Monday, April 07, 2003

My mother-in-law is a Palestinian
A reader, Ben F. wrote:

I am increasingly bothered by references to "the Palestinians."

I know it's deeply ingrained.

But I don't like it.

The UN's 1947 Partition Plan proposed two Palestinian states for two Palestinian peoples.

The Arab rejection said no, there is only one Palestinian people, the Palestinian Arab people, so there can only be one Palestinian state.

If we call the Arabs simply "Palestinians," do we not concede to them the argument that they are the indigenous people and that the Israeli Jews are not Palestinians, but imperialist colonialist occupiers?

The fact that the Palestinian Arabs call their state Palestine (see 1988 Declaration of Independence) says it all, doesn't it? Nobody ever looked at Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and called it Palestine.

This reminded me of a remark my mother-in-law made the other day. “I am a Palestinian”, she said. “I was born and raised in Palestine”.

Now I think about it, so was her father. And her father’s father, for that matter, although it wasn’t Palestine back then, it was just a far-flung district of Syria, a particularly derelict corner of the Ottoman Empire. It was the British who created modern “Palestine”.

I personally don’t mind them being Palestinians and us being Israelis, although truth to be told, Ben is right. We are all Palestinians. But not having any real history to speak of, as a people, they need a name, after all. The Palestinians is as good as any other.

It was the Romans who first called this land Palestine after the Philistines, the great enemies of the Israelites of old (remember Samson and Delilah?), who used to live around Gaza and Ashkelon way (although the modern day Palestinians are not their descendants). The Romans did this as part of their effort to put down those rebellious, obstinate Jews (sounds familiar). Why should I take for myself a name that was devised to humiliate my forefathers?

The Palestinians may want the whole of "Palestine". Well, they're not having it! They'll have to either learn to share or do without.