“No Jews, no news” is a popular aphorism summarizing the global preoccupation with this unique Middle Eastern indigenous ethnic group from nearly the time most of its members were exiled from their ancient homeland by its Roman invaders in the first century AD.
We heard it at a Jan. 12 UN Security Council meeting at which Algeria spoke about what it called the threat of forced displacement of Gazans by Israel. Israel’s permanent representative at the UN, Gilad Erdan, denied this charge – all the movement of Palestinians from one part of Gaza to another has been both voluntary and aimed at protecting civilian lives – while rebuking the security council for not condemning actual displacements taking place around the world.
“As we speak, there are over one million Muslims being forcibly removed from their homes, all of their possessions taken from them as they face poverty, famine and disease. No, I am not talking about the situation in Gaza, but about Pakistan’s forced displacement of 1.3 million Afghans,” said Erdan.
“Why does the forced displacement of Muslims from a Muslim country mean nothing to the Algerian representative and the council? I’ll tell you why: No Jews, no news,” said Erdan. “Over the past decade, 50,000 Christians in Nigeria have been butchered and hacked to death. Is this even a concern to the council? Again, no Jews, no news.”
Erdan could easily have added that most ethnic groups in the world have no sovereign state of their own nor any hope of ever obtaining one.
Depending on definition, there are between 11,500 and 24,000 different ethnic groups in the world distributed among only 195 sovereign states.
The Philippines, for example, is inhabited by more than 182 ethnolinguistic groups – people with distinct cultures and languages going back millennia. The 17 UN recognized Middle Eastern states are populated by dozens more ethnic groups.
One of the harshest critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is China, a country with 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, including the Muslim Uyghurs, a 12-million strong Turkic ethnic group occupying the so-called autonomous region of Xinjiang.
Since 2014, the Chinese government has been accused by various organizations of subjecting Uyghurs in Xinjiang to widespread human rights abuses, including forced sterilization, forced vocational training, and forced labor in what has been described as crimes against humanity, or even genocide. Almost none of this condemnation has come from the UN.
Even less is ever written about the mainly Muslim Kurds, a people with their own language and distinct culture going back to at least the Middle Ages. Numbering between 35 and 50 million people, they are the world’s largest stateless nation.
Denied a promised state of their own in 1920, they continue to live in exploited minority status in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Tens of thousands have perished in 40 years of off-and-on fighting between the militant Kurdish Workers Party and its many regional enemies with hardly a murmur of outrage from an outside world consumed only by news about the Jews.
Indifferent to the weak relation between ethnicity and statehood, western political elites endlessly keep pushing for two sovereign states in a region the Roman invaders named Syria Palestinia during their short-lived conquest (63 BC — 66 AD). The main conquered people, most of them later exiled, were indigenous Jews divided into two independent states, the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Kingdom of Judah. No such people as the Palestinians existed at that time.
This history formed the basis for an endless yearning among Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, a hope fulfilled with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The name Palestine was an obvious choice for the UN-sanctioned rebirth of the ancient homeland because the Jews living there were called Palestinians until 1948. But it was rejected by Jewish officials because “It is likely that the Arab state that will be established in the Land of Israel will also be called Palestine in the future, which could cause confusion.” In the end, the most straightforward option was selected: Israel.
As for the people now calling themselves Palestinians, their national identity largely originated in opposition to Israel’s statehood: had Israel never been re-created, there would never have been any call for a separate Palestinian people or state.
Seemingly ignorant of this history, Justin Trudeau has said Canada is “crystal clear” that there needs to be a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.
Such “crystal clarity” is difficult to discern especially given that the Palestinians already have a state of their own in the Kingdom of Jordan, a newly created post-World War I nation where Palestinians form most of the population and where it is illegal for Jews to live.
None of the bombastic oratory about a two-state solution has given recognition to the threat Palestinian sovereignty would pose to Israel’s survival or that neither of the two main combatants are demanding a two-state solution: countless political polls, including very recent ones, show most Israelis and Palestinians seek only a single state of their own from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
If anything is “crystal clear” it’s the words of the 2017 Hamas charter: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
With enemies this keen to literally enact “no Jews, no news,” statehood for the Palestinians would only strengthen the call for Jewish liquidation by legitimizing it with political independence.