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Alan West’s not so “fantastic” comment on the Palestinian-Isreali conflict

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This is in response to an article found here about what Debbie Schlussel labeled as a “fantastic” response from Alan West in regards to President Obama’s recent speech on the uprisings in the Middle East and the ongoing Palestinian-Isreali conflict:


Here in brief is what Alan said:

“America should never negotiate with the Palestinian Authority- which has aligned itself with Hamas. Palestine is a region, not a people or a modern state. Based upon Roman Emperor Hadrian’s declaration in 73 AD, the original Palestinian people are the Jewish people.”

Of course I agree that “America should never negotiate” with an organization that has aligned itself with another organization that we consider to be a terrorist organization.  Point well taken.  I mean really “No duh!” is what comes to mind on that point.

Brilliant.  “Fantastic” even. 

I also agree that the American president doesn’t have the right to “dictate” to either the Israelis or the people who live in the area known as Palestine (hmm, can I just call them Palestinians to keep it simple?) where to draw borders and under what conditions they should resolve this conflict.

But with the next two statements the brilliance and fantastic-ness start to fade really fast.

“Palestine is a region, not a people or a modern state.”

“Palestine is a region” – correct, brilliant, fantastic!

And who can argue with the fact that “Palestine is…not a modern state”.

No kidding.  Isn’t that what they just went to the UN about?  They are looking to join that club but aren’t in it yet.  Everybody knows this.  Nothing too brilliant there.

“Palestine is…not a people” – correct, but um not so brilliant.

That’s like saying “Pennsylvania is not a people” it just sounds silly.

So Palestine is not a people, it’s a geographical region.

Okay…but seriously what you mean to imply then, bad linguistics aside, is that the people who currently occupy the region known as Palestine are not “a people”?  Or even more to the point the people of Arab descent who currently occupy the region known as Palestine are not “a people”?

Here’s where I really take issue with this statement.  It’s where Alan West takes the legitimacy of modern-day Palestinians as “a people” and connect this with:

“Based upon Roman Emperor Hadrian’s declaration in 73 AD, the original Palestinian people are the Jewish people.”

The statement itself is absolutely correct!   In 73 AD the people who lived in the area we know today as Palestine were the Jewish people.  Apparently some emperor declared this, then making it official.

I mean really Alan, I thought Roman Emperors ceased to have authority over the region a long time ago.  So while what you say may be historically accurate what relevance does it have to what is happening there today?

I’m sure the Jewish people who lived in the area known today as Palestine were so relieved when Emperor Hadrian made his sweeping statement.  I can hear them saying “WOW!  Thank you Emperor Hadrian for making it all so clear to us!”  I bet they all went home and had a party to celebrate their new-found official status as Jewish people.

Emperor Hadrian:  “Yes, yes I noticed that the people living in this area were Jewish, and thought it important to make it official by proclaiming it.” 

Whew!  Good thing the ol’ Emperor made it official because if he hadn’t made that statement…well wait a minute if he hadn’t made that statement it wouldn’t change a damn thing! 

The people living in that area at that time would still have been Jewish.  And I’m pretty sure they didn’t give a rat’s ass about what the emperor had to say about it…

Even worse is suggesting that statements made by dictators (living or dead) somehow gives more legitimacy to someones right to reside somewhere.  This is entirely off-base with American values.

If the argument that “just because you weren’t a recognized people or nation 2000 years ago, you have no right to be here now” is valid, well, let’s just say that a lot of Americans have some soul-searching to do. 

I mean what, do we all now have to move back to whatever region our ancestors lived in 2000 years ago? 

Because that’s the only legitimate place we can call home? 

Applying this logic to just one group of people selectively is just simply not fair.

I mean what if I make a statement today “The people living in the area known as Pennsylvania are (dum, da-da-dum!) the Pennsylvanian people!” 

 I can dress up all pompous and put on a toga first if that helps make it more legitimate.   I can already hear the sigh of relief of all Pennsylvanians, as the anxiety of whether or not they are legitimately Pennsylvanians is lifted from their shoulders.

Or even better what if 2000 years ago some “important official” stated “The people living in the area known as Pennsylvania are the Pennsylvanian people!” 

It’s just total nonsense to go around suggesting that emperors or other so-called “important officials” stating things adds any legitimacy.  The legitimacy of any people to live somewhere is inherent in the people themselves  – statements made by emperors adds nothing to it.

What the Alan West statement quoted above seems to imply is that only the “original” inhabitants of any particular area have a right to live there and the legitimacy of that claim is made on the basis of the “official” autocratic decrees of the current dictator in the region.

This statement isn’t as brilliant, as it is offensive to the innate rights of human beings to live peacefully in the land of their choosing without the threat of violence from others who also lay claim to that land.

Here’s a sad truth about American history that all of us would do well to consider – many of our ancestors failed to respect the right of the “original” inhabitants of this land that we now call “our own”.  They failed to see the native residents of this land we call America as legitimate human beings – many saw them as less than people.

This is what I see as one of the root causes of this conflict.  There are some people on both sides who fail to recognize the legitimacy of those on the other side.  They fail to see them as equally human and equally deserving of dignity and human rights.

Palestinians are people. 

Israelis are people.

And it is PEOPLE that suffer on both sides of this conflict. 

If Alan West has something meaningful to say about finding a way to end that suffering, rather than just try to delegitimize one side or the other than I could agree that he said something “fantastic”.

Here is something I could label as fantastic…sorrowful yes, but far more fantastic as a starting point for talking about solutions to this conflict than some dumb comment about the edict of a long dead Roman emperor:

“But my mother was very moved by the first meeting.  People shared their stories and it was translated into Arabic.  It made her cry all day.  She said that she realized that there was no difference between the Israeli and the Palestinian mother who had lost a child – that they had the same pain.”

If you want a more balanced view of the human side of this conflict and not some baloney argument about a Roman emperor from nearly 2000 years ago having something to say about the situation as it stands TODAY you can read more here:


And that my friends is truly something worthy of the label “fantastic”.


Written by mindopenwhy

October 24, 2011 at 12:50 am

One Response

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  1. well said…people are people. they are all the same and yet all different. all of them want to live their chosen lives and celebrate their differences. maybe people should run the governments instead of the other way around. wait… isn’t that how most of the governments were supposed to be?

    Cindy Beck

    November 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm

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