Max Boot: Re: Gingrich and the “Invented People”





Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He received his M.A. in history from Yale University.

Newt Gingrich has created a lot of waves by saying [the Palestinians are an invented people.]

Is Newt right? As Jonathan Tobin noted, he is historically accurate. There was no widespread sense of Palestinian nationhood until the last few decades. In fact, there was such widespread apathy among the Palestinians that Yasser Arafat and the PLO initially had little luck in mobilizing a revolt against Israeli rule. Arabs in Israel proper have been largely peaceful to this day. Even in the West Bank and Gaza Strip there was no widespread uprising until the First Intifada in 1987....

But the fact that Palestinian identity is largely an invention and has not existed for all time hardly makes the Palestinians unique. All national identity is to some extent invented. Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the United States: all are artificial entities that had to be forged over time. The process of state formation in the last three was relatively recent—the U.S. did not come into existence until 1776 and was arguably not a truly unified nation until 1865; Italy and Germany were created at roughly the same time. Britain and France are older, but they still had to be forged out of regional identities—the process of turning “Burgundians” and “Normans” into Frenchmen took centuries....

The real issue now is not whether the Palestinians should have a state—there seems close to universal agreement on that score,  now—but at what pace and on what terms....



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