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The Palestinian Myth

- Abstract

STATELESS people, marginal to every society, carry with them the aura, the mystery, of the stranger. Seeming not quite human, they are regarded by “proper” humans with a mixture of repugnance and awe. In the case of Jews and Gypsies, repugnance has usually dominated, but in the case of the Palestinian Arabs, the most recent arrivals to the stateless condition, the balance is reversed, in that much of the world now regards them with a significant degree of awe. Indeed, the Palestinian mana is so strong that Yasir Arafat, their spokesman, could enter the UN flaunting a holster, and in the name of peace call for the politicide of a member nation, itself a creation of the United Nations. Clearly, Arafat’s legitimacy, his charisma, derived from roots deeper than Third World petulance, or the anti-Zionism of the Soviet bloc.

Arafat’s UN triumph was a sign that a new myth (or a new version of an old myth) had been legislated into received, historic truth. In the months since his appearance, the Palestinian cause has been now at the forefront, now in the background, of the political drama in the Middle East.
With the successful signing of the latest accord between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai, however, it seems clear that the focus of attention will again shift to the Palestinians, and to their by-now established version of the history of their displacement from their land.

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