Monday, December 12, 2011

Everyone Has The Right To Vote, Including "Invented People"

Newt Gingrich is calling the Palestinians an "invented people" and says that “‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.” I think the idea is to suggest that there isn't really a historically established ethnic group there, so there doesn't need to be another country. As Eric Kleefeld notes, however, "The Palestine Liberation Organization was in fact founded in 1964, capping off years of Palestinian cultural development from both before and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War." And yes, 1964 is when the Palestinian National Covenant is from.

But all of this is really beside the point. People have the right to vote, and nations in which that right isn't respected need to change. Currently, the West Bank is in a weird legal limbo where its residents can't be citizens of a sovereign Palestinian nation (since there is no such nation) or citizens of Israel (because Israel doesn't grant them citizenship.) Apparently a majority of West Bank Palestinians would be happy with becoming Israeli citizens, but that's not generally allowed for them. So they continue on with no voting rights except within a Palestinian Authority that isn't a real country, as it doesn't actually have sovereign control over its territory and is really a part of Israel.

There are two ways to solve this situation. First, you could offer Palestinians full Israeli citizenship and the right to vote in national elections. Second, you could give them their own country. But amid democratic revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, leaving Palestinians unable to vote in federal elections is turning Israel into one of the less democratic countries in the Middle East.

Even if a genuinely "invented people" somehow sprung up out of a lab somewhere, they'd be real people with rights, like the right to vote in the elections of the country they were in. I guess the lab thing would make it difficult to figure out when they were old enough to vote, but anyway that isn't a problem with Palestinians.


Blue said...

Obviously I agree with you Neil, but I want to be sure you know what Gingrich's argument actually is:

"Palestinians are just a subset of generic Arabs. Israel won a sliver of Arabian territory in their wars, a sliver from a much larger whole. If the arabs feel those people should have rights, they should just allow them to immigrate. Otherwise they are just trying to criticize Israel."

Of course, this is a monstrous argument he's making. But I think his response to "they should get to vote" would be "sure, in their own arab country, over there".

Neil Sinhababu said...

If that's what he's trying to say, "Arabs" would be a better term than "invented people."