Why ‘Invent’ the Palestinians?

...Never having possessed a state, do the Palestinians nonetheless exist as a people? Are they distinct linguistically or ethnically from the sea of Arabs in which they live? The answer is no. In this Gingrich is right. There is no such thing as a Palestinian people and to speak of them as such is clearly an “invention.” The real question that needs to be asked is why have they been “invented”? The answer to this can be suggested by an analogy that removes us from the immediate passions of the Middle East in order to see this situation more clearly.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the victorious Allies moved the borders of defeated Germany westward, giving large chunks of it to Poland and Russia. In the process, most of what had been Prussia disappeared. The people in the easternmost portions of Germany were told simply to move. Immediately after the war, old people, women and children were forced to march westward with whatever they could carry or transport. This forced relocation involved an estimated 10 million people, of whom some 1 million perished in the harsh conditions. This was not the Allies’ finest hour.

Now, let us suppose that the new post-war Germany assembled the survivors in refugee camps, denied them citizenship, even the right to marry other Germans, cultivated their grievances, reminded them constantly that their one goal must be to regain Prussia for the great German people, who would not make permanent peace with Poland or Russia until these refugees were granted a “right of return” to the Prussia which was forcibly taken from them.

Such a policy would clearly have meant that Germany did not accept its post-World War II borders or the legitimacy of the post-war settlement. Its purpose in keeping the refugees in camps and cultivating in them a lively sense of grievance would have been to use them as a political tool to regain lost territory. If Germany had done this with its 10 million refugees in 1946, the number of people in those camps 60 years later would be closer to 40 million. Generation after generation, these refugees would have been taught that their real home was located in territory within Poland or Russia. Had there been 40 million aggrieved people living in the heart of Europe in refugee camps, would Europe be reunited and free today? The answer is clearly no. If there had existed an imagined “right of return” for Prussians, it would have been politically impossible. Europe is now whole and free because Germany accepted its defeat after two world wars and assimilated its refugee population.

Why can’t Arabs do this? Or why haven’t they? There have been three attempts by Arab countries to wipe out Israel since its founding in 1948, the time from which Abrams dates the growth in Palestinian nationalism. Each of these attempts has failed. And as a consequence, Arab lands have been lost to Israel. Most Arab countries have not accepted these defeats, and insist that their losses not bear any consequences. They demand that the situation be restored to the status quo ante — as if they had not precipitated these wars and been defeated. In addition, the people from these lost territories have been kept in refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank for some 60 years, not allowed citizenship in the adjoining Arab nations (with one exception), and incited with an undying sense of grievance that they have been unjustly dispossessed of their land and, therefore, have a “right of return.” Their whole purpose as an “invented” people is as a weapon against Israel. In other words, the wishes of the Palestinians are not now, nor have they ever been, paramount. Had they been assimilated in the surrounding Arab countries, they would be politically useless. Their “rights” are a veneer to keep them in refugee camps, the continuing existence of which is testimony to the Arab refusal to accept the legitimacy of any postwar order or, ultimately, the legitimacy of Israel itself (only Jordan and Egypt have diplomatically recognized its existence)....

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.