Monday, December 12, 2011

Was Newt Right to Say Palestinians Were "Invented"?

Jonathan Tobin's analysis strikes me as being eminently sensible:
The only people to call themselves "Palestinians" prior to the creation of the state of Israel were the Jews who were the first, and up until that time, the only group to conceive of the land as being the home of a separate people or national identity. That was no accident since the land now called Israel or Palestine was sacred only to one people. For centuries, it was an Arab backwater, but it has been the object of prayers for two millennia for the Jews who not only never ceased to hope for the restoration of their sovereignty but also, as is rarely mentioned, never entirely left its soil. Zionism was merely a new name for an ancient though still living people's belief about their homeland and their destiny.

By contrast, Palestinian nationalism is, as Gingrich rightly said, a 20th century invention. It arose and flourished purely as a reaction to Zionism, a factor that has fatally complicated the quest for peace as Palestinian identity seems to be predicated more on a desire to extinguish the Jewish state and to delegitimize the Jewish presence than it is on the re-creation of an Arab political culture that is specific to this locality.

Even 50 years ago, there was little notion of a separate Palestinian political identity. After all, from 1949 to 1967 Jordan ruled the West Bank and half of Jerusalem and Egypt controlled Gaza. During those 19 years, there was no international clamor to create a Palestinian state in those territories. It would only be after Israel took control over the territories during the Six-Day War that the absence of a Palestinian state was deemed intolerable.

That said, it must be conceded that even if the Palestinians did invent themselves in the last 100 years, it is pointless to deny they do exist now. Millions consider themselves to be part of a distinct Palestinian people with a common history and destiny. The United States and Israel both understand that their desire for self-rule must be accommodated so long as it does not infringe on the rights and security of Israel. A two-state solution that would allow a state of Palestine to exist alongside Israel is now believed by most Israelis to be a commonsensical idea even if it would involve painful territorial compromises.

The catch is that the Palestinians seem unable to accept the idea of the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. And that is where their "invented" history comes in. Since the Palestinians only arrived on the world stage as a result of their revulsion at the notion of Jewish sovereignty over any part of the country, it is difficult, if not impossible for them to come to terms with a peace that would imply Israel's permanence...
To recap: If they weren't a "people" historically, they are a "people" now. However, that does not give them the right to deny and revile the Jewish people's claim to what, demonstrably, is their ancient and sacred land.

1 comment:

Michael Teper said...

This is all very amusing. Funny how Zionhass commies like "Mr. Unionist" at RabbleBabble actually agree that Palestninian nationalism is merely a reaction to Zionism and not a free standing national movement of its own.

BTW, when the Babblers start calling Obama an "enemy of humanity", you know that things are shaping up for a one-term presidency.

* * *

Mohsen Zuheir
Member: 25754
Joined: Dec 12 2011 December 12, 2011 - 10:09am #47 (permalink)

I have read through the above comments with much interest, but would
like to point out a misconception that sadly a lot of well meaning
people have about the situation in the Middle East. I trust that the
contributors to this discussion are sufficiently well-informed and
educated to receive these remarks in the progressive spirit in which
they are given.

In actual fact, the so-called "Palestinian people" does not exist. To
anyone who studies the history of the region seriously, it is clear
that there are no meaningful cultural, lingusitic, ethnic or religous
differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.
The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing the
progressive stuggle against the colonialist Israeli state and to
establish a unified Arab republic in the region. Therefore it is only
for practical reasons that we should speak about the existence of a
Palestinian people, in order to oppose Zionism and the imperialism
that it represents.

Dr. Mohsen Zuheir.

mostly harmless
\,,/ rabble-rouser-l33t \,,/
Member: 12323
Joined: Dec 11 2005
December 12, 2011 - 10:37am (

I suppose you could say the same about the Pakistani people. Before
1947, Punjab was one. So was Bengal. Same language, same "ethnicity",
blah blah. The imperialists split them up. And joined them together!
(East and West Pakistan, now split again).

Here's the point: You may say Palestine was populated by Arabs for
many centuries if you like. I don't know when they became
"Palestinians". But my guess is that if they weren't "Palestinians"
before 1948, they certainly were afterward - created by the Zionists,
by the naqba - created and re-created in the struggle for liberation
against colonialism and imperialism. Just as many of the European
nations and nation-states were created with the decline of the feudal
empires. And if that wasn't enough, the indifference and enmity of the
surrounding Arab neocolonial regimes gave another boost to Palestinian

So I take your point in the spirt in which it is intended. But at a
time when enemies of humanity, from Netanyahu to Obama to Harper, are
denying the national rights of the Palestinian people, I think your
point belongs in academia or some library, not in modern political
discussion. That's my opinion, in any event.

Mr. Unionist