Identities Constructed Here

by Hugh Fitzgerald (Dec. 2007)

The word "Palestinians" and the invention of the "Palestinian people" was a deliberate construct. It was not the term used, ever since there were Arabs in what Western Christendom called "Palestine." The phrase was never used by the local Arabs until after their defeat in the Six-Day War. And then, having jettisoned Shukairy a few years before, the Arabs collectively decided, with a little help from public-relations advisers in the West, Jimmy Carter among them, to thoroughly redo their presentation.

The most important thing was to redefine the conflict. No longer are all those Arabs against a tiny Jewish state. No. Now, by an act of optical illusion, the tiny Jewish state would be transformed into a vast empire, this Greater Israel (why, the same BBC newscasters who routinely refer to Lebanon as that "tiny country" and to Jordan as that "tiny country" -- I hear it all the time -- for some reason never use that epithet with Israel. Never. Not once) which, even if it came into being, would be all of the size of Massachusetts, and less than one-one-thousandth the size of the Arab states.

And what isn't these days presented as a "constructed" identity? Is being "French" or "English" (or "British") or "American" -- pace Hector St.-John Crevecoeur's "what is this new thing, this American?" -- a "constructed" identity? Yes? No? Mebbe? Yes, "identity," we are told, is "constructed" and "fluid." You can be anything you want to be, and no nasty Westerners have a right to hold onto an identity, their own, which of course doesn’t, being American or Western European, exist. Other lands have “identities” and can hold onto them. But it is to the United States, England, France, and all those other places where so many others, especially Muslims arrive, with their inculcated hostility undeclared at customs, packed carefully in their mental package, and to be unpacked as soon as they are safely in the country.

 We live in an age when so many things are claimed not to embody any truth based on the considerable evidence of one’s senses (including the “eyesight” that permits one to read books), but are claimed, rather, to be "socially constructed." Think of the kind of words Terri Gross, in those intolerable NPR interviews, likes to dwell upon with her quests, questioning them about “coming to terms” with, or “discovering” or something-or-other, with their own "Sexuality" and "Identity.” And of course “race” is merely a social construct, isn’t it, which is why the man who parachutes into Beijing, or Iowa, or the Congo, doesn’t notice the slightest difference in the kind of people he happens to meet.

Oh, did I forget to mention "reality"? Yes, nowadays "reality” also doesn't exist. It's merely "constructed." And we all thought it was just jesting Pilate who said "there is no such thing as truth." You can learn about all this from Gayatri Chakravarti Spivak, and Judith Butler, and even the equally-impenetrable-prosist Homi Bhabha (who, by the way, should mind his self-conscious manners and wait before attempting to walk out of a lecture-cum-concern when it only has a few minutes to go).

But the absurdities pile up. It was time to rename the local Arabs, both those in the territories won by Israel that were part of the original Palestine Mandate (Gaza, the "West Bank" quondam Judea and Samaria), and those who had been called simply, and a bit too easily, "Arab refugees" -- by every single Arab spokesman at the U.N., the Arab League, and elsewhere -- living in those villages (always described as "refugee camps" though some are full-fledged cities, and all have stores and built-up areas; these are not tent cities -- the kind of thing that refugees in Darfur must endure) in Jordan, Lebanon, and so on.

The term "Israeli" was not deliberately invented to score political points. Far from it. The Jews of Israel are really what is in play here, the survival of a Jewish state, of the right of the Jews to have a state.

It is absurd to equate the deliberate and sinister creation of this fake "Palestinian identity" for political ends, with the simple term "Israeli" to describe those who are citizens of the state of Israel.

So let's do it otherwise. Let's, more truthfully, talk about Arabs and Jews. Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. The Jews, who come from the Middle East, and a million of whom in 1948, having endured for centuries the life of dhimmis under Muslim rule (save in those places, such as North Africa, where the brief rule by European powers led to Jewish emancipation from the burden of living under Shari'a -- thanks in Algeria to the loi Cremieux of 1870) left, and most fled to the state of Israel. Do the Jews have a right to a state, a state that can be defended against permanent Muslim aggression, or do they not?

And as for the local Arabs, whose numbers have been so exaggerated -- few bother to consult the Ottoman cadastral or demographic records, such as they are, in pronouncing on the subject of "Palestine" and fewer still put that "Palestine" and the non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities of the Middle East into their proper light, their proper perspective -- for the Kurds also, now is perhaps the time to add, have a right to an independent state, and Lebanon, by rights, should remain a haven, a final haven, for the Arabic-using Christians -- not all, by a long shot, are Arabs -- in the Middle East.

So there it is. A Jewish state, permanently imperiled, and asked to voluntarily make itself still more imperiled. And the implacable relentless Arabs, using salami tactics, and their vast unearned wealth, to apply every kind of pressure to get the world's Infidels to join in the gang-up, and to push Israel back to clearly indefensible borders, without control of vital aquifers, without control of traditional invasion routes, eight miles wide at its waist, from Qalqilya to the sea. And this is the one country, the only country, that the most persecuted tribe in human history, having recently been the victim of the most unbelievable crime in human history, that exists for that tribe to embody its national identity without any doubts or need to conform to what others would have.

And on the other hand, there are the Arabs, who having denied or attempted to deny every non-Muslim and non-Arab people in North Africa and the Middle East -- Kurds and Berbers and now blacks in Darfur and Christian Copts and Maronites and Assyrians and Chaldeans and others -- their rights, in some cases their linguistic and cultural rights, in others their rights to control or profit from their own natural resources, in still other cases, to enjoy freedom from Arab political masters -- and those Arabs have denied these peoples the right to speak their own non-Arab languages (see the case of the Berbers), retain their own culture, have even mass-murdered them in the Sudan and Iraq, with the other Arabs looking on, openly or silently supporting them, and blocking all attempts to stop the murder.

And those same Arabs, with their 22 states, have also been the beneficiaries of unmerited wealth, having nothing to do with their own efforts, their own industry or entrepreneurial flair. The rich Arabs and Muslims have received, for doing absolutely nothing, some ten trillion dollars since 1973 alone, and we all know the arms, and the luxurious palaces, and the call girls, and the yachts, and all the rest of it, that they have spent their money on, including the mosques and madrasas and Da'wa and propaganda on behalf of Islam -- through buying up journalists, creating academic centers, dangling possible contracts before greedy businessmen, and all the rest of it.

The war in the Middle East is that between Arabs and Jews, not between “Israelis” and “Palestinians” Long before there was an Israel, there were Jews living in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria, in North Africa, in Iran (before expelled by the Muslims from the Jazirat al-Arab, they were even on the Arabian Peninsula; Hebrew lettering has been found on ruins in northwestern Saudi Arabia, Land of the Midianites). The appropriation of the term "Palestinian" -- as in "Palestinian people" -- and its deliberate promotion from adjective to noun (as in "the 'Palestinians'") -- was a deliberate and tendentious act of propaganda. The term "Israeli" per contra, is nothing more than a description of "the citizens of a nation-state called Israel" (not all of whom, by the way, are Jews), and it would be far more accurate to describe the business in Annapolis, or Camp David, and the conflict itself, as being not between "Israeli" and "Palestinian" but between Arab and Jew, or still more accurately, between Believer and Infidel, for the source of the conflict is to be located in Islam, and the refusal in Islam to countenance an Infidel state or power, of any size, controlling land, of any amount, that was once ruled over by Muslims.

If Israel happens to have been at the forefront of Arab Muslim efforts, that hardly means that the same claim is not made on Spain, Sicily, the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, much of Hungary, almost all of India, and so on. Nor, of course, does the fact that places formerly part of Dar al-Islam are at the top of the Islamic To-Do List (Recover Lands), mean that the claim to the rest of the known world has disappeared, or would disappear, if the denizens of Dar al-Islam managed to recapture every inch of land once part of Dar al-Islam. No, they have bigger fish to fry -- the whole world. And surely at the SOAS there are books, if not courses, that will let you in on that not-exactly well-kept secret.

If the Arabs of Iran, those around Ahwaz, where all the Iranian oil is pumped, in Khuzistan, were to go for broke and try to fight off "the Persians" and create a separate, well-funded state for the ethnic Arabs, and began, for the purposes of propaganda, to call themselves the "Khuzistanian people," would you claim that the term "Khuzistanian people" is not more of a "construct" than the term "Persian people" or "Persians"? Think about that for a bit.

The leader of As Saiqa, one terrorist group under the PLO umbrella, Zuhair Mohsen, is widely known for having made the following statement in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."

And there are many other remarks like this, sometimes by Arabs, and sometimes even by those engaged in “Arab refugee” work before it was taken over completely by “Palestinians” and other Arabs.

See, for example, what Elfan Rees, the special advisor on refugees to the World Council of Churches, wrote in 1957 in The Refugee Problem Today and Tomorrow:

"I hold the view that, political issues aside, the Arab refugee problem is by far the easiest postwar refugee problem to solve by integration. By faith, by language, by race and by social organization, they are indistinguishable from their fellows of the host countries. There is room for them, and land for them, in Syria and in Iraq. There is a developing demand for the kind of manpower that they represent. More unusually still, there is the money to make this integration possible. The United Nations General Assembly, five years ago, voted a sum of 200 million dollars to provide 'homes and jobs' for the Arab refugees. That money remains unspent, not because these tragic people are strangers in a strange land, because they are not; not because there is no room for them to be established, because there is; but simply for political reasons."

Read the U.N. records, the records of what every Arab said, threatening or cajoling, from 1948 or well before 1948, right up to the Six-Day War, and even for a short period beyond, and it is only then that, out of the blue, comes this phrase “the Palestinian people.”

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