There is more to an orange than what meets the eye! Recent online discussions reignited the lie that Palestine was a barren and uninhabited land before the emergence of the Zionist colony.   While this article touches on Palestine’s rich agricultural history, it will show how the simple orange alone can debunk this concocted myth.
An introduction to the Zionist propaganda machine
From the very early stages of Zionism to the present day, Zionists and their sympathisers have promulgated baseless claims that one of earth’s most historically significant lands (Palestine) was, once upon a time, romantically empty and destitute.
This politically convenient rhetoric follows that it wasn’t until Jewish migration and subsequent settlement in the land that Palestine flourished and made its ‘arid’ deserts bloom. To facilitate such outright lies and misinformation, the Zionists adopted a widely cited phrase in Zionist literature:
“A land without a people for a people without a land.”
While the historicity of the phrase appears to be a matter of contention, this slogan persists. In reality, it was never intended to be literal, but rather, purely ideological. It was invented to provide a legal and moral basis for the seizure of the land, the murder and displacement of the native population, and the establishment of a Zionist colony.
An important feature of early Zionist political discourse was that the native population in Palestine were no more than a marginal segment of people who only existed as scattered individuals or only sometimes as communities.
This arrogance and disdain towards the native population becomes exceedingly clear when reading the pronouncements of the early Zionists who wielded this slogan.
After having been promised Palestine by the Balfour Declaration, British author and staunch Zionist Israel Zangwill wrote,
“…for there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, utilising its resources and stamping it with a characteristic impress; there is at best an Arab encampment.” 
In a similar vein, when former Zionist Prime Minister Chaim Weizmann was asked about the Palestinian Arabs and the Balfour Declaration, he condescendingly mirrored the racist attitudes of his European overlords and responded by stating that,
“The British told us that there are some hundred thousand Negroes (Kushim in Hebrew) and for those, there is no value.” 
In other words, these Zionist leaders did not mean that there were no people in Palestine in terms of territorial emptiness, but rather that there were no people who were worth considering, as they did not constitute a ‘developed’ nation in the most Eurocentric and arbitrary sense of the term. 
Apparently, in the minds of these colonialists, this automatically disqualified its inhabitants from being its rightful owners as they did not transform the land into a fully functioning ‘modern’ nation-state.
For a group of colonisers who have cried wolf for decades, the irony here is extremely stark. The influence and the internalisation of racist European sentiment permeates the Zionist mind to this very day. It is this very attitude that would later form the foundations of the nascent ideological and political movement known as Zionism.
Palestine as a global commercial hub
All it takes is a brief glance at Palestine’s agricultural and economic history to entirely dispel these constructed myths of a dead and desolate land.
As one of the most significant land bridges in human history, Palestine has always served as an important producer of key agricultural commodities across the centuries.
In a detailed description of its land and fertility, 10th century geographer, Shams al-Din al-Maqdisi, testified to Palestine’s agricultural activity and manufactured goods:
“Within the Province of Palestine may be found gathered together 36 products that are not found thus united in any other land … From Palestine comes olives, dried figs, raisins, the carob-fruit, stuffs of mixed silk and cotton, soap, and kerchiefs.” 
As far as cotton is concerned, between the 10th and 13th centuries CE, the fibre formed the bulk of exports that found their way to European shores. 
In fact, its value as a global commodity is clearly reflected in the account of al-Maqdisi, who stressed the importance of Palestine’s cotton production. 
Even the British Consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, could not help but praise the cotton plantations that he witnessed during his travels in Palestine:
“The cotton plantations are beautifully clean and orderly, and the fields from which grain crops had been reaped, are well defined and carefully cleaned.” 
Cotton cultivation and international trade continued all throughout the Mamluk period and eventually reached its peak during the late Ottoman period.  And it is worth mentioning that cotton – a commodity long cultivated in Palestine – formed the backbone of the European industrial revolution, centuries later.  One can even go as far as to say that as a source of raw materials, Palestine played a vital role in driving the European industrial revolution. 
As of today, Sūq al-Qaṭṭānīn (Market of the Cotton Merchants), which is located on the west side of the Haram al-Sharif, continues to serve as a living reminder of Palestine’s historically monumental cotton industry. 
The mighty Jaffa orange
Throughout the ages, the Jaffa orange, otherwise known by its Arabic name, the Shamouti or Abu Surrah (navel), eventually came to outpace all other commodities.
The Jaffa orange – which later emerged as a global brand – was a new variety of orange developed by Palestinian farmers during the first half of the 19th century. The fruit originated as a mutation on a Baladi tree in a city near Jaffa. 
With the decline of its cotton industry, Palestine now had a monopoly over the orange trade, and this increased European economic interest in Jaffa following the aftermath of the Crimean War (1853 – 1856). In turn, this led to the expansion of orange groves in the area surrounding the ancient port-city. 
This was reflected in the exponential growth of orange groves in Jaffa’s vicinities, thanks to their “good quality”, namely the distinct thick peel of the Shamouti that provided it with more protection from disease and rot than its other Mediterranean competitors.  
These groves produced a staggering 33 million oranges per year – one sixth of which were consumed locally – with the rest exported to domestic markets on Greek ships. By 1880, Europe had become the leading destination for orange exports. 
In a 1902 study produced by two Zionist officials, on the impressive growth of the orange industry and its international reach, it nevertheless described traditional Palestinian cultivation methods as being “primitive”. 
Embarrassingly, an in-depth discussion of the costs associated with Palestinian and European proprietors showed that Palestinian cultivation methods were much more cost-efficient than the so-called ‘modern’ Zionist-European ones that were introduced two decades later by Zionist agronomist Yitzhak Elazari-Volcani. 
However, the notions of a “primitive” Palestinian society is still as yet echoed by clueless contemporary Israeli ‘academics’ such as the likes of Benny Morris, whose analysis of Palestinian agriculture is teeming with terms that evoke backwardness and sub-normality. 
As has been demonstrated thus far, the least that is required of these militant Zionist pseudo-intellectuals is to take a brief glance at the historical record in order to learn that Palestinian farmers were the pioneers of the Jaffa orange industry. As a matter of fact, the sub-par nature of early Zionist agriculture was bleakly described by one of the leading pre-state Zionist writers, Ahad Ha’am, who said,
“There are now about ten [Jewish] colonies standing for some years, and no one of them is able to support itself … wherever I strived to look, I did not manage to see even one man living solely from the fruit of his land.” 
“Why then? The real answer, that any clever man in Palestine knows, is that the first colonists brought with them substantial idealism, but they all lack the qualifications necessary for agriculture and cannot be simple farmers.” 
Then, the same cannot be said about the entrepreneurship demonstrated by the Palestinians, who singlehandedly transformed the Jaffa port into a thriving economic, social, and cultural centre through the production and export of its oranges.
Until the very end of the 19th century, this industry was entirely exclusive to the native Palestinians.  Having dominated the orange trade since its inception in the 1870s, the freeloading Zionist colonists only began to join the industry by the turn of the 20th century, beginning in the former depopulated Palestinian village of Fajja – today a part of the Israeli city, Petah Tikva.  
Despite the use of Western agricultural methods in their colonies, they nevertheless relied on the knowledge of Palestinian farmers. 
The first few years of the 20th century saw the economic growth of many Zionist colonies, powered by the citrus industry.  Then, during the Mandate period, the British sought to facilitate co-operation between the Palestinian and Jewish sectors of the citrus industry. 
Finally, with the beginning of the Nakba, Palestinian-owned orange groves were completely usurped and annexed as part of the newly incepted terrorist state of ‘Israel’. Much of the industry’s leading Palestinians were kicked out of their lands. 
Regardless of whether or not Palestinian contemporaries would have thought so at the time, one can interpret the gradual weakening of the Palestinians’ grip on the citrus industry as a stepping stone towards the appropriation of the Jaffa orange as the national symbol of the Zionist state. 
Of course, this reality eventually manifested itself in the wake of the Nakba, in which the Jaffa orange became no more than a faint memory living in the minds of Palestinians.
 N. Masalha (2007) The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-Colonialism in Palestine – Israel, Volume 1. Bloomsbury Academic, p. 45
 Ibid; G. Kramer (2008) A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding State of Israel. Princeton University Press, p. 165-6
 Ibid, p. 173
 B. Doumani (1995) Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900. University of California Press, p. 97
 N. Masalha (2022) Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History. Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 230
 L. Kamel (2015) Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times. Bloomsbury Academic, p. 78
 N. Masalha (2002), op. cit., p. 230
 H. Gerber (1982) Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Palestine: The Role of Foreign Trade. Taylor & Francis, p. 251
 N. Masalha (2022), op. cit., p. 230
 I. Charles (1982) An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. Columbia University Press, p. 127; C. Ward, et al. (2021) The History of Water in the Land Once Called Palestine: Scarcity, Conflict and Loss in Middle East Water Resources. Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 26
 M. LeVine (2005) Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel-Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880 – 1948. University of California Press, p. 34
 Ibid, p. 35
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinksy (2021) The Lost Orchard: The Palestinian-Arab Citrus Industry, 1850 – 1950. Syracuse University Press, p. 12
 M. Levine (2005), op. cit., p. 35
 Ibid, p. 34
 B. Morris (2004) The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press, pp. 17-20
 H. Gerber (1982) Zionism, Orientalism and the Palestinians in the Journal of Palestine Studies. University of California Press, p. 33
 Ibid, pp. 33-4
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinsky (2021), op. cit., p. 18
 Ibid, p. 19
 N. Karlinksy (2000) California Dreaming: Adapting the “California Model” to the Jewish Citrus Industry in Palestine, 1917 – 1939 in Israel Studies. Indiana University Press, p. 26
 N. Karlinsky (2012) California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939. State University of New York Press, p. 56
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinsky (2021), op. cit., pp. 75-101
 Ibid, p. 118