The name "Palestine" is first attested in the history of Herodotus, and appears in the works of later Greek and…
The name “Palestine” is first attested in the history of Herodotus, and appears in the works of later Greek and Latin writers. At first it was commonly used as an adjective, not a noun, in apposition to Syria. In normal classical usage Palestine Syria (Syria Palaistinê) seems to have meant the coastline formerly inhabited by the Philistines. It was occasionally extended to include territories further east, but did not, however, include the land of Judea, which was usually and officially known in Roman times by that name.
The word Palestine does not occur in the Old Testament. It appears twice in the English authorized version, and in both places is a mistranslation for Philistia. This error is corrected in the New English Bible. Palestine does not occur in the New Testament at all.
The official adoption of the name Palestine in Roman usage to designate the territories of the former Jewish principality of Judea seems to date from after the suppression of the great Jewish revolt of Bar-Kokhba in the year 135 C.E. After this revolt, which caused great trouble to the Roman Empire, the Emperor Hadrian made a determined attempt to stamp out the embers not only of the revolt but of Jewish nationhood and statehood. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and then rebuilt with a new name, as Aelia Capitolina; it would seem that the name Judea was abolished at the same time as Jerusalem and the country renamed Palestina or Syria Palestina, with the same intention—of obliterating its historic Jewish identity. The earlier name did not entirely disappear, and as late as the 4th century C.E. we still find a Christian author, Epiphanius, referring to “Palestina, that is, Judea.” It had, however, ceased to be the official designation of the country.
Precisely demarcated frontiers, with lines on a map, are a modern idea, and with few exceptions were unknown to antiquity or the Middle Ages, when “frontiers” meant the range of armed power on the one hand and the reach of tax collection on the other. Closer definition was usually the expression of natural features and lines of fortifications. From the end of the Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British rule, the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries; it was a group of provincial subdivisions, by no means always the same, within a larger entity.
It is no doubt for this reason that the Palestine Liberation Organization, in Article 2 of its “National Charter,” first adopted in Jerusalem in May 1964 at the time of its foundation, lays down that “Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit.” This may seem a surprising choice of authority for a movement which is at once nationalist and revolutionary, since the British Mandate would surely be regarded as an imperialist definition1—an entity defined by agreements between imperial powers in the partition of the Arab lands which followed the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. But given that a definition of Palestine was needed, there was no other available, since it was only with the British Mandate that, apart from the brief and obviously unsuitable interval of the Crusades, Palestine reappeared on the stage of history as a separate political entity.
There was a further advantage from the point of view of the PLO in this definition, and the phrase “indivisible territorial unit” shows an awareness of it. The Palestine Mandate as originally established included both banks of the Jordan, and it was not until 1921-22 that the East Bank, by British decision with League of Nations approval, was separated and designated Transjordan, later simply Jordan, while the name Palestine was restricted to the West Bank only. Article 2 of the Charter therefore contains a useful and, for the Hashemite Kingdom, potentially ominous ambiguity.
With the British conquest in 1917-18 and the subsequent establishment of a mandated territory in the conquered areas, Palestine became the official name of a definite territory for the first time since the Middle Ages. To begin with, this designation was acceptable neither to Jews nor to Arabs. From the Jewish point of view it restored a name associated in the Jewish historic memory with the largely successful Roman attempt to destroy and obliterate the Jewish identity of the land of Israel. It was a name which had never been used in Jewish history or literature, and the very associations of which were hateful. From the outset, Jews living under the Mandate refused to use this name in Hebrew but instead used what had become the common Jewish designation of the county—Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. After a long battle it was agreed that the official designation of the country in Hebrew on postage stamps, coins, etc., would be Palestina, transcribed into Hebrew letters but followed by the abbreviation aleph yod. For Jews, this was a common abbreviation for Eretz Yisrael. To Arabs it could be presented as standing for Eretz Ishmael, the land of Ishmael.
For Arabs, too, the term Palestine was unacceptable, though for other reasons. For Muslims it was alien and irrelevant but not abhorrent in the same way as it was to Jews. The main objection for them was that it seemed to assert a separate entity which politically conscious Arabs in Palestine and elsewhere denied. For them there was no such thing as a country called Palestine. The region which the British called Palestine was merely a separated part of a larger whole. For a long time organized and articulate Arab political opinion was virtually unanimous on this point.
At first, the country of which Palestine was a part was felt to be Syria. In Ottoman times, that is, immediately before the coming of the British, Palestine had indeed been a part of a larger Syrian whole from which it was in no way distinguished whether by language, culture, education, administration, political allegiance, or any other significant respect. The dividing line between British-mandated Palestine and French-mandated Syria-Lebanon was an entirely new one and for the people of the area was wholly artificial. It was therefore natural that the nationalist leadership when it first appeared should think in Syrian terms and describe Palestine as southern Syria.
This phase was, however, of brief duration. With the rise and spread of pan-Arab ideologies it was as Arabs, not as south Syrians, that the Palestinians began to assert themselves. For the rest of the period of the British Mandate, and for many years after that, their organizations described themselves as Arab and expressed their national identity in Arab rather than in Palestinian or even in Syrian terms.
The emergence of a distinctive Palestinian entity is thus a product of the last decades and may be seen as the joint creation of Israel and the Arab states—the one by extruding the Arabs of Palestine, the others by refusing to accept them. According to pan-Arab or even pan-Syrian ideologies, Palestinian Arabs moving to Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan should still have been men in their own country, moving from one province to another. The bitter experience of the past twenty-seven years has shown that this is not so and, as so often before, deprivation has created a new sense of identity based on shared experience, desperation, and aspiration.
During the period from the close of the Middle Ages to the present day, a pattern of political organization evolved in Western Europe which, in the past century, has been extended to virtually the whole world. In this pattern mankind is divided into nations or countries, each having its own state or government, ruling over a well-defined territory which is the homeland or fatherland. At first, these states were primarily dynastic; later, with the triumph of the idea of nationality, it came to be accepted that the basis of statehood is the nation, and that states which do not conform to this pattern must be reshaped and, if necessary, disrupted until they do. In the restructuring of allegiances, a new political pattern of organization emerged, corresponding more closely to ethnic, linguistic, and cultural nations.
This was, however, the local practice of Western Europe. Its introduction to the countries of the Middle East is recent, and it is still recognizably alien and imperfectly assimilated. Until World War I, the greater part of the Middle East was divided between two great traditional monarchies, those of Turkey and of Iran, with most of the Arab world coming under the former. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, a series of new states was established, mostly through the decisions and actions of Britain and France. These were designated by names of various kinds, some based on geographical features like Lebanon, some names revived from classical antiquity like Syria and Libya, some the names of medieval provinces like Jordan and Iraq. Almost all were new, and at first meant little to their inhabitants.
In a time of trouble and uncertainty following the impact of the outside world and the resulting internal transformations, three basic loyalties have emerged and survived. The first of these is to the state: not the nation or the country—alien and imported political concepts—but to the state in the strictest sense, that is, the ganglion of interrelated interests, careers, and loyalties that constitutes the organized, coercive power in society. The states established in this way have shown a remarkable power of survival despite attempts by some of their own people, and to some extent by their own leaders, to merge them into broader groupings.
The second basic loyalty is to Islam—not in the limited Western sense of religion, a system of belief and worship, but rather as a social and cultural community to which the great majority of the inhabitants of the area belong. This was, and to a remarkable extent has remained even now, in the present age of unbelief, the ultimate determining loyalty of most Muslims.
The third is the local loyalty—to kin, sect, or region. This is a major factor in internal political struggles and is often the only reality concealed beneath such borrowed terminology as Left and Right, progressive and reactionary, and their equivalents.
Until the very end of the Ottoman Empire the great majority of the inhabitants of Palestine, as of the neighboring countries, remained loyal subjects of the Ottoman Sultan, whom they saw not as the representative of an alien Turkish domination over Arabs—this was a reading back into the past of later ideologies—but as the legitimate Muslim sovereign of a Muslim state in which Arab, Turkish, and other Muslims were equal citizens. The famous Arab revolt was largely an affair of the Hejaz, with some support from small groups of Syrian, Lebanese, and Iraqi intellectuals and officers. The Arabs of Palestine were hardly affected at all, and the rebels advanced from Arabia through Transjordan toward Damascus without touching the West Bank.
After the end of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the mandated territories, the political protest of the inhabitants of these territories against foreign rule and in Palestine against Jewish immigration and aspirations was expressed partly through Islamic religious organizations—the Supreme Muslim Council with its leader, the chief Mufti—and partly through nationalist ideologies sometimes expressed in Syrian but more commonly in Arab terms. The focus of loyalty was not Palestine but a larger entity of which the country defined and ruled by the British was seen to be a part. This remained true right through the period of the Mandate despite a number of changes, and the idea of a separate Palestinian state won little support among Palestinians who saw in this an imperialist device to divide the Arabs and thus preserve British power.
The change came in the aftermath of World War II, when the neighboring states achieved independence, with all the advantages which this conferred upon those responsible for the conduct of affairs, and the Arabs of Palestine found themselves still without a political organ of their own.
The Arab states may, in the forms in which they came into being, have been artificial, foreign creations, but they had acquired reality. Each of them developed its own complex of interests and purposes; each produced a governing elite unwilling to surrender or even share control of the country which it governed. The Palestinian elite—in many ways better educated and equipped than some of their neighbors, saw their contemporaries exercising rights and powers which were beyond their reach, because they neither possessed a state of their own nor were admitted to full citizenship of the countries in which they found refuge. Some of them, notably in Beirut and in the Persian Gulf states, prospered, and were able to establish comfortable homes and make successful careers in commerce and in the professions. But, with few exceptions,2 they were denied citizenship, and the political opportunities and satisfactions for which citizenship is a prerequisite.3 For a while, it seemed that Jordan, the one state which admitted them as full citizens, might provide the answer to this problem, but the existence of large numbers of Palestinians outside the Jordanian framework, aggravated by the loss of the West Bank in 1967, led to tension and conflict, and with the emergence of the PLO and the bloody clashes in Jordan in 1970 and after, this possibility ended for the time being. Even if a solution for the refugee problem could be found, the problem of the frustrated Palestinian elite would remain.
According to the United Nations resolution of 1947, the territory of Palestine west of the Jordan was to be divided into three entities, a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an International Zone. The refusal of the Palestinian Arabs and of the neighboring Arab states to recognize the partition resolution and the war which ensued prevented the carrying out of this resolution. In fact, only the Jewish state came into being, while the remainder of Arab Palestine passed into the possession of three neighboring Arab countries. Gaza and the Gaza Strip were held and administered by Egypt, the little town of Al-Hamma on the Sea of Galilee by Syria, and the West Bank by Jordan. While the Egyptians did not annex the Gaza Strip but administered it as occupied Palestine and even experimented briefly with a Palestinian government based in Gaza, the Jordanian government formally annexed the territories under its rule and conferred equal citizenship upon their inhabitants, who were declared to be Jordanians. Al-Hamma was treated as part of Syria. This gave all three governments a motive to play down the Palestinian theme, since the constitution of a separate Palestine would have involved their relinquishing the territories which they had acquired in the course of the war.
Between 1947 and 1949 a large part of the Arab inhabitants of the territories included in the new state of Israel left their homes and took refuge on the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip, and in the neighboring countries. The Israelis claim that they left at the instigation of their own leaders, who told them to go so as not to interfere with the movements of troops, and promised them that they would return in the wake of the triumphant Arab armies very shortly. The Arabs maintain that they were driven out by the Israelis. Both arguments are true; both are false. Some were undoubtedly told to go by their own leaders; some, notably in the strategically vital corridor between Jerusalem and the coast, were ordered to leave by the advancing Israeli troops. The great majority, like countless millions of refugees elsewhere, left their homes amid the confusion and panic of invasion and war—one more unhappy part of the vast movement of populations which occurred in the aftermath of World War II. As the Poles fled from the eastern areas seized by the Russians, as the Germans fled from East German territories annexed by the Poles, as millions of Muslims and Hindus fled from India to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India, so too did great numbers of Arabs flee from Palestine to the neighboring Arab states while large numbers of Jews, most of them previously unaffected by Zionist ideology, fled from the tensions which had arisen in the Arab states to the relative safety of Israel. At the time it was hoped that this problem would be resolved, like the refugee problems in Eastern Europe and in the Indian subcontinent, and that the Arab refugees would be partly resettled in the Arab countries, partly returned to their homes. This did not happen, and with the exception of Jordan, the Arab governments made a point of not according citizenship to the refugees and of opposing their resettlement.
After the signing of the armistice agreements at Rhodes in 1949, the UN set up a Conciliation Commission for Palestine, with the U.S., France, and Turkey as members, and with the task of helping the parties to the conflict to advance from armistice to peace. The Commission failed in its task, but its activities throw an interesting light on the relations between the Israeli and Arab governments on the one hand and the Palestinian Arabs on the other. To judge from its reports to the UN, and from some subsequent publications, the Commission dealt only with governmental delegations, and had no truck with non-governmental representatives—the only kind that the Palestinians were able to send.
There were several of these. The Arab Higher Committee, which, under the direction of the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Husseini clan, had for long constituted the extreme and dominant wing of the Palestine Arabs in their struggle against the Jewish national home, demanded recognition as the representatives of all Palestinian Arabs and claimed the right to be treated as a government. When this was refused, the Committee decided to boycott the Commission, but sent observers to its hearings. By this time the Arab Higher Committee was operating in close association with the Egyptians, and was concerned with the abortive “Government of all Palestine” set up under Egyptian protection in Gaza. This won little support, and gradually petered out after the formal annexation of the West Bank to Jordan in the spring of 1950, and the departure of some of its members to work for King Abdullah.
There were, however, other delegations, sent by refugees, and one in particular which represented a substantial number of Arabs on the West Bank and in Transjordan. The refugee delegations were concerned, naturally enough, with immediate practical issues—the care of neglected Arab lands in Israel, and especially orange groves, the release of frozen assets, and the repatriation of at least some of the refugees. To this end they entered into discussions with the Israeli delegation, and, according to the evidence of one of their leaders, asked the Arab government representatives whether they were prepared either to resume the fighting or, failing that, to make peace on the basis of a solution of the refugee problem, securing their return home and the recovery of their property.4 The attitudes of the Israeli and Arab governments have been described by a UN official who was principal secretary of the Commission:
. . . this good will and spirit of cooperation was conspicuous by its absence both in the Israeli government and the Arab states. The former can hardly be blamed for this, since, when all is said and done, it was the one called upon to make concessions; but the indifference of the Arab governments, except when they were exploiting the theme in their constant diatribes and invectives against the State of Israel before the Assembly of the United Nations, was incomprehensible and inexcusable. This attitude, more than anything else, convinced me that the interest which the Arab governments appeared to take in the refugees was mainly political and polemical in character and that they regarded them chiefly as a platform from which to launch accusation after accusation against the government of Israel for its refusal to carry out the Assembly's resolutions. It must be admitted that the Israeli government's obstinate rejection of any concession in favor of the refugees, whatever the justification, played straight into the hands of the Arabs.5
Though the subject has been curiously glossed over, there are some other indications of the clash between the refugee interest in returning home and in any settlement which might secure this, and the Arab government interest in political warfare against Israel, regardless of the immediate needs of the refugees. A report from Lausanne published in the New York Times of August 20, 1949 speaks of the Arab refugee representatives as “‘boiling mad’” over treatment they are getting both from the United Nations Palestine Conciliation Commission and from Arab government representatives. Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari, quoted in the New York Times of May 7, had been even more explicit:
“Unless this conference [the discussions of Arab and Israeli governments with the Conciliation Commission] produces agreement on the refugees' future,” Mr. Hawari, who is himself a refugee, told this correspondent, “there will be explosions such as the Middle East has not yet seen. We will attack the Jews; we will attack the Arab Government [sic]; we will attack the British and we will attack the Americans. Our people are not interested in awaiting frontier or political settlements. No Arab Government speaks for us or represents us.” Mr. Hawari emphasized that the refugees considered its [sic] Arab Governments only slightly less guilty than they considered the Israeli Government to be of using the refugees as pawns in a political game.6
It was not, initially, a sense of separate nationality or identity which kept the Palestinians apart and in being as a separate entity. This was insured by three factors. One was the refusal of the governments and to some extent even the peoples of the neighboring countries to absorb and assimilate them. With the exception of Jordan, the Arab host countries treated the Palestinians for the most part as visitors and foreigners, at times subjecting them to serious disabilities. In Lebanon, to which a very large part of the Palestinian refugees had gone, there was the special complication of the delicate balance of religious communities on which the whole Lebanese political system rested. The acceptance of large numbers of predominantly Muslim Palestinians would have disrupted this balance.
The second reason was the deliberate decision by the Arab governments to maintain the refugees in camps for use as a weapon against Israel, immediately in the propaganda sense and potentially in the military sense.
The third reason, and a very powerful one, was the strong sense of local identity retained by the great majority of the refugees—not as Palestinians, but rather as inhabitants of Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, and the other towns and villages from which they came. Much has been written about the profound differences between East Bankers and West Bankers, who are said to be of different stocks and of different nations and between whom there are many deep-rooted disagreements within the Hashemite Kingdom. But this is not because some are Palestinians and some are Jordanians. The difference is regional, and similar regional differences exist between the inhabitants of North Jordan and South Jordan and in Palestine proper between the inhabitants of the hills and of the coastal plain. It is in this sense that a Palestinian notable in the interior, criticizing the PLO, once remarked that they do not represent “us,” meaning the people of the West Bank. “If they represent anyone,” he said, “they represent Israel, since most of them have come from the coastal lands.” This is a real problem and a real difficulty.
The war of 1967 created a new situation. In the first place, it brought the whole of mandatory Western Palestine with some additional territory under Israeli rule. In the second place, it created a new group of refugees, most of whom fled across the river into Transjordan. Interestingly, the Jordanians use two different words for the refugees of 1948 and those of 1967, the first of which means refugee in the proper sense while the second could be better translated as migrant.
The Palestine Liberation Organization was founded by decision of the Arab Summit Conference held in Cairo in January 1964, and in its early years often served as an arena of inter-Arab rivalries. The different Arab states—apart from Jordan—sponsored different groups within the common organization and were then more concerned with their struggles against one another than with the struggle against Israel. This changed after the 1967 war when the PLO suddenly acquired a new importance. One factor was the effective unification of the whole of Western Palestine under a single authority and the consequent change in the attitudes of the Arab governments which had previously held parts of it. A second change resulted from the defeat of the Arab armies in the war and the need for a new image. This was provided by the guerrilla fighter, an image already becoming popular in other parts of the world, and did much to restore the shattered self-respect of the Arab peoples.
It was during the 60's that the name Palestine was taken up again and acquired a new content and significance. The Palestine conflict has now returned to where it began, with the struggle between two peoples for the possession of the same country. Now that Egypt and Syria have been expelled from the territories of Palestine and are primarily concerned with recovering their own lost lands, it is the Palestinians themselves who are the primary group—the most concerned, the most important, and yet the most difficult to define, identify, or even meet.
There are three groups who in recent years have claimed to represent the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel. The first of these is the Palestine Liberation Organization with its center in Beirut, and its support chiefly among Palestinians now living in Lebanon, although with an extensive following also among Palestinians elsewhere. The PLO group includes a number of organizations, and is headed by an Executive Committee; this is elected by the Palestine National Council, which holds meetings once or twice a year in Cairo. The last meeting was in June 1974. Its first leader was Ahmad Shukeiry, who held office until 1967, when he was succeeded by Yahya Hamuda. Yasir Arafat took over from him in 1970. Its oldest and largest component is the Fatah, predominantly Muslim, with part of its leadership having links with such extremist religious bodies as the Muslim brothers. It has supporters all over the Palestinian diaspora, but its main strength is among the refugees in camps in Lebanon and Syria.
Another group, the Sa'iqa, was founded in 1968 under the auspices of the Syrian Ba'ath party, and it is generally regarded as an agency of the Syrian government. It works in close liaison with the Syrian army, from which some of its officers and men are drawn. The much smaller Arab Liberation Front stands in a similar relationship to Iraq. Two more radical groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and its offshoot, the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), are opposed to the policies of Arafat, and claim to represent a Marxist revolutionary ideology. The founders of both, George Habash and Nayif Hawatmeh, as well as a fair proportion of their followers, are Christians. The appearance in such a role of members of minority communities is neither unusual nor surprising, since the secular and radical ideology which they express offers greater attractions to them than the predominantly Muslim majority organizations, and promises them a better chance of participating as full equals in the Utopia which they will create after the revolution. The Jewish Bolsheviks who played so prominent a role in the Russian revolution were no doubt encouraged by similar hopes; the Arab revolutionaries will no doubt suffer a similar disappointment if the Arab revolution succeeds.
Two smaller but very active radical groups are the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, and the Palestine National Front, the last with strong Communist connections. Apart from those who have recently withdrawn,7 all these groups, as well as various other bodies, share in the central organs of the PLO and its military arm, the Palestine Liberation Army, and subscribe to the Palestine National Charter, adopted in 1964 and amended in 1968.8
The second candidate has been the Jordanian monarchy, which held most of what remained of Arab Palestine between 1949 and 1967, and, until the recent Rabat decisions, claimed to speak for the inhabitants of the whole of Palestine and more particularly the area formerly under Jordanian rule. While no exact information is or could be available, it would seem that until 1967 Jordanian rule on the West Bank was as well accepted as any other government in the area, and that its Arab inhabitants were content to think of themselves as Jordanians. The Israeli occupation changed all this, and the subsequent rapid growth and radicalization of the Palestine movement led to an armed confrontation between the PLO and the monarchy, culminating in the bloody fighting of September 1970 and the elimination of the PLO bases in Jordan.
The third group is the local leadership in the occupied areas. This has at all times enjoyed considerable authority over the people and has provided effective leadership under Israeli, Jordanian, British, and even Ottoman rule. At one time it seemed that the Israelis might be able to solve the problem of the West Bank by creating, or permitting the creation of, a local West Bank leadership which would ultimately take over the government of the country on a basis of friendly cooperation with Israel. After some cautious initial experiments, the Israelis abandoned the attempt, and have been criticized for missing an opportunity which is unlikely to recur. There were always two difficulties in the way of such a solution. One was that an Arab leadership which emerged under Israeli auspices would thereby automatically be discredited. The other was that even if a moderate leadership did emerge in this way, it would always be in danger of overthrow by more radical and militant elements.
How far effective support among the inhabitants of Palestine is assigned to any one of these three groups is very difficult to ascertain. The evidence suggests that there is considerable fluctuation, with attitudes changing according to the play of political power.
Who are the Palestinians? They may be divided into six groups. First are those who remained in Israel when the state was established and have been there ever since. These are Israeli citizens and enjoy, in theory, all and, in practice, many though not all, of the rights of citizenship. The second group are those who live in the areas annexed by Jordan after the end of the Mandate and conquered by Israel in 1967. The third group are those in the Gaza Strip occupied and subsequently lost by Egypt. A fourth, and very important group, are those in Lebanon, whether inside or outside the camps, constituting the main support of the militant organizations. A fifth group is the Palestine diaspora in various Arab countries, especially in the countries of the Persian Gulf, and in other parts of the world. A sixth group, not often mentioned, but of considerable significance, is constituted by the inhabitants of the East Bank. These include a fairly high proportion of people of West Bank origin, either recent or remote. In a sense, all the inhabitants of the East Bank may be regarded as Palestinians just as all the inhabitants of the West Bank may be regarded as Jordanians. Basically, the difference between the two names is ideological and programmatic rather than national or even geographical.
Among the three groups who claim to represent the Palestinians there are a number of different views. The ruling establishment on the East Bank has been sharply divided. One position, which was until recently held by the King and by many senior officers and ministers, demanded the return of the West Bank and Jerusalem to the Hashemite Kingdom, if necessary on a basis of federal autonomy. They had several arguments in putting forth this claim. Security Council Resolution 242, calling for the restoration of territories conquered in 1967, by implication to the previous owners, was interpreted by the Jordanian government as providing it with a juridical basis for its claim, and as meaning that just as the Golan Heights were to be returned to Syria and the Sinai Desert to Egypt, so the West Bank was to be returned to Jordan: i.e., a restoration of the situation which existed before the '67 war. This view was tacitly and indirectly supported by the Israelis, who administered the West Bank as occupied Jordanian territory, using Jordanian currency, collecting Jordanian taxes, applying Jordanian law, and conducting local government, education, and public services in accordance with Jordanian practice. They even continued to refer many questions to Amman for approval or decision, thus moving toward a kind of condominium. In addition to the juridical and political arguments, there was a powerful psychological motive. Military self-respect required that the Jordanian monarchy recover what it had lost in '67. This was seen as a debt of honor and also as a duty to Arabism before history.
There has for some time, however, been another and probably larger group within the East Bank establishment who saw the West Bank and, indeed, the whole Palestinian problem as a burden and a danger to the Hashemite Kingdom. In their view Jordan would be better off without the West Bank, the reincorporation of which could well disrupt the monarchy and bring it down in civil war. Supporters of this view reject the commonly asserted opinion that the West Bank is the richest and most prosperous part of the kingdom. On the contrary, they say, the East Bank has greater potential and the Jordanian government would be well advised to concentrate on the development of the East Bank, leaving the fate of the West Bank to be settled among the Israelis, the local leaders, and the PLO.
Some Jordanians have put forward another argument for washing their hands of this question. If there is to be any kind of negotiation with Israel, it will have to include some elements of compromise. Somebody, that is to say, speaking for the Arabs, will have to make territorial concessions along the border and perhaps also in Jerusalem. Why should the Jordanian monarchy saddle itself with the responsibility for making these concessions? Would it not be wiser to leave it to the PLO, which claims to speak for the Palestinian people, either to carry on the struggle or to make the necessary concessions, whichever it may be? The Jordanian monarchy, according to this argument, is safer avoiding both. In accepting the decisions of the Arab summit conference, held in Rabat at the end of October 1974, to leave the Palestine cause to the PLO, King Hussein was thus complying with the wishes of an important group in his own country, which, for quite different reasons, had come to the same conclusion.
The local leadership probably commands more real support among those Palestinians who have remained in Palestine than does either the monarchy or the PLO. One of them remarked in conversation: “We are the Palestinians, we who stayed. We are represented neither by Bedouins in Amman nor by gangsters in Beirut.” Their problem is that while on the one hand they have been unable to form a coherent general leadership or to formulate a decisive policy while the Israeli occupation continues, on the other hand, if the Israelis depart before any such leadership or policy has emerged, the local leadership would certainly be overwhelmed in a clash among the rival contenders. The behavior of the population on the West Bank reflects very closely their varying—often inaccurate—assessment of the immediate prospects of the Hashemites, the PLO, and the Israelis. They will, after all, have to go on living under whichever force prevails.
Yet the local leadership probably constitutes the best hope for a peaceful solution in any agreement between the two neighboring states, Israel and Jordan.
The PLO, in the past, has made no secret of its refusal to consider any compromise involving the continued existence of Israel. While PLO leaders no longer speak in public of “driving the Jews into the sea,”9 their formula of a secular, democratic republic of Palestine allows no place for the continued existence of a separate Jewish state or national identity. This formula has won considerable support in the West and has also aroused considerable criticism. It raises a number of questions, for some of which the literature of the PLO itself provides answers. Some critics have questioned the precise meaning of the words “secular” and “democratic” in this context and have asked in what way this state will differ from the nineteen Arab states already in existence.10
There is no need to look into a hypothetical future to see the difficulties embodied in the PLO formula. The Palestinian National Charter makes it quite clear that the secular, democratic Palestinian republic which is envisaged is an Arab state. Article 1 of the Charter states that “Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.” This reproduces in a modified and somewhat strengthened form a clause to be found at the present time in the constitutions of most of the Arab states.
Western writers about the PLO—for example in Time magazine, November 11, 1974 and the New York Times Magazine, December 8, 1974—describe the objective of the PLO as a Palestine republic in which “Arabs and Jews” would live side by side. The PLO in its literature never uses the expression “Arabs and Jews,” for to do so would be to admit the existence of a Jewish nation and it is cardinal to PLO ideology that there is no such thing. The formula which they use is “Muslims, Christians, and Jews.” The Jews, in their view, are purely a religious minority who possess no separate national identity and have no right to a separate state. They would have a place in the Palestine republic as a minority within the Palestinian Arab nation and it is only to “Palestinian Jews” that this measure of recognition is accorded. This is explained in Article 6 of the Charter, which states that “The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.” The Charter does not date the “beginning of the Zionist invasion,” but other documents have dated it, at different times, from the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and, in a later decision, from the publication of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. In his United Nations speech of November 13, 1974, Mr. Arafat went even further. “The Jewish invasion of Palestine began in 1881.” The implication, spelled out in some of the literature, is that those Jews who cannot be classified as Palestinian and therefore Arab would leave and return to their places of origin or to the places of origin of their parents.
Theoretically, there are three possible types of solution to the Palestine problem. The first of these is that put forward by the PLO and its apologists—the creation of a secular, democratic republic of Palestine. This might be confined to Western Palestine or part of it, or might include the East Bank too, which would of course involve the liquidation of the Jordanian monarchy.11
This would not be a bi-national state, a proposal for which there is no significant group of support on either side—the only supporters are some minor Jewish left-wing groups in Israel and some Western sympathizers of the PLO who either misunderstand or misinterpret its purposes. Even if attempted, a bi-national state would almost certainly be unworkable. The experience of bi-national states in such relatively peaceful countries as Belgium and Canada offers no encouragement for the prospects of a union of two peoples divided by decades of strife and separated by wide disparities.
Since no state will negotiate or cooperate on the basis of its own liquidation, it may be taken as axiomatic that Israel will resist any such solution, if necessary by war. This danger is aggravated by the fact that if the Arabs seemed to be within sight of gaining their objective, the Israelis would almost certainly resort to the nuclear option, thereby confronting the world with new and grave problems.
A second solution is that which has been propounded for some time past by King Hussein—a restoration of Jordanian sovereignty on the West Bank, where necessary with some territorial adjustments, and possibly with a large measure of autonomy for the West Bank under the common Jordanian crown. This in many ways once seemed to offer the best hope for a peaceful solution of the problem, and the Israeli government has been severely criticized, both at home and abroad, for having missed the opportunity while it existed. Israeli objections to such a solution were of several kinds. The least important was that of the nationalist and religious fanatics, who refuse to give up any part of the territory promised to the Children of Israel in the Bible—though parliamentary or electoral considerations may give them a prominence out of all proportion to their real strength. A second objection, in left-wing and “progressive” circles, was that no solution could be reached with a reactionary monarch and that the Israelis should try to reach some kind of understanding with the Palestinians themselves. A third and more practical argument—probably the decisive one with successive Israeli governments—was that King Hussein lacked the necessary strength to sustain such an agreement even if it were possible to reach it. Since the Rabat decisions, such a possibility, for the time being at least, would seem to have lapsed.
The third possibility, now the only one under consideration, is the creation of an Arab Palestinian state in those parts of Mandatory Palestine to be relinquished by Israel. There are objections to such a state from both the Arab and the Israeli points of view. The argument that it would not be economically or politically viable is not in itself an overwhelming one—there are many sovereign states now in existence which are poorer in population or resources or both than the proposed Arab state on the West Bank. A more serious objection from the Arab point of view is that such a state would inevitably become an Israeli Bantustan, a puppet state nominally independent but effectively dominated by Israel. This, from the Arab point of view, would carry the further danger that such a state could serve as a means of Israeli penetration economically and perhaps even by other means into the Arab hinterland. To some extent, through the economic relations between Israel and the occupied West Bank and between the occupied West Bank and the East Bank, such economic penetration already exists.
From the Israeli and perhaps also from the Jordanian point of view, the danger of such a state is that far from becoming an Israeli Bantustan it would become a nest of terrorists and a launching pad for attacks on both its neighbors. Those Jordanians who favor this solution discount the danger. Even the most ferocious of terrorists, they argue, once in control of a state organism, are inevitably transformed into politicians governed by normal political criteria and restraints, and the leaders of the PLO would be no exception once they found themselves actually responsible for the administration of a territory. Nor, according to this view, would the sobering effect of power and responsibility be the only restraint. Even if the rulers of this West Bank state showed a disposition to threaten either Israel or Jordan, both governments possess the means to protect themselves. Eventually, it is argued, such a state would be bound to turn to Jordan for acceptance, since there is nowhere else for it to go. An alternative possibility, however is that such a state might take over Jordan, by overthrowing the Hashemite monarchy.
If the Arab-Israeli conflict had been a purely local one, it would almost certainly have been solved long since or, at least, have dwindled into insignificance. Neither side is able, unaided, to impose its will by force on the other, and both have come to understand this as a result of a series of inconclusive conflicts. Left to themselves, they would sooner or later have settled down to some kind of arrangement based on mutual tolerance which might, with the passage of time, have given way to something better. Arabs and Israelis alike are weary of the endless, futile, and costly struggle, of the strains imposed on their economies and societies by the need for a permanent state of readiness for war, and by the wasteful deflection to military purposes of human and material resources in short supply and urgently needed for internal reconstruction. On both sides there is a growing disillusionment with ideological mystiques and growing doubt about the attainability or even the desirability of some of the purposes which their leaders have put before them. If left alone, they would probably in time have come to one or other of two results. Either they would have evolved some compromise solution satisfactory to neither side but acceptable to both, or else the issue would have gone on smoldering as a minor local conflict, trouble-some but not crucial to those directly involved and a minor nuisance to the rest of the world. The Arab refugees would have been in part resettled, in part returned without international aid or intervention, as were the many millions who fled or were driven from their homes in Asia, Europe, and Africa when the world was reshaped in the upheavals that followed World War II.
Even if there had been no earlier settlement, the war in October 1973 might well have resolved the issue. On this occasion, the Arab states attacking Israel did so with the maximum advantage of tactical and strategic surprise and at a time when Israel was riven by domestic difficulties and isolated internationally. In spite of this, the Arabs were unable to gain a decisive military victory and were saved by an internationally imposed cease-fire from what might well have been a military disaster.
Unfortunately for both parties, their dispute is not a purely local one, but is complicated by a number of regional and external factors. One of these is the United Nations, which has been involved in the Palestine dispute from the moment when the British government announced that it was giving up its Mandate and returning the responsibility to the United Nations, as the legitimate successor of the League of Nations which had conferred the Mandate on Britain in the first place. The role of the United Nations in the whole Palestine dispute has been, to say the least, ambiguous. The UN was once defined by the late Tibor Szamuely as “an organization for the conservation of conflict.” This is perhaps overstated but contains some element of truth. At times, the UN in dealing with international conflicts seems to act rather like some branches of modern medicine in dealing with what used to be fatal diseases. It has made sufficient progress to prevent the patient from dying but not enough to cure him, and instead keeps him in a state of permanent invalidism. In the meantime, the UN, immobilized or deflected by the politics and interests of its members, and increasingly weighed down by its own professionalism, tends, all too often, to conserve what it cannot resolve.
One of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the UN in finding a solution to the Palestine problem is that the area has itself become a battleground for rival great powers. The role of the powers is not new. For a long time the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine was exacerbated by involvement of the European great powers, Britain and France not wholly in agreement on the one hand, Germany and Italy not wholly in agreement on the other. These four have now withdrawn from direct political concern. They have, however, been replaced. The West is now represented by the United States, the East by the Soviet Union which in many ways has taken over, far more successfully, the role formerly played by Nazi Germany.
At first the Soviet attitude to the Palestine movement and organizations was a rather negative one. The Soviet Union favors the maintenance of the political status quo in regions where it exercises influence. It preferred to deal with Arab governments, and won a considerable measure of success with several of them. The Palestine movement as a radical force not controlled from Moscow aroused its mistrust and misgiving, and was seen as a danger to the existing governments and to the relationship which they had established with the Soviet Union. As Soviet influence with Arab governments has weakened, Soviet interest in Arab radicals has grown. During the past year or two the Soviet government has paid increasing attention to the PLO and has cultivated relations with at least some of its leaders. The Soviets were visibly less than delighted with the progress toward disengagement and negotiation secured by Henry Kissinger during his travels in the first half of 1974. The PLO serves a useful function as part of the political minefield which the Soviets have thought it expedient to lay across the road to peace, and which they can detonate as and when there seems to be a serious danger of settlement not under their auspices and not in accordance with their interests.
There have been several indications of Soviet interest in the PLO—visits and meetings, supply of weapons, and, most significantly, the passage through Czechoslovakia of the Arab operatives whose attack in Vienna in September 1973 ended the use of Schönau as a transit center for Soviet Jewish emigrants.12 It is difficult to believe that armed men could have crossed a Communist country by train without the connivance of the authorities.
Even more striking was Andrei Gromyko's support for the Palestinians at the time of the Syrian disengagement agreement in May 1974. In the Egyptian disengagement agreement, a clause had applied the cease-fire to “military and paramilitary actions.” The Syrians refused to include the reference to paramilitary actions, and had their way. Mr. Gromyko did not conceal his direct interest in retaining this option of paramilitary warfare.
A second complicating factor is that of oil. In one sense this is a straightforward commercial problem—the normal desire of a producer to get as much money as he can for his product while the demand for it lasts and while the supply is still available. One may dispute the wisdom or even the morality of the policies pursued by the oil-producing countries, but one cannot deny their short-term effectiveness. The desire to secure as great as possible a return from the sale of oil is a rational motivation, and the actions which it inspires are therefore predictable, discussible, and negotiable. At least, they would be if it were a purely commercial question; but it is not. The attitude of the oil producers, Arab and other, toward the Western consumer countries must be seen in a somewhat larger context, as part of a broader issue of which it is, in a sense, an expression. This is not the Arab-Israel conflict nor yet the confrontation of great powers or superpowers but another and older confrontation which has variously been depicted as between rich and poor, between developed and developing, between the industrial powers and the suppliers of raw materials, or between the West and the Third World. For many of the inhabitants of the Third, or poorer, World, this confrontation is far more significant and has a far profounder impact than the remote and, to them, largely irrelevant rivalries between the superpowers. It may seem strange to use such words as poor in speaking of the newly rich oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Yet despite the immense wealth accruing to them, poverty remains the basic condition of most of their population and still colors their national and especially their social and political attitudes.
This confrontation is the culmination of a long process which has been going on for centuries. It began with the expansion of Europe from both ends in the late 15th century, the Russians from the East, the Portuguese and other maritime nations from the West. This expansion, and the ascendancy to which it gave rise, eventually affected the whole world. It took different forms in different places. In some areas it led to direct colonial rule. In the Middle East this only happened in a few places and for relatively brief periods. Jn most of the countries of the Middle East, the impact of Western domination was indirect but, nevertheless, powerful enough to shatter the old society beyond repair and to initiate a process of violent social, economic, and political change which disrupted the traditional order, destroyed traditional loyalties and relationships, and engendered a deep resentment against the Western standard-bearers of the civilization from which these changes originated.
Muslims are the bearers of an old and proud tradition. Their growing awareness during the past century that they had been relegated in the world to a subordinate and imitative role was hard to bear. For some time now there has been a mood of revulsion in these countries against the civilization of the West and against the characteristic institutions associated with it, such as liberal democracy and free enterprise. In this mood of revulsion any opportunity to show and use strength against the West is a source of deep satisfaction. The mood was not created by the Soviets, but has on several occasions been effectively used by them. An early indication was the response of public opinion in even the conservative and pro-Western Arab states to the first Soviet-Egyptian arms deal in 1955, the announcement of which was greeted with enthusiasm and congratulation all over the Arab world. What gave so much pleasure was not the spread of Soviet influence, which caused deep concern to many, but rather the slap in the face administered to the West. There have been some other occasions since, but none as effective or as gratifying as the use of the oil weapon. This gave a sense of power and elation to those who used it, a feeling which must certainly be gratifying but is at the same time very dangerous. A few months ago, I was discussing with a Palestinian Arab leader the situation of his people after the October war. His general mood was an unhappy one. He took the view that the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were concerned chiefly with recovering the territories which they had lost and in serving their own separate interests, and he had little doubt that they would betray the Palestinians if they had the chance. He even went so far as to express the opinion that the Palestinians should take care not to be represented at all in the Geneva talks, then in preparation, neither by the PLO nor by the King nor by any combination of the two. “We are going to be betrayed anyway,” he said, “why should we underwrite our own betrayal by our presence?” When, however, we started speaking of oil, his eyes lit up and his manner changed. “We have the world by the throat,” he said. The idea of having the world at their mercy was widespread, and brought solace to a people smarting under the long domination of alien powers and cultures.
This mood, which is not new, has in the past made the Arabs ready victims of any force opposing the West and prepared to challenge both Western power and Western values. For example, it enabled the Nazis in the 30's and early 40's, while in fact offering the Arabs very little even in the form of promises, nevertheless to win extensive support in Arab countries. It now enables the Russians to do the same—often the same support, from the same quarters. The Russians have succeeded where the Nazis failed and have established themselves in the Middle East, thereby initiating a process of disillusionment which has since gone very far. But they have been and still are able on occasion to use and exploit the anti-Western mood, and in this they have been greatly helped by the acquiescence of Europe.
The mood is a dangerous one, and could lead to dangerous miscalculations. In the meantime, the oil weapon remains powerful, but with the disadvantage, from the Arab point of view, of pointing in the wrong direction. Its effect when last used was to cause inconvenience in America, hardship in Europe, and suffering in the countries of Asia and Africa: i.e., in inverse proportion to the degree of support for the Arabs. It is true that inconvenience in the United States may be politically more effective than hardship in Europe or suffering in Asia and Africa, but the price and the risk are both high.
Whatever the ultimate result may be, the immediate effect of the oil weapon is to give Arab leaders a sense of power which is by no means ungrounded, and therefore to encourage those who stand for more militant and less moderate policies. This could mean a renewed danger of war in the winter months, when the oil weapon will be most effective, and when weather conditions will favor the Arabs, who rely more on missiles and guns, and hamper the Israelis, who rely more on airpower.
Finally, the issue has been complicated by a whole series of local divergences and divisions of a number of different types. There are rivalries or, more, clashes of interest among the different Arab states, which have now developed to the point of view of pursuing specific national policies, national in the sense of Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, etc., rather than Arab or pan-Arab—and these are often in conflict.
The decline of pan-Arabism has been an important element in the rise of a separate Palestinian identity. Several factors have contributed to this process. One of them is the Arab-Israel conflict itself. The conspicuous failure of the Arab League and of the Arab states to prevent the formation of Israel or to secure its dissolution was seen as a failure of pan-Arabism; so too was their inability either to concert effective action against Israel or to find effective help for the Palestinians, whether by returning them to their homes or by resettling them elsewhere. Arab spokesmen were also becoming aware of a certain propaganda weakness in the pan-Arab position affecting their case against Israel. If, as the pan-Arabs argued, the Arabs were indeed one single nation and the Arab countries one single, vast homeland, then they had suffered the loss only of a province and of a very small one at that compared with the enormous area of the greater Arab fatherland stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic. The loss of territory involved, the numbers of people displaced, were far smaller and less important than those endured by various nations in Europe, Asia, and Africa in the period immediately preceding the first Arab-Israel war. This made their problem seem relatively insignificant, their grievance disproportionate.
If, on the other hand, Palestine was seen not as a province but as a nation, then the position of the Palestinians against Israel was substantially different. As members of a nation that had lost its homeland, instead of an additional and troublesome item on the long and dreary list of refugees, their posture before world opinion was much more favorable. Human tragedy becomes a bore; politics can always be made exciting.
Another factor working against pan-Arabism was the growing solidity of the individual states. This was already clear in the rivalries which divided the Arab states invading Palestine in 1948, even at the moment of danger. It has become much clearer since, particularly after the political and social changes which have created differences of regime and ideology as well as conflicts of state interest among them.
The role of Egypt has been of special importance in this process. Egypt was a latecomer to pan-Arabism, and for some time was interested in it only as a possible adjunct to her own national policies. It was an adjunct that did little good for Egypt, involving her in a disastrous war in the Yemen, an ill-starred union with Syria, and a succession of other misadventures. Worst of all, it led to humiliating defeats at the hands of the Israelis. As a result, Egyptian pan-Arabism was attacked both at home and abroad. While many Arabs saw Egyptian policy as an attempt to exploit the Arab cause for Egyptian imperial purposes, in Egypt, on the other hand, there were many who saw in Egyptian pan-Arabism a subordination of Egyptian national interests to pan-Arab fantasies and the squandering of Egyptian lives and resources in a cause not their own. This view was put with dramatic force by an Egyptian journalist who said (but did not write), “Egypt has for long enough been the blood bank of the Arab world.”
Pan-Arabism was also adversely affected by the growth and spread of Soviet influence in the Arab world. The Soviets do not like supranational or interstate ideologies other than those which they direct and control, and they discouraged pan-Arabism among their own followers, preferring to deal separately with individual Arab governments.
Most significant of all in this respect is the changing attitude of the Palestinians themselves. At one time they were among the most enthusiastic supporters of pan-Arabism and the most prominent exponents of its ideology. But they met bitter disappointments and in recent years have begun to think less of pan-Arabism and more of their own concerns.
Before a solution between the Israelis and the Arabs becomes remotely possible, the history of the conflict has to pass through two phases. In the first phase, the issue at stake is the very existence of Israel, which in the past the Arab states and the Arab leaders as well as the Palestinians steadfastly refused to recognize. In this phase any agreement or even negotiation is clearly impossible, since there can be no compromise, no midway point between existing and not existing. On the Arab side negotiation was clearly not possible with a state whose very right to exist the Arabs did not recognize. Even to enter into such negotiation would be to give away the point which they regarded as fundamental in the whole conflict. For the Israelis, equally, no negotiation or discussion was possible in the absence of a willingness on the other side to recognize them. No state would connive at its own dismemberment; any state would seek maximum protection against political and, perhaps, physical extinction. It was in this period that the question of direct negotiation became crucial for both sides. By entering into direct negotiations with Israel, the Arab states would be giving her a vital token of recognition. By refusing to negotiate they were maintaining their refusal to recognize her existence. For Arabs and Israelis alike the question of direct negotiation thus acquired a symbolic significance which it has retained for both sides ever since.
Then came an intermediate phase in the dispute. With some Arab states, notably Egypt and Jordan, there was a gradual acceptance of the existence of Israel and a willingness to formalize that acceptance in diplomatic statements and even negotiations short of agreement. Progress was still hindered, however, by the basic Arab unwillingness to abandon the hope that Israel would somehow finally disappear and by the corresponding Israeli unwillingness to cast aside fears of the same thing. Israeli leaders are keenly aware of the Arab rhetoric of destruction which as the responsible leaders of a threatened nation they cannot dismiss with the same ease as Western journalists and commentators. Their fears are reinforced by recent examples of the horrors of warfare in Biafra and East Pakistan, and by the terrible memory of the Holocaust in Europe which is and still remains the dominant experience in the lifetime of the senior generation of Israelis.
Nevertheless there has been some progress. There is a growing awareness among Arabs that they are not able and will not be permitted to destroy Israel in the foreseeable future and that they must therefore, however reluctantly, come to terms with her existence. Similarly, there is a new and keener awareness among Israelis of the Palestinians, and of the need to find an answer to their problems.
With Israel's existence accepted as axiomatic, the Israel-Arab conflict could move into a new phase in which the issue is no longer the existence or non-existence of the state, a problem by its very nature insoluble, but its size—a diplomatic and political problem of a more traditional type, a dispute about borders.
Several Arab leaders have already indicated their readiness, even if in carefully indirect terms, to accept the continuance of Israel as a state and even to enter into direct negotiations under suitable conditions. This acceptance, if conveyed convincingly, could achieve the indispensable normalization of the conflict, making it a “normal” political dispute about frontiers with issues which can be formulated, discussed, and eventually resolved. Legally Israel has never had frontiers, only cease-fire lines; this is the status even of the former international border between Mandatory Palestine and Egypt, which by the Egyptian-Israeli armistice agreement of February 24, 1949 was established as a cease-fire line “not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary.”
Many difficulties still remain. From time to time Arab statements, including even some fairly recent speeches by President Sadat, revive the deepest Israeli fears of Arab intentions. One of the most unfortunate consequences of the Iron Curtain that separates Arabs and Israelis is almost total lack of understanding on both sides. On the Arab side there is little or no perception of the meaning of the Holocaust for Jews in Israel and elsewhere in the 20th century and of the searing impact this experience has left on the Jewish consciousness. Some Arab comment on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem is instructive in this respect—with its lack of sensitivity and, at times, even its strong expressions of approval for Eichmann's achievement and regret that he left it unfinished. The same is true of some of President Sadat's remarks—for example, his praise of Hitler and his promise to reduce the Jews to their proper state of abjectness. Even more disturbing, to a nation of survivors, is the Arab fondness for open-ended formulas, such as “the removal of the consequences of aggression,” “the recovery of Arab lands,” and “the restoration of the rights of the Palestinians.” From an Arab viewpoint, the very existence of Israel, as the late President Nasser put it, is an aggression,13 and all its territory is usurped Arab land, while the restoration of rights of the Palestinians, as interpreted by those now recognized as their sole legitimate spokesmen, would require the disappearance of Israel and the departure of most of its inhabitants—necessarily so, since otherwise the proposed republic of Palestine would have a Jewish majority. Israelis are acutely conscious of this—and Arabs seem to have little awareness of Israeli fears.
Similarly, on the Israeli side there has until recently been little awareness of the sense of outrage that colors Arab reactions to the fate of the Palestinians and the creation of a Jewish state and, coupled with this, Arab fears of what they regard as Israeli expansionism. These fears derive some color from the successive stages in which the territorial limits of Israel were set further and further from the original partition lines. The Israelis can find good reasons for these successive territorial advances, but the Arab fears which they arouse are, from time to time, reinforced by the intemperate utterances of Israeli extremists, and need to be allayed before real progress is possible.
The Arabs still find themselves basically confronted with a choice between two objectives: either to accept the existence of Israel and try to reach a settlement by negotiation on the best terms available to them, or to pursue their original objective of unraveling the past, a part at a time—first the 1973 war, then the 1967 war, then the 1948 war, and so ultimately to undo what they regard as the great injustice constituted by the very existence of Israel. This option is explicitly retained, even by moderates, by the common use of the open-ended formulas cited above. While there are certainly many Arab leaders willing to seek peace by negotiation, it would be foolish to overlook the fact that there are others who are still firmly determined to destroy Israel and who regard any settlement after the October war as merely a first step toward that end. In the West, the continued existence of Israel is now generally taken for granted, even among those who at the time deplored the birth of the Jewish state. They would have approved contraception, and perhaps condoned infanticide, but balk at murder. It is thus difficult for Westerners, unmarked either by Arab bitterness or Jewish experience, to realize to what extent the survival of Israel is still an issue for both.
Between Israel and the neighboring states it is at least theoretically possible for negotiations to begin and for agreements to be reached. Is there such a possibility between Israel and the PLO?
The PLO is a comparatively new force in Middle Eastern politics. but it represents an old one. Basically, it is a continuation of the Arab Higher Committee which, under the leadership of the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, directed the destinies of the Arab population of Palestine through most of the Mandatory period, and finally led them to disaster. Their most consistent and characteristic feature was their maximalism—their unwillingness to compromise at any point. From the start, they refused to recognize or negotiate with the Jewish Agency, and maintained this refusal up to the end. Thus, at the St. James's Palace conference of February 1939, at which the Arab governments were for the first time invited to participate in the discussion of the Palestine problem, all the Arab delegations followed the lead of the Arab Higher Committee and refused to meet the Jewish delegation face to face in direct negotiation, so that the conference really consisted of two separate and parallel conferences, one British-Arab, the other British-Jewish. The British Colonial Office punctiliously designated the meetings “the Palestine Conferences”—in the plural. It is hardly surprising that no agreement was reached at this or any other stage. Arab moderates who opposed the Mufti's line were eliminated or terrorized into acquiescence, and every attempt at a compromise proposed by the Mandatory power was rejected—in every case with results ultimately harmful to the Arab cause. Their refusal of the small Jewish state proposed by the Peel Commission in 1937 prepared the way for the somewhat larger Jewish state recommended by the United Nations in 1947—and the refusal of that by force of arms resulted in the substantially larger Jewish state defined by the armistice agreements in 1949. The same policy again produced the same results, and led to further conflict, and still larger areas of Israeli rule.
Other Arabs, both in Palestine and in the neighboring states, may have decided to call a halt and seek a compromise—but not the PLO. They have, however, adopted a change of tactics, and put it into effect with considerable success, through a really superb use of the techniques of public relations. Without in any way compromising their basic positions, they have managed, to many observers, to convey an impression of moderation and reasonableness. While on the one hand appearing, where appropriate, as liberal patriots of a somewhat conservative disposition, they have on the other hand contrived to maintain close links with the international radical guerrilla and terrorist movements. Their spokesmen can address the General Assembly of the UN, call on Castro, be received in audience by the Pope, and engage in private conversations with Moscow, Paris, and perhaps Washington.14
One method of achieving this result is to maintain simultaneously several different levels of discourse. The statements of the PLO in its Arabic publications are modified or even suppressed in their statements in English—and these in turn are often further modified for publication in the Western press. A good example of this may be seen in the debates which followed the disengagement agreements signed in the first half of 1974. Under strong pressure from some Arab governments, discussions began in the PLO on the question of participation in the Geneva negotiations then contemplated, and on the possibility of setting up a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Both of these would involve some measure of recognition of Israel, and even, if successful, some form of cooperation, and therefore run entirely contrary to PLO ideology. The issue was hotly debated, and an agreed on position set forth in a series of resolutions adopted in a meeting of the Palestine National Council held in Cairo in the first week of June 1974.15 These make it clear that the PLO was not prepared to renounce any of its maximalist positions, that it would regard any such state merely as a first step toward its ultimate aim of an all-Palestine state, and that the struggle to attain this end would continue. The text of these resolutions was published in full in the Arabic press, and in a slightly abridged version in Le Monde, but was not published in either the London Times, or in the New York Times, the latter of which contented itself with discussing, without citing, the decisions under the heading “Palestinian Moderates on Council Gain.”16
The same process can be seen in the reporting of the Rabat summit conference. According to the New York Times, in a Reuters report from Rabat datelined October 29, the Arab summit decided, inter alia, “to affirm the rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent national authority, under Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people on any liberated Palestinian territory.” The Arabic text, as published in the Arabic press, “affirms that any Palestinian land that is liberated through the pursuit of the struggle in its different forms will return to its lawful Palestinian owner, under the leadership of the PLO, and affirms the right to set up an independent national authority on the liberated land.” Here there is a clear reference to the decisions taken in June.
Sometimes these feats of public relations can be dangerous or even disastrous to those who perform them. By the summer of 1970 the Arab guerrillas had won enormous successes, when they took the world press by storm and captured the television screens of most Western nations with clips of guerrilla fighters in camouflage suits leaping across the barriers of an assault course and explaining their cause in terms that won them widespread sympathy. The recognition and acclaim which they achieved at that time must have led them grossly to overestimate their own real strength. Only this can account for their readiness to flout and challenge the Jordanian king and army by bringing hijacked aircraft within sight of the capital. The resulting civil war showed that the guerrillas were no match for disciplined regular troops.
Now the PLO has again won a great propaganda victory. It is unlikely to bring much benefit to anyone. The General Assembly has set a precedent, and may now expect applications from Kurdish, Naga, Greek, Irish, Puerto Rican, South American, and other resistance movements, and perhaps even from opponents of Soviet domination in Europe or Asia—though these will be last in the line. The PLO will be encouraged in its maximalist positions, and may bring the Middle East problem back to a state of deadlock or even war. The Arabs on the West Bank will be even more confused and uncertain about their future and unwilling to take risks, so that the feasible solutions of the problem—through the West Bank leadership, or the King, or the two together, are for the time being impossible.
Israeli spokesmen usually justify their refusal to deal with the PLO by describing that organization as a band of terrorists and murderers. This is basically irrelevant, and shows a degree of fastidiousness that is out of accord with the realities of the modern world. More than half the members of the United Nations are governed by regimes that use murder and terror as normal instruments of administration and policy. Many respected members of the comity of statesmen rose to power by murder and terror, and many others who obtained and retain power by more conventional procedures have no compunction in dealing with them. The standards of political conduct set in the 1930's have in general been respected, and whatever views one may have about the effect of these standards on the present state of the world and the future of civilization, a government and a member of the UN is bound to take cognizance of this fact. The real obstacle to Israel's negotiating with the PLO is not that they are terrorists, nor is it their method, unusual even among terrorists, of choosing the sites and objects of their endeavors. It is the simple fact that the PLO refuses to recognize the existence of Israel, and makes little serious attempt to disguise its intention of using any West Bank state of which it may obtain control as a first step toward the realization of its aim—the liquidation of Israel, and its replacement by a Palestine state in which those Israelis who could establish their Palestinian Arab identity would be allowed to remain as a religious minority, in accordance with the rules and practices of the secular, democratic republic which the PLO would inaugurate.
No Israeli government could conceivably negotiate on this basis. Israel might, however, find it wise to test the willingness or ability of the PLO to negotiate on any other.
It may be that such a test would confirm the views of those who argue that unlike other people, Arabs do not mean what they say, and that their most carefully drafted programs and decisions are nothing but empty rhetoric which will fade away at the first glimpse of a real state of their own. It is unlikely, but it is worth trying. And if it fails, one false trail can be abandoned, and the search for the right one resumed.
Meanwhile, with the expulsion of the Arab states from the soil of Palestine and the decline in pan-Arab commitment, the problem has returned to where it began. Sooner or later, a solution must be found, which will provide a home for the Palestinian refugees and an outlet for the Palestinian political elite. Both are needed. They may be achieved either by the destruction of Israel, or in a state, however named, that is willing to live at peace with her. As long as there is neither the power for the one nor the will for the other, there can be no end, and the Arab-Israel problem will continue to plague the Arabs, the Jews, and the world. Palestine is a historical memory, an ideological figment, which may, like others of the same kind, become a political reality, or may slip back into the oblivion from which it was rescued; the issue is not yet clear. The Palestinians, however, are real people, with a real problem, the solution of which is long overdue. It is often said that there can be no solution of the Arab-Israel conflict until the Palestine refugee problem is solved. This is arguable. What is lamentably clear is that there can be no solution of the refugee problem until the Arab-Israel problem is solved.
The Palestinian National Charter
(Palestine Liberation Organization)17
- Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
- Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
- The Palestinian Arab people possess the legal right to their homeland and have the right to determine their destiny after achieving the liberation of their country in accordance with their wishes and entirely of their own accord and will.
- The Palestinian identity is a genuine, essential, and inherent characteristic: it is transmitted from parents to children. The Zionist occupation and the dispersal of the Palestinian Arab people, through the disasters which befell them, do not make them lose their Palestinian identity and their membership in the Palestinian community, nor do they negate them.
- The Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or have stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father—whether inside Palestine or outside it—is also a Palestinian.
- The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.
- That there is a Palestinian community and that it has material, spiritual, and historical connection with Palestine are indisputable facts. It is a national duty to bring up individual Palestinians in an Arab revolutionary manner. All means of information and education must be adopted in order to acquaint the Palestinian with his country in the most profound manner, both spiritual and material, that is possible. He must be prepared for the armed struggle and ready to sacrifice his wealth and his life in order to win back his homeland and bring about its liberation.
- The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Thus the conflicts among the Palestinian national forces are secondary, and should be ended for the sake of the basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other. On this basis the Palestinian masses, regardless of whether they are residing in the national homeland or in diaspora, constitute—both their organizations and the individuals—one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.
- Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it. They also assert their right to normal life in Palestine and to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty over it.
- Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. It also requires the achieving of unity for the national struggle among the different groupings of the Palestinian people, and between the Palestinian people and the Arab masses, so as to secure the continuation of the revolution, its escalation, and victory.
- The Palestinians will have three mottoes: national unity, national mobilization, and liberation.
- The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share toward the attainment of that objective, however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity, and oppose any plan that may dissolve or impair it.
- Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives, the attainment of either of which facilitates the attainment of the other. Thus, Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity; and work toward the realization of one objective proceeds side by side with work toward the realization of the other.
- The destiny of the Arab nation, and indeed Arab existence itself, depend upon the destiny of the Palestine cause. From this interdependence spring the Arab nation's pursuit of, and striving for, the liberation of Palestine. The people of Palestine play the role of the vanguard in the realization of this sacred national goal.
- The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation—peoples and governments—with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, moral, and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.
- The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquility, which in turn will safeguard the country's religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, color, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.
- The liberation of Palestine, from a human point of view, will restore to the Palestinian individual his dignity, pride, and freedom. Accordingly the Palestinian Arab people look forward to the support of all those who believe in the dignity of man and his freedom in the world.
- The liberation of Palestine, from an international point of view, is a defensive action necessitated by the demands of self-defense. Accordingly, the Palestinian people, desirous as they are of the friendship of all people, look to freedom-loving, justice-loving, and peace-loving states for support in order to restore their legitimate rights in Palestine, to re-establish peace and security in the country, and to enable its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.
- The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.
- The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.
- The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.
- Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and a geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-à-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.
- The demands of security and peace, as well as the demands of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations, in order that friendly relations among peoples may be preserved, and the loyalty of citizens to their respective homelands safeguarded.
- The Palestinian people believe in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity, and in the right of all peoples to exercise them.
- For the realization of the goals of this Charter and its principles, the Palestine Liberation Organization will perform its role in the liberation of Palestine in accordance with the Constitution of this Organization.
- The Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian revolutionary forces, is responsible for the Palestinian Arab people's movement in its struggle—to retrieve its homeland, liberate and return to it and exercise the right to self-determination in it—in all military, political, and financial fields and also for whatever may be required by the Palestine case on the inter-Arab and international levels.
- The Palestine Liberation Organization shall cooperate with all Arab states, each according to its potentalities; and will adopt a neutral policy among them in the light of the requirements of the war of liberation; and on this basis it shall not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab state.
- The Palestinian Arab people assert the genuineness and independence of their national revolution and reject all forms of intervention, trusteeship, and subordination.
- The Palestinian people possess the fundamental and genuine legal right to liberate and retrieve their homeland. The Palestinian people determine their attitude toward all states and forces on the basis of the stands they adopt vis-à-vis the Palestinian case and the extent of the support they offer to the Palestinian revolution to fulfill the aims of the Palestinian people.
- Fighters and carriers of arms in the war of liberation are the nucleus of the popular army which will be the protective force for the gains of the Palestinian Arab people.
- The Organization shall have a flag, an oath of allegiance, and an anthem. All this shall be decided upon in accordance with a special regulation.
- Regulations, which shall be known as the Constitution of the Palestine Liberation Organization, shall be annexed to this Charter. It shall lay down the manner in which the Organization, and its organs and institutions, shall be constituted; the respective competence of each; and the requirements of its obligations under the Charter.
- This Charter shall not be amended save by [vote of] a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Congress of the Palestine Liberation Organization [taken] at a special session convened for that purpose.
Source: The Middle East and North Africa 1973-74, 20th edition. Europa Publications (London), 1973. pp 61-62.
Resolutions of the Palestine National Council, Cairo, June 1974
Resolutions adopted by the Palestine National Council at its meeting in Cairo and reported in the Arabic press on June 9, 1974. The text, prepared by a commission of seven formed by Mr. Yasir Arafat (Fatah), George Habash (PFLP), Zuhayr Mushin (Sa'iqa), Nayif Hawatmeh (PDFLP), Abd al-Wahhab Kayali (Arab Liberation Front), Ahmad Jebril (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command) and ‘Abd al-Mushsin Abu Mayzar (Palestine National Front for the Occupied Territories) was presented on Sunday, June 2, to the Council. A somewhat abridged version of the draft appeared in Le Monde, June 4, 1974.18 The ten points are as follows:
- The PLO reaffirms its previous attitude concerning Security Council Resolution 242 which obliterates the patriotic and national rights of our people and treats our national cause as a refugee problem. It therefore refuses categorically any negotiations on the basis of this Resolution at any level of inter-Arab or international negotiation including the Geneva Conference.
- The PLO will struggle by all possible means and foremost by means of armed struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian lands and the setting up of a patriotic, independent, fighting peoples' regime in every part of the Palestine territory which will be liberated. It affirms that this will only be accomplished through major changes in the balance of forces to the advantage of our people and their struggle.
- The PLO will struggle against any proposal to set up a Palestine entity at the price of recognition, peace and secure boundaries, giving up the historic right and depriving our people of its right to return and to self-determination on its national soil.
- The PLO will consider any step toward liberation which is accomplished as a stage in the pursuit of its strategy for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state, as laid down in the decisions of previous National Council meetings.
- The PLO will struggle together with patriotic Jordanian forces for the creation of a Jordanian-Palestinian patriotic front, the object of which will be the establishment of a patriotic, democratic regime in Jordan which will make common cause with the Palestinian entity which will arise as a result of struggle and conflict.
- The PLO will struggle for the establishment of a fighting union between the Palestinian and Arab peoples and between all Arab liberation forces agreed on this program.
- The Palestine national authority will strive to call on the Arab states in confrontation [with Israel] to complete the liberation of the whole of the soil of Palestine as a step on the way to comprehensive Arab unity.
- The PLO will strive to strengthen its solidarity with the socialist countries and world forces of liberation and progress to thwart all Zionist, reactionary, and imperialist designs.
- In the light of this program, the PLO will strive to strengthen patriotic unity and raise it to the level at which it will be able to fulfill its patriotic and national tasks and duties.
- In the light of this program, the revolutionary command will prepare tactics which will serve and make possible the realization of these objectives.
1 “In the guise of a mandate, British imperialism was cruelly and directly imposed upon us,” Yasir Arafat, speech to the United Nations General Assembly, November 13, 1974, as reported in the New York Times, November 14, 1974.
2 Some Palestinian Christians, for example, were able to prove Lebanese descent and thus acquire Lebanese citizenship.
3 Muslim refugees from India have held the highest offices in Pakistan; German refugees from Communist-ruled countries, despite the obvious security risks, have equal rights in the Federal Republic. Except in Jordan, Palestinian Arabs in other Arab countries had no such welcome.
4 Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari, Sirr al-Nakba (no place of publication indicated [Nazareth?]), 1955, p. 359. Cf. R. E. Gabbay, A Political Study of the Arab-Jewish Conflict: The Arab Refugee Problem—A Case Study, Droz (Geneva) and Minard (Paris), 1959, pp. 265-66.
5 Pablo de Azcarate, Mission in Palestine 1948-1952, Middle East Institute, 1966, p. 153.
6 For an Israeli account, see Walter Eytan, The First Ten Years: A Diplomatic History of Israel, Simon & Schuster, 1958, pp. 56-59.
7 On September 26, 1974 George Habash's deputy announced at a news conference in Beirut that the PFLP had withdrawn from the PLO Executive Committee but would retain membership in the Palestine National Council and other organizations. He also stated that the PFLP General Command and the ALF would join in the decision to withdraw from the Executive Committee but would put their decision into effect in their own time (New York Times, September 27. 1974) .
8 See Appendix I, p. 46, for the full text of the 1968 Charter.
9 As a contribution toward the new image, Mr. Shukeirv explained that all that he had meant was that the Jews had come by sea and would return the same way (Fuad A. Jabber, International Documents on Palestine 1967, Beirut, 1970, p. 571) . “Driving the Jews into the sea” thus merely denoted a form of embarkation.
10 The following are excerpts from Arab constitutions:
Algeria, September 8, 1963, Article 4: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
Egypt, September 11, 1971, Article 2: “Islam is the State religion and Arabic its official language. Islamic jurisprudence is a chief source for legislation.”
Iraq, July 16, 1970 (Provisional), Article 4: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
Jordan, January 8, 1952, Article 2: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
Kuwait, November 11, 1962, Article 2: “The religion of the State is Islam, and Islamic jurisprudence shall be a chief source for legislation.”
Libya, December 11, 1969 (Provisional), Article 2: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
Mauritania, May 20, 1961, Article 2: “Islam is the religion of the Mauritanian people.”
Morocco, March 10, 1972, Article 6: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
Qatar, April 2, 1970 (Provisional), Article 7: “The State shall endeavor to instill proper Islamic religious principles in society.”
Sudan, April 14, 1973, Article 16: “In the Democratic Republic of Sudan there is the Islamic religion. Society is rightly guided by Islam, the religion of the Majority. The State tries to express its values.”
Syria, March 12, 1973, Article 3: “Islamic jurisprudence is a chief source for legislation.”
Tunisia, June 1, 1959, Article 1: “Islam is the religion of the State.”
United Arab Emirates, December 2, 1971, Article 6: “Islam is the religion of the State and Islamic jurisprudence is a chief source for legislation.”
11 Maps which appear in emblems of the PLO and of some of its constituent groups show Western Palestine only; on the other hand, the decisions of the Palestine National Council (see below p. 48) indicate an intention of establishing and joining forces with a similar regime on the East Bank.
12 Some observers regard the Schönau operation, carried out on the eve of the October war, as a diversionary tactic forming part of the preparations for the surprise attack, and see the Soviet complicity in the raid as evidence of Soviet involvement in the planning of the war.
13 Press conference of May 28, 1967.
14 These successes have no doubt been helped by the oil-rich Arab kings and presidents whose largesse has made the PLO the wealthiest revolutionary movement in history.
15 See Appendix II, p. 48.
16 New York Times, June 10, 1974.
17 Decisions of the National Congress of the Palestine Liberation Organization held in Cairo July 1-17, 1968.
18 Le Monde of June 11, 1974 reported that the Palestine National Council on June 9 added an eleventh point to the program stating that should a situation of decisive importance to the future of the Palestinian people arise, the Palestine National Council would convene an extraordinary session to discuss it.
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The Palestinians and the PLO
Must-Reads from Magazine
Banality and evil.
A week ago, I wondered what was going on in Sunspot, New Mexico. The FBI had swept into this mountain-top solar observatory, complete with Black Hawk helicopters, evacuated everyone, and closed the place down with no explanation whatever. Local police were politely told to butt out. It was like the first scene in a 1950’s Hollywood sci-fi movie, probably starring Walter Pidgeon.
Well, now we know, at least according to the New York Post.
If you’re hoping for little green men saying, “Take me to your leader,” you’re in for a disappointment. It seems the observatory head had discovered a laptop with child pornography on it that belonged to the janitor. The janitor then made veiled threats and in came the Black Hawks.
In sum, an all-too-earthly explanation with a little law-enforcement overkill thrown in.
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The demands of the politicized life.
John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, has been the subject of withering criticism of late, but I’m grateful to him. Yes, he shouldn’t have refused to write a recommendation for a student merely because the semester abroad program she was applying to was in Israel. But at least he exposed what the boycott movement is about, aspects of which I suspect some of its blither endorsers are unaware.
We are routinely told, as we were by the American Studies Association, that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When the American Studies Association boycott of Israel was announced, over two hundred college presidents or provosts properly and publicly rejected it. But even they might not have imagined that the boycott was more than a symbolic gesture. Thanks to Professor Cheney-Lippold, they now know that it involves actions that disserve their students. Yes, Cheney-Lippold now says he was mistaken when he wrote that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel.” But he is hardly a lone wolf in hyper-politicized disciplines like American Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Women’s Studies, whose professional associations have taken stands in favor of boycotting Israel. Administrators looking at bids to expand such programs should take note of their admirably open opposition to the exchange of ideas.
Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.” Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney- Lippold could have found out by Googling. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces (NIF) in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent resistance but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.
That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an International Day with the “new generation of Palestinians” then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis–all civilians–dead.
The boycott movement, in other words, can sign on to a solidarity movement that includes the targeting of civilians for death, but cannot sign letters of recommendation for their own undergraduates if those undergraduates seek to learn in Israel. That tells us all we need to know about the boycott movement. It was nice of Cheney-Lippold to tell us.
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Convenience, wrote Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, is a tyrant. It makes our lives easier and more enjoyable, but everything comes with a price tag. We may not recognize that which we are sacrificing in the pursuit of convenience, but we are sacrificing nonetheless.
The instant gratification associated with on-demand society has made America’s shared cultural moments a thing of the past. The explosion of online shopping has eliminated the time consumers wasted traveling from store to store, but physical retail is dying as a result. The modern public square and the daily human interactions that it encouraged will disappear along with it. Machine learning has the power to introduce a “more compassionate social contract” and reduce physical risk associated with workplace hazards or lifestyle choices. But risk is just another word for freedom and, in the pursuit of convenience, we risk sacrificing our independence along with our hardships.
“We’re really reinventing the traditional insurance model with our vitality program,” said Marianne Harrison, the CEO of one of North America’s largest life insurers, John Hancock, in a recent appearance on CNBC. The beaming insurance executive boasted of her firm’s effort to marry a “technology-based wellness program” with an “insurance product.” That’s a loaded way of saying that this American insurer is soon going to charge based on the real-time monitoring of your daily activities. Behavior-based insurance will track the health data of policyholders through wearable devices or smartphones and distribute rewards based on individual choices. You don’t have to wear a tracking device to participate in this program—at least, not yet. Harrison assured skeptics that they could also dole out rewards to policyholders who take simple steps like reading preapproved literature, the consumption of which they presumably track.
This innovation is optional today, but the savings it yields for both consumer and insurer guarantee that it will soon become a standard feature of the insurance landscape. Your freedom to eat poorly, use tobacco products, drink alcohol, or perform any number of physical activities that include varying levels of risk are not limited. You’ll just have to pay for them. And if Democratic policymakers succeed in nationalizing the private health insurance industry under the auspices of Medicare-for-all or single-payer or whatever other euphemisms they apply to the public confiscation of private property, these “tools” will only become more pervasive.
A similar rationale—the primacy of collective health—can be applied to any number of activities that invite unnecessary risk that technology can mitigate. Foremost among these is the terribly dangerous American habit of driving a car.
In 2017, there were over 40,000 automobile-related fatalities. This was the second consecutive year in which the roads were that deadly and, if observers who attribute this rate of fatal traffic accidents to an increase in smartphone ownership are correct, there will not be a decline anytime soon. A 2015 study purported to show that replacing manual vehicles with autonomous cars or vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems could eliminate up to 90 percent of all fatal accidents and save as many as 300,000 American lives each decade. It is perhaps only a matter of time before the option to own a driverless vehicle becomes a mandate with a hefty financial penalty imposed on those who opt out.
“[T]he threat to individual freedom that the driverless car is set to pose is at this stage hard to comprehend,” wrote National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke. Presently, the car transports its diver to wherever they’d like to go, whether there are roads to facilitate the journey or not. In a driverless world, as Cooke noted, the driver becomes a mere occupant. They must essentially ask the car for permission to transit from point A to point B, and the whole process is monitored and logged by some unseen authorities. Furthermore, that transit could ostensibly be subject to the veto of state or federal authorities with the push of a button. That seems a steep price to pay for a little convenience and the promise of safety.
The pursuit of convenience, as Professor Wu explained, has resulted in remarkable social leveling. We enjoy more time today for “self-cultivation,” once only the province of the wealthy and aristocratic, than at any point in history. And yet, we cannot know true liberty without hardship. “The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity,” Wu concluded.
There is more to celebrate in the technological revolutions of the last quarter-century than there is to lament. But in the pursuit of convenience, we’ve begun to make spontaneity irrational. In life, the rewards associated with experience are commensurate with that which is ventured. In a future in which the world’s sharp edges are bubble-wrapped, your life may exceed today’s average statistical length. But can you really call it living?
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Podcast: Christine Rosen on Brett Kavanaugh.
The podcast welcomes COMMENTARY contributor and author Christine Rosen on the program to discuss the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Have his confirmation hearings have transformed into another chapter in the national cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo moment?