Well, my last blog post ‘Why Newt Gingrich is wrong about Palestinian identity‘ appears to have placed me as one swimming against the tide or rather, outside the shoal.
Notice I said he was wrong about Palestinian identity and not the fact of the invention of a Palestinian people.
These two things, identity and peoplehood are subtly different. But one does lead to the other.
Most of what I wrote is echoed by many commentators:
The most important point is that the Palestinians created an identity in order to destroy another – Jewish peoplehood.
We all agree on that.
We also agree that this identity is being used in a continuing war of delegitimisation of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel.
I stated, however, that any people who consider themselves a nation has a right to be considered as such. Clearly, not in the Passport to Pimlico sense. Let’s leave aside the absurdities that my statement above could be used to imply.
There is a Palestinian identity- however that identity came about. And that identity is tied to a scrap of land in the Middle East.
It is pointless and irrelevant to deny this, however cynical we are about the origins of that identity.
Let me put it another way. If that identity is denied simply because of the way it is used as a weapon to be wielded against Jewish identity, where does it leave several million people who cannot and would not be Israelis, cannot and would not be Jordanians?
My point was that Gingrich does not move us nearer peace by stating the historical truth. He, and all of us, should recognise the current reality.
Palestinian identity and peoplehood has emerged out of their own perverse insistence on destroying another nation and out of their inexhaustible stamina in the pursuit of prolonged victimhood and grievance.
But it is, nevertheless, an identity and, like it or not, that identity will lead to peoplehood and nationality at some stage in the future. The confirmation of that identity can only be achieved if they recognise the Jewish identity of Israel. This is why UNESCO’s recognition of a Palestinian state is wrong and is a regressive and hostile act against Israel. This is why there is no peace.
If Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab league declared tomorrow that they recognise Israel’s right to exist based on the 1967 lines with land-swaps, Israel would be the first country to recognise Palestine and, by implication, a Palestinian identity and peoplehood. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated this clearly at the UN a few weeks ago. And this would be exactly the scenario envisaged in the UN Partition Plan of 1947 , albeit with rather different borders.
So how does using the term ‘invented’ help us move toward that goal?
Recognition of Palestinian peoplehood is almost universal. Israel and its supporters will have to live with it. It may be a ruse invented as a weapon of mass destruction, but the Palestinians have, if you will, turned themselves into a people despite themselves.
Let’s assume Gingrich becomes President or Vice President and has to have some role in advancing peace in the Middle East. How is bringing up the ‘invention’ of a Palestinian identity going to help?
The two-state solution is the only game in town. two states for two peoples. Isn’t this what all of the commentators above support, even grudgingly. So what it is it about ‘two peoples’ that we are not supposed to understand?
Is it the Jews and and a assorted bunch of Arab and Bedouin tribes or is it Israel and Palestine. And if Palestine, why not the Palestinians.
It is quite legitimate to point out how Palestinian nationality is being used against Israel and to oppose its use to further illegitimate recognition. But I stand by what I wrote. Gingrich’s statement is irrelevant. It does not matter that he is historically correct because it’s the history of the last 60 years that will matter and the history of the next hundred years, not the status quo ante.