Although the image of Palestine as a "land without a people" was most commonly advanced by Christian proponents of a Jewish return to Palestine, it would be wrong to ascribe the perception of Palestine as a land without a people only to Christians. In the context of the nineteenth century and the many nationalist movements that captured the Western imagination, the notion of a Jewish restoration in Palestine seemed logical, even without religious motivations. In 1891, William Blackstone sent an open letter, known today as the Blackstone Memorial, to U.S. president Benjamin Harrison: "Why shall not the powers which under the treaty of Berlin, in 1878, gave Bulgaria to the Bulgarians and Servia to the Servians now give Palestine back to the Jews? … These provinces, as well as Roumania, Montenegro, and Greece, were wrested from the Turks and given to their natural owners. Does not Palestine as rightfully belong to the Jews?" Nineteenth-century Westerners associated peoples or nations with territory, and so to be a land without a people did not imply that the land was without people, only that it was without a national political character.
What may be odd, viewed from the Arab perspective, is the lens through which Westerners look at the land. In Western eyes, the eastern Mediterranean is permanently overlaid with the outline of a territory called "the Holy Land," or "the Land of Israel." Because Westerners equate lands with peoples, even post-Christian Westerners expect to find a people identified and coterminous with the Holy Land.
Muslims, however, neither perceived Palestine as a distinct country, nor Palestinians as a people.