Newt Gingrich: Americans are an Invented People

He didn’t say that in those exact words, but he might as well have. In a recent interview with the Jewish Channel, Gingrich a professor of history until he failed to gain tenure, referred to Palestinians as an “invented” people[1].

So are they an “invented people?” In as much as any nation is an artificial construct, sure. Gingrich cites the dominance of the Ottoman Empire, which flourished until 1923. Gingrich said in the same interview linked above that the Palestinians were simply Arabs who had a chance to go wherever they wished. I suppose the Palestinians were not expected by Gingrich to have any ancestral routes. Perhaps he sees Arabs in general as all nomadic and without legitimate ties to any region. If so, this view would be a bigoted one on his part.

So the Palestinians did not have a nation during the dominance of the Ottoman Empire. Neither, for that matter, did Israel. This nation was invented by the United Nations in 1948[2]. In fact, the United States was a nation invented by a handful of rebels, referred to as terrorists by the British, in 1776. Indeed, the nation and the American people that emerged from the terrorist actions of the 1700′s had no ancestral ties to the land they now occupy. The people that do have ancestral ties to these lands were murdered, marginalized, moved and made an insignificant minority so the Europeans could invent a nation -a new people called Americans- in the increasing dust and ash of British Empire.

Unlike Americans and the British Empire, Palestinians did, in fact, exist prior to the Ottoman Empire. Robert Drews describes the role the Palestinians played as part of the “Sea Peoples” described on the Medinet Habu, an Egyptian temple of Ramesses III (1198-1166 BCE). Originally referred to as the “Philistines,” the Assyrians called the region of modern Palestine “Palashtu” or “Pilistu“. The word, , “Palestine” itself comes from the Greek word Palestine in Greek (in my head I just sounded remarkably like Toula’s father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). It was probably first used by Herodotus in the 5th century BCE. The Byzantine Romans called the region “Palaestina”[3].

While the Arab people did, indeed, reside in this region; and while they were, indeed, largely pastoral, that in no way implies that they do not have an ancestral tie to Palestine. The term “Arab” as an ethnonym may have been used by Shalmaneser III who mentions a king named Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land). And biblical mythology mentions the Aravi (Arabs) who were Semitic tribes that lived in the deserts between Syria and Arabia. The Philistines probably weren’t Semitic peoples originally, but they definitely were absorbed into the local Semitic cultures by the end of the 7th century BCE. The place-names mentioned above stuck and, thus, Palestine is a real region and the people who ancestrally call this their home are really from there.

So, if Palestinians are an “invented people,” then equally, too, are the Americans and the Israeli’s. Neither the United States or Israel existed prior to 1776 and 1948 respectively. If we accept Gingrich’s fallacious (and dare I say bigoted and ignorant) claim that Palestinians are an “invented people,” then he must also apply that to the very nations he portends to support with that rhetoric. Indeed, it would seem that the Palestinians have a far better claim to the region than either the Israeli’s (Jews who were moved there following WWII) or the Americans (Europeans who committed genocide on Natives in the 17th and 18th centuries). The Palestinians, as a people, have been residing in Palestine since before Christianity and Islam and probably since before Judaism.

Sorry Newt. You don’t get to rewrite history to suit your own bigoted desires.

References and Notes:
  1. http://marker.to/5WoiGA []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel []
  3. Drews, Robert (1995). The end of the Bronze Age: Changes in warfare and the catastrophe ca. 1200 B.C. []