Middle East Glossary of Terms
Racially, an Arab is a person of Arabic descent,
whose can trace their ancestry to the Arabian
According to the Torah, Bible and Quran, Arabs are
descendants of Shem, the son of Noah.
Arabs" or Adnanites (also called Ishmaelites) are
believed to have descended from Abraham through his
According to the Bible and the Quran, because
Abraham's wife, Sarah, was barren, Abraham was
instructed to sleep with Sarah's Egyptian servant,
Hagar. Together they produced a son called Ishmael.
Sarah then miraculously conceived a child of her own
named Isaac (from whom Jews are believed to have
descended). After the birth of Isaac, Sarah
told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael to the desert
where they eventually assimilated with local Arabian
Adnanites are descendants of Ishmael's grandson,
Prophet Muhammad's tribe, the Quraish, are said to
whose first language is Arabic have also been
identified as "Arabs." According to this definition,
the label can be applied to the populations of
Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait,
Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the
West Bank, and Yemen.
Most, but not all, Arabs have embraced the
religion of Islam.
A native or inhabitant of Iran. Most
Persians are Shiite Muslims.
Also the language of Persia (Iran). The
Persian word for the Persian language is “Farsi.”
A descendant of the Arabs who inhabited
The word was seldom used before World War I.
During the British Mandate, all inhabitants of the
area of Palestine were called “Palestinians” (Jews
and Arabs). At one point, European writers used the
term “Palestinian” only when referring to Jews
residing in Palestine (especially those whose
ancestors had been living in Palestine before the
beginning of Zionism.
After the creation of the State of Israel,
many Arabs (particularly those who supported
pan-Arabism or pan-Syrianism) denied the existence
of Palestinians who were distinct from other Arabs
of the region.
After the annexation of the West Bank by
Jordan, King Abdullah forbade the use of the term
Palestine in Jordanian official documents for fear
of encouraging separatism among the Palestinians.
Most Arab natives of Palestine saw their area
as part of the nation of al-Sham, roughly
corresponding to the English Levant, often
translated as Syria. They saw themselves as Syrians.
To some “Palestine” was a term that the Zionists
After 1967 the term is used by a group of
Arabs who regard themselves as a distinct branch of
Arab peoples with family origin in the region called
Palestine. Palestinians were linked as an
independent nationality by linguistic, national,
economic, religious, political and geographical
The idea of an independent nationality for
Palestinian Arabs was greatly boosted by the 1967
Six Day War. Their identity as “Palestinians”
distinguished them from the different Arab states
who encouraged them to think of themselves as
Jordanians or Egyptians, and the Israelis.
Because of the late creation of the Arab
Palestinian identity, many Israelis did not accept
the existence of an independent Palestinian people.
Former Prime Minister Golda Meir even claimed
that “there are no Palestinians.”
Muslim (old spelling, Moslem or Mohammedan)
One who follows the Muslim faith. Although
many Muslims are Arab and Persian, Muslims can be of
any ethnicity or race. All Muslims observe the five
pillars of Islam: Declaration that Allah is the only
God and Mohammed is his last prophet, fasting in the
month of Ramadan, holy trip to Mecca, charity,
prayer (performed 5 times a day, the Sunnis combine
prayers and pray only 3 times a day). Some
branches: Sunnis, Shiites, Sufi, Wahhabi.
Nation of Islam
A group of militant Black Americans who profess Islamic religious beliefs
and advocate independence for Black Americans.
A Semite is a member of a group of
Semitic-speaking people including Arabs, Arameans,
Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews and
Phoenicians. The term “anti-Semitism” only came into
being in the 19th century and later
applied to the hatred of Jews.
“Before the Common
Era.” Secular equivalent to B.C. “Before Christ”
“Common Era” or “in
the common era.” Secular equivalent to A.D. “Anno
Domini” or “in the year of the Lord.”