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Reply #58: Reaching deep into history isn't a good thing. [View All]

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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-10-11 11:28 AM
Response to Reply #18
58. Reaching deep into history isn't a good thing.
The "Germans" of today aren't the Germanae of Tacitus, nor are the Ukrainians the Rus'.

Genetics/ethnicity and culture are two entirely different things. Most British are largely Celts, but there's a big difference between those that Boadicea led and the Saxons in the Saxon kingdoms, the Brits under Henry VIII, and the modern British. We tend to know this to be true, then we turn around and tell somebody they should learn "their" language or "their" culture based entirely on their race or ethnicity.

Same with the French. Do you want to claim that people in Marseilles are actually Franks? No? Or perhaps because my ancestors are Gaelic they have some claim on Lithuanian land? No? I hear that kind of foolishness, too. Usually when there's some sort of political belief or claim to power and self-image that we think needs defending.

What Gingrish said about the Palestinians is largely true, in a few different ways. In the 1800s there was no real Palestinian ethnicity in any significant sense. There were regional features that criss-crossed or covered what's now considered "Palestinian", but usually extended far outside of this area (or covered only a small portion of the area). Mostly they were just Arabs--not just as identified by Westerners, but by themselves and their self-appointed spokesfolk. *This* was the distinction that was important, Arab vs Turk, Arab vs. European, Muslim vs. Christian; ethnogenesis, how ethnicities are produced, is all about distinctions and what's important in self-grouping and excluding others. There were people in Palestine but there were Palestinians only in the sense that there were people living in an area that could be called "Palestine".

Another poster says there's no American "ethnicity" (by which he mostly means "culture") and gets it wrong in pointing out sub-groupings in the US. There is a fairly distinctive American culture (not shared by all Americans, to be sure, but by most, still), but for him what mattered was the differences inside the US. Take a Minnesotan, Oregonian, Marylander, and Texan and put them all in China for a month and they'd discover their similarities. Suddenly US/Chinese (of whatever variety) would matter a lot more than the internal differences. In fact, until you're confronted with an "Other" there's not much point in worrying about the larger grouping. Early Americans--in the sense "American citizens"--considered themselves British or German. Only after there was an opposition did the differences become more important than the commonalities. (Then, in WWI and II, commonalities came to the fore again.)

One problem is grouping the "Palestinians" geographically (since most cultures are still rooted in areal features). This means putting borders on "Palestine." Is it the Ottoman or British or Roman definition? Perhaps the post-1948 or 1967 definition? It matters because that delimits the people that we tend to think of (externally) as having a shared set of values and traditions.

Some of the people had genes that had been in the area for millennia. Others were Circassians that the Ottomans deported in the 1800s when they were uppity. Some were the descendants of Arab migrants or invaders--migrants first noted a little "BCE", the real invasion force happening in the 7th century (with waves of Bedouin to follow, as they resettled into areas under what amounted to an Arab empire). More than a few are probably the descendants of Islamized Christianized Hellenized Jews, in deep denial over their ancestry. Their clan affiliation--an Arab import, to a large extent, based on older Arab clans--was paramount. "Palestinian" didn't matter--it wasn't the important distinction.

It mattered when more Jews settled in the area. Then there was an important distinction to be made. But even now there are not just more Palestinians in the diaspora than in Palestine (post-1967 borders), but in Jordan. Those in Jordan have, for the most part, their roots there--their families and clans didn't settle there after 1947, but before that. They share a common set of dialectal features and cultural values, have clan ties, etc., etc. But the "Palestinian people" was partly formed in contrast to the Jews that were settling in the area after 1890 and much more strongly formed in contrast to Israel after 1967. Even in the '70s in Jordan there was a strong contrast between the Arabian ruling group and the Palestinian substratum in the western part of the country.

The problem is that Gingrich's dictum is perceived not as dealing with ethnogenesis, or as even involving ethnogenesis, but as the denial of a political claim for land and power rooted in claims of being indigenous. If the Palestinian people aren't ancient--with some sort of lineal descent from millennia ago--then how can they justify dominant access not just to the land but to the "holy places" and cultural relicts? Since religion is part of culture, it only makes sense that I've heard claims that the original inhabitants were actually Muslim (not in the Muhammed sense, but close enough). That the Jews were never there; or were a small number that were driven out--so Jesus was a Muslim Palestinian. That the customs have been the same for the last few thousand years. Even that Aramaic is Arabic (that's a lark)--even as it's denied that some of the "hard words" in the Qur'aan are actually Aramaic borrowings? The claims are motivated by ethnic hatred and claims on land and power.

There's strong motivation to exaggerate the claims and strong motivation to react very forcefully when the weakness of the claims are threatened by even off-hand comments. After all, it's sometimes easier to win a battle by denying the enemy the chance to fight you than to actually engage in a battle, even if it's just a battle of wits.

The Palestinian people don't need their inflated, frequently ludicrous and embarrassing claims to justify a claim on land and self-determination. They also don't need people trying to justify those claims that are ludicrous and embarrassing.
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