Saturday, December 10, 2011

An invented people?

An interview with Newt Gingrich in which he described the Palestinians as “an invented people” has attracted some attention and is deemed controversial.  Mark Steyn has posts on the matter at NRO (the link includes another link to the interview).

This strikes me as a very odd controversy, especially given its source.  I’m not sure where Newt was going with his comment, but I thought that occurs to me is what people aren’t an invention?  This should be especially clear to Americans who are probably more so than the Palestinians an invented people.  We were once upon time colonists and British citizens, and then came to understanding of ourselves as being American.  Had the Civil War ending differently there would’ve been an invention, that is an understanding of ourselves.

Upon further reflection one notes that a German and Italian state is a relatively recent phenomenon. Even in ‘nationalities’ with much longer histories than ours it is still accurate to speak of an invented people.  The Anglo Saxons of England were after all displaced by the Normans, and for a long time French was the language at court.  A people may be more or less formed by history, but it strikes me as always coming down to an understanding, an act of intelligence, in another words an invention.

Further the complaint of the Palestinian leadership that Gingrich’s remarks are racist would be quite strange if they didn’t have a habit saying the wrong thing.  For the only possible way to construe a people as being other than an invention would I think be to define them racially.  Gingrich saying Palestinians are an invented people isn’t racist but rather its opposite.

Finally, I think the heat here stems from the acceptance of Wilson’s right to self-determination, a typical piece of Progressive nonsense.  If the Palestinians are indeed “a people” then it is supposed to follow that they have an innate right to their own state.  But again the question is where does this status of a people emanate from if it isn’t an invention, and beyond that what is the origin of this “right”?  What is being attempted is a bit of sleight of hand whereby a distinctly political question is passed off as something that resides prior to or above politics.

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