this is a response I posted on Facebook to this article. Context: the “History News Network” is affiliated with George Mason University, one of the bastions of right wing libertarianism.
Here’s the main problem I have with this. I have no idea whether, before the 20th century, there were references in travelers’ accounts, or whatever, to a region called Palestine. I suspect there were, even if there was never an established political entity with the name of Palestine. I do know that during and after WWI, the European imperialist powers went into the Middle East, imposed arbitrary boundaries on the land based entirely on their political motivations, with very little consideration given to what the people who actually lived there wanted. This mapmaking, commonly known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, created the boundaries of the Middle East as we know it today and in large part led to a lot of the problems in the region to this day, 100 years later. No consideration, or very little, was given to tribal or ethnic sensibilities or desires. It was ALL based on what the white folks in power at that time wanted. Then, WWII happened, and the Holocaust. Once again, the white folks (mostly the British this time) decided what was best for the region and chose to establish the state of Israel there, a decision which was at least in part imposed by force.
I believe there is an ethnic group of people who should be considered Palestinian. Partly through their own infighting and disorganization, partly through the machinations of the established states in the region (most of whom still bowed to the wishes of the new colonialist powers, primarily the US these days, because money), they haven’t been able to unify enough to develop a common voice. This is partly due to their not having territory of their own on which they could establish a power base. Not only have they been violently opposed by Israel, they have also been sold out and abused by some of their fellow Arabs (Jordan in particular).
So finally, in the 90s I guess, they got some territory. Land. Land which is pretty much completely controlled by Israel, especially as far as access goes. Even the largest chunk of territory over which they ostensibly have control, the West Bank, is riddled, apartheid style, with Jewish “settlements”. They have control over Gaza too, but access to Gaza is completely controlled by the Israelis, not that there is a lot of viable land in Gaza anyway. Gaza is basically a huge Palestinian ghetto, if you want to get right down to it. Due to a plethora of factors, the Palestinians have not been able to establish a viable territory, which would lead to more economic stability and power, which would in turn lead to political power. The odds are against them, the deck is certainly not stacked in their favor, and their own infighting has not helped, of course. They are partly, I have no idea what the “percentage” might be, responsible for their own situation. But it is basically them against the world, a world with an incredible advantage in economic, military and political power. Palestine is just a word, but words truly have power.