Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Palestine" = Good "Eretz Yisra'el" = Bad

Post-colonial academics really piss me off sometimes. On the one hand, they have no problem deconstructing the hell out of Zionist national myths. That's perfectly fine by me and I have no problem if they do so rigorously and in an interesting manner. But how is it that they never critically examine Palestinian nationalist narratives, which assign to the name "Palestine" a constancy throughout history that is simply misleading? Why is it acceptable to make references to an entity called Palestine in histories dealing with the 19th century? Why is the name "Palestine" constantly invoked in anachronistic ways, without even a footnote accounting for its use? I do not wish to deny, as some might, that the name فلسطين (Filastin) only became identified with the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as a result of the British Mandate. I'm aware that even though, in the 19th century, the northern, central and southern parts of this area belonged to different Ottoman vilayat (Damascus and later Beirut) and one sanjak (Jerusalem), there was, especially among Christians, a tendency to identify the area as one territorial entity. However, I do not think that there is a whole lot of evidence to suggest that the name فلسطين was as common as the appelation, الارض المقدسة (al-ard al-muqaddasa - the holy land = which can be translated literally into Hebrew as הארץ המקודשת ha-eretz ha-mequdeshet) in the 19th century.

How is it then that Middle Eastern studies scholars can get away with using Palestine so freely, while anyone who uses the term Eretz Yisrael faces censure? Why is Palestine considered more academic and more acceptable? It is certainly not less loaded, especially when used anachronistically.

No comments: