Glen Bowersock on the Many Lives of Palestine

Writing for the New York Review of Books, Professor Emeritus Glen Bowersock reviews Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History by Nur Masalha, writing:

“Nur Masalha challenges his readers by the provocative and, it has to be said, wholly indefensible title that he has given to his new book: Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History. Masalha is an erudite and widely read Palestinian historian in London, who commands many languages, ancient and modern, in addition to Arabic, and brings an understandable passion to his reflections on the concept and location of Palestine. But Palestine simply has no continuity over four thousand years. Masalha himelf recognizes that Palestine was often not found in the same place, and [historian Edward] Gibbon was absolutely right about the off-again on-again intermittent linkage of Palestine with Syria. This is immediately apparent in the earliest appearance of Palestine under that name in any ancient text, the Histories by Herodotus ...

“He reasonably objects to 'the pernicious myth of a land without a people' in order to plead for a reading of the history of Palestine 'with the eyes of the indigenous people of Palestine.' Yet we have no reason to think that there were any indigenous or autochthonous people there at all, whoever might have preceded any invaders from whatever direction. By the time of Herodotus, residents in the area may well have been a mixture of Arabs and Jews who had moved into the territory from the interior.”

Read the full review at the New York Review of Books.


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