Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Newt Gingrich and the Palestine Question

Dr. Charles Cogan is the next Huffington Post blogger to take on the recent statements by Newt Gingrich that the Palestinians are an "invented people," in a very short article on the Huffington Post. It's actually quite informative how he takes a couple of different tactics in response to Newt. Here is the first one:
"The fact is that almost all Arab countries are "invented." As the late French adventurer/intellectual André Malraux once remarked, "There are only two Arab countries that are also nations: Egypt and Morocco." [More detailed history follows.]"
Very interesting. Dr. Cogan agrees that Newt Gringrich is correct, he is simply saying that it doesn't matter because that is true for most of the Arab states. "Arab" being the operative word: That is not the case for the Jewish state, unlike what some other pro-Palestinian people were trying to claim. There is a bit more to the discussion than the historical accuracy of Newt's comment, but we'll get to that in a minute. For now, let's take a look at the other statement made by Dr. Cogan later in the article.
"Gingrich, advertently or otherwise, lent himself to the negationist propaganda we sometimes hear in Israel...What existed in Palestine was an Arab population, many of whom were displaced from Palestine in the wars of 1948-1949 and 1967."
This is true. What existed in Palestine was an Arab population with nothing unique about it besides its geographic location. No flag, no leaders, no territory as such. Important to remember. Next:
"What difference does it make if these displaced persons, as well as those remaining under occupation in Palestine, call themselves Palestinians, as they prefer to do, or "just" Arabs."
Apparently it does make a difference because otherwise you wouldn't be writing this article and the Palestinians in question wouldn't be freaking out about what Gingrich said. Just look at the Arab League reaction for just one example. This is quite an amusing two step on the part of Dr. Cogan: On the one hand he is saying that the Palestinians are invented but that's okay because all of the Arab nations are. But on the other he's saying that it really doesn't matter whether they are invented or not. Notice that nowhere in this article does he attempt to prove Gingrich wrong, aside from the propaganda crack either.

But just for argument's sake, I'll take it upon myself to answer Dr. Cogan's question: What difference does it make? There are two reasons why it matters.

1. Who the Palestinians are. Right now we are all on the same page when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: That there should be a two state solution. We are building a two state solution upon the assumption that these two groups are nations that each deserve their own state, as they are entitled to under international law. But if the Palestinians are not in fact a nation, and if they are in fact an invented people then neither Israel nor anyone else is obligated to grant them a state and sovereignty over it!

If the Palestinians really are just a group of Arabs who got knocked around the river of history (a viewpoint that Dr. Cogan doesn't entirely reject) than why is the only way to get them out of their current situation to give them a state to rule themselves? If they are "just" Arabs, to use the words of Dr. Cogan, then why can't they move to one of the 20 or more "just" Arab states? Like the Pakistanis? Or the ethnic Germans at the end of World War II? Certainly that would be more straightforward than coming to a very messy peace agreement, a problem that has eluded very many people for a very long time?

Naturally, the Palestinians don't want this and that leads to the next reason why this question matters:

2. The history of the Palestinians. For many years now the Palestinians have been fighting a propaganda war against Israel. I don't think that is news to anybody. Part of that propaganda war has been a mostly unsuccessful to attempt to rewrite the history of the region so that Arabs were always there and Jews were never there.

You see, to hear it from the Palestinians there has always been a Palestinian people who were ruling themselves in prosperity, harmony and freedom before the evil Zionists came in to steal their country, take their stuff, and expel their people. If you think that I am exaggerating their point of view feel free to disagree but I don't think I am. Some of the more honest Palestinian Arabs will admit that their history started in the 700s with the Arab invasion, and some of the slimier Palestinian supporters on the Huffington Post or elsewhere will try to claim that the Palestinian Arabs are descended from the Phoenicians or somesuch.

But all of that is really besides the point: 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?

Most importantly: It would mean admitting they were wrong. And that they have been lying. And by extension, all of these excuses they have thrown out for why they are killing Israelis will be exposed as just that: excuses. That is the hardest part of any conversation with Palestinian supporters. They will do anything they can to avoid admitting they are wrong. Especially about their own history. So it's becoming clear that Dr. Cogan didn't entirely think through the implications of Newt Gingrich's (truthful) statement and why the reaction from the Palestinians and their Arab allies was so strong.

Long story short: Newt Gringrich's statement throws the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause into question. And that is why they are trying to shut him up. Because without the cause, there are no Palestinians.


  1. Bravo, Zach, got it in a nutshell. As far as I am concerned, the only Palestinians are Jewish. Everyone else is an invading squatter.

    That said, while it is certainly true that the Arabs have no legal, moral, or ethical right to any part of Israel for which they do not hold a legal deed (because Arabs can buy land in Israel, even though Jews cannot buy land in Arab countries), they do have human rights. History has occurred, which is no fault of the people living now. They may be descended from invaders, and they may be squatters, but they are here now and we have to deal with them.

    What the eventual correct answer is I do not know. However, it does not change the facts of how we got here. And there must be some price which the Arabs have to pay for their criminal and terroristic behaviors of the last hundred years.

  2. Quite a racist position you have staked out here

    The Palestinians are "unpeople" as Orwell would have put it

  3. Anonymous,

    There is nothing "racist" about what is being said. It is truth, historical fact.
    Sorry if that does not meet with the agenda, but the "Palestinian people"
    were invented for political reasons, such as the justification for Arab occupation of the Land of Israel. They want to rid the Middle East of Jews
    and Israel to have it all. The "Palestinian people" were invented as their pawns to help achieve that.

  4. then how come maps for hundreds of years said Palestine on them?

    Let me ask you this...when the jewish immigrants came to reestablish israel and encountered the people already living there, what did they call them?

    "Arabs" doesn't work, because there are in fact many arab jews. So what it is then? What do you call these specific people?

    And for bonus points, what does it matter so much to what they are called anyway?


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