Newt Gingrich’s recent observation that the Palestinians are an “invented people” caused a brief furor, with responses falling into three categories: 1) It’s true, but irrelevant (Charles Krauthammer). 2) It’s false, and Gingrich is a bigot (John Sununu). 3) It’s false, and Gingrich is ignorant (Fatah leader Dimitri Diliani, who explained that “the Palestinian people descended from the Canaanites”).
Here’s another response.
All peoples are invented. To take the obvious case, “Americans” were once Englishmen, no different politically from the English in England. In 1776, for well-known reasons, the English in America re-invented themselves as Americans. It then became necessary for them to invent a country. Peoples invent themselves, or are invented by skillful founders, for many reasons; but no people, and therefore no nation, is natural. With the possible exception of an island nation like Japan, borders are usually the product of wars, treaties, or accidents, and rarely the result of simple geography. (The western border between Canada and the United States was made with a straight-edge, but there are many less obvious examples.) Not even language is a natural bond, since languages evolve as they incorporate other peoples (think of Norman French and its influence on English) — and sometimes the other peoples are not so happy about their incorporation.
It is therefore no knock on the Palestinians to say that they are an “invented” people. The wish to become a nation is a very common wish – it was the grand ambition of the Zionists, after all, to become (as the Irish say) “a nation once again”. The Kurds want to be a nation, as do the Tamils and the Basques and the Armenians. The Slovaks wished to become a nation, and so divorced the Czechs.
What makes Palestine and Palestinians different from these other would-be nations and peoples is that Palestinian Arabs only pretend that they want to be a people with their own nation. What Palestinian Arabs really want is depressingly clear: they want to destroy Israel and kill the Jews. Just ask them. Or watch PA-TV, or read the Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, or look at their public documents and maps, which proclaim and show a region without Israel. Or look at how the Palestinian Arabs have actually behaved on the several occasions when they were offered their own state. (And this includes the first offer, of Jordan, which is three-quarters of the original Palestine Mandate.) On each occasion they have said, essentially, “No thanks, not good enough, not as long as Israel continues to exist.” Their many supporters in the Arab world say the same thing, and will not tolerate any backsliding from the core principles of the PLO and Hamas charters, for whom “freeing Palestine” and “killing the Jews” are synonymous. It’s as if in the 1920s the great obstacle to Irish independence had not been the six counties still within the United Kingdom, but the continued existence of the English people. As ruthless and crazy as the IRA was, it never contemplated the annihilation of England, and never made such a goal the center of its policy. The Irish loved Ireland more than they hated the English.
Not so the Palestinians. So what Newt Gingrich should have said – which would have gotten him into even more trouble – is simply this: The idea of a Palestinian nation is just a trick to fool the kafirs, and not the desire of any actual Palestinian Arab people. A nation they could have. What they can’t have is religiously inspired genocide. But genocide is what their leaders insist, over and over again, that they really want, which is why the so-called “Middle East peace process” is, in fact, the single greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
Only when a presidential candidate – or better yet, an actual president – utters that difficult truth can an honest debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict begin. May it happen soon.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here