Palestine or Israel invented nations?
It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel’s legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s argument that Palestine is an “invented nation”.
The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people – Israel and the Israelis – from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible.
The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning “the Jews’ state” or “the Jewish State”), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country.
Jews committed to assimilation insisted that Jews were not a nation, but a religious faith. Their nationalities were French, German, Polish, Iraqi or American – not some imaginary Jewish nationality that had not existed for 1900 years.
Today, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world. Even though the concept of Israel-ness started just over a hundred years ago as nothing but an idea, they are Israelis, entitled to self-determination, peace and security in their own land.
And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).
Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day. So what? What makes a people real? Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The idea is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians… ).
The second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory, that Palestinian nationalism is a response to Zionism. Again, so what? When European Jews docked in Jaffa, Palestine in the early immigration waves of the late 19th century, there were Arabs waiting at the port. And if those Arabs didn’t call themselves Palestinians until the Zionist movement began, neither did the Jews call themselves Israelis.
The bottom line is that today, the Palestinian nation is as authentic as the Israeli nation – and vice versa. Those who think either is going away are blinded by hatred.
[Excerpt of article by MJ Rosenberg, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network]