Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Texans are an invented people

 This is one of my series of lunchtime blogposts.

The man who looks likely to be Obama's opponent in the 2012 US presidential elections is Newt Gingrich - the man who once closed down the federal government because President Clinton made him sit at the back of a plane.

In an interview, Gingrich thought it would be a good idea to describe the Palestinians as "an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it's tragic".

When challenged over this he then decided to add that "Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists."

Well, Gingrich is an idiot. His entire argument is that Palestine was a province of the Ottoman Empire and was never a country in its own right and therefore Palestinians are an "invented people".

But the thing is that that can apply to a lot of people: there was never an Argentinian state until it gained indepence from the Spanish Empire, the same with Uruquay and Paraguay and others. A lot of the Balkan nations never existed as independent nations until recently either.

Yet all of them have a national identity. Now, national identity is an invention. It was a concept invented in the 18th and 19th centuries and which has gradually been spreading throughout the world ever since.

So if you're going to use the argument that national identity is an invented concept then you have to apply it equally. So let's look at the biggest example of an "invented people" in history: the Americans.

After all, Americans don't have any single cultural identity or ethnicity to bind them together - they're a mixing pot of every race, culture, religion and creed imaginable. Yet you can hardly say Americans don't have a national identity. But, then again, the USA gained independence from the British so you can say that now they're a nation, they have a national identity.

But what about the US states?

Look at Texas, or Iowa, or Ohio, or Indiana. All of these states have strong identities. Yet only Texas was ever an independent nation (and even then only briefly). But you try and tell a Texan. or an Iowan, or an Ohian or a Hoosier that they're an invented people. Yeah, they might have come from all over the world before settling in their respective states but that doesn't stop them from having a strong identity as a state. Iowans will tell you about how they're self-reliant, how they sort out their problems for themselves, Texans will tell you about going to church and family values, and so on with the others.

So if they obviously have their own identity then who the fuck does Gingrich think he is to tell another group of people they can't have their own? Yes, Palestinians are Arabs - but so are the Israelis when you look back far enough. To deny them a national identity simply because of their race means you might as well say that there's no such thing as a Frenchman or an Englishman or a Scotsman or a German because they're all Europeans ethnically.

And as for the terrorist comments - does Gingrich really have nothing other than horse manure for brains?

There are about 4 million people living in the Palestinian territories - anyone who says that every single one of them, right down to the last man, woman, child and newborn baby is a terrorist is an absolute idiot. More than that, they're a bigot. It's exactly that kind of deadly bigotry that led to millions of Jews being killed in the Holocaust. When you say that one group of arbitrarily defined people are bad then it's only a few steps from there to genocide.

Now, I don't want to go into the ins and outs of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because there are faults on both sides. But if you and your family have lived on and owned a piece of land for centuries, which is your only livlihood, imagine how you might react when a foreigner from another continent pitches up and declares that it belongs to them now because their distant ancestors lived in the region and because bad things happened to their people in another country and that if you want to stay then you'll have to become a second class citizen.

Under those circumstances, it's not surprising that some Palestiniant turn to violence against a state that they view as besieging and arbitrarily punishing the inhabitants of Gaza and that is constantly stealing more of their land. And, likewise, it's not surprising that some Israelis take extreme views when their religion has made them a persecuted minority for the best part of two thousand years and when people living in their country are regularly attacked by indiscriminate rocket and suicide attacks originating from people who follow a religion which has not exactly shown historical frienship to Jews.

So for an outsider to wade into a decades old conflict, without any apparent knowledge or understanding of the issue, and to state that one group does not have a right to exist, as they are made up, and that that group are all terrorists anyway is absolutely repugnant.

And, just to turn it the other way round, imagine what would have happened if a politician had got up and said:

"The Jews are an invented people, and they're all terrorists."

Except of course, we don't have to imagine it - a politician once regularly said something similar and he was Adolf Hitler.

So, in conclusion, congratulations to Newt Gingrich for being the kind of idiotic, shit-for-brains, racist moron who makes arguments using the same logic that the Nazis did. Well fucking done.


  1. Just to pre-empt any angry comments by Texans - read the whole blogpost before you yell at me. Thanks :)

  2. Just an aside - Vermont and Hawai'i were also independent countries before joining the Union.

  3. Huh. I knew about Hawaii (given it's involvement with the Empire) but I didn't know about Vermont. Thanks for the info :)


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