Friday, December 08, 2006

No Palestinians, No Palestine, No Problem

The need for a simple solution for a complex problem, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, is causing a swell in the numbers of those who can be described as 'Palestinian-deniers'. Below, Bradley Burston provides a follow-up to his Wishing the Palestinians away piece of last week (Ha'aretz).

Bradley Burston

If the internet is any measure, there are four major denominations of Diaspora Jewry: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and There Is No Such Thing as a Palestinian.

You won't find this last group on synagogue signs. It has no rabbinical seminary. It lacks a headquarters in Manhattan, or a place on the Conference of Presidents. But if single-minded zeal counts for anything, its place as a denomination is assured.

Its bedrock article of faith is this: The concept of a Palestinian people is artificial, a grand lie foisted on a gullible and guilt-plagued international community.

The seductiveness of this lies in its simplicity. Remove the Palestinians from the equation, and the equation is solved. No more guilt. No more dilemmas. No land to divide. No rights to share. No Middle East conflict.

No Palestinians, no Palestine. No problem.

Well, maybe one. Amid the rafts of facts, the torrents of proofs, the boundlessly creative arguments, the learned histories marshalled by the activists of the Palestinians Don't Exist Movement, the one sole fact that matters, escapes them altogether:

It's not our decision.

It's not for Jews to decide whether Palestinians have valid claims to peoplehood, to cultural uniqueness, to calling themselves whatever they like.

There are millions of people here and abroad whose whole lives are about being Palestinian. There are millions of people here and abroad who know that they are Palestinian just as they know how to breathe.

It's not for Jews to decide that the people who call themselves Palestinians are insufficiently distinctive, insufficiently venerable, insufficiently homogeneous, insufficiently honest about their own ancestry, their own ancient history, their modern plight, to legitimately qualify as a people.

You may believe that the Palestinian national narrative is based on half-truths, imagined truths, flat-out untruths. You may believe that this disqualifies them from recognition as a true people. As if a people's cherished myth ? any people - is no less powerful for being myth. As if we had any say whatsoever in the decision.

No one should know this better than the Jews. No people on earth has been negated, delegitimized, in so many ways, for so many centuries, by so many other peoples, as we have.

When the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his boss, Yasser Arafat, declared that the Jews have no verifiable ties to the holy city, it may have been their jobs that they were doing, but it was none of their business.

Just as it is none of our business to tell Palestinians who they are and who they are not.

The Middle East conflict will not be solved by a parlor trick. Any magician can tell you. You can't make someone disappear simply by shutting your own eyes.


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