Interactive Opinion Editorials, January 2004,




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People of Cana'an and Ghassan

By Hassan El-Najjar and Margarita Matlis

Al-Jazeerah, January 2, 2004


Margarita Matlis:

I was looking at your December 31, 2003 letters. Who says Canaanites were the original inhabitants of that strip that Israel occupies today?

First of all, they came from the North, originally. Second of all, they were tied to Babylon and later the vassals of Egypt until the Israelis conquered the land.

They had NO KINGDOM there but a bunch of little settlements all paying tribute to Egypt. The word Canaan means "servant."

As for Ghassan, the editor is slightly missplaced, according to Dr. Abdullah Mohammad Sindi ( "As the Lakhmid Arab Kingdom was Christian so was its Arab neighbor to the west, the Kingdom of Ghassan, whose capital city was Damascus. This Syrian Ghassanid Kingdom was prominent in the 6th century and was an ally of the Byzantine Empire. "


Hassan El-Najjar:

I'm afraid you're not accurate on all five counts. First, Ismail Zayid, did not say that Cana'anites were the first to dwell in Palestine (go back to his December 31, 2003 letter). He was arguing that they were there before the Hebrew tribes invaded Palestine from the east. Actually, they occupied parts of what's today known as Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon 3,000 years ago. If you look at any encyclopedia, you'll know that they were Semites, which means that they were Arabs coming from the south, not from the north as you indicated.

Second, the relationship between Cana'anites and each of Babylon and Egypt was a natural one. These were the regional superpowers and all smaller entities in the region would have a relationship with them, just like the relationship between the superpower of today and smaller entities in various regions of the world.

You made a serious mistake in your second observation when you wrote the word Israelis. The Israelis never invaded Cana'an because they only appeared on Earth in 1948. I know that you meant the Israelites. But there is a whole world of difference between the two words. Israelis are Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, and people of other faiths or creeds who have the Israeli citizenship. They came to Palestine from all continents and many of them are converts, like descendants of Khazars, whose ancestors never lived in the Middle East. The Israelites were the descendants of Israel, Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Israel of today does not represent ancient Israel and the Israelis of today are not necessarily the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Zionists wanted to confuse people by choosing the word Israel in order gain support from the average people who do not have access to these basic facts. But even if you used the word "Israelites," it would not be an accurate usage. This is because the people that Moses led out of Egypt and entered Palestine/Cana'an after his death were descendants of the Israelites but also had some coverts with them. It's impossible that in 500 years in Egypt, no Egyptians would believe in the same religion of the Israelites.

Third, your emphasis on that the Cana'anites had NO KINGDOM sounds like you are belittling them. Just think about people in other continents like Europe 3,000 years ago. Can you mention any kingdoms anywhere outside the Middle East? I would like to remind you of a story of the city-state Kingdom of Shekim, which is known today as Nablus. The Hebrew tribes could not control it by force. They used the trick of circumcision, which enabled them to kill the men and control the city. Go back to your Bible and you'll read that Shekim had a king, Abu Malik, which is an Arab common name used until this moment.

The Cana'anites were Semites Arabs. A better spelling for the root word "Canaan" would be Qana'an, which means "content," not the derogatory word that you used. It is a common Arabic word that is still in usage. The apostrophe represents a glottal Arabic sound that does not exist in English. That is why it is written with "aa" instead of just one "a." The glottal "Q" is used in classical standard Arabic, while the "K" is its slang counterpart. Many West Bank Palestinians today say "Kal"  as the slang for the standard verb "Qal" which means to say. In Gaza, they say "Gal, " while in Yaffa and Haifa, they say "Aal."

For Ghassan, if you look at Encyclopedia Britannica, it gives you the following definition: "Ghassan: Arabian kingdom prominent as a Byzantine ally (symmachos) in the 6th century AD. From its strategic location in portions of modern Syria, Jordan, and Israel, it protected the spice trade route." Actually, Muslims it as an administrative entity, called it Damascus Wilayat (Province), and kept it until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by the end of WWI.

The point I made was that the modern-day Palestinian people are the product of the intermarriage between all peoples who lived in Palestine for thousands of years, including descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As a result, they are the ones who are entitled to the homeland of their ancestors, not only on basis of their historical right and international law, but also on religious basis. As descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are the ones who have been promised by God to live in that Holy Land until today and until the end of days. The Zionist attempts to dislodge them will fail not only because of their staunch resistance and support from peace-loving people all over the world, but also because Zionists are fighting against the will of God and they will never succeed.


In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism, particularly because it addresses readers' concerns.

Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is a sociologist and cultural anthropologist. He is the editor of Al-Jazeerah. He has written  The Gulf War: Overreaction and Excessiveness 2001. Amazone Press.


Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.