Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2003 / 20 Shevat, 5763

David D. Perlmutter

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'Palestine' for Dummies | I keep a special notebook handy whenever I watch a "Palestinian" spokesperson or leader or advocate speaking or interviewed on C-Span, the evening news or in newsprint. It helps me keep track of many of their inanities, but the one that is most amusing is the recurring line (which must be featured in their spin tutorials) that "we are the only occupied people in the world."

The great poobah Arafat himself has stated this claim in almost every recent interview--including chats with reporters who should know better like Bob Simon and Dan Rather. Alas, in each case, the script is the same. A Palestinian foghorn drops the line, and I lean forward hoping for an honest, studied-up member of our free press to ask: "But what about the Tibetans or the Kurds or the…"

I'm still waiting. As far I can tell no journalist has ever informed the Palestinians (or the Americans) that the former are but only one folk in a long and mottled line of national, ethnic, regional, religious and political groups who, if they got their wishes and fulfilled their dreams, would be sitting members of the United Nations.

Which leads to a follow-up question, also never asked by the hard-hitting foreign correspondents and news anchors: why exactly do the Palestinians deserve a state ahead of all those others? After all, American and Russian presidents, leaders of Europe, everyone spends late nights worrying about how to give the Palestinians what they want. Who does that for the separatist Christian Blacks of Sudan--against whom oil money has financed a Muslim-executed genocide of several million in the last few decades?

We might ask more pointedly why should the Palestinians, who have no separate religion, culture, history, national identity, ethnicity, or language from other Arabs be given a homeland ahead of say, the Kurds (an independent ethnic nation for thousands of years…or for that matter many American aboriginal peoples. Likewise, David Yeagley, a professor who teaches at the University of Oklahoma and is a descendent of the Commanche war-chief Bad Eagle, commented to me, "My people existed as a separate nation before the Ottomans invaded Europe...Why aren't we getting airplay for a homeland while some thug in Jenin is a media-darling?"

The answer is a brutal one: money talks and (as Allan Dershowitz points out in his new book "terrorism works." The Palestinians are unique among the world's nation wannabes in several ways. First, they have the backing of most of the world's oil wealth and thus the industrial nations that kowtow in lust of it. The Gulf Caliphs caught on long ago that in order to preserve their own corrupt, profligate, illegal regimes they needed some perennial distraction for their ignorant masses--why not the Jews?

Nobody has ever been so calculatingly cruel before, mind you. My grandfather, for example, a Greek Christian, fought in a war with Turkey in the early Twenties. The Greeks lost the war and Turkey expelled 3,000,000 ethnic Greeks (whose ancestors had lived there since the Bronze Age). Greece, an impoverished country, did not torture their compatriots by keeping them in refugee camps: they absorbed them, the only humanitarian option possible for a humane people.

Likewise, ethnic Germans illegally expelled from Poland and the eastern territories at the end of World War II were taken in by West Germany as brothers and citizens. The iron curtain was not lined with fetid camps.

Both sets of refugees weren't happy about their fate, but when was the last time you heard about a former Ost-German hijacking a Russian plane or a displaced Ionian Greek blowing up an Ankara pizza shop?

No, the Palestinians were the best investment ever made by the Oil Sheiks and it has paid off spectacularly. (But not for the Arab people, of course. A recent report by the U.N. found that the total GDP [including oil] of the Arab world does not exceed that of Spain).

Another reason the Palestinians are on the front-burner is violence. I recall during the Gulf war a Kurdish spokesperson was asked why the world didn't concern itself with the national hopes of his people. His answer was brutally cynical and absolutely correct: "We don't commit terrorism against Europeans." The Palestinians have ignited outrage after outrage, and each time the response of the jelly-kneed world politicians is to pay more attention to them and work harder to help them with cash and diplomatic initiatives. The bloodthirsty wheel gets the grease.

Thus, terrorism pays off and is richly rewarded: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in contrast, will die in exile because his philosophy does not allow him to consider exponential violence.

Finally, the Palestinians are an accessible cause celebre of the Left. No big deal to have your crumpets with your artsy pals in a London teahouse in the morning and then fly down for the afternoon to "express solidarity" with Arafat's brownshirts. Dynamite-throwing Palestinians are chic; Tibetan orphans are not. When was the last time you saw any "human rights" activists rush to the southern Sudan to be human shields between black Christian babies and a Muslim Sudanese army aerial bombardment?

So this journalism professor and historian sits and waits for a brave journalist to ask an obvious, fact-driven question. And I fantasize that perhaps some foolhardy but honest --apparently none exist -- U.N. administrator will announce that "Frankly, there are hundreds of peoples more deserving of a homeland and we should be helping them and ignoring the Palestinians…"

I think I have a long wait ahead of me.

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JWR contributor David Perlmutter is an associate professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University and a senior fellow at the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs. He is the author of, among others, Visions of War : Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, David Perlmutter