Guardian discovers the injustice of denying people the right to national self-determination

The Guardian published two stories (here and here) on comments by former U.S. Congressman, and Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, which questioned the historic existence of a Palestinian national identity.

While Gingrich’s suggestion that there currently is no Palestinian people is incorrect – as a sense of collective or national identity is, by definition, determined by those within a group who identify as such – he was correct that historically there wasn’t a distinct Palestinian identity, certainly not under the Ottoman Turkish Empire which ruled the region from 1517 to 1917.

Indeed, the idea that Palestinians form a distinct national identity is quite recent – typically understood to be a phenomenon of the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel assumed control of the previously Egyptian and Jordanian controlled territory in the West Bank and Gaza.

However, even Gingrich later clarified that he supports a two state solution,

In fact, roughly 125 of the 193 UN member states already officially recognize the non-existent state of Palestine.

Surprising? Perhaps.

But, the number of nations which recognize a state which hasn’t yet been admitted to the UN as a member isn’t nearly as interesting as the number of states which still don’t recognize the State of Israel.  Over 62 years after the UN accepted Israel as a member state , there are still 36 nations which don’t recognize Israel and have no diplomatic relations with the state, 30 of which are Muslim majority countries.

Nations (in green) which still don't recognize the Jewish State

Indeed, the much flaunted 2002 Arab Peace Initiative included the promise of recognizing Israel (establishing normal relations) if it withdrawals to pre-June 1967 borders – including evacuating from the Golan Heights.

That more than six decades after her birth, Israel is being “offered” recognition suggests a truly surreal political dynamic, one adeptly characterized by Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban.  

Writing in the New York Times, in 1981, Eban argued:

Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its ‘right to exist.’

Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement….

There is certainly no other state, big or small, young or old, that would consider mere recognition of its ‘right to exist’ a favor, or a negotiable concession.”

Far more noxious than the impolitic remarks of the former U.S. Congressman about Palestinian identity is that the Muslim world (including the “moderate” Palestinian leaders such Mahmoud Abbas), by and large, still refuses to accept the moral and legal rights of the world’s only Jewish state.

Moreover – and more pertinent to the mission of this blog – as ‘Comment is Free’ continually licenses commentary by those similarly opposed to the the existence of Israel within any borders, the Guardian lacks even a modicum of moral authority on the issue of denying Palestinians a right to national self-determination. 

While Israel certainly doesn’t require the Guardian’s approval or legitimization of their right to exist – and, certainly, this Israeli will not grant the Guardian that power – we similarly won’t be lectured on the moral imperative of supporting a Palestinian national movement which still refuses to grant similar fundamental political rights to Jews.  

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