‘But it is our country,’ replied Dr. Weizmann, raising his eyebrows. ‘We are doing no more than taking back what we have been wrongly deprived of.’

Sami Hamdi #TheOtherNarrative

‘But it is our country,’ replied Dr. Weizmann, raising his eyebrows. ‘We are doing no more than taking back what we have been wrongly deprived of.’

‘But you have been away from Palestine for nearly two thousand years! Before that you had ruled this country, and hardly ever the whole of it, for less than five hundred years. Don’t you think that the Arabs could, with equal justification, demand Spain for themselves – for, after all, they held sway in Spain for nearly seven hundred years and lost it entirely only five hundred years ago?’

Dr. Weizmann became visibly impatient: ‘Nonsense. The Arabs had only conquered Spain; it had never been their original homeland, and so it was only right that in the end they were driven out by the Spaniards.’

‘Forgive me,’ I retorted, ‘but it seems to me that there is some historical oversight here. After all, the Hebrews also came as conquerors to Palestine. Long before them were other Semitic and non-Semitic tribes settled here – the Amorites, the Edomites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Hittites. Those tribes continued living here even in the days of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They continued living here after the Romans drove our ancestors away. They are living here today. The Arabs who settled in Syria and Palestine after their conquest in the seventh century were always only a small minority of the population; the rest of what we describe today as Palestinian or Syrian “Arabs” are in reality only the Arabianized, original inhabitants of the country. Some of them became Muslims in the course of centuries, others remained Christians; the Muslims naturally inter-married with their co-religionists from Arabia. But can you deny that the bulk of those people in Palestine, who speak Arabic, whether Muslims or Christians, are direct-line descendants of the original inhabitants: original in the sense of having lived in this country centuries before the Hebrews came to it?’

Dr. Weizmann smiled politely at my outburst and turned the conversation to other topics.’

  • This was an exchange between then-Leopold Weiss (later Muhammad Asad) and Chaim Weizmann who would go on to become the first President of Israel
  • Full passage can be found in Muhammad Asad’s ‘Road to Mecca’
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Sami Hamdi is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Interest. An experienced geopolitical risk consultant, Sami assists blue-chip clients around the world in monitoring and advising on highly volatile business environments.

Sami has extensive experience in the MENA region having been a television reporter and talk-show host for over 10 years. He has reported on key events in the region including the Arab Spring, the fall of Morsi in Egypt, the Houthi crisis in Yemen, as well as the battle of influences between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In his freetime, Sami is a passionate and stubborn Arsenal fan, and loves travelling. Perhaps a bit too much…