The Invention of Palestine
by Michael Freund
What a remarkable breath of fresh air.
For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.
“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.
Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.
Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.
Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.
Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.
Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.
Thanks to the left and the media, the Palestinians’ claims to the Land of Israel became amplified and even accepted by a large percentage of people around the world, many if not most of whom do not know the first thing about the history of the Middle East. Sadly, even many Jews are no longer cognizant of or familiar with the historical record and have come to accept Palestinian assertions as true.
But as Gingrich correctly pointed out, there has never in all of history been a Palestinian state.
His comments echoed similar remarks made by the late Golda Meir. In an interview with the Sunday Times on June 15, 1969, Meir said, “There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state?”
Furthermore, she noted, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
To our ears, such assertions may sound jarring because they are so at odds with what has come to be accepted as the conventional wisdom. But that is merely because we have succumbed to decades of pro-Palestinian propaganda and indoctrination.
Needless to say, the reaction to Gingrich’s remarks by the Palestinians and their supporters was predictably swift and vitriolic. The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi accused Gingrich of “ignorance and racism,” while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called his assertions “despicable” and “the lowest point of thinking anyone can reach.”
Neither, of course, dared to challenge Gingrich with evidence, presumably because they have none in their favor. They know he is on to something, and so they resort to name-calling and venom in an effort to delegitimize the opinions he expressed.
But we cannot allow them to succeed. The brouhaha surrounding Gingrich’s statements provides an important opportunity for pro-Israel activists to right the historical record and begin to undercut decades of successful Palestinian propagandizing.
We must seize on this opening to remind people of what many have forgotten: Palestine is a myth with no basis in historical reality. Last Saturday night, during a Republican presidential debate, Gingrich was asked about his comments regarding the Palestinians. Refusing to back down, he reiterated that what he said had been factually correct, and added that, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth.”
Here’s hoping others will follow in his wake.