Last Friday, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, did something revolutionary. He told the truth about the Palestinians. In an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an "invented" people, "who are in fact Arabs."
His statement about the Palestinians was entirely accurate. At the end of 1920, the "Palestinian people" was artificially carved out of the Arab population of "Greater Syria." "Greater Syria" included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. That is, the Palestinian people were invented 91 years ago. Moreover, as Gingrich noted, the term "Palestinian people" only became widely accepted after 1977.
As Daniel Pipes chronicled in a 1989 article on the subject in The Middle East Quarterly, the local Arabs in what became Israel opted for a local nationalistic "Palestinian" identity in part due to their sense that their brethren in Syria were not sufficiently committed to the eradication of Zionism.
Since Gingrich spoke out on Friday, his factually accurate statement has been under assault from three directions. First, it has been attacked by Palestinian apologists in the postmodernist camp. Speaking to CNN, Hussein Ibish from the American Task Force on Palestine argued that Gingrich's statement was an outrage because while he was right about the Palestinians being an artificial people, in Ibish's view, Israelis were just as artificial. That is, he equated the Palestinians' 91-year-old nationalism with the Jews' 3,500-year-old nationalism.
In his words, "To call the Palestinians 'an invented people' in an obvious effort to undermine their national identity is outrageous, especially since there was no such thing as an 'Israeli' before 1948."
Ibish's nonsense is easily dispatched by a simple reading of the Hebrew Bible. As anyone semi-literate in Hebrew recognizes, the Israelis were not created in 1948. Three thousand years ago, the Israelis were led by a king named David. The Israelis had an independent commonwealth in the Land of Israel, and their capital city was Jerusalem.
The fact that 500 years ago King James renamed the Israelis "Israelites" is irrelevant to the basic truth that there is nothing new or artificial about the Israeli people. And Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, did not arise in competition with Arab nationalism. Zionism has been a central feature of Jewish identity for 3,500 years.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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