07 December, 2012

Is Palestine Really a Country?

(Keep up with changes to Palestine's situation: view all Palestine updates.)

Palestine is now recognized as a country by both the U.N. and a majority of its members, but many  have questioned whether this new-found status reflects the truth on the ground. Is Palestine really an independent country, or is this a political fantasy concocted by supporters in the U.N.?

The Olso Accords divided the Palestinian territories into three areas of control (see article for explanation). Map by Evan Centanni. Sources: Natural Earth, B'Tselem, U.N. OCHA oPt.
What is a "sovereign state"?
By the most common definition, a "state" has to have:
  1. A government
  2. A defined territory
  3. A permanent population
  4. The ability to conduct foreign relations with other states
This definition is called the "declarative theory of statehood", and was formalized in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. To be a "sovereign" state (i.e. an independent country), it's also important that the government answers to no other country, and that the territory and population are actually under the government's control.

A prospective country that fits these criteria is described by geographers as a de facto sovereign state, even if it's not recognized by the international community (de facto is Latin for "in actual fact").

Palestine: Sovereign State or Not?
Can Palestine be considered a real, de facto sovereign state based on the declarative theory of statehood? Let's look at the criteria one by one:

A government that answers to no one
Palestine is represented abroad by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and governed within its administrative area by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), an elected government established by the PLO under the Oslo Accords. Though it faces frequent pressure and demands from Israel, the Palestinian government does not take orders from any country.

Defined territory under its control
The State of Palestine claims two territories: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.N. considers both of these regions to be occupied by Israel, but the Palestinians do control some parts of them since 1995. The Oslo II Accord temporarily designated three types of control within the West Bank (see map above):
  • Area A - Fully governed by the Palestinians, with no Israeli administration or Israeli military presence (currently 18%)
  • Area B - Shared control; Palestinian civil administration with joint Israeli-Palestinian military control (currently 21%)
  • Area C - Full Israeli control, with some exceptions for Palestinian residents (currently 61%)
Flag of Palestine Country Name:  
• Palestine (English)
Filasṭīn (Arabic)
Official Name:  
• State of Palestine (English)
• Dawlat Filasṭin (Arabic)
Capital: 
• Jerusalem (claimed)
Ramallah (administrative)
The Gaza Strip is a special case: Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005, leaving it effectively part of Area A. However, a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007 left Gaza in the hands of extremist group Hamas, which currently doesn't answer to the PLO (though it did support the campaign for U.N. observer state status).

Besides area C, Israel also controls all of the airspace and territorial waters associated with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Additionally, it has completely annexed (integrated as part of the country) two sections of Area C itself: East Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital, and a strip of "no man's land" which was located between Israel and the West Bank when the latter was still controlled by Jordan.

In other words, Israel controls most of Palestine's claimed territory, but not all of it. Since many countries don't control all of their claimed land and waters, that alone doesn't disqualify Palestine as a state.

A permanent population
There are almost four million Palestinians living within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, so this requirement is no problem. Even if we only count the West Bank's Area A, the Palestinian Authority has full control  over close to one million people. By comparison, there about 40 U.N. member states with populations of less than one million.

Ability to conduct foreign relations
This requirement is also clearly fulfilled. Not only is Palestine seated as an observer state in the U.N. General Assembly, but its representatives also maintain direct diplomatic relations with 142 countries (even more than the number who recognize its independence), plus the European Union. It's also a member or observer in various international organizations.

So what's the answer?
Palestine has its own government (the PLO/PNA), a defined and controlled territory (Area A in the West Bank), a permanent population (one to four million Palestinians), and the ability to maintain relations with other states. It would seem that this qualifies it as a de facto sovereign state based on the declarative theory of statehood. What do you think?

126 comments:

  1. Very factual and well argued. Clearly makes sense.

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  2. ok nice & tho it may also be 2 half states or 2 entire states by the given criteria if anyone prefers nevertheless palestine so called does appear in no way inferior to the vatican city state lets say because the above data fairly invite such comparison plus i wonder how many other nonunited nations states also nominally their equals by these criteria alone

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  3. Why there are no Golan Heights in the map?

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    1. The Golan Heights are in Northern Israel

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  4. Good question! The Golan Heights aren't Palestinian. They're only disputed between Israel and Syria, and not claimed by Palestine or considered part of the Palestinian territories.

    They're off the edge of the map to the north.

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    1. True enough, but remember that the section Israel conquered in 1967 after being attacked by Syrian artillery batteries located there since 1948 has been annexed to Israel. Even though Israel has toyed over the years with the idea to give it back against peace, the Assads preferred to maintain a state of war rather than get their territory back and recognize Israel in exchange. So now the point is moot. With Assad embroiled in a civil war and the Israeli-annexed Golan having now been under Israeli ownership longer than it ever was under Syrian ownership, the debate is over. The Golan Heights belong to Israel, period.

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    2. This is indeed an important (and interesting) issue. It's just not directly related to the sovereignty of Palestine, since the State of Palestine does not claim any of the Golan Heights (Syria does) and as far as I know the local people in the Golan also do not consider themselves to be Palestinians (unlike almost everyone in the West Bank and Gaza other than the Settlers).

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    3. You are correct. The majority of the population of the Golan is made of Druzes. Besides their interesting belief in reincarnation, the Druzes also believe that no matter where they are is the country to whom they swear allegiance. This explains that the Druzes in the Golan still consider themselves Syrians, while their relatives in Israel consider themselves Israelis (the latter have always served with distinction and courage in the Israel Defense Forces). Lately, however, because of the civil war, there has been an increase in switching allegiance from Syria to Israel. None of that is conceivable with the Palestinians, whose belief system is very different (in a nutshell: they're entitled to everything and don't need to give anything in return).

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    4. Entitled? As they seem to be losing ground? Pretty soon they will have nothing to give in return.

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    5. Really? Consider these maps:

      http://cdn.jewsnews.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Screen-Shot-2014-08-14-at-6.12.47-PM.png

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    6. Whether the Palestinians or the Israelis are losing ground is a subjective question that depends on how you define it. The Palestinians have gained a great deal of controlled territory in the West Bank and Gaza since the Oslo Accords, but some argue they are losing ground on the basis that the disputed parts of the West Bank have continued to be converted into Jewish settlements (thus apparently reducing potential Palestinian territory in any future two-state resolution.

      The longer historical question is similar. The maps you posted, Asya, are correct in showing that Israel has given back the majority of land it had captured in the several major wars of the 20th century, but they misleadingly leave out the 1947 UN mandate for a Jewish state, which was smaller than today's Israel, as well as the 1949 ceasefire lines, when Israel was the same size as today, minus East Jerusalem. Israel first grew enormously, then shrank back to slightly more than its original size.

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    7. That is accurate, but you forgot to explain why it grew so "enormously", only to shrink later: the Jews under the British Mandate accepted the crazy terms of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that divided the land into two countries made each of three parts interconnecting and criss-crossing each other. Consistent with their doctrine of rejecting any non-Muslim body in the middle of a territory that had once been under Muslim domination, they rejected these terms and tried to destroy the new-born state of Israel. And then they were defeated. That's how Israel expanded at first. And the same happened in 1967. The shrinking happened later because Israel accepted to exchange land for peace with Egypt (or gambled it away when it left Gaza in 2005), unlike most countries in history that always kept the land they had acquired as a result of war, be they offensive or defensive.

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    8. I don't have any factual objections to your historical narrative, but the assertion that countries normally get to keep land they take during wars is a bit of a myth.

      After WWII and the creation of the U.N., the international community has rarely accepted the annexation of land captured in war unless there was a treaty signed transferring it. This is just as true of Arab and Muslim countries as it is of Israel (e.g. Morocco in Western Sahara, Indonesia in East Timor). And the fact is most post-WWII invasions end in a voluntary withdrawal (recent examples: Ethiopia in Somalia, U.S. in Iraq, Rwanda in the D.R. Congo)

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    9. You may not have read what I wrote carefully enough, or maybe I didn't make my point clearly enough, but as a rule, you are even more correct than you seem to realize: Art. 2 of the UN Charter specifically says that the acquisition of territory through "the use of force" (i.e. war) is not acceptable any more. Until then, it was considered a normal part of life, even if there have been many cases where this fundamental rule was blatantly violated since the end of WWII. This provision must nevertheless be read with one important restriction in mind: Article 51 of the same Charter, which says that "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations". Which is precisely the case of Israel, attacked repeatedly in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and each time ending up with territories that it did not intend to conquer in the first place but did nevertheless end up controlling as a result of merely defending itself. It has offered since repeatedly to cede these territories against only one thing: peace. For many years the Arabs shunned that offer, and eventually only Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 took the deal and made peace with Israel. As the aggrieved party merely defending itself against repeated Arab aggressions, Israel has the right to keep these territories as long as no peace treaty defining them otherwise is concluded, and it has already formally done so for the Golan and East Jerusalem. It gambled in 2005 that by leaving Gaza without asking for anything in return, its good faith and amazing gesture would be recognized and peace would blossom as a result, but that has not happened given the fanatical and genocidal nature of Hamas. And Israel doesn't want to keep the whole area known as Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. West Bank) either, but after three wars in Gaza, the mood there today is not inclined to make any more concessions to the Palestinians who for their part have never made any. The mirage of the two-state solution is fast dissolving given the same old Palestinian intransigence and delusionally maximalist demands.

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    10. Hmmm, it seem impossible to respond to a specific comment here. Anyway, this is for Evan's comment above.

      "Whether the Palestinians or the Israelis are losing ground is a subjective question that depends on how you define it." -- funny you didn't say the same thing in response to the comment by Anonymous above to which I was responding.

      "The longer historical question is similar. " -- not exactly. Because your narrative leaves out the part where Jordan was created as a Palestinian state. So even before the PA/Gaza, there was a "two-state solution". Also, it equally leaves off the fact that if you go to the earliest states in the region, they were Jewish, not Muslim or Arab.

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    11. jjs110: Your quotation from Article 51 doesn't say that the right to self-defense includes a right to hold onto territory captured during said defense. I believe the charter is usually read not to include that right, given that nearly all other invasions, especially defensive ones, end in voluntary withdrawal.

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    12. Asya: Yes, there seem to be some annoying limitations in commenting on the Blogger platform. Sorry about that.

      "Whether the Palestinians or the Israelis are losing ground is a subjective question that depends on how you define it." I intended this remark as an impartial reply to the exchange between Anonymous and you, not as a rebuke to you, though I understand why it may have appeared that way. The reason I didn't reply earlier to the Anonymous comment was that I was on the fence about whether to reply at all. I try not to feel obligated to reply to every opinionated comment here, except when attempting to correct facts. I think you will find similar examples of me declining to reply to pro-Israeli comments. The map link you posted tipped me over the edge in favor of replying, since it appeared to be intentionally editing out parts of the historical progression.

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    13. "since it appeared to be intentionally editing out parts of the historical progression" -- more so than Anonymous' comment? That in and of itself is telling.

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    14. Anonymous's comment was vague and subjective. The map graphic was specific and precise, involving more concrete factual claims.

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    15. But these "factual claims" are indeed based on fact, whereas Anonymous' comment, as vague as it was, was based on lies. So it seems you don't stand for truth but choose to attack specific, precise and factual claims and to protect those who spin vague and subjective falsehoods. Got it!

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    16. Not lies - an alternate point of view. I already explained this above. Israel has consistently given up territory it gained in wars, but the settlement program apparently reducea the amount of West Bank land available for the Palestinians in any future two-state situation. It depends on what you mean by "losing ground".

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    17. If by "an alternative point of view" you mean a narrative not based on fact, sure.

      I have a question for you: why is Jews living in a territory that is to be part of the Palestinian state a problem, whereas Arabs living in Israel (and being full-fledged citizens) is not? Ever thought of that?

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    18. I am not trying to advocate here for a given outcome. But my understanding is that objections to the settlement program, at least from human rights activists and Western observers, not about whether Jews should be able to live in the West Bank. I suspect there would be fewer objections, from Western and Israeli activists at least, if the settlers were trying to integrate peacefully into existing cities and towns rather than claiming more and more land for Jewish-only settlements.

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  5. Since the Israeli government controls vital utilities & substantial Palestinian revenue as well as communication & transport between all pieces of the West Bank & Gaza, I would argue that it is a "quasi-state". I also understand that the Palestinians are not permitted to develop a true military with heavy weapons? If it is a sovereign state it certainly is the most domineered state in the world?
    Anonymous

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    1. Given the Palestinians' permanently bellicose and aggressive stance, it is perfectly logical and normal for the Israelis to demand that they not be allowed heavy weaponry. You second argument makes no sense: national sovereignty does not require heavy weaponry to be proven. Otherwise, the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra, and scores of tiny states around the world would have to be equipped. There is also something called responsible behavior, which the Palestinians keep proving time and again, to this day, that they completely lack. Israel cannot and will not take that kind of chances just to meet your definition of national sovereignty.

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    2. This site doesn't take a stance on policy issues, but it seems a bit of an overgeneralization to claim that a whole ethnic group, or even just a decades-old statehood movement, "completely lacks responsible behavior." And this is certainly a claim being made regarding both sides of the conflict.

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    3. When one refers to an entire group, by definition it is unfair to the many members of that group who are not responsible for the mess their leaders got them in. See the Germans and the Japanese. It is indeed an oversimplification, but it should be understood as designating the leadership that expresses (presumably) the will of the people themselves. The question then becomes how much say the very same people had in choosing or designating the leaders who speak or misbehave on their behalf. If it is the result of fair elections, the responsibility of the people in electing their leaders is much larger than if the leaders have seized power violently or through intimidation (which is incidentally exactly what Hamas did in 2007 when it staged a coup d'état, killed 350 Fatah members and expelled the rest from Gaza, imposing since an Islamic dictatorship there). Be that as it may, the leaders, elected or not, are the people representing their country in the eyes of the international community.

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    4. It is not an overgeneralization to claim that a certain "statehood movement", as you call it, "completely lacks responsible behavior" if the said political organization (or more precisely, terrorist organization) has not showed a single instance of responsible behavior. If they had, please name it. Indeed, it is our duty, if we want to understand this mess, to call things by their correct names. The fact that some idiots make ridiculous claims, placing the blame from the guilty party onto the victim, does not make it so. You don't have to repeat idiocies that other people say without some critical analysis...

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    5. And you don't have to constantly accuse anyone who disagrees with you of failing to conduct critical analysis. It's a little bit arrogant.

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    6. It is only arrogant if it's not true.

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    7. It's not true. Your certainty that it is comes across as arrogant.

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  6. Good argument, and I agree on the last part. There's probably no U.N. member state today that's as much a subject to the power and decisions of another state as Palestine is. However, there have been many times in recent history when a U.N. member state was similarly dominated by another state without its statehood being questioned in relationship to U.N. membership. This happens anytime a country invades, occupies, or blockades another state; and there is also the issue of "puppet states" which are completely manipulated by a stronger country yet aren't usually accused of not being states.

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  7. "there have been many times in recent history when a U.N. member state was similarly dominated by another state without its statehood being questioned in relationship to U.N. membership." True, but that is a political decision not a legal one and this post is about the legal question.

    Just because no one wanted to challenge a particular country's membership status doesn't mean that it really is a country, or vice versa. Remember the Soviet Union had three votes as the U.S. (Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. What about Taiwan?

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  8. Why is there one government and not two? Applying this same test, wouldn't the Gaza Strip be a separate state from the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank? Are they not operated independent of each other?

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  9. The most important question is the one not asked by this post -- Does recognizing the Palestinian Authority bring about peace?

    This post is strictly about the legal question and doe not ask the politica one, but the political one is the most important. Let us not be distracted by legal debates. Legal niceties have been sacrificed for peace before (see Taiwan) and should be sacrificed in this case.

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    1. There is a legal question, a political one, and a "practical" one. Unfortunately, Palestine (or Gaza and the West Bank) is as independent as a teenager that yells and screams about being "oh so independent" of her parents, but come dinner time rummages through the parents' fridge for something to eat and doesn't pay rent or utilities or health insurance...

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  10. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for your comments!

    My position is that the political precedents give guidance on how the legal principles are interpreted. If we don't take previous interpretations into account, there's room to argue in either direction. And the main reason people are asking whether Palestine is a de facto state is in order to determine whether it qualifies in principle for U.N. membership. Still, thanks for working to keep me honest on the political/legal distinction.

    I definitely would consider the West Banka and Gaza to be controlled by two different states. That's why I excluded Gaza from the State of Palestine's actual controlled territory. And, again because the context is U.N. eligibility, I chose to focus on the one state/goverment of the two that conducts formal international relations.

    You are almost certainly right that the question of this article is not the most important one. But the other issues you describe have been extensively discussed elsewhere, and are outside the scope of Political Geography Now. The focus of this site is on the geography of the politics, not the politics of the geography.

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  11. I hope the recognition of Palestine would lead them to a better economy, more housing programs like some apartment in salcedo village, food programs and the like to bring back the nation that once had power in Christ's time.

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    1. Dear Denise, "the nation that once had power in Christ's time" was... well either Israel or Rome, depending on how you define "had power". But it wasn't Palestine in the modern sense of the word. Arabs were just a bunch of nomads in Arabia and Islam was not to be founded for another 600+ years. Please educate yourself before writing such nonsense.

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    2. you can keep on hoping, because the fact is that most of the humanitarian aid that goes through the border crossing from Israel into Gaza is used by Hamas to build weapons and tunnels to kidnap civilians

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  12. You ask is Palestine really a country??? Are you for real??? it always was until it was chosen just like that in a blink of an eye,only to be given to the jews so that some could get rid of them. Imagine you wake up one day while living in your country and someone tells you get out this is mine now, what would you do? Put your tail between your legs and leave head down??? I didn't think so, so why should the Palestinians???

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    1. Actually, in the time before the creation of Israel, Palestine had not been an independent country for centuries (and even before that, it wasn't called "Palestine", nor was it Arab or Muslim). The region was mostly ruled by various empires (Greek, Roman, Persion, Arab, Turkish, etc.) since ancient times. It was controlled by the Ottoman Empire until World War I, then by the UK until the 1948 war that resulted in the establishment of Israel.

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    2. It is not a conflict about land. People are not being forced out of the country and they aren't being maliciously attacked. Israel allows for freedom of religion and doesn't discriminate against people either. Their neighbors and the Muslims over there hate the Jews and would try to destroy any Jewish state regardless of where it is. Don't turn the conflict into a conflict about territory when it is clearly a conflict about religion. The Israelis even go out of their way to avoid bloody conflict all the time and the "Palestinians" can't think of anything BUT bloody conflict.

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    3. Your claims are not only obviously prejudiced, but hopelessly out of date. The West Bank has been mostly free of conflict for about a decade, and the Palestinian Authority government is strongly in favor of finding a peaceful solution to the dispute.

      Religion is only a rallying point for hardliners on both sides, not the root cause of the conflict. Arab residents of the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship, are restricted from entering Israel, and face extensive restrictions even when traveling within the West Bank. That's what the conflict is mainly about for them, at least these days. In any case, they certainly wouldn't care about Israel if it wasn't located on the same land where their ancestors lived. That doesn't necessarily make one side right and one side wrong, but your characterization of the conflict as a religious hatred of Jews by Muslims is blatantly inaccurate.

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    4. Yes, this is exactly what happened to the Jews! They had lived there for over a millennium before any Arabs/Muslims showed up and now have to give this land to these newcomers?!

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    5. Evan, I've read your comment above and I don't even know where to begin! You like to state how out of date or inaccurate your opponents statements are, but what about your own?! You say: "The West Bank has been mostly free of conflict for about a decade". I'll mention just one of many incidents (Wiki has a good list, by year): Fogel family annihilation. Five members of a family murdered in their beds: mother, father, and three children, 11-, 4- year olds and a 3-month old baby. Free of conflict indeed! Nor is your characterization of the conflict as being about the Jews coming to the land of the Palestinian ancestors very accurate. As I pointed out in my comment above, it's the Jews who should feel that way: after all, it's their ancestors who lived in this land centuries if not millennia before the Arabs/Muslims came.

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    6. Asya, I can accept some of your criticisms here, but as a cultural linguist you should know better than to fall into the trap of "cultural changes in a region equal replacement of the population". In all likelihood the ancient population of the region are the descendents of the majority of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Just because the Palestinians are Arabs and Muslims now doesn't mean their ancestors were invaders. More likely they were always there, and they were assimilated into Arab culture and converted to Islam. There have even been genetic studies suggesting today's Palestinians are partly descended from the ancient Israelites themselves.

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    7. First of all, there's no such thing as "cultural linguist", so better not label people especially if you don't understand their field.

      Second: "In all likelihood the ancient population of the region are the descendents of the majority of both the Israelis and the Palestinians." --- did you even read what you said here?!!!

      Third: "Just because the Palestinians are Arabs and Muslims now doesn't mean their ancestors were invaders. More likely they were always there, and they were assimilated into Arab culture and converted to Islam." --- yes it does. If you simply want to trace everyone's genetics, Palestinians and everyone else come from Africa. What does it matter if we are talking about ethnic groups? It matters where they come from AS A GROUP. Palestinians are Muslims and Arabs (I am setting aside Christian Arabs as they often align with Israel and not with Palestinians), so we have to trace where Arabs and Muslims come from.

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    8. First: I apologize for my creative word choice, but I assure you I understand the field, as I am in the same one. Would you prefer "linguistic anthropologist"? Or perhaps we can do a poll of the various terms used for subfields of linguistics in universities and texts.

      Second: "did you even read what you said here?!!!" Yes. What's the problem? My understanding is that genetic studies often find that a population in a given place has been largely stationary regardless of cultural and linguistic changes (and I have read abstracts of studies on this region which concluded just that). That suggests that the Palestinians are mostly descended from people who were there the whole time, and I don't think any of us is disputing that today's Jews also trace their ancestry back to the region.

      Third: So you're arguing that cultural heritage a more valid factor in territorial claims than is biological descent, correct? That's an interesting proposition which I'm willing to entertain, but I don't see why it's automatically more valid than the biological descent perspective. It's a subjective issue that I don't think you will find a consensus on. "A GROUP" can be defined in terms of either cultural heritage or biological descent.

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    9. "Linguistic anthropologist" would do as a term, but I am not one. Also, I doubt we are in the same field, really. If we are, perhaps you can help me figure out if Spec-IP in Yiddish is an A- or A'-position? Yeah, I didn't think so.

      Back to the argument, indeed I do think that "cultural heritage a more valid factor in territorial claims than is biological descent". The reason is that cultural heritage of an ethnic group is very clear and unambiguous, whereas biological descent is always mixed (even Icelanders are genetically mixed!). Ultimately, both the genetic intermixing and the ethnic/linguistic/religious cohesion of groups can be understood in evolutionary terms. Genetic intermixing (in fact, sexual reproduction) is to keep mixing the gene pools etc. Ethnic cohesion is in order to have some comparison groups in such "evolutionary experiments".

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    10. My department was heavily functionalist, so I'm not very well acquainted with transformational grammar. But I've certainly drawn my share of phrase structure trees. In any case, I'm certainly not claiming to be equal to you in linguistic expertise, only to be familiar enough to have any idea what field you're in.

      "Cultural linguistics" was my attempt to summarize the fact that you seem (from your online work) to be involved in studying the intersection of linguistics with geography and related cultural and social issues. I can't think of a standard name for such a sub-field, though I acknowledge "cultural linguistics" is not adequate.

      Your argument that cultural heritage is more useful and practical than biological descent for these purposes is somewhat convincing, though I think it's a great exaggeration to say the the cultural heritage of an ethnic group is "very clear and unambiguous". Culture and ethnic identity are both very much malleable and ever-changing.

      More importantly, I don't think that either the academic community or the stakeholders in this conflict overwhelmingly agree with your approach. That's not to say that you're wrong, but that it's a subjective issue which has probably not been discussed enough, much less settled.

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    11. Let's leave the issue of expertise aside. Clearly we are not "in the same field": you are hardly a theoretical linguist and I am no political geographer.

      Re: the actual argument. I am glad that you find my argument "somewhat convincing" --- better than not convincing at all. I see what you mean that "Culture and ethnic identity are both very much malleable and ever-changing" = what it means to be a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim changes throughout history and from place to place. It is still different from the genetic "identity" in three important ways: (1) it's not something that can be highly mixed: one can't be 15% Christian, 30% Muslim, 20% Jewish and the rest something else. At least for major monotheistic religions, being a Christian excludes being a Muslim or Jewish, etc. (It's quite different for many Asian religions as well as for some "pagan/animist" religions, but as they are not involved in this issue in a major way, I am leaving them aside.) (2) One's cultural identity is more "visible" as it were (through clothing, dietary customs, holiday traditions, etc.), whereas one can live all life and not know exactly what one's genetic make-up is (I trust it you've seen those reports about some Hungarian anti-Semitic politician who found out to be Jewish?). And (3) One has some control over one's cultural identity (conversions etc.) but not over the genetic make-up. Therefore, when you have a group of individuals united through cultural identity, they share that identity, whereas in any group of individuals the group's genetic make up will be mixed.

      As for your claim, that "the stakeholders in this conflict" don't agree with my approach, I can't speak for all Palestinians, but the majority of Jews views it EXACTLY like that.

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    12. That's a very good point about mixture being an important difference between cultural identity and biological ancestry.

      My impression is that Jewish identity is a combination of both cultural tradition and biological descent. While converts are clearly accepted into Jewish society, matrilineal descent also remains part of some legal definitions of Jewishness in Israel, and there is controversy over the immigration of Ethiopians who identify culturally as Jewish but whose biological relationship to the Hebrews is not proven.

      Even the Hungarian neo-Nazi politician saw biological descent as key to his identity - after learning the truth he quit his party and became an observing Jew.

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    13. Think of it as a family: it's a combination of biological descent and "cultural" identity (in the case of adopted children, for example). Same with the Jews. Crucially, they trace both biological and cultural descent to the Hebrews of the two Kingdoms. Incidentally, it's not always matrilineal descent...

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  13. how can the palestinians claim to have a territory and a government, when all that is de facto controlled by Israel?

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    1. You don't need to have de facto control to claim a territory and organize a government. Governments in exile and separatist movements do that all the time. But more to the point, if you read the article you'll find that the Palestinian government does have de facto control over a number of areas.

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  14. The Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas and not by the PLO, true? Moreover, it receives most of it's goods and services (electricity, water) from other nations, through Israel and Egypt. So basically, even if the west bank can be considered an independent sovereign state, can The Gaza Strip be included under that label?

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    1. That's correct - as mentioned in the article, the Gaza Strip is not controlled by the PLO's government. I would argue that it can't be considered to be part of the PLO's de facto Palestinian state.

      It may qualify as a state of its own, depending on how we interpret the "foreign relations" criteria. It has a government, territory, and population just like the West Bank, but hasn't declared its own independence and isn't recognized as sovereign by any country.

      It may still qualify as some kind of "state", but probably not a "sovereign" (independent) one. It's situation is similar to that of the rebels in Syria, who control a territory and population, but don't claim to be independent because they're instead claiming to be the legitimate rulers of the whole country.

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  15. The question should probably read "Is X a sovereign state?"

    Some examples of non-sovereign entities, whose official names suggest otherwise:

    Scotland - "country"
    Brandenburg - "country" (German: "Land")
    Massachusetts - "commonwealth"
    Florida - "state"
    Sakha - "republic"


    Then there are a handful of de facto sovereign states, which are not widely recognized as such by other sovereign states or by the UN.

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    1. You're right - these are all potential topics for future articles on Political Geography Now!

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  16. Evan,
    I'm a little late to the conversation here, but I think it's important to point out that your comments about the Palestinian's meeting the standards on "Defined Territory Under its Control" is a definition predicated on the bilateral agreements that flowed from the Oslo accords -- and this part of the treaty was abrogated by the Palestinians when they sought UN acceptance, contrary to the Oslo agreements.

    Thus, since the Palestinians are no longer considered to be bound by the treaty (I think by both sides) the territorial definitions of "Areas A, B and C" are no longer valid. As a result one may infer that Israel, as occupier, still is in possession of all Palestinian territories at present and that "statehood" as per your definition hasn't been achieved. (Gaza may be an exception to this, but this would be contested by the Israelis, who withdrew but never gave Gaza its independence -- nor did the Gazans ever declare it.)

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    1. Hi Mian,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You're talking about the de jure status of the territories, which is complicated (though I'm not aware of Israel having actually ceased to recognized Areas A, B, and C, or having withdrawn completely from the Oslo Accords).

      This article is about the de facto status - the reality on the ground. And that hasn't changed since the UN's acknowledgement of Palestinian statehood. Israel still doesn't administer or patrol the land which has been referred to as Area A, and the Palestinian Authority still does.

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  17. What we have here is a shading of sovereignty. For example, the International Telecommunications Union has (without final approval) given Palestine the callsign prefix of E4. For some criteria (amateur radio, for example) that's enough to qualify it as a separate "entity". Though if fairness ham radio counts other criteria, such as distance from the parent body (i.e. Hawaii) in determining what is an "entity."

    Obviously Palestine/West Bank/Judea & Samaria is largely not part of the Israeli boundaries post-independence, but neither is it on the same level of sovereignty as, say, Jordan, though it was part of that country until 1967. It's more recognized than a native tribal area such as exist in the US, Canada and Australia, which have certain self-governening rights. Personally (and I have a doctorate in geography) I'd call it a separate occupied territory with limited internal sovereignty. In that sense it's a "limited country", more politically recognized that an externally controlled area such as the Falklands, but not fully independent. Other interpretations are certainly possible.

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  18. It seems to me that Palestine should be the Gaza Strip.

    There is little of the West Bank that is actually under Palestinian control. Shared control is not really control at all. If we look back to the 13 British Colonies in North America we see that the colonists had civil administration but with a military composed of both sides but dominated by the British. The same situation as in Area B. I don't think anyone will argue that the United States wasn't a country until after they won the revolutionary war and pushed out the British Troops.
    So until Palestine takes control of all (or most) of the West Bank, it should be limited to the Gaza Strip.
    --Adam

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    1. Hi Adam,

      I agree that Area B probably shouldn't count as sovereign territory of Palestine. However, the parts of Area A within the West Bank are a different story. They are fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority both militarily and civilly - minus airspace and occasional Israeli military incursions - which puts Palestinian control there on about the same level as in Gaza.

      The problem with choosing Gaza over the West Bank Area A is that Hamas, the faction which controls Gaza, is not the same group that maintains international relations on behalf of the State of Palestine. That would be the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is currently tied to the Fatah-dominated faction in charge of the West Bank territories.

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  19. palestine being accepted as a member state in the UN is like being accepted to the porsche owners club without ever owning or even driving one.

    you are arguing semantics; you can claim yourself as king and no one would be able to prove otherwise.

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    1. How would you define being a real state then? Statehood doesn't come with an official brand designation like a Porsche does (unless, of course, you count U.N. membership).

      India and Ukraine were admitted as U.N. member states before being independent countries. Was that semantics?

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    2. Why are you pulling India in between..?

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  20. The problem is that even after the announcement of the state of Palestine independence .. Israel did not halt settlement on the land of Palestine did not come out of the ground troops .. yesterday Guetat four Palestinian civilians, Israel plans to displace the Palestinian villagers and the Judaization of Jerusalem with the UN know this. Israeli terrorism does not stop in Palestine .. Another thing the name of Palestine in Arabic (((falasteen))) not (filas in)

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    1. "Filastin" is another way of spelling the Arabic pronunciation of the place name. There's a special mark under the "t" which may be causing it to display incorrectly on your computer.

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    2. It appears that Emad didn't even bother to read the thread before spouting the usual anti-Israel nonsense. "Palestine"'s application as member state to the UN was rejected by the Security Council, which is the only authority that can admit it in the family of nations, for political as well as legal reasons. "Palestine" turning then to the UN General Assembly for a pseudo-recognition of a dysfunctional, two-headed entity, corrupt to the core and living off international charity does not give it the status of a fully functional sovereign State. No matter how much make up you put on it, a pig remains a pig. As for Jerusalem, drop the idea of dividing it. It's not going to happen. It was once divided, under the Jordanians for 19 years, and they prevented Jews from going there. Now reunited under Israeli control, it is open to all, including the Muslims who used to bar Jewish presence in the same place. Need I say more?

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  21. I have seen 4 other criteria in addition to these 4 making it look totally like Cherry-picking to set your case for a country that truly does not yet exist. Should it exist? Yes. Does it? not yet.

    http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/palestinenot.htm

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    1. Nothing here is cherry-picked - the facts in this article are the same as in that one, just with slightly different conclusions. There are a few problems with the article you linked to. First, where did he get those eight criteria? He says they're "accepted by the international community," but doesn't explain any further or give any source. You'll notice that our article clearly states the basis of the four criteria in the Montevideo Convention, which established the declarative theory of statehood in international law.

      The author of the other article actually agrees that most of the criteria are "somewhat" fulfilled, which is not so different from what I argued here. The only one he says Palestine fails is international acceptance. This criterion is not part of the declarative theory of statehood, and is irrelevant for determining whether Palestine is a "de facto" state; the very definition of a de facto state is one that is a state in all ways EXCEPT international recognition.

      Even on that issue, he sets the cutoff unreasonably high. Being an observer state in the U.N. and having bilateral recognition from more than half of the world's countries should have warranted a "somewhat" on that criterion as well.

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    2. Palestine was not recognized by the UN But was recognized by the Ottoman Empire which was divided after ww 1 but palestine did get a chace to put a leader yet but it was known as a land and the people were Known to.

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    3. No, the Ottoman Empire did not "recognize" "Palestine" as a distinct country. That's an impossibility since it was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was merely one of its provinces, as were all the other territories included in the Ottoman Empire. It was the colonial powers, the Brisith and the French, who drew lines all over the area to create the half-dozen countries that we have today. British-mandated Palestine was set aside specifically for the Jews in 1917 and included what are today all of Israel and Jordan, but the British decided in 1922 to lop off 2/3 to create Jordan, along with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon.

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  22. Anonymous quote:

    If the Arabs (Moslems) put down their weapons today there would be no more violence. If the Israelis put down their weapons today there would be no more Israel.
    Think about it...

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    1. I Agree . . . %100

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    2. Not likely. This is a myth based on long-outdated and oversimplified ideas about the conflict.

      Most Palestinians and Arabs no longer have any interest in destroying Israel. Hamas doesn't have the power to do that, and probably wouldn't have enough support from its base anyway. And the West Bank has seen almost zero Palestinian-on-Israeli violence for many, many years. Most recent violence there has been settler hate crimes against Palestinians.

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    3. The reasons why there are less violence coming form the West Bank are the following: Ariel Sharon defeated the intifada and built a wall, thus making it difficult for the terrorists to attack Israel.

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    4. Evan, it appears that it is you who is still stuck in oversimplified ideas about the conflict. Read the last poll (by a Palestinian pollster, to boot) which stated that more than 80% of Palestinians (including the ones in Gaza, battered as they have just been after attacking Israel once again, pointlessly) still believe that they should continue violent attacks against the Jewish State. If as you say they had no more interest to do so, they have a strange way to show it. And maybe they should start then by changing their charter, which still promises the destruction of Israel. It seems you are increasingly disconnected from reality.

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  23. Now I want to know something, who is really the aggressor, can I have somebody to really tell me how the state of Palestine came to being. From the Bible there has never been a state of Palestine but a promised land of Israel maybe it was established by God on Palestinian land which is which I need help?

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    1. There was no"State of Palestine" or country of "Israel" for most of recorded history. The ancestors of both the Palestinian people and the Jewish people were already there millennia ago. And the Bible isn't a source of international law.

      If you want to know, the U.N. recommended dividing the region between a Jewish and an Arab state in 1947. Various unilateral actions on both sides led to a series of wars which left Israel eventually in control of the whole area, but not giving citizenship to people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (who are mostly Arabs). In 1988 the Palestinian Liberation Organization declared independence as the State of Palestine so they could have their own country in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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    2. You call an all-out simultaneous attack by five Arab armies with the declared goal of wiping out the barely born state of Israel "various unilateral actions on both sides"? Talk of re-writing history! Yes, the UN recommended a division of the area between the two sides, but what really happened is that the Jews accepted while the Arabs entirely rejected that proposal! The version you peddle is the one pushed by the Palestinians, whose history starts in 1948 (their famous "nakhba", or "catastrophe") without mentioning the fact that had they accepted the UN partition proposal instead of attacking Israel, we would have two countries living (hopefully) in peace next to each other today, but they refuse to accept responsibility for their wars of aggression to this day. As for the PLO "declaring independence" in 1988, it had no effect whatsoever since the PLO was then still considered by the whole world as just a terrorist organization (with very good reasons) like Hamas still is today. It was only after the Oslo Accords were signed that the PLO lost its ugly tag as merely a terrorist organization and was elevated to the status of legitimate political entity (and negotiation partner, but it has so far failed miserably in that capacity as well).

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    3. 1948 wasn't the end of history for Israel and the Palestinians. There were several more wars, and Israel chose to hold onto the West Bank and Gaza without annexing them. I was trying to represent it from a neutral point of view, but I guess I should know better. The history can't be summarized effectively in two sentences.

      Whether the PLO's declaration of independence had any effect is irrelevant to its eventual legal implications. And in any case, by the end of 1988 there were already 82 countries that had recognized the State of Palestine as independent, so it's not correct that the "whole world" considered it "just a terrorist organization". There was obviously a political effect (if not any effect on the ground).

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    4. I never said 1948 was the end of history for Israel and the Palestinians. You can't pretend to be "neutral" when there is a clear aggressor and an aggressed party. What you're doing is to minimize the responsibility of the aggressor and elevate the aggressed one's to the same level, in effect putting them on the same footing, which is clearly manipulative and dishonest. Yes, you should have known better than trying to pulling that one off. It's too much of a classic to go unnoticed.
      And yes, there were "several more wars", another classic by the pro-Palestinians to hide the fact that all of these wars were initiated by Arabs who tried repeatedly to destroy Israel. Wars don't "happen" out of thin air. Since the beginning of times, wars happen when someone attacks someone else. Again, you're clearly trying to dilute the Arabs' responsibility for all of them (as well as the consequences they and the Palestinians suffered as a result).
      Israel chose not to annex the West Bank and Gaza because it believed for the longest time that it could be negotiated for peace. It hasn't happened because the Palestinians are not interested in peace. They're still clinging to the delusional belief that one day they will end up replacing Israel (i.e. take over) rather than live side by side to it. It annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, though, as it had every right to as the party victim of repeated Arab aggressions.
      Finally, in 1988, there was no state of Palestine to speak of, so the "recognition" you're alleging took place was merely a recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. That hardly qualifies as the recognition of a non-existent state.

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    5. You're incorrect that the 1988 recognitions were "merely a recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people"; they were explicitly worded as recognitions of an independent state, even though that state was still imaginary at the time.

      It's extremely disingenuous to say that "the Palestinians" are still clinging to the idea of getting all of Israel. That is clearly not the case for many Palestinians and has not been the position of the PLO since at least the Oslo Accords. Hamas is a different story, of course.

      And we can all have our own opinions about moral rights, but international law doesn't automatically entitle a country to annex land taken from other countries that committed acts of aggression upon it. In the post-WWII world, only treaties can legally transfer sovereign territory. And it's not only Israel. The U.N. hasn't recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara or Turkish sovereignty over Northern Cyprus either.

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    6. "The ancestors of both the Palestinian people and the Jewish people were already there millennia ago." -- talk about re-writing history and being "manipulative and dishonest" (quote from jjs110) indeed! the ancestors of the Palestinian people lived there at the most 1300 years, which is less than a millennium and a half, clearly not MILLENNIA! You keep talking about "de facto" situation, but it is the most basic historical facts you have trouble with.

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    7. Asya, please see my above comment about not equating cultural changes with population replacements, an issue you should be quite familiar with given your area of expertise.

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    8. If we follow your logic, Evan, the ancestors of the Palestinians were (mostly) Jews. So they (the Palestinians) should be more friendly with the Jews, venerate them as their ancestors, actually.

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    9. Or at least respect today's Jews as their cousins. I'm not opposed to that!

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    10. No, not cousins, it's far closer than that!

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    11. "Siblings" works fine for me.

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    12. So why are the Palestinians so set on "fraternicide"?

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  24. Or maybe very soon Palestinians will soon call them original Canaanites. If there are Canaanites in the world I think they can lay claim to the Land of Israel but they have to fight Israel's God.

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    1. "Palestinian" and "Canaanite" actually mean almost the same thing. They originally both just referred to the people living in this same region, which had different names at different times in history. One genetic study found that most Palestinians are actually probably the descendents of the same Christians and Jews who lived there before the region became Muslim in the Middle Ages. When you go back that far in time, ethnic identities get really blurry.

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    2. More re-writing of history to serve your political preferences... The Canaanites came and went, like so many other groups in history. They completely disappeared. No one has ever been able to establish a lineage between this long disappeared group of people and the Palestinians of today (who, by some Palestinians' own admission, are in their majority merely Syrians and Egyptians). The phony study you refer to was published by... a Palestinian (gee, surprise) and has since been debunked as sheer nonsense by real academics who know what they're talking about rather than make up data to fit political contemporary choices.

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    3. I'm not an expert on the science here. But I do know that many of the world's populations can largely be traced back genetically to the same people who were living there thousands of years before, even if they spoke a different language and belonged to a different ethnic group. Ethnic groups are malleable and constructed over time by people. So it seems unlikely that the lineages of actual Canaanite people "completely disappeared".

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    4. Well, of course. By that reasoning the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Mayas, Aztecs, etc... never completely disappeared and must be alive and well in someone's blood somewhere. But then if you're willing to admit the obvious, why state that "Palestinian and Canaanite actually mean almost the same thing" if not to support even the entirely imaginary view that somehow today's Palestinians have the same historical claims to the Holy Land that the Jews have when in fact it is the latter's historical roots and lineage that can be proven and demonstrated? Another lame attempt at putting the two sides on the same footing. Attempts at creating out of thin air a false equivalence are just that: false.

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    5. Mayans are alive and well as a culture (look it up), and modern-day Egyptians, Italians, and Mexicans certainly do think of themselves (probably correctly) as descendents of the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Aztecs. In fact, the Aztec language is still spoken in Mexico, and Latin is still spoken in divergent forms (the Romance Languages) across southern Europe. It's the political systems that changed, not the populations.

      "Palestine" is the historical name for the region that Israel is now in. That's what I mean by saying "Palestinian" and "Canaanite" mean the same thing. This is true regardless of whether the people currently calling themselves "Palestinians" are justified or accurate in doing so.

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    6. Oh please you knowledgeable historians! "Palestine" was originally the label for the land of the Philistines, who were neither Arabs nor Muslims, so today's Palestinians are hardly their descendants. Like Canaanites, Amorites, Phoenicians, and the like, Philistines are long gone from world stage...

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    7. So the Philistines, Canaanites, etc. all just died, with no descendents? I doubt it. More likely they were assimilated into succeeding societies.

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    8. But Asya is absolutely right that the ancient Philistines or Canaanites can't be considered placeholders for a Palestinian nation. Israelis and Palestinians could easily both have ancestry traceable to those groups. The ancient Hebrew kingdoms are just as likely to have assimilated locals as the later Arab invaders are.

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    9. The ancient Israel and Judah were Jewish kingdoms based on the 12 tribes of Israel. If an occasional Canaanite or Philistine married into those essentially Jewish clans, they've been adopted into the Jewish family and acculturated into Judaism.

      And yes, as a group Philistines, Canaanites etc. "all just died", leaving no traceable descendants...

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    10. "If an occasional Canaanite or Philistine married into those essentially Jewish clans, they've been adopted into the Jewish family and acculturated into Judaism." This is approximately what I'm suggesting happened. Do you have an alternative theory as to why the Philistines and Canaanites would have left no descendents? Descendents that are not easily traceable are still descendents, and their lineage remains a valid subject for scientific inquiry even if it is not already known.

      Let me remind you again that I am not asserting that Philistine or Canaanite lineage (if it exists) would entitle today's Palestinians to any legal or territorial rights.

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    11. Yes, there's an easy way they could die out with descendants: not have (healthy) children. Or having few. For either biological or social reasons. Or being killed off by another group. After a few generations there might be too few of them left and whoever's left ultimately gets acculturated into another group. I don't object that it happened. My point is that after such a thing happens, their BIOLOGICAL descendants are no longer there ETHNIC descendants.

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    12. "My point is that after such a thing happens, their BIOLOGICAL descendants are no longer there ETHNIC descendants."

      Got it. Thanks for sticking around to clarify that.

      I do realize that genocide or low birth rates can happen, by the way. I just am under the impression that assimilation is much more likely in most cases of ethnic decline.

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    13. I am not sure if this is historically true. It seems that killing off one's enemies (plus acculturating some remaining descendants) is the most typical situation. Also, important to look into issues of gender bias in this: acculturation is most typically of women to the culture of some other men...

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    14. I believe it's true in at least some geographical-historical contexts. Great Britain, for example, went through successive stages of cultural domination by pre-Celtic peoples, the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Normans. With each new stage, the language and culture of most of the population changed. However, studies show genetic influx from outside the island was relatively small through the entire history, suggesting that most people were assimilated rather than replaced. In the case of the last invasion by the Normans, this is also a matter of historical fact.

      That's a very good insight about the gender bias issue. I'm interested to know what implications you think this might have.

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    15. You've missed the Vikings --- they were fairly significant, genetically (and the Romans, who weren't). And by the way, only the Anglo-Saxons managed a language shift; neither the Vikings nor the Normans did. All they could manage was messing up the language of the population at large. See John McWhorter's "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue".

      As for the gender bias, I've written some on it: http://languagesoftheworld.info/historical-linguistics/mother-tongue-comes-from-your-prehistoric-father-or-does-it.html

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    16. Thanks for the link! Definitely going to read that.

      Didn't the Celts also manage a full language shift? The British Isles were settled long before Celtic culture spread out of central Europe.

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  25. Evan

    You state:

    "Palestine has its own government (the PLO/PNA), a defined and controlled territory (Area A in the West Bank), a permanent population (one to four million Palestinians), and the ability to maintain relations with other states. It would seem that this qualifies it as a de facto sovereign state based on the declarative theory of statehood."

    Why then do the Palestinian Arabs claim to lack a state?

    Is President Obama talking nonsense when he stated just this week:

    "Peace is also, undeniably, just. Just as the Israeli people have the right to live in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination."

    Your conclusions make it clear that they do indeed exercise the right to self-determination.

    Why is everyone then still talking about the need for the two-state solution as an imperative for peace - if indeed there are already two states that exist as you have argued?

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  26. Hi David,

    Interesting question. The PLO/PNA certainly DOES claim to have a state. They are not claiming to lack one. It was they who declared independence as the "State of Palestine", and they who successfully sought their UN reclassification as an "observer state" (emphasis on "state").

    My interpretation is that Palestine is a de facto state, but that doesn't mean it has successfully attained all the privileges a de jure state would have - and that's what the Palestinian leadership is asking for. Much of their claimed territory is controlled by Israel, which also controls the airspace and seas which would normally belong to a Palestinian state under international law. They also seek further recognition by the international community, and especially UN membership.

    The U.S., Europe, and Israel don't recognize the Palestinians as having a state, so for them "two-state solution" means creating one. But for the Palestinian leadership, I presume that "two-state solution" is understood to be shorthand for receiving full diplomatic recognition and (ideally) control over most or all of their claimed territories. They evidently don't see the semantic contradiction as a deal-breaker.

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    1. Evan

      Your claim that the PLO/PNA certainly DOES claim to have a state is not supported by the following statement made by Abbas just a few days ago:

      "As the president of the Palestinian people I am totally committed to the vision of a two-state solution, normalization and peace with our neighbor—Israel,”

      You presume such a claim to be shorthand for:
      1. receiving full diplomatic recognition - but this is not a necessary requirement for creating a state de facto under the Montevideo Convention or even de jure
      2. (ideally) control over most or all of their claimed territories - which they now have in the areas you have designated namely area A in the West Bank

      It makes a huge difference to the political debate if there is indeed an existing de facto Palestinian Arab State (as you claim) that wants to negotiate the issues of sovereignty over its air space, maritime jurisdiction and even increasing the area of land it currently controls.

      This is not what is being presented at the UN or anywhere else to my knowledge.

      Having a state and consequently the right to self determination is one thing - claiming to be stateless and therefore lacking self-determination is an entirely different thing.

      Would that the UN and the Palestinian Arabs accepted your viewpoint. Regrettably they do not appear to do so.

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    2. Abbas's statement fits perfectly into my interpretation. He's using the term "two-state solution" because it's the terminology accepted by both sides. Asking for "normalization and peace with our neighbor" even sort of implies that he already considers Palestine a state.

      In any case, I'm not sure how you can deny over 25 years of the PLO claiming a "State of Palestine" and seeking international recognition for it, including at the UN in 2012, when Abbas initially tried for full membership, and later pushed for the status of "observer state" when membership failed. The UN's official name for the Palestinian Territories has even been changed to "State of Palestine".

      You're right that the issue makes a huge difference to the political debate, and indeed it's one of the main sticking points between the two sides. The Palestinian leadership's pursuit of recognition as a state has been opposed by the U.S. on Israel on the basis that they consider the Palestinians to be stateless (and therefore less immediately entitled to recognition and territorial control).

      The idea that the Palestinian leadership begs statelessness is a myth leftover from an earlier period in history, before the PLO declared independence. It's the U.S., Israel, and perhaps Europe that holds this view, not the PLO. I can't speak for individual Palestinians, of course.

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    3. Evan

      In declaring the "State of Palestine" as recently as 3 January 2013 - Abbas has clearly chosen to repudiate the two-state solution envisaged to be created in negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the Bush Roadmap.
      That has clearly displeased Israel and the US but that option was always open to either party.

      Abbas however bears the consequences for making his unilateral decision to do so. Kerry's attempt to renew those negotiations - agreed to by Israel - was magnanimous to say the least.

      Palestine is also a member state of UNESCO - and the US and Israel have signalled their displeasure by not making their financial levies to UNESCO and having their membership terminated as a result.

      If the idea that the Palestinian leadership begs statelessness is a myth leftover why is the Dheishe refugee camp outside Bethlehem still open and being run by UNWRA rather than its residents being relocated and resettled within the State of Palestine?

      Why isn't the State of Palestine calling for the closure of other refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and for the repatriation of these refugees to the State of Palestine?

      Seems to me they are playing ducks and drakes with the international community.

      They want to have their cake and eat it too. They seem to be doing quite well fooling the world.

      There is a state or there is not a state.

      They need to make their position clear.

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    4. The State of Palestine was declared independent in 1988, not 2013. And Dheishe is already located within its territory. And I believe the refugees there came from places that are now in Israel, and not claimed by the State of Palestine.

      Nowhere else in the world does just having a state mean refugees are sent back. Refugees return to a place once they feel the conditions have become right for them to live there. In the case of Palestinian refugees, many came from what's now Israel, and probably can never go back. Whether they see a new State of Palestine as a suitable place to move to will depend on more than just whether it exists.

      You're correct in noting that Abbas has tried more than one different strategy, but it seems unlikely to me that he's trying to fool anyone. He's been very clear about pursuing international recognition as a plan B for the peace process that he asserts is being blocked by Israel.

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    5. Evan

      The 1988 Declaration was a lot of hot air. Arafat didn't have any territory then - not even Area A.

      The unilateral declaration in 2013 was far more significant since Area A and Gaza were territories not under Israel's control.

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/20131810252183781.html

      If the Palestinian Arabs have their own State then there should be no need for refugee camps - especially when they are located in Area A as Dheishe is.

      As you well know Abbas does not need international recognition. He only needs to comply with the Montevideo Convention as you have made clear in your article.

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    6. My article doesn't say anything about what Abbas "needs". In geopolitics international recognition is much more useful than Montevideo-compliant de facto statehood. I only argued that Palestine is indeed a de facto state, not that there's nothing more it needs or could want politically.

      The article you linked to says the Palestinian Authority is being absorbed by the State of Palestine as declared in 1988, not that the state is being newly declared. And I understand your logic about the lack of a need for refugee camps, but this is a subjective opinion and obviously not everyone agrees.

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    7. Evan

      What the author of the article said is his interpretation of the Decree is not what
      the Decree actually says:

      Article 1 of the Decree states:

      “Official documents, seals, signs and letterheads of the Palestinian National Authority official and national institutions shall be amended by replacing the name ‘Palestinian National Authority’ whenever it appears by the name ‘State of Palestine’ and by adopting the emblem of the State of Palestine.”

      There is no mention of the "State of Palestine as declared in 1988"

      What do you say are the reasons that people would give for retaining - rather than closing - the Palestinian Arab refugee camps in the State of Palestine?

      Are you aware of anyone who has expressed that opinion?




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    8. The Decree as you quote it also doesn't say anything about the State of Palestine being newly declared. It seems a bit contrived to assume that it indicates a new declaration, when the people making the declaration have already alleged something called the "State of Palestine" to exist since 1988. The declaration only specifies a change in name usage in official communications, not a change in the existence of a state.

      I don't have any knowledge about the refugee camps, by I can imagine many different reasons they are being retained: lack of other places for the people to go, the fact that they have already made their homes there for decades, etc. I don't see why it would have to mean that a Palestinian state doesn't exist in principle somewhere in the West Bank.

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  27. sorry I'm new in middle east history..so, why did Israel proclaim independence in 1948?Is Israel territory colonized or what??

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    1. I recommend starting here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_Israel#History

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    2. The very basis for the so called state of Israel is the United Nations Resolution dated 29 November 1947 pertaining to the partition plan for Palestine as Resolution 181(II). The aforesaid plan which necessarily includes the borders envisaged in the said plan for the partition of Palestine is the very basis for the so called state of Israel and any legitimacy or sanctity for the State of Israel is derived from it and the borders envisaged in the Resolution 181(II) is sacrosanct and is the only legitimate and credible de jure border separating the State of Israel from the rest of occupied Palestinian Palestine. The present line of control is completely unilateral and arbitrary and does not have any credibility or sanctity whatsoever and the portrayal of the line of control as an international border cannot be countenanced. Now, if there are Jews in occupied Palestine who dispute the said resolution or are unable to accept the borders envisaged by the said resolution which is the de jure border and thus sacrosanct and unassailable, and denounce the United Nations Resolution 181(II), then it ipso facto means that the state of Israel is summarily bereft of all legitimacy in law and the very basis for the state of Israel is ipso facto vitiated as ab initio null and void the so called state of Israel ceases to be. Therefore the right of the aboriginal and indigenous Palestinians to return to their original towns and villages is unassailable and cannot be compromised or be subject to negotiation!

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  28. The very basis for the so called state of Israel is the United Nations Resolution dated 29 November 1947 pertaining to the partition plan for Palestine as Resolution 181(II). The aforesaid plan which necessarily includes the borders envisaged in the said plan for the partition of Palestine is the very basis for the so called state of Israel and any legitimacy or sanctity for the State of Israel is derived from it and the borders envisaged in the Resolution 181(II) is sacrosanct and is the only legitimate and credible de jure border separating the State of Israel from the rest of occupied Palestinian Palestine. The present line of control i.e. the 1967 lines also known as the "1949 armistice lines" is completely unilateral and arbitrary and does not have any credibility or sanctity whatsoever and the portrayal of the line of control as an international border cannot be countenanced. Now, if there are Jews in occupied Palestine who dispute the said resolution or are unable to accept the borders envisaged by the said resolution which is the de jure border and thus sacrosanct and unassailable, and denounce the United Nations Resolution 181(II), then it ipso facto means that the state of Israel is summarily bereft of all legitimacy in law and the very basis for the state of Israel is ipso facto vitiated as ab initio null and void the so called state of Israel ceases to be. Therefore the right of the aboriginal and indigenous Palestinians to return to their original towns and villages pursuant to Nakba is unassailable and cannot be compromised or be subject to negotiation!

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    1. Despite the sprinkling of pseudo-legalese language, you are severely mistaken, for several reasons. For starters, Resolution 181 is a General Assembly resolution, i.e. not enforceable or, if you prefer, without force of law (as opposed to some, but not all, UN Security Council resolutions). Secondly, Res. 181 offered a partition for both sides. The Jews accepted its terms and created Israel, but the Arabs rejected it and tried to destroy Israel (and let's not forget that they also voted against Res. 181, which disqualify them from demanding its implementation today). By preferring to violate the UN Charter and attempt to gain territorial acquisition through aggression, they opened themselves to the deserved accusation that they lost all legitimacy, in particular with regard to the territories they lost in the process of attacking Israel. And mind you, these were territories that they did not even control as a sovereign nation yet. They could have had them if they had been less fanatically obsessed with the idea of wiping Israel off the map, but they made the wrong choice, and Israel instead gained these territories fair and square in a defensive war. Therefore, the Nakba was entirely of the Arabs' own making, meaning that they have no claim whatsoever over what could have been their land, which they squandered. I will conclude by agreeing with you: the result of the wars of aggression led by the Arabs cannot be compromised and are unassailable, therefore there is no need for negotiation over them. Israel is entirely entitled to annex and absorb all territories it won over the Arabs in its successive defensive wars. It has already fully annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. It can do the same with the West Bank.

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  29. I believe jjs10 is correct in that Res. 181 is by no means legally authoritative. In fact, I doubt many legal experts would insist so strongly on any such legal interpretation being "sacrosanct" or "unnassailable", even if they did agree with the general direction of argument.

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