So this is the week that Newt Gingrich has called the Palestinians an invented people. Gingrich is partly right. But not in the way he thinks. No doubt Gingrich believes that Palestinians are the only ‘invented’ people (or one of a few) which is quite ridiculous coming from an American it has to be said. The reality is, ALL peoples are invented. All nations, all identities, all races, are man made constructs. That is, they are concepts borne in the mind of man and reinforced by his own perception of what he views as the ‘other’. With emphasis on how he views himself and how he believes he and his ‘people’ should organise their lives.
Gingrich further added
Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places
The claim made by Gingrich that there never was a Palestinian state is one often made by people hostile to the plight of the Palestinians. This claim is made in an attempt to deny an indigenous people the right to dwell on their own land. What this claim essentially does is, it takes what is after all a modern European concept – the idea of the nation state – and uses that as a prism through which to view a non-European people and judge them as not being worthy of the right to live on their own land. Remember also, that the word Palestine has existed in some etymological form for far longer than the names of most states in the world today.
Furthermore to take Gingrich’s ‘logic’ and apply it elsewhere means that Britain should still be ruling all of Ireland, as well as large swathes of Africa and the Orient, because before John Bull set about ‘civilizing’ us savages (Im irish – one of those invented identities) we did not meet the Gingrich standard of ‘a state’ either. And just like the Palestinians, we Irish developed our identity and emerging sense of nationalism through refusal to bow to the demands of an outsider intent on dispossessing us.
We could also go into the fact that the League of Nations had classified Palestine as a class A mandate – a status which meant it was considered most ready for full independence, but that would take us down a technically legislative route decent moral people need not take.
To take Gingrich’s other claim that because Palestinians are ethnically Arabs, they could go elsewhere, is the old Arab = Arab argument. For Gingrich forcing someone off their land is fine if they live next to a country they can speak the language of. Aside from being an absolute obscenity and a legitimization for ethnic cleansing, it ignores the core of the conflict.
We routinely hear from the likes of Gingrich that world Jewry have ‘historic’ ties to the Holy Land. These ‘historic’ ties unfortunately pale next to the very real tangible ties that Palestinians have to their land. Unlike world Jewry, the Palestinians actually lived, breathed, farmed, loved, died and buried their loved ones in that land. It matters not a jot what the people of Palestine called themselves, or whether or not they fulfilled the requirements of the western concept of a ‘state’. They existed, they were there, they were and are fellow humans, period.
They did this whilst sharing one language, eating similar food, having cultural customs and all the other accoutrement’s of what the concept of ‘a people’ encompasses. In point of fact, if we are to use Gingrich’s standard of who is worthy of a state, the Palestinian people actually tick more boxes of the concept of a people/nation/race than world Jewry does. Gingrich’s beliefs mean that any of my Irish brethren who are Jewish are not really Irish. I reject such an odious view outright. But you can bet your bottom dollar Newt won’t want to examine where his logic leads, and so unfortunately, many will lap up his obnoxious ‘reasoning’.