Who Is Inventing, Newt?

By Sherri Muzher

In the wake of Newt Gingrich’s ridiculous comments about Palestinians being an “invented” people I’d like to make a recommendation:  Newt, before making historically inaccurate statements, please go read up on Middle East history. 

Palestinians strongly began to assert their Palestinian identity as far back as the 1930s.  The following is a noteworthy excerpt from Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal’s 1993 book, Palestinians:  The Making of a People:

Palestinism meant the assertion of Palestine as a common homeland at a time when political boundaries were new and still quite uncertain. After a brief flirtation with the notion of their incorporation into Syria, the new organizations began to proclaim emphatically the existence of a distinct Arab people in Palestine. Even when some adopted pan-Arab programs, they took care to distinguish Palestine’s Arabs from those outside the country and, of course, from the Jews and British within.

. . . While their members most often came from the more privileged sectors of Arab urban society, the clubs hammered out social demarcations—a Palestinian profile—that also became increasingly appealing to ordinary workers facing the quandaries of urban life.

The reality is that every Arab has a specific heritage, be it Palestinian, Lebanese, Algerian, etc. Think of Latin America, where they all speak the same language (Spanish, except in Portuguese-speaking Brazil) and most share the same religion (Roman Catholic). In the Arab world, they all speak Arabic and most are Muslim.  Nonetheless, each country has its own dialect, foods, and customs. Mexicans and Argentines differ, as do Palestinians and Egyptians. 

And within each Arab nation, there is even more diversity — from distinguishable dialects and expressions to once being able to identify the region a Palestinian woman came from by the intricate embroidery on her traditional dress. 

In a nutshell, Palestinians have always had a rich and vibrant culture that is all their own.

Besides, waren’t the Scandinavians once called the Vikings and the Iraqis once called the Mesopotamians? That never changed the future national identities they would later assume.  Modern-day Palestinians are indigenous inhabitants of the Holy Land, and this reality can never change no matter how “inconvenient” the existence of Palestinians is to the narrative of others.

When I was a kid, I was often asked what my nationality was. Was I Italian? Was I Greek?

The answer was none of the above. “I’m Palestinian,” I would respond with a smile. “Oh,” was the usual quiet response with a polite smile.

I grew up in the 1970s, a time when the word Palestinian practically became synonymous with the word, ‘terrorist.’   So I somewhat understood the reaction of strangers.  The harmful and inaccurate messages they were being bombarded with were endless; a big chunk of info about Palestinians was missing.  

The images were nothing I could relate to as my parents stressed resilience and excellence in our academics and family values.  Politics, money, and the role they play in helping to shape public opinion were not yet understood at my age. 

Fast forward a few decades.  It’s like time has stood still.

It’s been saidthat “The Greatest Enemy of Knowledge is Not Ignorance; It is the ILLUSION of Knowledge.” 

When it comes to the subject of Palestinians, there is seemingly an endless supply of illusionists yapping on TV, radio, newspapers and now presidential debates by candidates looking to score brownie points before elections.

– Sherri Muzher, JD is the author of Escape to a World of Palestinian Surprises. Visit: www.palestiniansurprises.com. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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