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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Non-existent 'Palestinian history'

Three weeks ago, Rashid Khalidi, who holds the Edward Said chair in Arab studies at my alma mater, Columbia University, wrote an article in the Boston Globe three weeks ago in which he decried the history of the 'Palestinians' having "disappeared under the powerful impact of the painful and amply recounted story of the catastrophic fate of the Jews of Europe in the 20th century." In other words, according to Khalidi, the fact that there is no 'Palestinian' history is the Jews' fault. At the American Thinker, Rachel Neuwirth has a more plausible explanation:
Professor Rashid Khalidi raises a very pertinent question in his article Unwritten History, recently published in the Boston Globe. In essence, he laments that the Palestinians have not written down their own history and he observes that their failure to do so has made their claim for Palestinian statehood more problematic.

Mr. Khalidi’s initiative must be welcomed by all those who seek the historical truth in the Middle East conflict. But we may wonder why it is that the history of the Palestinian people has suddenly become such an important issue. After all, many years ago, Yasser Arafat lifted any lingering doubt by tracing Palestinian history all the way back to the Jebusites!

Peoples – real ones – know their history. History precedes the collective consciousness of a people. Jews, Kurds, Tibetans, Mongols, and a myriad others are very much aware of who they are. They need no latecomer to remind them of their origins, or to forge a newly minted history to redefine their identity. They know their past achievements and they have a common will for the future. So, if forty years after the word “Palestinian” entered the international lexicon – in its new, twisted and widely circulated meaning – we are still in search of their history, we may conclude it is because there has never been such a people. The “Palestinian people” was a late creation for political purposes aimed only at destroying the national aspirations of a real people – the Jews – rather than building a peaceful society.

I do not know what motivated Mr. Khalidi to delve into the historical quest of the Palestinian people. Was it to prop up a “cause” whose merit is increasingly questioned by their former supporters? Was it to create a means to cement the many disparate factions who are speaking with different voices? Or was it to counter what social anthropologist Ernest Geller observed, namely, that “nationalism [often] invents nations where they do not exist.”? Whatever the motives may be, this historical investigation should be respectful of factual truths, which does not seem to be the thrust Mr. Khalidi had in mind, in view of the article he penned.
There really is no such thing as a 'Palestinian people.' Read it all.


At 6:23 AM, Blogger Chewie the furry Baen Sidhe said...

This is a question which puzzled me for a while. I'm a pro-jewish Christian who has always been baffled by anti-semitism within the Christian community. In my view, if Christianity isn't a con-job like the JWs or LDS, then it is Judaism fulfilled.
Either way, I believe the forces behind anti-semitism are spiritual, but the excuses used to try to justify it are endlessly weird. But at least Christian theology contains strong words for any who disrespect the Jewish people, the Koran, on the other hand, encourages it.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger M. Simon said...

One minor point.

The creation of the "Palestinian People" was designed to kill, expel, impoverish, or politically marginalize the Arabs living in areas controlled by Israel.

If you judge by results.

Look at how Arabs treat the "Palestinians". The Israelis actually treat them better if you judge by the number of Israeli Arab towns desirous of immediate inclusion in the "Palestinian State".


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