Sunday, June 24, 2007

Palestinian is an interesting term

But one that I think is misleading. After all, there's Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, but the concept of a "Palestine" is unfamiliar. The phrase "Palestinian State" is troubling as a phrase in that it amplifies the obfuscation. Who Palestinians are could be defined a hell of a lot simpler than by making reference to the Mandate system. A better, much more clearcut, definition of who the Palestinians are is this: they are the Arabs that preceded the Jews, who are now Israelis, in the area that is now Israel.

That's it.

The Arabs of Palestine lived there for centuries and centuries, then during the 19th century there started sporadic, usually small, waves of Jewish colonization, starting under the Ottomans and continuing under the British. Eventually, the people who had been colonizing Arab land fought against the British for political power, got it, and proceded to expel the residents who lived there before they started to arrive.

That's a good one paragraph summary of the origin of the state of Israel and of the origin of the Israeli-"Palestinian" conflict.

It's one that removes obfuscations like the Zionist movement from the picture. The Zionists were a European phenomenon and a parallel could be made between them and the colonists of New England who fled there for religious reasons: Sure, the New England colonists were motivated by a complex series of events that happened in England, but that doesn't change the fact that they stole the Indians land and launched a war of extermination against them

I think the stealing of the land and the extermination is more important than the religio-politic causes of the emigration of Puritans and Pilgrims to New England in the first place, just as the actual fact of Jewish colonization of Palestine is probably more important than the ideological movements that caused it to happen.

If people in the U.S. are trying to reimagine things from the point of view of the people who were the victims of American colonization, as a necessary corrective to how the history had been normally presented, then why not do the same thing with Israel/Palestine by looking at the origin of the conflict from the point of view of Palestinian Arabs, instead of loading it down with baggage that's not appropriate?

Interestingly enough, the Holocaust doesn't really figure in to this. Israel got independence in 1949, which was four years after the fall of the Third Reich. Obviously the machinery that was put in motion to make that possible didn't create itself in four years, or even in eleven years, if we pre-date back to 1938, when Kristallnacht happened, which is the conventional date people ascribe to the start of the movement of the Nazi state from brutal oppression to the path of extermination.

This was happening before then.

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