An invented uproar about an ‘invented people’
Listening to the shameless pandering to the Jewish community by the Republican candidates for president is enough to make a cynic out of anyone, and for those disappointed in President Obama, enough to send one desperately seeking a write-in. A disclaimer: I am both of these, but the recent assertion by Newt Gingrich that the Palestinians are an “invented” people deserves a closer look.
The history professor happens to be right.
There are two realities at work here, one making the other irrelevant in any political discussion today. Reality number one is that there never has been, until recently, a “Palestinian people.” Reality number two is that in 2012 no one wants to hear or acknowledge that fact, and for all practical purposes going forward, there exists a Palestinian people today whose quest and need for an independent state of their own is accepted as a given and must be addressed. Once that is believed, it is an easy step for the Palestinians to assert that Israel “occupies” not only a part of their land called Palestine but all of it — part by lawful United Nations creation (which they refuse to recognize except as a “catastrophe”) and the rest by war. Hence their demand that there should be a “right of return” to any place in Palestine, including Israel proper.
A little historical perspective is necessary. The adoption of a Palestinian identity with the territory known as Palestine is a very recent phenomenon. The concept of “Palestinians” did not exist until the 1947 UN partition, when the Arab inhabitants of what was then Palestine wished to differentiate themselves from the Jews. Until then, the term “Palestine” and “Palestinian” was applied almost entirely to Jews. The all-Jewish “Palestine Brigade” fought for the British in World War II. The PEF Israel Endowment Fund, a Jewish organization, was once the Palestine Emergency Fund. The Jerusalem Post was the Palestine Post, Bank Leumi was the Anglo-Palestine Bank, the Israel Electric Company was the Palestine Electric Company, and so on.
The partition plan adopted by the UN in 1947 split the remaining one-third of what was then Palestine into two proposed states, one Jewish, one Arab — not Palestinian.
There is no separate Palestinian language, no distinct culture, and no territory ever known as Palestine governed by Palestinians.
It was Yasser Arafat who made the intellectual leap to create the concept of a “Palestinian people” and in 1964 established the Palestine Liberation Organization, two of whose 10 aims were the destruction of Israel by armed force and the reclamation of “all of Palestine.” Those words were not lost on King Hussein of Jordan, whose country constituted the other two-thirds of Palestine. In September 1970 he acted to put down an attempt by the PLO to assassinate him and overthrow his regime. The bloody conflict lasted until July 1971, when the PLO was banished to Lebanon, and the name “Black September” was taken by the PLO’s armed wing, the later perpetrators of the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
On June 15, 1969, then Prime Minister Golda Meir famously declared, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…. It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” Today those words are looked upon with near universal scorn, but consider words spoken eight years later by Zahir Muhsein, a PLO executive committee member. “The Palestinian people does not exist,” he told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977. “The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.”
“In reality there is no difference between Jordanians, Syrians, and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, Beer Sheva, and Jerusalem. But I can undoubtedly do so as a Palestinian. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
Sadly, historical reality has been made irrelevant by the present fiction that the world has bought into: that of a long-suffering Palestinian people yearning for a lost homeland wrongfully taken from them by the Zionists with the help of the UN and now “occupied” by them — not just the West Bank but all of Palestine. This is not to dismiss their present condition and the need for a resolution for it, but rather to point out the lack of historical legitimacy for the narrative upon which they base their claims.
It is for that that Newt Gingrich is taking the heat.