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Bye, Bye Nationhood

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"Bye, Bye Nationhood"

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Martin Peretz, back from vacation, and ready to tell it like it is:

By the way, I think the conflict between the Arabs of Palestine and the Jewish state is of less import than the one between India and Pakistan, which like Palestine, is also not a country and the Pakistanis, also like the Palestinians, are not a nation. Oh, yes: why is this of such valence? Because Pakistan has the bomb.

The claim that Pakistan is not a country is simply bizarre, since it pretty clearly is. The idea that there is no “Pakistani nation” is perhaps comprehensible (though, I think, mistaken) as an argument about Pakistan’s large degree of ethnic diversity, with the plurality Punjabi group compromising only 44 percent of the population, with the remainder deeply fragmented.

The claim that there is not Palestinian nation, however, both puts yesterday’s TNR editorial on Hamas (why should Peretz’ views be any more reputable than Palestinian rejectionism) in perspective and also recapitulates the most tragic of Zionist self-deceptions. The idea of creating a Jewish state has a certain logic to it. And the idea of creating this Jewish state in Palestine has an obvious appeal. Under the circumstances, it became convenient to believe that Palestine was not only the location of the historical Jewish state but actually “a land without people for a people without a land.” The main problem with this theory was that it was, obviously, false — Palestine wasn’t very densely populated at the time, but there were certainly people there.

This deception eventually became untenable and transformed itself into the one Peretz is offering — sure, there are people on that land, but they aren’t a people, a nation. When I was young, I recall a Hebrew School teacher speaking of “15 Arab countries and only one Israel” (I think this is an underestimate of the number of Arab countries) the better to make the fate of the Palestinians a trivial matter. Again, this is a convenient thing for people with certain other commitments to believe, but it’s just not true.

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