The region we now call the Middle East is an elaborate mosaic. Among its peoples are the Arabs, denizens of the desert who became great conquerors and colonists. The Persians possessed a mighty empire in antiquity — and will again if Iran’s current rulers have their way. The most vibrant city of the Turks is Istanbul, the Christian capital known as Constantinople until it fell to Sultan Mehmed II in the 15th century. The Middle East also is home to such ethno-religious groups as Maronites, Druze, and Alawites; to powerful clans such as the Hashemites and the House of Sa’ud; to Kurds, a nation without a state, and to Jews, reestablished as a nation in their ancient homeland.
The other day, Newt Gingrich waded into this historical labyrinth, setting off a minor brouhaha by noting that only recently did Arabs on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean claim to constitute a distinct nation called “Palestine” — the name given to the area by Imperial Rome. On this basis, he referred to Palestinians as an “invented” people.
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