This answer starts with:

The answer is that it depends. What was historical Palestine is now divided into several geographic entities, each with its own jurisdiction and set of laws.

Now, one can certainly view this particular answer, and even the question leading up to it, as pro-Palestine, and implicitly critical of Israel. There was a bit of discussion whether it was a push question, and while I don't agree, I can also see why people would feel that way.

But then a commenter jumps in and comments under the answer:

Downvoting. There is no "historical Palestine." This borders on an attempt to deny Israel's right to exist. There has never been a country called "Palestine." Palestine is a geographic designation. Please, do not engage in genocidal rhetoric on this site. Any calls for destruction of the state of Israel are calls for genocide.

To me, this seems way over the top.

Is saying "historical Palestine" off limit by itself? I totally get that yes, actual denial of the right of Israel to exist would be. And yes, I also totally get that starting out with "historical Palestine" one might start building that kind of argument. That depends what follows, but in this case this was just an isolated statement leading into the wider answer.

Saying "historical Palestine" can also be followed by support for a two state solution and seems, by itself, not indicative of the intents claimed by the commenter.

p.s. Just to be clear: I don't disagree with questioning the nature of Palestine's historical existence. This happens every so often and we can, respectfully, exchange views about it. My question is only whether using the term is in itself off limit and whether accusations of promoting genocide can be considered to be made in good faith.

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    The comment in question seems to have been deleted, which might answer the question.
    – PhillS
    May 25, 2022 at 12:16
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    They are gone, but I think an answer would still be helpful for the future.
    – Joe W
    May 25, 2022 at 12:57
  • @JoeW I have a screen cap. But I don't want to go around the moderation process by posting it unless the mods are ok with it.
    – wrod
    May 26, 2022 at 2:39
  • @wrod I wasn't referring to the comments that got deleted, I was referring to an answer to this question for a stance on this issue.
    – Joe W
    May 26, 2022 at 2:44
  • @JoeW oh, i misunderstood. got it.
    – wrod
    May 26, 2022 at 2:47
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    Which history books written by respected historical scholars mention the state of Palestine - the "historical Palestine" in question? I am not counting Hamas propaganda, their so-called history textbooks that don't even have Israel on the map, as this is not serious scholarship. This whole notion of HP sounds like fiction, so questions about it are better suited for other SE sites that deal in fictional entities. Politics SE is about political entities. Ask about the Ottoman Empire, get an answer here. Ask about fiction, and your question will be closed. May 28, 2022 at 16:29
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    @TimurShtatland Yes, I know, that is exactly what I mean when I say that the term historical Palestine itself can be argued about. Was there? Was there not? How does that compare to the other countries in Middle East? What about a nation state like Germany or Italy which really only exists for a while - maybe 200 years is enough? But not a lot less like Palestine? Or maybe it does? That's all besides the point though: is it acceptable to use the term (and then possibly get it debunked)? Or are you "promoting genocide" and there is nothing else to be said? May 28, 2022 at 17:54
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    A bad question/answer is already covered by DV/Closes/Deletes and this community, correctly, already has a fairly critical filter pertaining to the good faith of questions concerning Israel. This goes beyond that however, is the term really to be considered taboo? May 28, 2022 at 18:00
  • I think the poster of that comment is misunderstanding what opposition of the "right" to exist actually means. Calls for a change in israel's ownership does not imply genocide of the people currently there.
    – forest
    Jun 6, 2022 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


The Palestinian Declaration of Independence was proclaimed by Yasser Arafat on November 15th, 1988. One month later on December 15th, 1988, UN General Assembly Resolutions 43/176 and 43/177 were adopted (text).

Looking just at the map of countries who have recognized the State of Palestine, I see quite a few countries who have officially recognized that a State of Palestine does exist.

From the Wikipedia article on State of Palestine:

As of 31 July 2019, 138 (71.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognised the State of Palestine.

In 2012 the UN upgraded Palestine's status to non-member observer state with the adoption of UNGA Resolution 67/19:

The General Assembly, [...] Decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice;

Now, all of this is only attempting to answer if referencing "historical Palestine" regards the "State of Palestine" directly. As best as I can tell, the "State of Palestine" can be argued to date back to 1947 with UNGA Resolution 181. That happened before my time, and at that point Great Britain had been administering "Palestine" since the 1920s. Using "historical" as a modifier there is a judgement call.

The words however may in fact not refer to the State of Palestine, but the region itself:

The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BCE Ancient Greece, when Herodotus wrote of a "district of Syria, called Palaistinê"

That does seem pretty historical to me. See also this and this.

Is mentioning "historical Palestine" acceptable for this site?

I don't see why it would be any less acceptable than mentioning "historical Israel."

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    what's "historical Israel?" Googling results in references to ancient Israel or to references to tourist locations in Israel which center around excavation sites. This is not a term used in reference to political considerations or any recent history.
    – wrod
    May 26, 2022 at 2:33
  • @wrod Something interesting that caught my eye while looking up some information for this answer is that, according to some, both Israel and Palestine share some etymological origins. To me, there is absolutely zero difference between the terms. What is the difference in your question between "historical Israel" and "ancient Israel"? If I want to use that term starting tomorrow in reference to "political considerations," I can. I'm sure eventually someone will.
    – user5155
    May 26, 2022 at 2:52
  • "ancient" doesn't create any illusion of a current claim. Please, see my answer to this meta question for why "historical Palestine" is a problem. No one would think of tourists visiting excavation sites in Gaza when they hear "historical Palestine."
    – wrod
    May 26, 2022 at 2:57
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    @wrod I saw your answer, and I disagree with it. You can twist the argument around if you like, but the question here isn't what you want it to be it is "is mentioning historical Palestine taboo". You claim that it is, I claim that it isn't. Some people, in fact, might just believe what you expect them to not believe.
    – user5155
    May 26, 2022 at 3:55
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    I'd say "taboo" is taking it too far. Although the actual phrasing of this meta question may be interpreted just as you are interpreting it. I think if you use the term, then you cannot demand that it be interpreted in the way you mean it. It's a judgement call whether to interpret it in the way I describe it. As any judgement call, it's subjective. Which is why giving this reasoning is an appropriate way to describe the reason for a down-vote. You are welcome to disagree, but your disagreement may not be heeded. Again, it's a judgement call.
    – wrod
    May 26, 2022 at 4:58
  • @wrod That is definitely a sentiment I can get behind.
    – user5155
    May 26, 2022 at 5:12
  • Almost certainly the implied meaning (in the original answer) was about "the region itself". Only then it makes sense, and only then adding "historical" could be reasonable: it makes distinction with "Palestine" as a modern political entity, whatever it means (including "State of").
    – Zeus
    May 31, 2022 at 0:35
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    Most of your answer is about whether the state of Palestine is recognized. But the answer in question very much does not just refer to the area that is - by some - recognized as the state of Palestine, but explicitly includes the Israeli state in the area of "historical palestine". Combined, I don't see how that's not putting into question Israels right to exist (whether intentional or not).
    – tim
    Jun 1, 2022 at 9:22
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    @tim I can speak to you about the historical lands of the Iroquois, which are completely enveloped by today's boundaries of the United States, without putting into question the United States right to exist.
    – user5155
    Jun 1, 2022 at 15:35
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    @tim My biggest issue with the position is that the notion of an "historical Palestine" clearly exists, to have prevented that you needed to get to Herodotus sooner. I can't agree that to reference this is to intrinsicly deny Israel's right to exist, which I don't think follows. If you want to say that it can be included as part of a whole in context of any particular post as evidence (in your opinion) that dog whistling is occurring, I think that's a good thing. But disclaiming any references here and pointing back to it in the future I don't think would be a good rule to follow.
    – user5155
    Jun 1, 2022 at 20:02
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    @JeffLambert Your analogy would only hold if many of the Iroquois had a stated agenda of destroying the United States of America. Jun 5, 2022 at 7:52
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket An increasingly smaller point for sure, since I'm generally only reminded these days of pots calling kettles black. I'm still not convinced this site ought to start going back so far into rewriting history to make up for present day grievances.
    – user5155
    Jun 7, 2022 at 20:36
  • I just remembered this question and looked up one detail. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence designated Jerusalem as Palestine's capital. So Israel did not take any country's territory at the time of the annexation. Nor could it be claimed contested because no other country claimed Jerusalem in 1980. When it comes to establishing legitimacy of control over a territory, timing obviously matters.
    – wrod
    Jun 15, 2023 at 20:09

Indeed "historical Palestine" does seem like a slight of hand. It claims to be a simple reference to an area of land, while strongly playing a lip service to the claims of Palestinians to all of the land of the geographic Palestine. This sentiment is far from uncommon. Here it is, for example, expressed in this elaborate tweet:

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As such, it plays into the narrative that Israel doesn't have a right to exist.

I think the term "geographic Palestine" would serve the purpose of referencing the area under the discussion, without enabling what is essentially a dog whistle for denying Israel's right to exist.

  • Historical Macedonia is split between primarily Greece and Macedonia in the same way. Don't think stating that implies anything about sovereignty claims. Regardless I changed the phrasing. Hope you like it better now. May 26, 2022 at 12:12
  • @BjörnLindqvist I am not sure how to phrase this without potentially sounding patronizing. I apologize in advance if that is how this will come off, but anyone familiar with the details of the Palestinian Israeli conflict will probably agree that a lot of it is semantic. These descriptions end up ginning up people so much that they actually kill people because of them. Unless the same dynamic exists between Greece and Macedonia, it's not as important.
    – wrod
    Jun 5, 2022 at 22:45
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    How would replacing "historical Palestine" with "geographic Palestine" help address the concern presented in this answer?
    – Nat
    Jun 6, 2022 at 9:41
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    @Nat "geographic Palestine" doesn't stake a political claim. It's a name of a region. It doesn't create a suggestion that it's a territory of a formerly existing state.
    – wrod
    Jun 6, 2022 at 21:55
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    @StandwithGaza: The name "Macedonia" bothered Greece enough to insist that the former Yugoslav republic change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.
    – dan04
    Mar 4 at 18:04
  • Sure, it bothered some Greek nationalists. The point is that no scholars nor historians paid any serious attention to their bother and continue to refer to Macedonia as Macedonia. Mar 5 at 16:04

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