CASABLANCA – The New York Times magazine published an article claiming that the Palestinians lost their homeland when Israel was founded.
The article, authored by James Traub, explores the concept of “homeland” – a word that is increasingly being used both by sitting presidents and current presidential candidates – and why it is not always a positive term in the American context.
What is it about “homeland” that feels more like a violation than an affirmation of American identity? In traditional usage, the word evokes the link between a people and the state that is theirs, or that they wish to be theirs. With the founding of Israel in 1948, Jews gained a homeland. Palestinians lost one. “Homeland” throbs with the primal forces of state formation. The word points to a world of solidarity forged through blood ties, through ancient ritual and legend.
Watchdog group HonestReporting.com slammed the writer for claiming that Palestinians lost a homeland with Israel’s establishment.
If he wishes to argue that homeland and statehood are so intrinsically connected, then Palestinians never had a homeland to lose. Throughout history there has never been a sovereign Palestinian state. By Traub’s own definitions, it was the Jews who lost a homeland having been dispersed from their biblical kingdom by the Romans in 70 CE, only to regain it later.
In any case, while Jews gained a sovereign state with the founding of Israel, the Jewish homeland has existed going back over 3,000 years irrespective of who commanded sovereignty over the land at any given period of time.
The media monitor challenged Traub for choosing Israel as an example, despite the obvious differences between the Jewish homeland and the negative connations associated with an American homeland.
Granted, American identity is more of a civic rather than an ethnic or nationalist one. But there are undoubtedly plenty of Americans who see a Jewish homeland as a positive concept as opposed to the negative spin that Traub gives it.