Middle East Glossary of Terms

1)       Arab

a.       Racially, an Arab is a person of Arabic descent, whose can trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula.

b.       According to the Torah, Bible and Quran, Arabs are descendants of Shem, the son of Noah.

c.       "Arabized Arabs" or Adnanites (also called Ishmaelites) are believed to have descended from Abraham through his son Ishmael.
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 tribes.
Adnanites are descendants of Ishmael's grandson, Adnan.
Prophet Muhammad's tribe, the Quraish, are said to be Adnanites. 

d.   Those 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.

e. Most, but not all, Arabs have embraced the religion of Islam.

2)       Persian

a.        A native or inhabitant of Iran.  Most Persians are Shiite Muslims.

b.       Also the language of Persia (Iran).  The Persian word for the Persian language is “Farsi.”

3)       Palestinian

a.        A descendant of the Arabs who inhabited Palestine

b.       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. 

c.        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.

                                                               i.      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.

                                                              ii.      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 invented.

d.       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 bonds.

                                                               i.      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.

e.        Because of the late creation of the Arab Palestinian identity, many Israelis did not accept the existence of an independent Palestinian people.

                                                               i.      Former Prime Minister Golda Meir even claimed that “there are no Palestinians.”

4)       Muslim (old spelling, Moslem or Mohammedan)

a.        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.

5)       Nation of Islam

a.        A group of militant Black Americans who profess Islamic religious beliefs and advocate independence for Black Americans.

6)       Semite

a.        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.

7)       B.C.E -- “Before the Common Era.” Secular equivalent to B.C. “Before Christ”

8)       C.E.  -- “Common Era” or “in the common era.” Secular equivalent to A.D. “Anno Domini” or “in the year of the Lord.”