monday night to attack Palestinians, claiming that Palestine has never existed because there is “no P in Arabic”, among other excused for Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian land in a long and bizarre thread which ignited anger on social media.
“Hi all the idiots that twist ‘Palestine’. There’s no such thing! There is even no P in Arabic,” tweeted Yair Netanyahu, the 27-year-old son of the recently re-elected Israeli premier.
“Palestine is name the Romans gave to the land instead if Judea, as a punishment to the Jews for their revolt, 700 years before Mohammad was born.”
Palestine is called “Filastin” in Arabic, commonly understood to be an Arabisation of the Roman name for the area, “Palastina”, which is derived from Hebrew.
It is not the first time that an Israeli public figure has claimed Palestinians have no nation due to the lack of a “P” in the Arabic alphabet.
An Israeli MP and member of Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, Anat Berko, made the same claim in 2016, calling Palestine a “borrowed term”.
“This may seem almost comical in its buffoonery, but make no mistake, it’s the language of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and, of course, the most extreme forms of right wing, ethnic nationalism,” responded Iyad al-Baghdadi, a stateless Palestinian refugee in Norway, in a tweet.
Gregg Carlstrom, Middle East correspondent for The Economist, hit back: “Hebrew has no letter ‘J,’ so by the Yair Netanyahu standard of scholarship, neither Jews nor his father Benjamin exist either.”
Among other bizarre claims in the impassioned thread, Netanyahu also said there had never been and could never be an Arab nation called Palestine – because other Arab countries exist and the Jordanian flag is similar to the Palestinian one.
Many of the flags of Arab nations are similar as they are based on the flag of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War One.
The Israeli leader’s son went on to accuse Palestinians of being Arab “colonisers”.
Repeating a common Zionist trope, Netanyahu said that Israel, “the Jewish state from the river to the sea”, had been colonised by Arabs who traveled to Palestine after the birth of Islam.
While some Israelis hold the assumption that the Arab conquests under the Prophet Muhammad and successive Muslim rulers were the sole origin of Arab Palestinians, many who were already indigenous to the area at the time of the conquests were slowly Arabised under Muslim rule and much later came to see themselves as Palestinians.
Netanyahu later switched tact and re-purposed another Zionist trope, claiming the Palestine had been an “empty land” before the arrival of Jewish immigrants in the 19th century.
“Every single American and European documentation of the holy land in the 19 century (that was just a part of the Ottoman Empire) describes an empty land… The land starred [sic] to prosper because of Jewish pilgrims coming back to their homeland,” he tweeted on Tuesday morning.
“The Arabs only came less then [sic] a 100 yes [sic] ago as labor immigrants for the Jews and British. You can see that the most common last names in the PA is ‘al Masri’ (Egyptian), ‘Halabi’ (Alepo [sic]), ‘hijazi’ ( Saudi Arabia) etc..”
The Israeli premier’s son went on to claim that Palestinians had only begun referring to themselves as such in 1964, when the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded. Netanyahu then claimed the PLO had been “created” by the Soviet Union.