On Invented People

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GOP Candidate and Presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich has made headlines with his recent claim that the Palestinians are an Invented People. The responses from across the idealogical and political spectrum have been as wild and varied as to be expected.

On one extreme, representatives of the Palestinians fired back at Gingrich. In a statement, they called Gingrich racist and said that his was the worst kind of insult that would only help the cycle of violence. On the other extreme are those nodding their heads in agreement at the prospect of a President who agrees with their perspective on the Palestinians.

Incredibly, the fact-checkers have confirmed and debunked Gingrich’s claim. There is evidence that the Palestinians existed as a small subgroup in the land that is currently Israel. However, there is little evidence that they had any sense of national pride or unity as a group before the State of Israel was established.

What strikes me is how silly this whole thing is. Gingrich’s comment could be equally said about a myriad of nations and peoples. It could really be said about anybody! What qualifies a nation as a “non-invented” people? How long do those people need to be where they are to be considered legitimate?

Is the United States of America not invented? Is the United Kingdom not Invented? Is Mexico not invented? Even historically ethnic countries such as Japan or Sweden are practically speaking “invented”. They lived in close proximity for a long time and eventually created a sense of national pride and unity. But they were not magically granted the land in which they live by some objective method of determining land division. Clearly land is not given only to nations who are not invented.

Further, let’s assume for a second that Gingrich is correct. The Palestinians are invented and invented people don’t get land. Now what? What are you going to do about it? Nuke the West Bank? Manufacture a tsunami and drown Gaza? There are millions of these so-called invented people. What now? Point being, invented or not, there is an issue that needs to be dealt with. By simply saying they are invented does nothing to resolve that issue. In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. It entrenches both sides and polarizes the parties.

And what about Gingrich himself? He is a Catholic. Is that an invented religion? If it is not, well that means that all other religions are invented. So are they all not granted the right to exist simply because they are invented? Everything is invented. Mazel tov.

Which brings us full circle. Gingrich said that Palestinians are an invented people simply to anger some people and excite others. It was a political statement that carries less meaning than most political statements. It is the kind of broad brushed, meaningless statement for which politics is famous.

I think the voting public would prefer to hear about solutions to a decades long conflict instead of whimsical platitudes. I wonder if Gingrich has any ideas for the conflict or if he can’t be bothered to deal with invented people.

Links: Forward, Israel Matzav

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Come on, stop being obtuse – you’re twisting his obvious meaning here. His point is that they’re invented for a political purpose in this case. There was no people here whatsoever, as opposed to any of the examples you gave. They weren’t joined in any way, they were only made out to be so well after the fact – 19 years – specifically for political purposes. That is invented. 

    My aunt was “Palestinian” – she lived in Palestine (and her birth certificate said so). There was no Arab nation made up of Palestinians, it was simply a territory. Let’s not be obtuse just because we like to be contrary.

    • I’m not being obtuse.

      How is this any different from the USA in 1796?

      It isn’t.

      • Ezzie Goldish

        Are you serious? British colonies which existed as such and in which the people within it chose to rebel together against the current government, and ultimately went to war and founded their own government. We’re talking about an existing population which had its own local officials prior to even forming a rebellion. How is that comparable at all?

        • You’re hanging the “difference” on the fact that the colonies had elected officials before the revolution?
          I’ll submit to your distinction but I have no idea how that makes any real difference.
          The USA was invented. Pure and simple. It was invented for a political and religious reasons.

          • Ezzie Goldish

            Yes – by a people who was there at the time it was invented and claimed to be part of it as it was being invented. Which is completely different than claiming a nation existed after in fact it did not exist, as Gingrich says clearly. Here’s his actual statement: 

            “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”
            “For a variety of political reasons,” Gingrich continued, “we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.”

  • Well said. Check out a similar piece in the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/12/newt-the-jews-and-an-invented-people.html.

    And as for the Palestians being invented for “political purposes,” Americans were invented purely for political and religious purposes (basically to stick it to those in Britain who didn’t like their views). I don’t understand how anyone could draw a difference.

  • So let me get this straight, Newt’s comment is silly b/c it’s not saying anything really since all people’s are “invented”, is that it? If that’s the case, and his comments really aren’t saying anything more than Palestine ms are “invented” just like Americans, then why the huge backlash from the palestinans? Clearly they understood the nuance you failed to grasp.

    I’ll put it really simplified terms. In the NHL you have the original 6 teams. They carry some historical heritage, mistique, tradition, and majesty. Now the league expands and new expansion teams are created which have no tradition, history, or mistique. Years go by and it time for the league to contract. U think the NHL is going to rid of the Rangers? bruins? Etc.? Or are they going to jettison Atlanta or Phoenix? But why? They aree all just invented teams?

    (you can make the appropriate NBA analogy, I just don’t know enough about the NBA to make it fit as I still thought the supersonics were a team as I stopped watching back in the Shawn kemp days)

    • I think the reaction of the Palestinians is due to the implication of Newt’s statement which I disagree with.
      Your analogy is flawed. Clearly, there is no contraction going on here.

      • Wait, what’s the implication? I thought u just said that his comment was no different than saying American are invented? See, u even know what the meaning of his statement is. In fact, it was SO meaningful that a the comment, made on some rinky dink tv channel (sorry Steven I.) made it to the nationally televised TV debate on a major broadcast network.

        It means something, and it means something HUGE. It is very different, and you already know that. Stop being so silly.

        (and while there may be no contraction here, there most certainly won’t be expansion, see Palestinian bid for statehood failure at UN)

        • The implication is clearly that Palestinians should stop whining and go away. That’s exactly Gingrich meant.
          I am arguing that Gingrich should not have implied that simply because they are, in his eyes, invented. As everyone is invented.
          Is this so complicated?

  • The comments reminded me of a tech blog post that made the rounds. The blogger was arguing that your average programmer was awful. As part of his argument, he posted a relatively simple problem and said 50% or more of his interviewees couldn’t solve it. 90% of the comments revolved around the best way to solve the problem.

    So many of your comments (including on Facebook) are “Invented!”/”Not Invented!”… you would think people read the blog post they’re commenting on before commenting.

    I completely agree by the way: Newt’s comment also did exactly what it was supposed to: Curry favor with those who (want to) think the Palestinians are invented. I’m going to guess there’s plenty of those who live in Iowa.

    • So many of your comments (including on Facebook) are “Invented!”/”Not Invented!”… you would think people read the blog post they’re commenting on before commenting.
      🙂 Such is the life of a blogger…

  • Anonymous

    Very nice article. I completely agree with Rabbi Fink. This whole debate seems very irrelevant. We (Israel) have to deal with the disputed territories and the people living there, and whether you call them Palestinians or Arabs living in Eretz Israel or whatever, I don’t see what difference it makes to finding a solution. Personally, I’m against a Palestinian state, but not because there is or is not a Palestinian people, but rather, because I believe such a state would endanger the state of Israel, and would not be a viable state.

  • The distinction is important, because it determines the starting point for peace negotiations.

    If there had been a native people called the Palestinians, and then invading Europeans showed up and destroyed the Palestinian culture, and replaced it with their own – then the proper starting point for negotiations is that the original Palestinians deserve all of the land, and anything less than that is a magnanimous gesture on their part.

    If, however, there was a concerted effort among Arab leaders to destroy the Jewish people, as they tried to REclaim their ancestral homeland – and when their military efforts to anhiliate the Jews failed, they launched a war of taqiyya by inventing a native people called “Palestinian”, who were actually Arabs from various Arab lands perpetrated this fraud to arouse world sympathy for these Jew-killing terrorists…

    If that is what really happened, then the proper starting point for negotiations is that the Arab squatters get nothing; and any concession (say, an Arab nation in Gaza only) is a gracious effort on the part of the Jews who miraculously survived several attempts at genocide at the hands of the Arabs.

    Gingrich has the courage to let the world know that the second scenario is the truth.  G-d bless him.

  • >There is evidence that the Palestinians existed as a small subgroup in the land that is currently Israel.
    Egads. Someone found evidence that Arabs lived in Palestine? Shocker 🙂

  • I have to mostly agree with you. Everyone, at a certain point, is made up for any myraid of reasons. 

    The point that should be made, is: Yes, you are a newly made up people. You have your own identity. That doesn’t give you some right to Jerusalem. Period.

  • I think the point of saying the “palestinians” are a made up people is that they don’t have any claim to the land they want. I agree with you that all countries are theoretically “made up” before they become a sovereign nation but the point is that the “palestinians” should go take land from Jordan not from Israel!

    • If they are made up, why should they take land from Jordan?

      • I think Newt’s point is, that they are Jordanian.