Michael Kinsley examines Newt Gingrich’s claim that Palestinians are “an invented people” in his new column, “Palestinians Will Invent A State Next:”
In November 1947, shortly after the United Nations voted for partition of the Holy Land into separate Arab and Jewish states, Chaim Weizmann was cited by the New York Times as saying that “the most important work now was to build Palestine.” What? To build Palestine? Yes, in 1947 the word “Palestinian” –if it meant anything at all — referred to Jews living in Palestine. The Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post) was the Jewish English-language newspaper. The Palestine Orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic) was a Jewish orchestra, filled to overflowing with Holocaust survivors. The United Palestine Appeal, an American charity, raised money to resettle homeless Jews from Europe in Palestine — one of the things Arabs objected to the most.
Arabs living in the territory of Palestine were called “Arabs” — or, very occasionally, “Palestinian Arabs.” This was in keeping with the philosophy promoted by Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, among others, and known as pan-Arabism. It held that all places where Arabs ruled were part of one big Arab nation. Nasser, who more or less ran the joint before the rise of the oil powers, wasn’t interested in adding new sovereign nations to the map.
This history is probably what Newt Gingrich had in mind when he commented last week that the Palestinians are “an invented people.”