Sunday, December 11, 2011

When Gingrich Says The "Palestinians" Were Invented--Maybe His Source Was...A Palestinian

We should thank Newt Gingrich for bringing up the fact that the term Palestinian as referring to Arabs is a recent invention, as reported in the New York Times:
Does Newt Gingrich believe in a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Democratic and Republican administrations since the 1990s have adopted that framework for peace in the Middle East, but Mr. Gingrich suggested that he might break with it, calling Palestinians an “invented” people and the current stalled peace process “delusional.”
Pity that Gingrich has backed down from the controversial statement.
But he needn't have.

Gingrich's statement is backed up by Zuheir Mohsen, a Palestinian leader of the pro-Syria faction of the PLO who March 1977 gave an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
The Palestinian people does not exist. 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 today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, 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, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
Nor is Mohsen the only Arab to say this. Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, the distinguished Arab-American historian, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946:
There is no such thing as 'Palestine' in history, absolutely not.
You can check out an article by Daniel Pipes, who discusses The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine (short version here)

That year was 1920.

Elder of Ziyon also delves into the recent vintage of the 'Palestinian people':

"Palestinian Arabs and their Israel-hating friends have been freaking out over Newt Gingrich's characterization of them as an "invented people."

One does not have to go far back in time to see that the different Arab communities of Palestine had nothing in common with each other, and in fact usually fought with each other.

From The New Werner Twentieth Century Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, entry on Palestine, 1907:
The Arab tribes transplanted to Palestine their old distinctions, especially that between Northern and Southern Arabs (Kais and Yemen; cf. Arabia). The Arab peasantry is still divided into clans; for example, the districts of the Beni Hasan and Beni Malik to the west of Jerusalem, those of the Beni Harith, Beni Zeid, and Beni Murrd to the north, and that of Beni Salim to the east. Till recently the relations of the separate clans of fellahin was one of mutual hostility, and, unhindered by the Turkish Government, they engaged in sanguinary conflicts."
He goes on to write about The Palestine Exploration Fund in 1884, which researched the names of the tribes around Jerusalem--and found that there disnunified Arab tribes, settlers from other Arab countries, but no Palestinian people.

Elder of Zion concludes:
This is not controversial. The simple fact is that the Arabs of Palestine before 1900 identified fully with their tribes and villages and not at all with each other, and they had no more in common with each other as they had with their neighbors across the Jordan and in Syria.
Some fictions die hard.
Some fictions never die.

The latter is the case here.
But bottom line: Newt Gingrich is right--the "Palestinian People" is an invention, and based on Daniel Pipes, one that is less than 100 years old.

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Anonymous said...

Where did Newt back down? He stood by the comment during the debate...

Daled Amos said...

I interpreted the following from Fox News as his having backtracked:

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said afterward that the candidate was merely referring to the "decades-long history that has surrounded this issue," and has long supported the concept of Palestinian statehood.

If he didn't, Kol HaKavod.