Many Jewish readers criticize me for discussing the option of a Palestinian state. They point out that there was no Palestinian nation forty years ago, so it has no rights now. That argument is invalid.

Most Muslim nations are relatively new. A century ago, there was no Jordan, no Lebanon, no Iraq, no Saudi Arabia. That does not make their current political demands less valid or their armies less dangerous. Nations do form from thin air, for example, the US.

Historical rights do not matter. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all claim the right to Jerusalem. None founded the city. Muslims settled the land longer than the Jews. Christians after Paul consider themselves a new Israel and logically usurp the divine promises given to the Hebrews. Jews had the only historical state in that land (others were occupation regimes or mere city-states) and reclaimed much of Israel’s land today from marshes. Each religious group involved has what it thinks is a viable claim to the land. In politics, what one thinks does not matter. The only thing that matters in international relations is the ability to make others acquiesce. The ancient Hebrews, the Anglo-Saxon tribes, and the European settlers in America did not try to convince indigenous population of the newcomers’ religious, historical, or whatever rights.

The land dispute between Jews and Muslims shows that they understand each other’s rights differently. Religiously or ideologically overcharged Jews convince only themselves of their inviolable rights and the non-existence of a Palestinian nation. Like it or not, Palestinians have already established themselves as a nation and have achieved de facto statehood. If it lives like a nation and fights like a nation, then before world opinion it is a nation. Israelis may dispossess them and deport them to Jordan but should not deceive themselves: our Palestinian enemy is indeed a nation.