Great Moments in Volokh Conspiracy Commenting:

Commenter Sonja: “as I said earlier, the duration of a Jewish state in Palestine before 1948 was a mere 60 years.”

Me: “Sonja clearly never heard of the Hasmoneans, who ruled Judea for quite a while. I’d say not knowing about the Hasmoneans pretty disqualifies anyone as an expert in Jewish history.”

Sonja: “A Jewish state, David. That’s the question, since you all seem to agree that mere presence on the land is insufficient. How long was the Jewish state in existence prior to 1948? The answer is 60 years, and you don’t need to be an expert in Jewish history to answer that.”

Me: “Please explain how the Hasmonean dynasty (have you heard of it? if not, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasmonean) was not a ‘Jewish state.’ Not that I’m conceding that Israelite and Judean rule wasn’t ‘Jewish’ for these purposes, but I’m even more curious about how the Hasmoneans weren’t.”

Sonja: “David: with all due respect, if I had to choose between wikipedia and Edward Said … well enough said.”

If you have even a passing familiarity with Jewish history, you can’t help but get a chuckle out of that one! The existence of the Hasmonean dynasty is no more in historical doubt than the existence of the Roman Empire, and I doubt even Said ever said anything to the contrary (though I wouldn’t be shocked if he nevertheless somehow came up with the sixty years figure, which is impossible to reconcile with the Hasmonean dynasty’s existence).

As an aside, note that I don’t think that the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Arab conflict at all turn on the history of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, anymore than I think it really matters at all for current practical purposes that the local Arabs didn’t consider themselves “Palestinians” with an identity different from other regional Arabs until extremely late in the game. Since all national identities are mere social constructs, the fact that the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs believe themselves to belong to particular, separate nations with an entitlement to all or some of the land in dispute is all that really matters at this point. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something disturbing about persistent Arab propaganda denying, e.g., that there was ever a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and otherwise trying to erase ancient Jewish (if you consider the pre-6th century Babylonean exile Israelites and Judeans, “Jewish,” it’s a bit of an anachronism) ties to the land–the basic subject by the way, of the ongoing Nadia Abu El-Haj controversy at Barnard.