In what will hopefully be the last article about the Newt Gingrich "invented people" kerfuffle, MJ Rosenberg actually tries to argue on the merits! Good for him. Naturally he engages in the usual two step: The Palestinians aren't an invented people but if they are an invented people it doesn't matter because they are a people now and besides the Israelis are an invented people too. Personally if I were him I would take one argument and stick with it but he didn't consult me so there we are.
He begins his article by discussing how Israel was formed by the hard work of its founders, and he approves of that. For example he says "The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people -- Israel and Israelis -- from scratch." You're not going to find a single Zionist who will argue with that statement, though some would say that Israel was not invented but "recreated," but even the old kingdoms of the Jews weren't really states in the modern sense. Regardless, as I have said before, Zionists don't deny the history of the Jewish state. The Palestinians, on the other hand, do and continue to do so to this day.
After reiterating the history of the Jewish state, we finally get to the Palestinians and the actual point of the article:
"And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel)."First of all, I'm not sure about that definition, I have never heard that before. I was always taught that nations of people are not dependent upon land or continuous residence. Secondly, the Palestinians themselves admit that they have not lived there for "thousands of years." They arrived 1300 years ago, specifically. And as we will get to in a minute, for 99% of those hundreds of years the Palestinians did not think of themselves as a nation until after their "continuous residence" is over.
Before you accuse me of anything, it's not that I don't consider the Palestinians to be a nation. They are now without a doubt. What I don't like is this attempt to rewrite history, which has been going on for decades and has now increased post-Gingrich.
"[People who say that Palestinians aren't a nation say that] Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day. The answer to this is: so what?"It matters for two reasons Mr. Rosenberg: The first reason is because self-determination is a key aspect of being a nation, which I just said. If the Palestinians did not consider themselves to be a nation for 1360 years, then why should we consider them to be a nation? Unlike the Jews, Palestinians did not think of themselves as Palestinians until very very recently. That's not to say this reason alone is enough to revoke their claim to being a nation, but it's telling about where Palestinians are coming from. The second reason, of course, is that the Palestinians claim that there has "always been" a "country of Palestine" until it was stolen by the Jews. This is a blatant lie that Gingrich was trying to disprove but went about it the completely wrong way. No surprise there.
At this point he tries to crossreference:
"Most nation/states in the world were, for long periods of history, under the domination of others. Did the Polish nation not exist between 1790 through 1918 when it was divided up between Russia and Austria-Hungary and erased from the map?"I'm not sure actually, maybe? Probably not? This example would only apply to the Jews and not the Palestinian Arabs, since there never was a Palestinian state that then became dominated. His next example is closer to the Palestinians:
"Neither Germany nor Italy existed as national entities until the 19th century. Was there no such thing as Italians or Germans?"Yes, MJ Rosenberg. That is exactly what that means. Before Germany existed, there were no Germans. Before America existed, there were no Americans. This is how the world works. And it is how it has always worked. No special treatment for the Palestinians. Let's move on, because at this point the lying/half-truths begin:
"Their second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory. Again, so what?"Wow. If they weren't "Palestinians" then they didn't have a country and so Rosenberg is in no position to call Tel Aviv and Ashkelon "their territory." Those two words alone just indicate how far Rosenberg has fallen into the trap of Palestinian misinformation, even for someone who claims to be pro-Israel. He follows this up by saying that when Jews purchased land, Palestinians were the ones "who had to move out," thus reinforcing a myth that every single inch of Israel used to be Palestinian. Which, in turn, bolsters the Palestinians' claims that Israel is "occupied Palestine" and basis of the conflict. Well done MJ Rosenberg.
Now to answer his question about "so what," I'll quote myself:
"The Palestinians have always been of the opinion that "Palestine" from the river to the sea is "their country," which Israel "stole." Hence all the slogans like "Free Palestine," that sound like they are referring to the occupation of the West Bank but really are not. Just because some Palestinians are willing to live with the great crime Israel inflicted on them instead of fighting some more does not mean that they have given up this narrative. The Arab narrative is that the Palestinian people existed, were dealt this tremendous injustice by Israel, and now are trying to reclaim what is theirs.
"That is why the comment by Newt Gingrich is such a problem for them. It hits their narrative right in the heart. It's hard to sell the Palestinians are a noble nation who were wiped off the map by Israel when you have to admit that the very idea of a Palestinian people was cooked up by Arab League Presidents somewhere in Moscow. And it's even harder to support the Palestinian Arabs' "right of return" to a country that never even existed. What about all the land they claim is theirs and always has been? If the Palestinians are really just a group of Arabs chilling in villages without a country, then what claim do they have to Jerusalem? Or Bethlehem? Or any territory at all?"No doubt MJ Rosenberg finds these shots on the Palestinian mythology to be unnecessarily provocative and unhelpful to making peace. I say: the Palestinian mythology itself is why there is no peace. Sooner or later for peace to break out, it's going to have to go.