The Myth of the Myth of Palestine
In a particularly old-fashioned attempt to justify why the Palestinians as a people and a region (Palestine), firstly don't exist and secondly by (il)logical extension don't have a shred of a right to a Nation of their own, a blogger by the nom de guerre of Alexandra created a post called The Myth of Palestine (Part II).
The arguments presented in meticulous detail, I'll concede that, are as old as the hills and have been used on either side of the Israel/Palestine debate and regard who lived in the region we now somewhat ambiguously call Israel/Palestine, what they were called, where they in turn came from and went to, who their ancestors' ancestors where, etc etc, all carbon-dated back to x thousands of years ago, x depending on how far back the navel-staring amateur "historian" just wants to go, to try and prove points regarding the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the Palestinians right to self-determination.
I said that this kind of historical soul and root searching appears on both sides of the argument but of late it does appear to be a particularly Judeo-Christian pastime.
It's futile and unnecessary to refute the claims and counter-claims regarding land, when these claims go back to times immemorial. Often it's impossible to accurately do so. But the claims are a counter-productive attempt to legitimise the existence of one state (Israel), a legitimacy that is not seriously in doubt, and undermine as yet unfulfilled claims by another party, the Palestinians.
Perhaps there is indeed one simple way of sweeping Alexandra's claims off the table, once and for all. Nation States and their peoples are a very recent phenomenon: Alexandra claims via the "historical route" to be able to prove the Palestinian people don't exist, a highly contentious claim, even by any stretch of historical imagination. But I doubt if anyone will deny the American people only came into existence in 1776, prior to American independence there simply was no such thing as an "American People". This principle can be applied to all modern Nation States at some date or other.
It's a matter of fact that the world's population is largely one of immigrants and emigres: people and entire peoples have migrated from one area to another since time immemorial and land grabs form the basis of most modern Nation States. The latter served mainly as legitimisation of these faits accomplis.
If we somehow were to try and restore the world's land to its "original owners" we'd have our work cut out. Who are we to give the land now called United Kingdom back too? The Swedish (the Viking connection)? The Germans (the Saxon connection)? The Italians (the Roman connection)? Partly to the Scottish? I could just go on...
Perhaps we should simply honour the "Out of Africa" theory and leave these shores in search of our ancient homelands...
Alexandra's "wishing the Palestinians away" on the basis of "historical" "data" is in stark contrast with very strong empirical evidence to the contrary. Where are the Palestinians? Oh, yes, there they are; in the Occupied Territories, in Gaza and in a ton of refugee camps inside and outside Israel/Palestine! Let me try and pinch one in the arm, to see if he does actually exist. No, I don't really need to do that, now do I? They're there alright...
Sadly, Alexandra and people of her ilk are often also proud Islamophobes and accuse anyone who doesn't completely, unconditionally and uncritically support Israel of... anti-Semitism.
Alexandra's views are also largely behind the times and out of sync with the reality on the ground in Israel: Kadima's looming election victory indicates that most Israelis are aware of the fact and accept the fact that the Palestinians aren't simply going to go away and that the issue will have to be dealt with, unilaterally or, hopefully, otherwise. What, in contrast, Alexandra plans to with these people remains unclear but I suspect it might be something altogether more sinister...
Alexandra's blogpost attracted loads of comments but one in particular grabbed my attention for its down-to-earth realism. It's by Joseph Marshall and it's reprinted here in it's entirety:
This is the usual disingenuous fan dance. The fact of thousands of Arabs living in Gaza, or on the west side of the Jordan River, is just that: a fact. Not only that, it has been a fact far longer than the State of Israel or the Palestine Mandate. Period.
Nobody is "giving" them that land in any way. They have been already there for time out of mind. And, in 1948, they simply abandoned the land within the original boundaries of the State of Israel.
The original Israelis just got lucky that they didn't have to contend with this basic fact before 1967, and within Israel's original borders. So, for twenty years, they were able to make the Jewish state they wanted.
For nearly forty years since the Israelis have deluded themselves that those thousands of Arabs living on the Occupied Territories are going to somehow magically disappear and leave all the land they are living on to be settled by Israelis. And for forty years they have acted toward the territory they occupied in 1967 accordingly.
This hasn't really worked very well for anybody, even the Israelis. And this is because it was a simple defiance of a very plain fact. Defying facts doesn't work.
You still talk and act as if those thousands of Arabs are going to magically disappear. They are not going to magically disappear. The only way in which the fact that thousands of Arabs are already living there can be altered is genocide. Period.
This is the basis for any sensible view of the situation. All the legalisms, all the special pleading from "history", all the "Arabs are evil savages", all the "Mohammed is the scourge of Christian Civilization" will not make that fact go away. Period.
Only genocide will make that fact go away.
A majority of Israelis, starting with Arial Sharon, are finally beginning to deal with that fact, and with a few other facts.
The State of Israel is largely a secular, non-Orthodox, state. Like the secular states of Europe it is not renewing the ethnically Jewish population at nearly the same speed that the Arabs in Gaza, or the West Bank, are expanding the Arab population. Hence to try to "Israelize" those territories is an invitation to suicide by slow poison for the State of Israel.
This is exactly the same dilemma that you are constantly pointing out in secular Europe.
The logical course of action this implies-- since, unlike Europe, Israel actually still does have a choice in the matter--is exactly what Sharon has initiated: "disengagement" and fortification of the boundary.
This means a de facto Palestinian Arab state of one sort or another. It will simply be up to the Arabs already there to choose the kind of state they will make. If it is hostile to Israel, it will never be very effective in acting on that hostility.
In fact, as disengagement and fortification have proceeded, the terrorist organizations have become steadily less and less effective. This will continue.
The Israelis have largely come to their senses and finally faced facts.
It would be nice if their cheerleaders on the sidelines would do the same thing. And not just about Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, either.
The billions of Muslims worldwide is also a very plain fact. And the millions of Muslims in Europe is as well. And the rest of us do not have the choice the Israelis still have.
The constant, hysterical, whooping up of the "Clash Of Civilizations" is simply another form of defiance of very plain facts.
Or, if it isn't mere unworkable defiance of plain facts, it is the systematic building of a network of excuses leading to deliberate actions of quite well-known 20th Century moral horror with unparalleled 21st Century scope.
So I would say to anyone so glamored by a Muslim/Christian Clash Of Civilizations, be careful what you wish for. It just might come true, and you will eventually have to account for your part in creating it.
Keywords: Israel, Palestine