Who Owns Palestine? The Phony Crisis.

September 20th, 2014
in Op Ed

by Rodger Malcolm Mitchell, www.nofica.com

I long have considered the upset over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, "on Palestinian land," to be a media-manufactured, pseudo-crisis, for three reasons:

Follow up:

  1. There are no "Palestinians" other than people who have lived in Palestine, a definition that includes Arabs and non-Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims and representatives from just about every national, religious and social group in the world.
  2. There is no "Palestine", at least there is no agreed-upon border for anything called "Palestine." It's an unspecified, amorphous area containing the city of Jerusalem.
  3. National borders change frequently, mostly as a result of wars, the determinant of the "correct borders" generally being the winners of those wars. With the exception of Israel's voluntary gift of Gaza, made with the naive belief that "land-for-peace" would be honored, seldom in history, has a victor donated the acquired land back.

Here are two maps of "Palestine," the first from http://www.bible.ca and the second a map of "Palestine," as illustrated by worldatlas.com

Palestin biblical mapPalestine world atlas

They are substantially different, of course, and leave open the question, "Who has had the right to draw those borders and who owns the land." The historical answer: "The victorious occupant."

Similarly, look at European maps, that appeared in the NewScientist article, "End of nations: Is there an alternative to countries?"" (03 September 2014 by Debora MacKenzie)

Europe nations 1920Europe nations 2000
Europe nations 1800Europe nations 1900

Again, they are substantially different, and again the questions, "Who has had the right to determine which were the 'correct' map, and what makes it 'correct'?" And again, the answer to both questions historically has been, "the victorious occupant."

As we review some excerpts from the excellent NewScientist article (I urge you to buy it and read it), remember the above questions and answers.

Before the late 18th century there were no real nation states, says John Breuilly of the London School of Economics. If you travelled across Europe, no one asked for your passport at borders; neither passports nor borders as we know them existed. People had ethnic and cultural identities, but these didn't really define the political entity they lived in.

A conquered city or region could be subsumed into an empire regardless of its inhabitants' "national" identity. Ancient empires are coloured on modern maps as if they had firm borders, but they didn't.

In 1776 and 1789, revolutions in the US and France created the first nation states, defined by the national identity of their citizens rather than the bloodlines of their rulers. According to one landmark history of the period, says Breuilly, "in 1800 almost nobody in France thought of themselves as French. By 1900 they all did."

According to Brian Slattery of York University in Toronto, Canada, nation states still thrive on a widely held belief that "the world is naturally made of distinct, homogeneous national or tribal groups which occupy separate portions of the globe, and claim most people's primary allegiance".

But anthropological research does not bear that out, he says. Even in tribal societies, ethnic and cultural pluralism has always been widespread. Multilingualism is common, cultures shade into each other, and language and cultural groups are not congruent.

Claims to Palestine generally are based on historical occupancy of claimants' ethnic ancestors, over the centuries.

Yet. . . there is no good definition of an ethnic group. Many people's ethnicities are mixed and change with the political weather: the numbers who claimed to be German in the Czech Sudetenland territory annexed by Hitler changed dramatically before and after the war.

Russian claims to Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine now may be equally flimsy.

When Russia, the world's largest nation, with millions of acres of empty land, forcibly occupied the entire country of Ukraine (a nation almost as large as Texas), the world reacted with barely concealed boredom. Yet when Israel, one of the world smallest nation builds a tiny settlement, the world is convulsed in seeming outrage.

Media-encouraged street protests, posing for television, with the obligatory police response, magically appear around the world. Meaningless suits (Decisions can be vetoed by any member of the UN Security Council) are filed in the World Court with claims of crimes against humanity .

One may debate the reasons why, but Israel, the only Mid-Eastern, democratic nation allowing freedom of religion is, and always has been, "different."

That debate would have to include reasons why, despite massive financial and physical aid, and a significant population, Gaza has remained an impoverished war-territory, autocratically governed, and with its sole goal, destroying its neighbor.

Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that the nation-state model fails so often: since 1960 there have been more than 180 civil wars worldwide. Such conflicts are often blamed on ethnic or sectarian tensions.

It often is mentioned that while many thousands of Muslims live productive lives in Israel, no Jews live productive lives in Gaza. But . . .

It turns out that while ethnicity and language are important, what really matters is bureaucracy. This is clear in the varying fates of the independent states that emerged as Europe's overseas empires fell apart after the second world war.

According to the mythology of nationalism, all they needed was a territory, a flag, a national government and UN recognition. In fact what they really needed was complex bureaucracy.

My Chicago-are village of only 25,000 residents has eleven primary Departments. Just one of those departments, Community Development, includes: Director of Community Development, Assistant Director of Community Development, Business Development Planner, Zoning Review Planner, Planner, Enforcement Officer, Building Inspectors, Code Enforcement Officer and Permit Clerk.

The other ten Departments are equally complex. They function to serve the myriad needs of the citizenry. Hamas and Fatah seem to care little about serving their citizenry, with Hamas preferring to use citizens as human shields.

Gaza has been riven by armed political conflict. Per Wikipedia:

"From 2006-2007 more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Hamas and Fatah. A series of violent acts killed 54 Palestinians, while hundreds have claimed they were tortured. 349 Palestinians were killed in fighting between factions in 2007. 160 Palestinians killed each other in June alone."

No street marches protested these killings.

Bottom line: Nations are a relatively new phenomenon, which unlike tribes and empires, require complex bureaucracies, not only in a central capitol, but throughout the territory. Gaza lacks these.

No ethnic group has the exclusive right to the name, "Palestinians," and there is no specific land area known as Palestine.

While million of words have been written and spoken and shouted about the conflict, no one knows who Palestinians are and where Palestine is.  Like discussions of religion - and fundamentally this is a discussion of religion - the fewer the facts the more fervent the belief.

Mitchell's laws:

  • The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes.
  • Austerity is the government's method for widening the gap between rich and poor, which ultimately leads to civil disorder.
  • Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
  • To survive long term, a monetarily non-sovereign government must have a positive balance of payments.
  • Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
  • The penalty for ignorance is slavery.
  • Everything in economics devolves to motive, and the motive is the gap.


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