by Martin Sherman
I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention - Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians?
“Of all the Palestinian lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank... Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has borne such great fruits....”
– From “Palestinian Lies” in Haaretz, July 1976.
Nothing could better underscore just how emaciated Israeli foreign policy has become than the penetrating observation by former Meretz minister of education Prof. Amnon Rubinstein articulated above.
Nothing could better underscore just how detached from the reality the discourse on “Palestine” has become than the avowal of the timeless and unconditional rejection of Israel, articulated in ensuing excerpt.
– Articles 17 and 18 of the original Palestinian National Covenant (1964). (The same clauses appear almost verbatim as Clauses 19 and 20 in the current version. Both are posted at the website of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine at the UN.) This declaration, made long before any “occupation” or “settlements,” highlights that Arab enmity towards Israel is fueled by its being – not by its borders. It proves irrefutably that the establishment of a Palestinian state and the eradication of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria will do nothing to attenuate the refusal to acknowledge the right of the Jews to a nation-state, whatever its frontiers – if any further proof was necessary after the 2005 Gaza debacle.
All of this should be borne in mind as September 23 approaches. For what we are about to witness at the UN is nothing less an endeavor at political alchemy – the conjuring up of a substantive political construct out of mere political myth; an attempt to produce a nation where the elements of nationhood do not exist; an effort to construct a state when the components of statehood are absent.
(Please note that in the ensuing essay, I will not refer to any Israeli sources. Those employed are exclusively Palestinian or Arab. Consequently the analysis – and the consequent conclusions – are exclusively derivative of these Palestinians/Arab sources.) While no real consensus exists among political scientists as to the exact definition of “nation” and “nationalism,” there is broad agreement as to what constitutes its sine qua non. Whatever other details one scholar or another might wish to add to his/her preferred definition, there would be almost no disagreement that: a “nation” is an identifiably differentiated segment of humanity that desires to exercise political sovereignty in a defined territory; and that “nationalism” is the pursuit, by identifiably differentiated segments of humanity, of the exercise of political sovereignty in a defined territory.
The most cursory analysis of historical events in this region will quickly reveal that in the case of the Palestinians, neither of these two elements exists: neither an identifiably differentiated people desiring exercise of political sovereignty, nor a defined territory in which that sovereignty is to be exercised.
One need only examine the declarations/documents of Palestinians themselves to verify this – and to discover that they do not conceive of themselves as a discernibly discrete people with a defined homeland.
Accordingly, little effort is required to demonstrate that the Palestinian “narrative” – the notional fuel driving the demands for statehood – is a motley mixture of myths, which although they overlap and interlock, are nevertheless easily identifiable and readily refutable.
The inescapable conclusion is that the entire edifice of Palestinian national aspirations is a political hoax, a massive sleight of political hand designed to serve a far more sinister – and thinly disguised – motive. So what are these myths; and why are they so easily identifiable?
The myth of Palestinian peoplehood
Senior Palestinian leaders have admitted – openly, consistently and continually – that Palestinians are not a discrete people identifiably different from others in the Arab world.
For example, on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO Political Department, told Newsweek: “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.”
This statement parallels almost exactly the position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member Zuheir Muhsin, who declared: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation.”
It was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered Arab.
At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
This of course necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of an independent existence, and is a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims. Indeed, without Jewish claims there would be no Palestinian personality.
The myth of Palestinian nationhood
Not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not a discrete sociological entity, i.e., a people.
They also concede that as a political unit, i.e., a nation, their demands and aspirations as are neither genuine nor permanent.
Thus Muhsin candidly confessed: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity, because it is in the interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel [sic].”
Doesn’t get much more explicit than that! Indeed the Palestinians not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are only a temporary instrumental ruse.
In the current National Covenant they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation... [and] believe in Arab unity... however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity.”
So how are we to avoid concluding that at a later stage there will be no need to preserve their identity or develop consciousness thereof? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is merely a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal of annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine,” (i.e. Israel).
As King Hussein said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
The myth of a Palestinian homeland
Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National sets out the desire of the people of Palestine, “who look forward to... restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty...”
However, since the Covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is precisely what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward...
to exercise national sovereignty.” Indeed in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty.”
In it they explicitly proclaim that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, [or] on the Gaza Strip.”
From this we learn two stunning facts. Not only did the Palestinians not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland, but they specifically excluded them from it. Moreover, they explicitly acknowledged – and accepted –that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom.
There is thus not the slightest resemblance – indeed not even one square inch of overlap – between the territory claimed by the Palestinians as their “homeland” when they first formulated their national aspirations and the “homeland” allegedly envisaged/claimed today.
Indeed, the two visions of “homeland” territories are mutually exclusive.
Accordingly, it would seem that Jewish rule is far more central in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland” than any “collective historical memory.”
For the Palestinians only incorporated the “West Bank” (and Gaza) in their territorial claims when they came under Israeli control – clearly vindicating the view that the concept of “Palestinian-ness” is a fabricated construct, conjured up to further the Arab quest to repudiate “Jewishness.”
The Palestinians as a non-nation
One could hardly find more resounding renunciation of Palestinian nationhood than the one provided by former Arab MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel to avoid investigation of alleged acts of treason during the 2006 Lebanon War. On a 1994 Channel 2 program, he astounded his Israeli co-participants with the following assertion: “Well, I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so...
I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention – Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did it come from? Indeed when? Indeed where?” Not only do the Palestinian lack the fundamental elements to qualify them as a “nation,” they exhibit qualities that make them the antithesis of a “nation.” Their efforts as a collective are being channeled far less towards achieving national sovereignty for themselves, and far more towards annulling the national sovereignty of others.
In this regard the Palestinian can not only be dubbed a non-nation but an anti-nation.
The troubling afterthought
In light of all these readily available facts, the troubling question Israelis must ask themselves and their leaders is, why have they been totally ignored in the formulation of Israel’s foreign policy. Why has Israel been so inarticulate and so impotent in presenting it case and in rebuffing the diplomatic assault against it? This dereliction of duty has put the nation in mortal peril.
True, very recently there have been some welcome – but sorely belated – signs of stiffening resolve, but with the crucial session of the UN General Assembly ominously near, one can only hope this is not much too little, much too late.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.