No Palestinians, No Palestine, No Problem
If the internet is any measure, there are four major denominations of Diaspora
Jewry: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and There Is No Such Thing as a
You won't find this last group on synagogue signs. It has no rabbinical
seminary. It lacks a headquarters in Manhattan, or a place on the Conference
of Presidents. But if single-minded zeal counts for anything, its place as a
denomination is assured.
Its bedrock article of faith is this: The concept of a Palestinian people is
artificial, a grand lie foisted on a gullible and guilt-plagued international
The seductiveness of this lies in its simplicity. Remove the Palestinians from
the equation, and the equation is solved. No more guilt. No more dilemmas. No
land to divide. No rights to share. No Middle East conflict.
No Palestinians, no Palestine. No problem.
Well, maybe one. Amid the rafts of facts, the torrents of proofs, the
boundlessly creative arguments, the learned histories marshaled by the
activists of the Palestinians Don't Exist Movement, the one sole fact that
matters, escapes them altogether:
It's not our decision.
It's not for Jews to decide whether Palestinians have valid claims to
peoplehood, to cultural uniqueness, to calling themselves whatever they like.
There are millions of people here and abroad whose whole lives are about being
Palestinian. There are millions of people here and abroad who know that they
are Palestinian just as they know how to breathe.
It's not for Jews to decide that the people who call themselves Palestinians
are insufficiently distinctive, insufficiently venerable, insufficiently
homogeneous, insufficiently honest about their own ancestry, their own ancient
history, their modern plight, to legitimately qualify as a people.
You may believe that the Palestinian national narrative is based on
half-truths, imagined truths, flat-out untruths. You may believe that this
disqualifies them from recognition as a true people. As if a people's
cherished myth - any people - is no less powerful for being myth. As if we had
any say whatsoever in the decision.
No one should know this better than the Jews. No people on earth has been
negated, delegitimized, in so many ways, for so many centuries, by so many
other peoples, as we have.
When the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his boss, Yasser Arafat, declared that
the Jews have no verifiable ties to the holy city, it may have been their jobs
that they were doing, but it was none of their business.
Just as it is none of our business to tell Palestinians who they are and who
they are not.
The Middle East conflict will not be solved by a parlor trick. Any magician
can tell you. You can't make someone disappear simply by shutting your own
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