Several days ago, members of the European Parliament backed a compromise motion on Palestine by 498 votes to 88. After a deal among the main parties in the parliament, the motion stated: “The European parliament supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced.”
So what is the ideology behind a Palestinian state? Is Palestinianism a genuine liberation movement or is it an Arab strategy designed to undermine the legitimacy and security of the Jewish state?
By JMA editor Richard Mather
Palestinianism is a global anti-Semitic ideology comprising the combined efforts of the Arab and Muslim world, the Left, the Far Right, the media, the UN and various non-governmental organisations. Its goal is the advancement of the dishonest Palestinian narrative and the destabilisation of the world’s only Jewish state, which also happens to be the only democratic nation in the Middle East. Palestinianists use the weapons of delegitimisation, defamation, disinformation, anti-Semitic propaganda, faked news footage, sanctions and boycotts to achieve their aims.
Palestinianists deny or falsify the Jewish people’s historical, legal (and biblical) ties to the land of Israel. Palestinianism is non-teleological, disparate, and ahistorical. It has no specific origin or aim other than the vilification of the Jewish people and the undermining of the State of Israel. It is not interested in the creation of democratic institutions or peaceful co-existence with Jews. Palestinianism encapsulates and advances violence, rupture, ahistoricity, instability and relativism, all of which are in conflict with liberal (and Hebraic) notions of time, history, truth, democracy and development.
Palestinianism is a political pastiche of Zionism. The Palestinian Arabs did not seek to establish a homeland until after the formation of the State of Israel, and even then they were more concerned with destroying the Jewish state than actually focusing on how to build their own democratic institutions. Once it was clear that the Arab states could not defeat Israel in the wars of 1947-9 and 1967, the Arabs had no choice but to invent a Palestinian nationalism, which involved the appropriation of Israeli land, especially Jerusalem and the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria. The invention of Palestinianism – which is symbolised by the invention of the Nakba and the ambition to divide Jerusalem – is a political tool designed to undermine Israel’s existence and security.
Before the creation of Israel, the word “Palestinian” usually denoted the Jewish occupants of the Land of Israel. (That is why The Jerusalem Post used to be called The Palestine Post.) In a 1939 essay, George Orwell referred to the “Arabs” on the one hand and “Palestine Jews” on the other. All of which helps explain why Arab leaders like Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi told the Peel Commission in 1937: “There is no such country as Palestine. Palestine is a term the Zionists invented.”
In a sense, he was right. Never in history has there been a country called Palestine. As Arab historian Philip Hitti told the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, “there is no such thing as Palestine in history.” In the years and decades preceding the establishment of the State of Israel, Arab riots and pogroms against British rule were not directed towards the creation of a Palestinian state. And the Arab massacres of Jews in the 1920s and 1930s were inspired by anti-Semitism, not by a desire for an independent Palestinian state.
In 1947, Arab leaders protesting the UN partition plan argued that Palestine was part of Syria. Indeed, before the 1960s, many Arab yearned for a “Greater Syria.” There was no Palestinian nation at the time of Israel’s independence and there was no demand for Palestinian statehood when Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) from 1948 to 1967.
The words “Palestinian” and “Palestine” were only appropriated by a number of Arabs when it became clear that the Jewish state was a fact. Since the 1960s, the word “Palestinian” has been invested with a political significance designed to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.
Yasser Arafat, the icon of the Palestinianist movement, admitted that “the Palestinian people have no national identity.” And he went on to boast that he, as a “man of destiny,” will provide that identity “through conflict with Israel.”
And in an interview with a Dutch newspaper in 1977, PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein stated: “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.”
One of the enduring myths of the Arab-Israeli crisis is that the Palestinians are an indigenous people. Palestinians are not an ethnic sub-group. There is no such thing as an ethnic Palestinian. Arabs in Israel and the West Bank are ethnically identical to Arabs living in Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt. The population in Gaza is largely Bedouin Arab in origin.
Furthermore, many of the Palestinian Arabs living in Israel in 1948 were themselves immigrants who came to the land in the wake of successful Zionist enterprises. The Zionists offered a better standard of living and higher wages than neighbouring Arab employers. Before the earliest Zionist settlers arrived at the end of the 19th century, the land was sparsely populated and desolate.
Palestinianism, then, is a recent invention. The sudden desire for a Palestinian state was, and still is, a tool to destabilise the State of Israel. But the problem for the Arabs is that there is neither an authentic Palestinian culture nor a genuine Palestinian history to build on. This may explain why the Palestinians are incapable of establishing a state, even after the Oslo Accords. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have failed to establish functioning democratic institutions precisely because they are not interested in doing so. Hamas in particular has done nothing to advance the security and prosperity of Gaza, preferring instead to build terror tunnels.
Whereas Zionism is rooted in thousands of years of culture, religious tradition and history, Palestinianism is groundless and bereft of originality. If Palestine is a state-in-waiting, then it is a state of mind, a figment of the Arab imagination.