The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The "Palestinians" -- who are they?

There is a post on The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah entitled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” which attempts to answer this question in the affirmative. But it is clearly based on a fraudulent argument. It starts:

Palestine. My late father, Abdul Musa Obeidallah, was born there in the 1930s. When I say Palestine, that’s not a political statement. It’s just a statement of fact. When he was born, there was no state of Israel. There was no Hamas. No PLO. There were just people of different faiths living together on the same small piece of land called Palestine.


What is true in ths statement is that “When he was born, there was no state of Israel.” What is unsaid is that the Palestine mandate was given that name by British colonizers. And, going back to Roman days, the name was first applied to this piece of land by Roman colonizers. There never has been a group of people living there who, of their own free choice, called this territory “Palestine.”

In the 1930s, the Japanese created a puppet state called Manchukuo, separate from China, which nobody but the Japanese accepted. Did the citizens thereby take on a new nationality, distinct from Chinese? Very few of them would have answered “yes” to that question. The same is true of “Palestine.” The name was an outside creation. People of Arab heritage, in “Palestine” in the 1920s and 1930s, asked their nationality, would certainly not have called themselves “Palestinians” — they were probably “Syrians,” if not merely “Arabs.” Obeidallah can refer to “Palestine” when he says:

When I ask these people what the land where Israel is now located was called before 1948, they tend to stammer or offer some convoluted response. The answer is simply Palestine. Not a big deal, really.


But “Palestine” was not the name anyone would call it as an independent nation. Jews were seeking to create a Jewish State of Israel. The Arab inhabitants wanted a Greater Syria (or in some other cases other names corresponding to neighboring countries, but certainly not a nation of “Palestine”). An interesting article points out that:

The word “Palestine,” originally used by the Romans, had been in disuse for centuries, but the British revived it. “Palestinian” described Muslims, Jews and all others living in the region. And land east of the Jordan River, which they had also acquired, they called Transjordan (to be renamed Jordan in 1949). The word “Arab” referred more to those who spoke Arabic than to people purely Arabic, and included Christians. Previous to the arrival of the British, the Arabs in Palestine had thought of themselves as Arabs rather than as Palestinians.


So when Obeidallah says:

After all, there are more than 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel alone. Of course, that didn’t stop Newt Gingrich from commenting during his failed 2012 run for president that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Here, I thought for years my father had been a cook, but apparently he was an inventor.


he is clearly joking. Later in the same paragraph, he continues:

he would have found that most historians mark the beginning of the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement as happening in 1824, when the Arabs there rebelled against Ottoman rule.


In fact, I can't find any trace of an 1824 revolt in “Palestine,” but there was one in what is now Saudi Arabia. So I wonder what Obeidallah is talking about. In any case, I am certain that any participants in whatever 1824 revolt he is describing called themselves “Arabs,” and not “Palestinians.”

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