11 April '16..
The New York Times magazine section published an article by James Traub examining the concept of “homeland” and why it sometimes has negative connotations in the American context. It includes this paragraph:
What is it about “homeland” that feels more like a violation than an affirmation of American identity? In traditional usage, the word evokes the link between a people and the state that is theirs, or that they wish to be theirs. With the founding of Israel in 1948, Jews gained a homeland. Palestinians lost one. “Homeland” throbs with the primal forces of state formation. The word points to a world of solidarity forged through blood ties, through ancient ritual and legend.
Did Palestinians lose a homeland in 1948 as James Traub contends? If he wishes to argue that homeland and statehood are so intrinsically connected, then Palestinians never had a homeland to lose. Throughout history there has never been a sovereign Palestinian state. By Traub’s own definitions, it was the Jews who lost a homeland having been dispersed from their biblical kingdom by the Romans in 70 CE, only to regain it later.
In any case, while Jews gained a sovereign state with the founding of Israel, the Jewish homeland has existed going back over 3,000 years irrespective of who commanded sovereignty over the land at any given period of time.
So Traub’s Israel and Palestinian example falls down leaving us to wonder why he selected it in the first place. Granted, American identity is more of a civic rather than an ethnic or nationalist one. But there are undoubtedly plenty of Americans who see a Jewish homeland as a positive concept as opposed to the negative spin that Traub gives it.
You can contribute to the debate by writing to the New York Times letters page – firstname.lastname@example.org
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