Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fact-Checking Newt Gingrich and The Fact-Checkers on the Middle East

By Barry Rubin

ABC News “fact-checked” Gingrich’s Middle East statements and some readers asked me to fact-check ABC so here is my view:
Gingrich said Palestinians are an invented people. ABC says: Not true.

I think Gingrich was basically correct but that point isn't so significant. There is a strong tendency of contemporary experts to argue that pretty much every nationality is invented including the French, British, Italian, Polish, and German.

ABC says that the Palestinian Arabs began to have a consciousness in the 1890s. I cannot imagine what evidence would be brought to make that argument. the bare beginnings were around 1920 when actual groups began to form, though even then the "southern Syria" identity was strong. One is safer at putting the date in the late 1920s.

Yet again I don't see this point as very significant. What's important is whether a large portion of the people in question believes that they are a people. Moreover, the same "invented" charge has been made against the Jewish people by Stalin and of course by Arab and Islamist propaganda.

The fact that today a Palestinian people does exist doesn't give the Palestinians a right to invent history, of course. ABC News didn't point out that they regularly claim a history of two thousand years or more. And Golda Meir was pointing to the fact that the dominant politics of the Palestinian movement certainly as late as 1945 was a pan-Arab nationalist one. If the "invention" of a Palestinian (Arab, Muslim) people is relatively recent, though, that does imply that they don't have a claim to everything between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. And that's what's important.


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