The Palestinian ‘Invention’
Newt Gingrich angered much of the Arab world when he declared not long ago that the Palestinians were an invented people. Well the truth is that most peoples are invented—they have to start somewhere. America rebelled against England and became a nation. Iraq was formerly under British control, after the Turks lost WWI, until 1932 when it became an independent nation. The French were given Syria, after it was also wrested from the Ottomans. It only gained independence in 1946—two years before Israel.
However the difference with the Palestinians is they were not an identifiable people group, apart from other Arabs until recently. The Arabs themselves who moved into Palestine and became subject to the Ottoman Empire never looked at themselves as a people group or a displaced nation.
Palestinianism came about as a response to Jewish national aspirations for a country in her Ancient homeland—or Zionism. Before the Jews began to return to the former area where ancient Israel existed, seeking to restore the nation (as prophesied by the Jewish prophets) there was no such thing as a Palestinian Arab national identity.
While Arab historians argue that Palestinian Arabs’ national aspirations as Palestinians goes back much further, it is quite easy to prove they really didn’t come about until after Israel became a nation. First of all, up until 1948, everyone who lived in Palestine west of the Jordan river (as Palestine was a region comprised of modern day Jordan and Israel), called themselves Palestinian—Jews and Arabs alike. Why would a Jew call himself by an Arab national identity? He wouldn’t. The word Palestine or Palestinian has its root in the crushed Jewish revolt against the Romans in 135CE, before Arabs lived in that region.
The Romans, seeking to change the nature of the region, quelled the Jewish rebellion, exiled as many Jews as possible and changed the name of the region from Judea to Palestine. It has nothing to do with Arabs. Never has there been a nation called Palestine.
Several times leading up to Israel’s independence, the Arabs who lived alongside the Jews in the region of western Palestine were offered by the UN their own state, alongside a Jewish state. Every time the Palestinians, who supposedly long for their own country, said “No.” When Israel did become a nation, the Jordanians seized the West Bank and the Egyptians seized Gaza.
Now focus here…it gets tricky. During those years, from 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967, the so-called Palestinians never called for an Arab state called Palestine in the West Bank or Gaza, when Egypt and Jordan controlled those areas. In fact, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was formed in 1964, a full three years before Israel ever controlled the West Bank or Gaza. So, one must ask, if the PLO was created to wrest Palestine from the Jews, to which land were they referring? The land they now claim as their ancient homeland was not in Jewish, but Arab hands. Clearly, they wanted Israel proper—the destruction of the Jewish State.
Only after Israel won the Six Day War, capturing the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, did these Arabs start calling for a homeland in the West Bank and Gaza.
The idea of an Arab homeland in the West Bank and Gaza called Palestine is only forty-five years old at best.
So Newt is quite correct in saying that the Palestinian people are an invented people. That is okay. Israel started with Abraham. Just be honest about your origins. The idea there once was an Arab country called Palestine that the Jews swooped in and stole from the Arabs is simply propaganda.
I have no problem if the Arabs who live in the West Bank and Gaza say, “Hey, let’s form a nation and call ourselves Palestine.” I would prefer they do it in Jordan, the actual homeland for Palestinian Arabs (that is another article)—but at least let’s be honest about the history.