A Sept. 26, 2017 Foreign Policy Op-Ed argues, “The Rohingya are the New Palestinians.” To advance his argument, Craig Considine, a professor of sociology at Rice University, makes several misleading claims.
The author seeks to compare the Rohingya, a Indo-Aryan group of people living in what is today Myanmar, with Palestinian Arabs. Most Rohingya are Muslim, but a minority is Hindu. The government of Myanmar has been accused of discriminatory tactics and violence against the Rohingya.
Considine’s efforts to compare the two, however, fall short.
For one, he asserts, “Muslims worldwide have watched for decades as Palestinians have been repeatedly displaced, subject to disproportionate collective punishment, and denied statehood.”
In fact, several Muslim nations, such as Jordan and Kuwait, have expelled Palestinians en masse themselves. In the former case, after elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) attempted to overthrow the Jordanian government in 1970, and in the latter after PLO head Yasser Arafat sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait in 1990 (for more details see CAMERA’s “Backgrounder: Palestinian Arab and Jewish Refugees,” May 12, 2009).
Further, it has been the repeat choice of Palestinian leaders to remain stateless; they have rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for statehood in exchange for peace with the Jewish state on a number of occasions, including 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. In 1947, the Arabs living in what was then-British Mandate Palestine, rejected the U.N. partition plan and the opportunity for statehood, choosing instead to go to war against the fledgling Jewish state a mere three years after the Holocaust. Considine omits this rejectionism however. He also fails to mention the more than 850,000 Jews who were expelled from Middle Eastern countries following the 1948 War (see, for example “The Washington Post Erases Nearly One Million Jews From History,” CAMERA, Jan. 19, 2016).
The Muslim majority governments, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere, often discriminated against those Palestinian Arabs who were displaced and resided in their country. Treated as political pawns and propaganda tools against Israel, they—and their descendants—were given permanent refugee status.
Considine asserts that Israel has sought to claim that Palestinians aren’t a real ethnic group. Here, however, the professor confuses ethnicity with nationality.
As the historian Daniel Pipes has noted, “Palestine was brought into existence by British imperial authorities, not by Arabs.” Historically, a Muslim Arab state called Palestine has never existed and the Arabs residing in the area expressed little interest in creating one. Indeed, as Martin Kramer noted in his book Islam Assembled, the Arabs residing in what was Mandate Palestine in the wake of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire initially sought to be included in the mandate for Syria. The first head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ahmed Shukariy acknowledged, “everyone knows that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”
During the nearly two-decades, from 1948-1967, that Egypt ruled the Gaza Strip and Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) ruled the West Bank, the majority of Arabs living in those lands did not advocate for a Palestinian state. Under Arab Muslim rule, they expressed little interest in having a separate nationality called “Palestinian” and state called “Palestine.” Only after the failure of the Arab countries to destroy Israel in the 1967 War did such claims occur. The PLO itself was an Egyptian creation, and Shukariy and his successor, Yasser Arafat, were born in pre-state Lebanon and Egypt, respectively (Barry Rubin and Judith Culp Rubin, Yasser Arafat: A Political Biography, Oxford University Press, 2003).
Considine’s buttresses his poor history with a false quote. Highlighting a statement by “ultranationalist Buddhists” that that Rohingya are a “burden,” Considine claimed:
“That’s echoed by the use of language describing Palestinians as ‘snakes’ by figures such as far-right Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who has also declared that ‘[Palestinians] are all our enemies, and their blood should be on our hands.’ Such reckless and shameful comments remind us that Islamophobia knows no bounds.”
Shaked, however, said no such thing about “all Palestinians.” Instead she shared a Facebook post that said:
“Behind each terrorist stand dozens of people without whom he could not act. People who participate in the fighting, the inciters in the mosques, the writers of murderous education programs, those who shelter, those who provide vehicles, those who glorify and offer moral support – all are enemy combatants, and their blood should be on their own heads. It includes the Shahids‘ mothers who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons. There is nothing more just than that. They should go, as well as the physical house where they raised the snake. Otherwise, other little snakes will grow up there.”
The post that she shared—and subsequently retracted—seems to refer to Palestinian terrorists and the homes in which they are raised; not to all Palestinians. Palestinian leaders, however, routinely refer to all Israelis or all Jews—like Considine they blur the lines between nationality and ethnicity—in such a derogatory fashion. In one of many examples, the spokesperson for Fatah, the movement that dominates the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA), hailed anti-Jewish violence against “the sons of apes and pigs,” in a Nov. 1, 2015 broadcast on official PA TV.
But this example, just like expelled Jewish refugees, refused offers for statehood, and the very recent history of pretenses to Palestinian nationalism, is of seemingly little interest to Considine.