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Post Palestinian Identity
Created by John Eipper on 10/06/12 3:27 AM

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Palestinian Identity (Istvan Simon, USA, 10/06/12 3:27 am)

In contrast to what Carmen Negrín wrote on 4 October, Palestinians have not "maintained their Palestinian identity," but rather forged it since 1948. Pre-1948 most of the Muslim Palestinians were not distinguishable from Arabs, of the various groups from Syria say, and the Christians were mostly from Lebanon, from the Maronite community. The overwhelming majority of the ancestors of those that today call themselves Palestinians, did not live in Palestine for centuries, as they now claim, but rather were new immigrants to the area, just like the Jewish immigrants, attracted by jobs and work provided by the Jews.

As the passages I quoted from historian Gold's book clearly show, 100 years before the creation of the state of Israel, the Muslims had no particular interest in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem (that is East Jerusalem, for the modern city did not yet exist) had a small population, and more than 50% of its inhabitants were Jewish. Muslims were a small minority in Jerusalem, not a majority, and consisted of only some 25% of the population of Jerusalem. Therefore it follows that the migration into the area was not only of Jews, who for centuries regarded Jerusalem as their home--indeed in every new Year celebration, every Jewish family had a toast: "Next year in Jerusalem," and this toast pre-dated Islam itself by hundreds of years.

The cultural aspirations of the Jewish people were forged in suffering and persecution for centuries. Persecution that included Ms. Negrin's Spain.

Pereira is a common name in Brazil. And so is Lima, and Nogueira. Yet all of these family names, (and many many others) had Jewish origins. They were from Jewish families, who were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pereira_(surname) "> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pereira_(surname)

Now let me address some of Ms. Negrin's points:

"They are not all Muslims. A large part, now a minority, were Catholics, mainly on the West Bank."

Indeed, that is the story of people in the Middle East. If you are not a Muslim, you are soon a minority... The Catholics, as I said above, were the Maronite Christians. Many emigrated to Brazil. My father used to work for one of these Lebanese immigrants in Brazil when I was still in college, at the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo, which is sort of like the MIT of Brazil.

Carmen says:

"The land was indeed occupied by the Ottomans, the British and long before that by the Romans, etc."

Well, how curious, that the Romans are followed by "etc." in Ms. Negrin's post. For perhaps she would then be gracious enough to remember that many of the original inhabitants of Palestine--or was it called Israel back then?--were expelled by the Romans, including my ancestors, both on my father's side and on my mother's side. In spite of this, many Jews remained, for indeed the Jews are the only people that have inhabited this land continuously for over 3,000 years. Not the Muslims, since Islam did not even exist for another 600 years. So how curious, that in spite of this, Carmen wrote:

"Palestinians are very much aware of the fact that they lost part of their land to Jordan and part to Israel."

Their land? Really? When exactly, in the past 3000 years did the land become theirs?

Ms. Negrin continues:

"The relation between Palestinians and Jordanians is far better than between Israelis and Palestinians, especially those living in the occupied territories, even though the distinction is shown on the Jordanian passport for Palestinians. In other words there is not total equality between Palestinian-Jordanians and Jordanians; however this difference in treatment is not comparable to what exists in Israel, either with the Palestinians in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories or with the Arab Israelis, as they are called."

Now I know a few things about Israel myself, so I have to correct Ms. Negrin. For her last sentence is simply not true.

I could argue, that if so, then all that the more than a million Muslim citizens of Israel would have to do, was to move a few miles East, that is to move to Jordan. But surely no such emigration is occurring, even in small numbers, much less on a massive scale, which makes it evident that Ms. Negrin's statement is simply not true.

Contrast this with the emigration of Jews from Iran to Israel. JE marveled some time ago that there are still 25,000 Jews in Iran. Indeed. But in 1979, when the disgraceful government of the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, there were more than 80,000. What happened to the rest? Well they moved to Israel. That is what people do, when they are not well treated in a country. If the same proportion of Palestinians had moved to Jordan in the same period (let us account for demographic growth, so let us say for the sake of argument, that in 1979 there were 500,000 Muslim citizens of Israel), then about 330,000 Palestinians would have moved to Jordan from 1979 to today. Since no such migration ever occurred, we must conclude that Ms.Negrin's statement is inaccurate.

Ms. Negrin continues:

"Palestinians in Jordan are not being killed or imprisoned, they have kept their homes, can live, they can even marry the King of Jordan!"

Not true. At least not true if they are female. For if they are female, and let us say 16, and that they fall in love with a 17-year-old descendant of the Hashemite King, they will be murdered by their own brother and father, in so-called "honor killings." They will not be protected from such fate in Jordan, but on the other hand, they will be protected in Israel.

Ms. Negrin continues:

"Regarding Jerusalem, houses are not being 'bought,' as Istvan writes, from Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians are being expelled from their house which their families have owned for generations!"

First, this is another untrue statement. If not, perhaps Ms. Negrin would provide some proof of her allegations. But let us, for the sake of argument, assume that I am mistaken, and Ms. Negrin is correct. I would then ask Ms. Negrin for how many generations did they own said houses, because my statistics of my previous post already proved that there were no more than 4,500 Muslim souls in East Jerusalem in 1865! How many houses can 4,500 people own, considering that they lived with their numerous children, and their parents as well in the same house? Simple arithmetic then disproves Ms. Negrin, for clearly we may safely divide 4,500 by at least 10, giving us a grand total of at most 450 houses.

Ms. Negrin continues:

"I do not see why the proposal once made by Arafat of a joint capital in Jerusalem is not acceptable (East Jerusalem for the Palestinians and the rest for Israel)"

Well, I am on record, that in the interest of peace, I have defended a similar idea. But Ms. Negrin's arguments are making me more militant, not less, so in this post I will reverse myself, and say this: the joint capital proposal is unacceptable for Israel, because East Jerusalem was a Jewish city nearly 100 years before the creation of modern-day Israel. Because Jews were not allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall from 1948 to 1967. And so Jews have been, since 1967, a far more generous administrator of the Muslim Holy sites, than the Muslims were of the Jewish Holy sites from 1948 to 1967.

JE comments:  If arguments from the other side tend to make folks more militant, not less, can there ever be hope for peace in Israel/Palestine?

I would like to explore further the notion of Palestinian identity.  Most modern articulations of nationalism came about in the 19th century.  What was the "consciousness" of the Palestinians, say, at the time of the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of 1920?

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  • Palestinian Identity (Carmen Negrin, -France 10/07/12 7:00 PM)

    I will not answer each and every point of Istvan Simon's post of 6 October, but I will just point out that the queen of Jordan, Rania, is of Palestinian descent.

    Regarding expulsions, I will suggest to look at the enclosed video, one of many on the subject: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xavppv_expulsion-des-palestiniens-de-jerus_news

    Finally regarding Palestinian identity I would refer to Edward Said or Mahmoud Darwich, but mainly I'd like to ask a simple question: what would they be fighting for since 1948? Does Istvan think they invented their identity after the state of Israel was created?

    If one wants to go back to a more remote period, go to the Philistines, a people who occupied the land of Palestine before the arrival of the Israelis. Philistine and Palestine have the same word origin (XIIth century before JC).

    In my view, discussing who was there before (meaning centuries ago) does not help solve the problem; the fact is that both groups are there now and have to live together.

    JE comments:  Yes, both groups must learn to live together.  What could possibly be the alternative?

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    • Palestinian Identity; Edward Said and Said Sidki (Istvan Simon, USA 10/09/12 4:24 AM)
      In response to Carmen Negrín (7 October), the Queen of Jordan is indeed of Palestinian origin, though educated in the United States. She has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to stop the practice of so-called "honor killings" in Jordan.

      There is no proof at all that the Philistines have anything at all to do with Palestinians today. It would be very easy to actually provide proof. It would be sufficient for 1000 Palestinians to submit DNA samples to the National Geographic migration study based on DNA. I do not know what the result of such a study would be, but it would conclusively settle the issue whether the Palestinians have anything at all to do with the Philistines or not.

      Concerning the video that Carmen has provided, other than the sympathetic French TV commentator's comments, we know absolutely nothing about why the two families were being evicted. So this proves absolutely nothing at all about violations of the Geneva Conventions, any more than it would prove violations of the Geneva Conventions if I took a video of an eviction in my city in the United States by the police, and made sympathetic comments on it about the family being evicted, and then posted it on YouTube.

      Edward Said was an American Professor of Palestinian origin at Columbia University. He was famously militant against Israel, and was a friend of Daniel Barenboim, the great Argentinian-Israeli-American conductor and pianist, with whom he founded the East Divan Orchestra which has perhaps made a significant contribution towards understanding between the two communities, Jewish and Arab Palestinians, by giving them the chance to play music together.

      But Edward Said does not prove that Palestinian identity existed prior to 1948. Were it so, I could bring up my friend, Dr. Said Sidki, who is a mathematics Professor at the University of Brasília, and a lifelong friend of my family, at whose home in Brasília I slept. For Dr. Sidki is also of Palestinian origin. But instead of throwing stones at Israel, as Edward Said has done, he befriended Jews like me and my brother in Brazil, and we usually discussed mathematics and life in general, rather than the Israel/Palestinian dispute.



      Carmen asked: "what would [the Palestinians] be fighting for since 1948? Does Istvan think they invented their identity after the state of Israel was created?"

      Indeed I do. What happened after 1948 is that about 600,000 Palestinians got herded into United Nations refugee camps, a few miles from where their former homes had been. A large number of these 600,000 were encouraged by the Arab States to leave their homes, waiting for the counter-attack of the Arabs, expected to occur within days, which would again allow them to return to their former homes. But the counter-attack never came. A significant number of the 600,000, we do not know how many, fled their homes in fear for their lives, due to Israeli terrorist attacks by the Irgun. They were herded into the refugee camps with all the others as well.

      Not only the counter-attack of the Arabs never came, but they also cynically then kept their brothers and sisters in the said UN refugee camps for the next 64 years. They did not offer them new homes in Saudi Arabia, or Jordan, or Kuwait, or Egypt, or Iraq, or Syria, or Lebanon, or Tunisia, or Libya, or anywhere else in the vast lands controlled by Arabs. Instead, they kept them in refugee camps for 64 years, where their grandchildren are imbued daily with propaganda and hatred for Israel, and encouraged to become suicide murderers. Where babies carry Kalashnikovs with militant slogans painted on green headbands on their heads. This is what created the Palestinian identity. This is how the Palestinian identity was forged since 1948.

      I add finally, that there were also Palestinians who chose a different future for themselves. Like my friend Said Sidki, who became instead a mathematics professor in Brazil, and would not dream of educating his children to become suicide murderers.

      I do agree with Carmen's conclusion: "the fact is that both groups are there now and have to live together."

      JE comments: Edward Said (died 2003) has come up numerous times on the Forum, but I've never posed the question: did any WAISers know him? Said's book Orientalism is one of the foundational texts of Post-Colonial and Cultural Studies.

      I have always been struck by the tendency of émigré Jewish and Arabic Muslim communities in Latin America to get along, a phenomenon Istvan Simon's friendship with Prof. Sidki brings to life.

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      • Palestinian Identity and Jerusalem (John Heelan, -UK 10/09/12 10:42 AM)
        In his rebuttal to Carmen Negrín's post on Palestinians, Istvan Simon wrote on 9 October: "I do agree with Carmen's conclusion: 'the fact is that both groups are there now and have to live together.'" Previously, Istvan had reminded us of the traditional toast at the end of Seder celebration, "next year in Jerusalem."

        It is worth remembering that "The name Jerusalem literally means City of Peace or ir shalem in Hebrew. Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has rarely lived up to that name. Destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans, fought over by the Crusaders and Muslims, and the fault line between Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem may not currently be seething with violence, but it is roiling with tension. Jerusalem is far from being a city of peace, at least right now. And perhaps that is the point of the prayer."



        (By the way, presumably Palestine existed as a named entity between 1922 and 1948, when it was governed by the British Mandate for Palestine, authorised by the League of Nations.)

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