Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are Palestinians Really a People?

It is always a pleasant surprise for me when a liberal journalist agrees with the likes of someone like Newt Gingrich. But that is exactly what has happened here. In an op-ed in the LA Times, Michael Kinsley has actually agreed quite eloquently with the former speaker’s statement that Palestinians are a made up people. He actually goes into detail as to why that is a fact. Here are the pertinent excerpts:

In November 1947, shortly after the United Nations voted for partition of the Holy Land into separate Arab and Jewish states, Chaim Weizmann was cited by the New York Times as saying that "the most important work now was to build Palestine."What? To build Palestine? Yes, in 1947 the word "Palestinian" — if it meant anything at all — referred to Jews living in Palestine. The Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post) was the Jewish English-language newspaper. The Palestine Orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic) was a Jewish orchestra, filled to overflowing with Holocaust survivors. The United Palestine Appeal, an American charity, raised money to resettle homeless Jews from Europe in Palestine — one of the things Arabs objected to the most…

Arabs living in the territory of Palestine were called Arabs — or, very occasionally, Palestinian Arabs. This was in keeping with a philosophy known as pan-Arabism, which held that all places where Arabs ruled were part of one big Arab nation.This history is probably what
Newt Gingrich had in mind when he commented last week that the Palestinians were "an invented people."For two decades before they lost the 1967 Six-Day War, Arabs controlled the entire West Bank, the Gaza Strip and half of Jerusalem. They could have established a Palestinian state any time they wanted. They never tried. The famous U.N. Resolution 242, which ended the Six-Day War, makes no reference to Palestinians, but just refers to refugees.In short, Gingrich is right, up to a point. Until the 1970s, Palestinian nationalism was not much of a factor. The PLO was formed in 1964, but the idea of "liberating" Palestine from Israeli control didn't really take hold until after the 1967 war…

Gingrich also is not completely off the wall in describing the situation as a struggle "between a civilian democracy that obeys the rule of law and a group of terrorists that are firing missiles every day." On reflection, Gingrich might have wanted to distinguish between the Palestinian Authority, which rules in the West Bank, and
Hamas, which controls Gaza. Hamas is the one firing missiles. But even regarding the Palestinian Authority, it's incredible that all it has taken for the PLO (which conducted the slaughter at the Munich Olympics, among other atrocities) to become an acceptable future Palestinian government is to have found a leader who wears a suit and tie and knows how to shave. Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considered the grownup, the trustworthy negotiating partner, the one you complain to when Hamas misbehaves.

Wow! I could not have said it better myself. Mr. Kinsley goes on to say (correctly in my view) that the reality is that they now consider themselves a nationality and want a state. And any people that wants to have their own state ought to be able to have one. Fair enough. As long as the rights of others are not taken away in the process - this is a position that I believe we can all agree upon, including Newt and BB. As I have always said in the past, the devil is in the details… and of course the real devil is in the terrorism that is preventing Israel from allowing it.

But I do have a minor quibble with Mr. Kinsley. Not that I disagree with his history lesson. I don’t. But he makes the point that Zionism as we know it today is really the first reference to an Israeli nationality. Until then there were no Israeli people either. As it refers to political Zionism, he may have a point.

But if one really wants to look at history, Israelis were already a nationality at Sinai. We became God’s chosen people through the progeny of Jacob –later called Israel by God. Thus all of Jacob’s desecendants are Israelis. And giving us the land of Israel was part of His covenant with us. As the first Rashi in Chuamsh tells us. God owns the world and He can give any part of it to whomever He wants. He clearly has given Israel’s title deed to us, the Jewish people. The people of Israel.

Palestinians can scream all they want and claim that it’s all a big lie. And they do. But that doesn’t make it any less true. So in point of fact we did not make up that nationality. God is the one who gave us that. He made us a people. If one believes in the bible, whether Jew or Christian, one has to concede that. And even if they do not believe in the bible, certainly they would concede that historically Israelis (Jews) were once a people living in a place called Israel under Kings David and Solomon… and future kings all the way up to the end of the 2nd Temple era. And the Temple that was built still has the remnants in Israel. Palestinians have absolutely no hint of any such national presence in their history as pointed out by Kinsley.

That said, we do have to face the reality of millions of Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Like it or not, they are there. And they want to be a nation among nations with their own land. We can’t just will them out of existence or refuse to call them Palestinians because they made up the name post 67. We have to deal with reality. But we can and we should insist on conditions for peace that would assure an end to Arab hostility in all its forms before we compromise on one inch of land. And in that department, nothing has changed – except for the worse.