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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The disappearance and reappearance of Palestinian Arab nationalism, 1949-1968

Palestinian Arab nationalism effectively sprung out of thin air in 1920. Up until then, with very little exception, it was subsumed under the desire to be a part of "Greater Syria" which would include all of Palestine - and leave no room for a Jewish state.

As soon as the ink dried on the San Remo resolution, Palestinian Arab leaders changed their tune, and embraced the idea of an Arab Palestine that would, again, ensure that no Jewish state would ever exist.

After 1948, the desire for a Palestinian Arab state disappeared again. Palestinian Arabs in the west bank of the Jordan became citizens of that country; those in Gaza saw their land occupied by Egypt. Neither of them showed the slightest interest in their own state - the desire just disappeared.

What replaced it was a return to 1919's Syrian-style pan-Arabism, and the person they believed could help them was Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Here is an interesting AP story from 1957:

Yes, Palestinians in Gaza in 1957 wanted to be under the administration of Egypt - not to have their own country!

In fact, Jordan's King Hussein's major problem during that time was the threat from Nasser, who incited Jordanian Palestinians to revolt against him and even to assassinate him, so the entire Arab world could be Nasserist.

What happened to their vaunted nationalism? Where was their desire for an independent state that their leaders spoke about so eloquently during the 1940s? 

It is apparent that the desire for a state was far less than the desire to destroy Israel, which was Nasser's selling point to them. "Liberating Palestine" meant liberating it - from Jews.

The 1964 PLO Covenant is a very interesting document. Its Arabic name is "Al-Mithaq Al-Kawmee Al-Philisteeni," which roughly means The Palestinian Pan-Arabist Covenant. It is mostly wedded to the Nasserist vision, insisting on how the Palestinian cause is a pan-Arab cause, and it is replete with references to Arab unity and the Arab nation. (It also specifically excludes Gaza and the West Bank from areas wanted for "Palestine" - since those areas were considered "liberated!" Significantly, it also refers to Israel's pre-1967 existence as "occupation.")

The 1968 version of the document, in contrast, is called "Al-Mithaq Al-Watanee Al-Philisteeni" which more explicitly means "The Palestinian National Covenant." Which means that only after 1967, when hopes for an Arab military victory over Israel faded, did Palestinian Arab nationalism become reincarnated.

We see that the Palestinian Arab leadership went from Greater Syrian nationalism to Palestinian Arab nationalism to pan-Arab Nasserite nationalism and then back to Palestinian Arab nationalism, all in the course of fifty years.

All of those political movements boasted wonderfully written documents and passionate speeches explaining why their cause was the only logical, moral and legal means to justly deal with Palestinian Arabs. There were no apparent cases of whiplash as people moved from one to the next, contradictory political position. The reason is clear: all those disparate movements had one thing in common, the eradication of Jewish nationalism. Everything else was window dressing to put a polite face on what is really a philosophy of hate.

And it continues today, as Palestinian Arabs are seemingly torn between what appears to be completely different paths - the PLO's stated methods of declarations and popular resistance, or Hamas' newly stated method of embracing a strategy of stages that mimics Arafat's 1974 Phased Plan to destroy Israel, to Islamic Jihad's dedication to nothing but armed resistance, to Hezbollah's single-minded goal of utterly destroying Israel by any means possible. But in the end, they are all paper-thin veneers on top of the same underlying goal - to destroy Israel by whatever means makes the most sense at the moment.

Westerners cannot wrap their heads around the idea that an entire national movement is really not interested in liberty and freedom for their people, but rather is meant solely to destroy another people. It is literally unbelievable that Arab leaders would hold millions of people hostage simply to use them as human weapons against Israel. But like it or not, it is the truth, and it is what needs to be understood before any real progress can be made.