The Canaanites are historically acknowledged as the first inhabitants of the Land of Israel, before the Hebrews settled there. Indeed, the correct geographic name of the Land of Israel is Canaan, not “Palestine” (a Roman invention, as we will see later). They were composed by different tribes, that may be distinguished in two main groups: the Northern or Coastland Canaanites and the Southern or Mountain Canaanites.
·The Northern Canaanites settled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea from the southeastern side of the Gulf of Iskenderun to the proximities of the Gulf of Hayfa. Their main cities were Tzur, Tzidon, Gebal (Byblos), Arvad, Ugarit, and are better known in history by their Greek name Phoenicians, but they called themselves “Kana’ana” or “Kinachnu”. They did not found any unified kingdom but were organized in self-ruled cities, and were not a warlike people but rather skilful traders, seafarers and builders. Their language was adopted from their Semitic neighbors, the Arameans, and was closely related to Hebrew (not to Arabic!). Phoenicians and Israelites did not need interpreters to understand each other. They followed the same destiny of ancient Israel and fell under Assyrian rule, then Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, Seleucian and Roman. Throughout their history the Phoenicians intermarried with different peoples that dwelled in their land, mainly Greeks and Armenians. During the Islamic expansion they were Arabized, yet, never completely assimilated, and their present-day state is Lebanon, erroneously regarded as an “Arab” country, a label that the Lebanese people reject. Unlike the Arab states, Lebanon has a western democratic-style official name, “Lebanese Republic”, without the essential adjective “Arab” that is required in the denominations of every Arab state. The only mention of the term Arabic in the Lebanese constitution refers to the official language of the state, which does not mean that the Lebanese people are Arabs in the same way as the official language of the United States is English but this does not qualify the Americans as British.
The so-called Palestinians are not Lebanese (although some of them came from Syrian-occupied Lebanon), therefore they are not Phoenicians (Northern Canaanites). Actually, in Lebanon they are “refugees” and are not identified with the local people.
·The Southern Canaanites dwelled in the mountain region from the Golan southwards, on both sides of the Yarden and along the Mediterranean coast from the Gulf of Hayfa to Yafo, that is the Biblical Canaan. They were composed by various tribes of different stocks: besides the proper Canaanites (Phoenicians), there were Amorites, Hittites and Hurrian peoples like the Yevusites, Hivvites and Horites, all of them assimilated into the Aramean-Canaanite context. They never constituted an unified, organized state but kept within the tribal alliance system.
When the first Hebrews arrived in Canaan they shared the land but did not intermarry, as it was an interdiction for Avraham’s family to marry the Canaanites. Nevertheless, eleven of the twelve sons of Yakov married Canaanite women (the other son married an Egyptian), and since then, the Tribes of Israel began to mix with the local inhabitants. After the Exodus, when the Israelites conquered the Land, there were some wars between them and the Canaanites throughout the period of the Sofetim (Judges), and were definitively subdued by King David. By that time, most Canaanites were married to Israelites, others voluntarily accepted Torah becoming Israelites, others joined up in the Israelite or Judahite army. Actually, the Canaanites are seldom mentioned during the Kings’ period, usually in reference to their heathen customs introduced among the Israelites, but no longer as a distinguishable people, because they were indeed assimilated into the Israelite nation. When the Assyrians overran the Kingdom of Israel, they did not leave any Canaanite aside, as they had all become Israelites by that time. The same happened when the Babylonians overthrew the Kingdom of Judah.
Therefore, the only people that can trace back a lineage to the ancient Canaanites are the Jews, not the Palestinians, as Canaanites did not exist any longer after the 8th century b.c.e. and they were not annihilated but assimilated into the Jewish people.
Conclusion: the Palestinians cannot claim any descent from the ancient Canaanites – if so, why not to pretend also the Syrian “occupied territories”, namely, Lebanon? Why do they not speak the language of the ancient Canaanites, that was Hebrew? Because they are NOT Canaanites at all!
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