Beshara Doumani and the ‘Ironies of Palestinian History’

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UC Berkeley history professor Beshara Doumani came to Stanford University on September 29, 2010, to give a lecture sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies titled, “The Iron Law and Ironies of Palestinian History.” He was introduced by notorious Stanford University history professor Joel Beinin, who managed to insert his repeated, and unfounded, claim that academic freedom in the post-9/11 era is “very much still in jeopardy.” Beinin, quoting from Doumani’s faculty bio, noted that he specializes in “recovering the history of social groups, places and time periods that have been silenced or erased by conventional scholarship on the modern Middle East.” This seemingly innocuous description belied a very specific, partisan subtext.

Taking a unique perspective, Doumani laid out his argument that current discourse throughout the Palestinian national movement is too “state-centric,” focusing on Palestinian nationhood as an end in itself without regard for “the lives of ordinary Palestinians” or whether they support such a goal. The wants and needs of the entire Palestinian diaspora, Doumani argued—including “those who are citizens in the State of Israel”—must be taken into account in discussions of a future “Palestine.”

Doumani repeatedly emphasized “the denial of the Palestinians’ right to exist as a political community” as the most egregious and harmful fault of “the Zionist movement and its supporters, Great Britain and the United States.” This denial, he alleged, has shown itself in the 1922 charter for the Mandate for Palestine (which, while it does not use the word “Arab,” repeatedly mentions the rights of non-Jews and the Arabic language); Israel’s insistence after 1948 that the Palestinian refugee issue was humanitarian and not political; and finally, Israel’s refusal to recognize Hamas following its victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections.

“This non-recognition,” Doumani stated boldly, has allowed “the twin engines of this conflict, which are of course territory taking and demographic displacement, to continue unabated as we speak.” The professor apparently felt no need to mention Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s existence, the continual glorification of terrorism on Palestinian television, and the Palestinians’ repeated rejections of peace deals spanning decades as “engines of this conflict.”

Doumani then began discussing the “five ironies” that “each mark a . . . moment of erasure of the Palestinians and birth of Palestine or the other way around.” These included statements such as “the destruction of Palestine in 1948 marked the creation of the Palestinians as we know them” and “the recognition by Israel of the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians signaled the end of the PLO as a significant political movement.” Most interesting, however, was the fifth irony, which Doumani described as follows:

The Palestinians today are being force-fed a state or two against their will. . . . I say force-fed because a state that can be a territorial home for Palestinians as a political community is not on the table. The Palestinians are being asked to give up the right of return as well as East Jerusalem and half of the West Bank. . . . This state has become the vehicle for pre-empting Palestinian nationalism. If it succeeds, it will . . . lead to the permanent disenfranchisement of the Palestinians. . . . There is really no support for the PA’s [Palestinian Authority’s] negotiating posture today among the majority of the 11 million Palestinians in the world.

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  • waterwillows

    Oh boy. Another dim-wit giving an even dimmer viewpoint about the ME.
    I suppose there is no end to foolish prattle.

  • ajnn

    There are now 11 million Palestinian Arabs in the world ?

    All from the 700,000 or so Arabs who left Israel in 1948.

    Does anyone else find this fantastic population increase, unmatched in human history, a little bit improbable ?

    • highpressure

      And the Arabs doubled the jewish population in Israel in 49 and 50 when they sent them to Israel while stealing just about everything they owned when they kicked them out of there homes.

      Whether the Arab/Persian Nations like it or not, by their own actions, legitimized Isreal more then the UN vote in 1948.

      In all fairness, those nations OWE Israel three times the land mass they already pocess because of that singular act.

    • MixMChess

      Interestingly enough, according to Israeli and British census sources, no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees. However, "A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine" concluded an even lower amount: 472,000.

      It begs the question how did 472,000 turn into 11 million so quickly!? It probably has to do with UNRWA's ridiculously broad definition of who is a Palestinian refugee: A Palestinian refugee is any person "whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948." You read that right, TWO YEARS! An Arab from Saudi Arabia who had an Apartment in the region could suddenly claim refugee status. But if that's not bad enough, UNRWA's definition of a Palestinian refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948 into perpetuity regardless of whether they have become citizens of another country or permanently resettled in another country.

      I guess it just further proves the hypocrisy of the UN.

  • highpressure

    One always has to ask, Who are these so-called Palestinian ethnic group that suddenly emerged out of thin air in the 60's? And what are these Iraqis, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians and Egyptians doing among them?

    And I wonder why the Israeli's won't recognize a movement guilty of ethic cleansing, mass child abuse and other gross crimes against humanity and God such as Hamas? I guess we all should be more tolerant of sociopaths.

  • PAthena

    The Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of Judea to "Palestina" in 135 A.D. after he had defeated the last Jewish uprising under Bar Kochba. He wanted to eradicate all memory of Judea and Judaism (he outlawed Judaism). Since that time, "Palestine" became synonymous with "land of the Jews" or "the Holy Land" (since Jesus was a Jew), and "Palestinian" synonymous with "Jew." That is why the Zionists wanted the "Palestine Mandate" and why Great Britain was awarded the "Palestine Mandate" after World War I as the "homeland of the Jews."

    Calling Arabs "Palestinians" is a consequence of Soviet propaganda, for Nasser and the Soviet Union in Cairo in 1964 invented the "Palestine Liberation Organization" with all the phony history to accompany it. Israel should certainly not give up any territory, including the propaganda-named "West Bank," namely, Judea and Samaria, for a "Palestinian" state named "Palestine." It should not give up any territory it controls, in any case, for military reasons, and the Arabs, as phony "Palestinians" do not deserve yet another state. The only "Palestinians" are the Jews, with the state of Israel.

    • Findalis

      Don't you know? Jesus was a Palestinian not a Jew. That is what being taught in US pubic schools and main stream churches.

      Also being taught is that the Jews have no claim to the land. They trace their heritage only back to the 1850s.