Sunday, August 23, 2009


David Bernstein posts a squib on Palestinians who are "obviously of African descent." The unspoken subtext is that they aren't "real" Palestinians.

I hate this. I hate this in all of its forms. I hate it when folks try and tell me that Jews don't really belong in the Middle East because they actually descend from Khazars. I hate it when people argue that Palestinians aren't a "real" people because they didn't have national ambitions until relatively recently. I hate it when Israelis are accosted as inauthentic because they have the "wrong" eye color. I hate it when people seem to think this entire conflict is properly resolved via an impossible historical inquiry into who got to the Holy Land "the firstest with the mostest".

It all just strikes me as incredibly primitive -- based on old-school notions of ancestral ties and bloodrights and purity that have no place in modern discussions. I'm a Levi, so I assume I descend from relatively deep Israelite strands. But who knows -- maybe there are some European converts in my family tree. So what? And if some persons with African blood identify as Palestinian and are so recognized by the Palestinian community -- good for them! It is sordid business, this attempt to police each other's racial authenticity for our own transparently political ends.

UPDATE: As per the comments, Professor Bernstein wishes to inform everyone that he does not, in fact, believe that origination has any legitimate bearing on the authenticity of one's national identity. The post he linked to put "Palestinians" in scare quotes, hence my confusion. Of course, Prof. Bernstein is not obligated to agree with every word of each post he links to -- though by the same token, he can't be too surprised when, absent a caveat, people assume he does agree with them (assuming the link was positive, as it was here).

However, that assumes that somewhere on the internet an indication of a contrary opinion by the author hadn't been expressed, and in this respect Prof. Bernstein would also like to draw attention to my inexcusable failure to do due diligence. For if I had only bothered to read the 19th comment from a post he wrote over two years ago, I would not have made the above error. I can only hope my readership forgives me for this horrific lapse in personal responsibility, and grants me another chance to prove my self-worth.

In any event, I'm glad that Prof. Bernstein and I are in agreement that the subtext of the linked-article is repellent, and I am equally glad that one less person than I had assumed bought into it. It is, after all, always a good thing when one finds one has overestimated the amount of wrongdoing in the world.


Anonymous said...

"The unspoken subtext is that they aren't 'real' Palestinians."

What the hell are you talking about? I've made it abundantly clear many, many times, that I don't think either Palestinian or Israeli national identity depends on the Ps' or Is' ancient ethnic background, given that all nationalisms are socially constructed in any event.

--David Bernstein

David Schraub said...

I'm happy to clarify your own views on the matter (some links would be helpful though), but the article you linked to puts scare quotes around "Palestinians", indicating the authors don't share your enlightened perspective on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why you attribute to me someone else's post.

As for my own views, e.g., if you look in the comments section to my original post on the issue back in 2007, I wrote:
"CVT, there is a longstanding political controversy over to what extent the Palestinians are a longstanding indigenous minority, and to what extent some of them recently immigrated. I actually don't think it makes any difference, any more than it makes a difference to what extent Israeli Jews are actually the biological descendants of the ancient Judeans."

But really, before you talk out of your behind, you should put the burden on yourself to ensure that the views you are attributing to someone are correct, it shouldn't have to be my responsibility to correct you.

David Schraub said...

I don't think it is a breach of blogger etiquette to assume you agree with posts you approvingly link to. You are, of course, not obligated to agree with everything in every post you link to -- you're not even obligated to caveat where you disagree, though if you don't notate the disagreement I don't think it should come as a huge surprise if someone mistakenly assumes you are sympathetic to the whole. At which point you are free to drop a line and say "actually, though I thought the post was interesting, I in fact disagree with X part of it", and I say "okay," and post an update accordingly (which I'll do anyway, because it's the proper Minnesotan thing to do).

That seems far more practical, reasonable, and civilized than saying I failed in my responsibilities as a blogger because I didn't dig through the comments section of a post written two years ago to see if there was an unnoted difference of opinion. Under normal circumstances, "whereas if you had bothered to read comment 19 of a post I wrote 2 years ago, you'd have known that I actually believe the opposite" is a parody, not an argument.

Anonymous said...

This is going to be my last comment, but here goes:

I linked to a lenghty article about African Palestinians, pointing out that I had blogged about this subject before, and since then I had stumbled upon an academic article on the subject. There is nothing in this article suggesting or implying that African Palestinians are not "real" Palestinians.

So it's not just that can't you assume that a blogger who links agrees with an entire article. The person who POSTED the article is not the author of the aricle.

So in this case you claim to have ben assuming that because the page that republished someone else's article article had a two word header that included "Palestinians" (which frankly I didn't even notice) that this somehow reflected on my ideology. In what bizarro world does linking to an article on African Palestinians mean that the linker is subtly agreeing with whatever obscure meaning the person who posted the article had by headlining the post "African 'Palestinians'"?

But frankly, I find this to be a post-hoc rationalization in any event. Your original post said that I referenced African Palestinians in order to subtly assert that they are "'real Palestinians." But I meant no such thing, and indeed have consistently, and not just in one comments section, opposed such ethnic reductionism. The proper response when this was pointed out to you would be for you to apology and amend or delete your post, not demand additional proof, as if when you jump to an incorrect conclusion (i.e., make something up), the burden is on me, and not you, to do the research.

David Schraub said...

Shrug. I posted a correction, which I immediately said I was happy to do and which went up inside a half-hour of your comment. I'm happy to do it not just because it's a good thing to present the actual views of others, but because it's a good thing when fewer people than I had previously assumed hold views I think are morally pernicious. But aside from that, I don't think I owe any apologies.

The very post and passage which you cite for your own views admits that the discussion of origination nearly always comes with a political charge. The post you linked to was, in its title, buying into it (let's try to be adults and recognize those scare quotes did not create an "obscure" meaning. I'm quite willing to believe you didn't read the title -- it defies belief and your own indicated understandings that after reading it you don't understand exactly what that title means). If I saw someone with noted anti-Israel sympathies linking to an article on the purely European origins of the Jews, with a similarly skeptical title, I might be forgiven likewise for assuming they were endorsing the political valence that nearly always accompanies that historical issue. In both cases, it walked like a duck and quacked like a duck. It also happened to be an innocent goose. My bad -- but it hardly ranks high on the list of blogging indiscretions. It's one of those things that happens sometimes, and you're going to do serious damage to your health if you call in the rhetorical A-10s each time.

I'm also not sure why you think I was "demanding proof" of your position, as opposed to politely asking for a link summarizing the actual version of your views as you wanted them presented (as I would have been unlikely to find them buried in a obscure comment thread). Right now, my hypothesis is you're grumpy.

I'd like to promise that I'll never link to one of your posts again without reading your entire archives (and comments) to verify I'm not misinterpreting it, but that would be putting an unreasonable burden on me. Plus, it would deprive me of your charming presence in my comment section.

So, until next time!