Thursday, April 01, 2021

  • Thursday, April 01, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon

The Congressional Research Service is a public policy research institute of the United States Congress. it provides research services for members of Congress and it periodically updates its documents with new information. 

It doesn't seem to keep the older versions of its research online, but various archive services keep older copies. And therein lies a tale.

Their document on the Palestinians, Background and US Relations (RL34074) has been revised several times.

In January 2010, the document said this:
Historians have noted that the concept of Palestinian national identity is a relatively recent phenomenon and in large part grew from the challenge posed by increased Jewish migration to the region during the eras of Ottoman and British control in the first half of the 20th century. Palestinian identity emerged during the British Mandate period, began to crystallize with the 1947 United Nations partition plan, and grew stronger following Israel’s conquest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
The footnote for the first sentence comes from Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. Palestinian identity was very weak before 1967, and, by any measure, and there was no serious desire to build a Palestinian state. Palestinians didn't even refer to themselves as Palestinians before the 1960s. (The 1964 PLO Covenant consistently says "Palestinian Arab people.") It certainly wasn't grassroots but a reaction to Zionism - the desire to stop a Jewish state more than building a Palestinian Arab state. 

In 2012, the paragraph remains, but a new part was added that essentially contradicts it:
Since the early 20th century, the desire to establish an independent state in historic Palestine has remained the dominant Palestinian national goal.
This is doubly false. 

I would argue that the Palestinians never had a goal of an independent state. They have had the opportunities to do that many times, from the Peel plan up through negotiations that they abandoned during the Obama years. Their goal, which used to be explicit and now is only mentioned in Arabic, is to destroy the Jewish state. But even if you have a more charitable view of Palestinian nationalism, it was practically nonexistent before the establishment of the PLO in 1964 (which only wanted the land controlled by Israel before "occupation") and only gained steam after 1967 when the Arab goal of defeating Israel militarily faded. There was little interest in an independent Palestinian state when Jordan annexed the west bank of the river and when Egypt controlled Gaza. 

Secondly, the phrase "historic Palestine" is also a fiction. Historic Palestine, if you look at any map before 1922, is the land controlled by the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel in Biblical times - it includes large swaths of what is now Jordan, parts of Lebanon and very little of the Negev.

In November 2018, the paragraph that said that Palestinian national identity is recent and a reaction to Zionism disappeared from the report. All we see now is how it was dominant in Palestinian circles throughout the 20th century, which is simply false.

Oddly, all of these reports were written by the same person: Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs.

The 2007 edition, written by a different person, doesn't even mention any history of Palestinian nationalism at all. It briefly mentions Arab nationalism: "During the 1950s and 1960s, as the winds of Arab nationalism blew across the region, radical Arab leaders in Egypt and Syria pressed for military action against Israel."

In eleven years, Palestinian nationalism went from nonexistent to a recent phenomenon to the dominant Palestinian idea since the early part of the 20th century.

No new footnotes have appeared to defend the new narrative. 

Is this history, or political correctness?


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