Sunday, 11 December 2011

Newt Gingrich and The Invention of America

Nothing invented - the real tears of a real Palestinian, under  Israeli fire.
The appalling Newt Gingrich, a hopeful for the Republican nomination for US President in next year's election, has described the Palestinians as an "invented" people with no right to a state of their own. Like many a US politician before him, Gingrich is parroting a line used frequently by Zionists to excuse the dreadful treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli state.

Gingrich tries to redesignate the millions of people in Gaza and West Bank with the generic term Arab. This would be a bit like saying there is no such thing as English people or Greek people - but rather deciding they are all Europeans! To Gingrich's ignorantly blinkered eyes of course, Arabs are all just a homogenous bunch of bearded brown guys who spend their days chomping spicy food, shouting Allah-u-akbar, and plotting against America. In truth, Arabs are tens of millions of people across the Middle east. living in diverse countries with diverse cultures and diverse religions (there are millions of Christian Arabs, as well as other faiths like the Druze). The Palestinians are as distinctive as Jordanians are from Algerians, or Libyans from Iraqis.

Palestine itself is no more or less invented than any other state - all states are on some level invented when they are created: the creation of Britain was a union, to some degree forced, between at least four distinctive ethnic groups. Germany was forged by Prussian conquest of a myriad of German city states back in 1871, while a little later Garibaldi and Vittorio Emmanuel united the state of Italy from a number of different elements. Some states are ethnically based, others emerge as an amalgam - as Britain did.

By far the most invented nationality of all, complete with the most artificially created state of all, is of course the American identity claimed by the United States. Newt did not reflect on this before his bigoted tirade - but America was created through a combination of colonisation, bribery and bloody conquest in terms of its territories and though the gradual and far from easy or completed amalgamation of scores of different ethnicities, destroying the cultural distinctiveness of its component parts far more completely than any other empire in history. And all in the last two and a bit centuries - the Palestinians, by contrast, can better that history by over a thousand years.

So, if Palestine has no right to exist, why does America have any right to exist either?

The people who calls themselves Palestinians are the same people who have lived in the area of Palestine for over fourteen centuries. For much of that time, they did not have their own state because they were part of larger empires, latterly the Ottoman Turkish Empire which collapsed at the end of the First World War. Palestine was then transferred to be a mandate of the British Empire and it was at this stage that the Balfour Declaration decided that Palestine could provide a homeland for Jewish people from other parts of the world. Many Jews had of course lived in the area for centuries alongside their Muslim and Christian neighbours, mostly in peace. But driven by the dreadful victimisation of the Nazi Holocaust, anti-semitism among Europeans, and in many cases their own religious fervour, since 1945, millions of other Jews from elsewhere in the world have emigrated to Israel, driving out Palestinian people who had lived there for centuries. And this was done on the spurious basis that their Jewish ancestors had lived there even earlier.

Quite aside from the debate about how far back in history you can go to raise grievances, there is of course a lie peddled by the West, that the blood thirsty Muslim Arabs seized Israel and drove out the Jews and that the Christian Crusaders then made common cause with the Jews to retake the Holy Lands - and that their failure to do so was only put right by the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Many American evangelicals even send donations to Israel today in this belief.

But the truth could not be further away - the Jewish disapora from the Roman province of Palestina began in the second century, driven by both the persecution and the opportunities provided by the then pagan Roman Empire. When the Muslim Arabs arrived in the area five centuries later, they were welcomed by Jews and dissident Christians as liberators from the increasingly monotheistic totalitarianism of the Christian Byzantine Empire. A whole five hundred years later, when the Crusaders turned up and briefly captured Jerusalem, the Warriors of the Cross of Jesus indiscriminately slaughtered the Jews, "heretic" Christians and Muslims who had jointly defended the city. It was one of the greatest massacres in recorded history. (Notably, when the Muslims retook the city a century later, exiled Jews flocked back to live there in peace and prosperity.)

Understanding history is vital to understand why we are where we are, but it is today that matters. The bottom line is that millions live in the huge refugee camps that are the totality of Palestinian territory. They live in some of the most difficult conditions in the world - confined in small areas; shelled and bombed by a superior Israeli army and air force; deprived of many goods; deprived of life chances; and with the highest rate of depressive illness measured anywhere in the world. These people are not invented. They are not made up or artificial. They are real, flesh and blood, like you and me. And they are where they are because they lived in Palestine and the Israeli state pushed them out forcibly; and unlike Gingrich's weasel words, they had and have nowhere to go.

The problem is real and the solution has to be found - a real one, not the dangerous fantasy with which Newt Gingrich, in his bizarre little brain, seeks to dismiss the existence of millions and so excuse the violence and degradation to which they are constantly subjected. If Americans vote for this man, with his very much invented artificial reality, they will do so at great peril to themselves and to the peace of the world.

The area of the current USA in 1830 - only the red part was American then; the rest was invented later.

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