His latest article, "Why "Invent" The Palestinians?', written in the wake of the furore over Newt Gingirch's description of the Palestinians as an "invented" people, constitutes a masterly and most accessible overview of the historical reality to which Gingrich referred.
The peg on which Robert Reilly hangs his analysis is this remark of Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration:
"There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he [Gingrich] would say they are all invented people as well, and also have no right to statehood. Whatever was true then, Palestinian nationalism has grown since 1948, and whether we like it or not, it exists."Observes Reilly:
"This critique seems to confuse two things. Palestine, of course, has never been a state. In 1920, Palestine was carved out as a territory by the British, against the wishes of the Arabs living there who thought of themselves as inhabitants of Greater Syria. When it was within their power the Arabs never thought to create Palestine as a country, nor did the Ottomans. Were it to become one, it would have to be "invented," just as have been all other states, like Jordan, Syria or Iraq, all of which are 20th-century creations. In this respect, Abrams is correct.However, states are human constructs; peoples are not. Peoples exist according to ethnic and linguistic distinctions. For instance, the Kurds are a distinct people, as are the Berbers. So are the Arabs. They were not "invented"; they simply are. Ignore them at your peril. Their existence, however, does not translate automatically into a right to Kurdish, Berber or Arabic statehood. For that, other things are needed, including viability.Never having possessed a state, do the Palestinians nonetheless exist as a people? Are they distinct linguistically or ethnically from the sea of Arabs in which they live? The answer is no. In this Gingrich is right. There is no such thing as a Palestinian people and to speak of them as such is clearly an "invention." The real question that needs to be asked is why have they been "invented"? The answer to this can be suggested by an analogy that removes us from the immediate passions of the Middle East in order to see this situation more clearly.'Read the rest of his splendid article here
(Hat tip: B.L.)