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The "Palestinian People," Golda Meir, And Not Giving An Inch
"Sayed Kashua is a talented Israeli-Arab journalist and novelist.." [from the Times piece quoted below]
A talented "Israeli-Arab" journalist and author? Why isn't he a talented "Palestinian" journalist and author? Is the word "Palestinian" a term of national and ethnic identity, or is merely a geographic term, or is it a geographic term posing, when the need arises, as a national and ethnic identity, for Arab and Muslim propagandistic purposes?
The very same people, including Israelis, who unembarrassedly note the existence, in Iraq, of the "Kurds and the Arabs," or who in discussing Algeria or Morocco mention the "Arabs and the Berbers," or who -- even the egregious Kristof does it-- write about the Sudan where the "Arabs" make war on the "black Africans" -- the same people who will also talk or write about the "Israeli Arabs," will nonetheless seldom or never write about "the Palestinian Arabs" but, rather, carefully or carelessly, about "the Palestinian people."
And they do this automatically, unselfconsciously, without feeling the need to explain whny the Arabs of Iraq and of Algeria and of the Sudan are just the "Arabs" but suddenly become, when they live in Gaza or in the "West Bank" or in any of the other Arab states or indeed anywhere in the world, are no longer "Arabs" but "Palestinians," those who belong to the "Palestinian people."
No one would call Ted Koppel, whose parents fled Nazi Germany, a "German refugee" nor call Kissinger, or still more crazily, his son or grandchildren, "German refugees." No one would call Dmitri Nabokov a "Russian refugee."If you refer to the Arabs who live anywhere in territories that were once part of Mandatory Palestine, but were won by Israel in a war of self-defense in 1967 as, say, the "Gazan Arabs" or the "West Bank Arabs" you will feel, at first, a little strange. If you call those Arabs who, living outside of Israel and the territories it won in 1967, originated in the area, anything but "Palestinians" you will be made to feel as if you are doing wrong. That is how clever, and damaging to Israel's interest, and resilient, this unique branding of a subset of the Arabs has become.
It is the same with those who were once called (not quite accurately) "Arab refugees" but have since the Six-Day War been carefully called "Palestinian refugees." Not only have those who left Mandatory Palestine (or, after May 15, 1948, the State of Isarel) been renamed the "Palestinians" but it is treated as being an inheritable condition. No other refugees in the world are so treated. After the first generation, those who are born elsewhere are referred to by their new places of origin, not those of their fathers or grandfathers. No one would call Ted Koppel, whose parents fled Nazi Germany, a "German refugee" or still more crazily, call his daugher, or Henry Kissinger's son, "German refugees" or even "Germans." No one calls Dmitri Nabokov or other children of people who fled the Bolsheviks as "Russian refugees" but as "the son or daughter of Russian refugees." And it is the same with others, who left this or that place. Even leaving aside the very doubtful notion that the Arabs who left Mandatory Palestine in the fall of 1947 and up to mid-May 1948 can be called "refugees" -- they left because they knew the Arab armies would attack, as they did, and wanted to remove themselves from the area of conflict because they were certain those Arab armies would triumph, and they would simply return, delicately stepping over the corpses of the Jewish men, women, and children who would be the victims, so every Arab thought, of a "massacre the likes of which would not have been seen since the days of the Mongols" -- which is what Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, assured everyone would be the outcome. "
After the Six-Day War, the Arabs simply renamed those Arabs who lived in Gaza and the "West Bank" or were living, as "Arab refugees," in other Arab countries, on the permanent UNRWA dole, as the "Palestinian people." This was part of the strategy to refashion, or repackage, the conflict not as one between hundreds of millions of Arab Muslims, intent on destroying the Infidel nation-state of Israel, but as a conflict, rather, "between two tiny peoples," a struggle for the "legitimate rights" of the "Palestinian people" so the narrative went, and the real story -- of a Jihad conducted against the tiny Infidel nation-state of Israel, was presented in a comically bowlderized version, so as not to scare the women, the horses, or Western diplomats intent on peace-processing and treaty-making and all the rest of it, diplomats who would not hear of, and would not study themselves, the real views of Muslims on what treaties with Infidels are, and must be, all about.
Few inside Israel, and even fewer elsewhere, appeared to notice, much less wanted to call attention to, what should have immediately been understood as a carefully-planned propagandistic presto-chango, by which the Jihad against Israel, which had been undisguised before 1967 -- for example, in the speeches by Arafat's predecessor Ahmed Shukairy, or in the statements made by Arab rulers and diplomats addressing Arab audiences in which they would promise to destroy Israel, to eliminate it. After the invention of the "Palestinian people" a for-infidels-only version of the Arab war on Israel became more easily offered, and the Western diplomats and journalists were among those who, seemingly permanent ignorant of, or wilfully inattentive to, Islam, were those keenest to believe that an Arab-Israeli settlement (and not merely an Israeli surrender of rights as part of a never-ending series leading to ultimate disaster) was possible, was attainable, if a series of "if onlys" were met: "if only" Israel did this or did that, "if only" some American President stuck to his guns, and paid enough attention to the "peace-making process," without worrying about domestic politics (i.e., the so-called Jewish lobby, whose power was always greatly exaggerated, and far inferior to the power of the Saudi lobby, which also meant the Islam lobby).
What is strange is that nowadays, when so many know so much more, have been forced to learn so much more, about Islam, and therefore about the source of Arab and Muslim opposition to the existence of Israel, is that even some who are sympathetic to Israel are reluctant to admit that the whole "Palestinian people" business is and always was merely a matter of propaganda, endlessly rerpeated. They don't want to work to undo the Arab success. They are tired, and don't think it a battle worth fighting. They justify their inability to undo what has been done by various means. Some think: to themselves: well, maybe the "Palestinian people" was originally an obvious absurdity, but don't such a people now exist? Haven't a whole forty years gone by in which that "Palestinian national consciousness" has been created? And so on.
This is nonsense. The exaggerated, hyper-conscious insistence on the supposed "construction of a 'Palestinian' Identity," along with all the stuff that has been done in that line -- for example, the dutiful creation of a few "Palestinian folk dances" made up as part of that fake identity that is presented to the credulous outside world -- should have been the signal that the whole effort, which would not be needed for a real people, bespeaks not a genuine nation, but an artificial construct.
A just-published review in "Commentary" of a book on Golda Meir offers an example of someone (Dean Godson) who, while hardly being unsympathetic to Israel (quite the contrary), nonetheless can write this: "On the Palestinian question [by which it appears the author of the review, Dean Godson, means the existence of this "Palestinian people"] Golda has become much too right-wing for contemporary tastes, especially in her supposed denial of the existence of a Palestinian nation."
There was nothing "supposed" about that denial. Golda Meir flatly refused to believe any of that stuff about the "Palestinian people" because she was present at the creation -- the creation of the phrase, the creation of the idea, the creation of the myth, the whole transparent "construction-of-the-Palestinian-identity" project that nearly all of the Arabs, and seemingly half the non-Arabs, getting degrees on something to do with the Middle East, appear to have taken as their doctoral-dissertation topics, and then manage to put these dissertations between hard covers, and apparently have no trouble getting university presses to publish the stuff.
Golda Meir denied that there was a "Palestinian people" because in her entire life -- as a young woman in the United States, in Mandatory Palestine, and then in the State of Israel -- the Arabs had always been the Arabs. They never called themselves the "Palestinian people." They didn't do so in 1948 either, or during the Suez Conflict. They didn't do so in the period leading to the Six-Day War in 1967. It took a while for them, after that war, and their many helpful foreign public-relations advisers and experts, to recognize the efficacy of declaring the Arab population that was on the spot, and constituted the shock troops of the Jihad against Israel, a Jihad that is not so much about the actual well-being of those local Arabs (which doesn't matter very much to the other Arabs, if at all), but about creating the conditions, absent the possibility of an immediate all-out military assault, by which Israel would be weakened, territorially, economically, morally, and of course also militarily, so that by degrees, as it weakened, and was subject to terror attacks from within and without, the people of Israel would become disheartened, disenchanted, divided, unable to think straight.
It might work.
Or, if Israelis simply recognize the truth about the war being made on them, a war that is merely a classic Jihad with some novel instruments substituted for the old qitaal or combat -- it will be salutary for them and for their supporters. Part of the truth they need to recognize is that the "Palestinian people" is a construct designed to hide the fact that the war is Islam-based, is a Jihad, and will not be softened, much less come to an end, if Israel does not hold firm to its own legal, historic, and moral claims to every dunam now under its control. Dutiful Arab Muslims -- and that means most of them -- will find their appetites whetted, not sated, by further Israeli concessions -- and part of that truth is to stop talking about, and stop letting others talk unopposed about, this goddam "Palestinian people" -- about Islam, the situation, far from being hopeless, will become manageable, because at last what was always there will at last be grimly understood.
It would be a good thing too, if everyone who saw things more or less correctly were not tempted to make any concessions, especially by fooling themselves that "it's not a battle worth fighting" or "that's already been decided."
Nothing has been decided. Every gain by the Arabs and Muslims is reversible. The "Palestinian people" business can be, should be, undone at every opportunity.