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Friday, October 07, 2011

"Palestine": A cause or a state? (Taheri)

Amir Taheri in Al Asharq al Awsat writes a provocative essay:

A recent creation, the modern state is the political expression of a nation’s existence. One must first have a nation and then look for a state to express its existence.

Is Palestine a nation, in the modern sense of the term as described by Herder at the end of the 18th century?

You might be surprised, even angered, by this question. However, none of the dozens of political parties that have claimed to represent the Palestinians in the past seven decades ever described itself as national.

Words such as “nation” and “national” do not feature in the designation of such movements as Al Fatah and Hamas. Instead, they, and many other smaller ones, use adjectives such as “Islamic” or “people’s”. The subtext is that the Palestinians are, at most, “a people” but not a nation. They are regarded as part either of a larger, and mythical, Arab “nation” or an even more problematic Islamic Ummah.

Wedded to leftist or Islamist ideologies, Palestinian political formations systematically rejected the concept of the nation, the backbone of modern statehood.

The contrast with modern national liberation movements throughout the world is telling. For all of them the word “nation” is the key to their identity. Thus, we have the African National Congress in South Africa, and the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria. Even Communist-dominated Vietcong described itself as a National Liberation Front.

Islamist or leftist, Palestinian political movements treat Palestine as a “cause” rather than a political project.

But what is that “cause”?

This was clearly put by Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in a speech in Tehran on 3 October. “Our aim,” he said, “is liberating all of Palestine from the River to the Sea.” In other words, the cause is not to give Palestinians a state but to destroy Israel.

Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, leader of the Islamic Jihad for Palestine was even more explicit. “When we come to power we shall not allow the Zionist regime to live a single moment,” he said in Tehran.

According to the daily Kayhan of 4 October, both men paid tribute to “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei as the man who should have the final word on Palestine.

Mishal said: “The esteemed Commander of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khamenei, is our Guide and Leader. His wishes will be the cause of the Palestinians. Our sovereign and master is Khamenei.

This, of course, is not the first time that Palestinian leaders have auctioned “the cause”. There was a time when Abdel Nasser was bootlicked as “guide and master”. In 1991, Yasser Arafat sold “the cause” to Saddam Hussein. A few years later in Oslo, he re-sold it to Shimon Peres.

In his speech, Khamenei promised that, once Israel is destroyed, he would organize a referendum in which Palestinians from all over the world and some citizens of Israel would decide what to do with “liberated Palestine”. Mischievous tongues in Tehran say that one option could be to attach “liberated Palestine” to Khamenei’s “imamate” empire. This is not fanciful. After all, Nasser, too, had hoped to annex “liberated Palestine” for his Arab Republic. Saddam Hussein had dreams of turning Palestine into Iraq’s “counter on the Mediterranean”, a scheme that would have also required the destruction of Jordan as an independent country. Hafez al-Assad fancied Palestine as part of “Greater Syria”.

Mishal and Shallah’s flattery towards Khamenei implies that there is no Palestinian “nation”. A sovereign nation would not demand that the leader of a foreign country decide its future.

The quest for a Palestinian state starts with the Palestinians themselves. They must decide whether they are a modern nation or a fragment of larger entities beyond their control.

...[A]s a member of the United Nations, a state cannot adopt the destruction of another UN member as its “cause.”

Palestine must choose what it wants to be a “cause” or a state.
I would add that Hamas explicitly calls for the creation of a pan-Islamic state of which "Palestine" would be a part.

Taheri is correct even in regards to the PLO. The PLO's charters from 1964 and 1968, even though they are titled the "Palestinian National Charter," say nothing about the "Palestinian nation" but quite a bit about the "Arab nation." Neither of them call for a "Palestinian state."

It is not news to readers here that the primary Palestinian Arab goal has always been to destroy Israel and not to build a state. But Taheri has stumbled on to a very interesting proof that a state is not their goal.

(h/t Zvi)