The Scumbags in Ramallah
People keep talking about the Palestinians, but I can no longer use that term. Once I did, even though it is a self-ascribed term that refers to no historical people before the advent of the British Mandate. Even under the British there were only Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and that because the British had decided to call the Jewish Home they had promised to establish Palestine. Today’s Jerusalem Post, after all, was called the Palestine Post throughout British rule. Before the British laid claim to the Middle East in the wake of World War One there was no Palestine, only different administrative provinces of the Ottoman Empire, not one of which bore the name Palestine. And the British only called it that from that blend of romantic nostalgia and snooty Jew hatred which informed their policy throughout the Mandate period. If it was good enough for Hadrian when he suppressed the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, surely, they reasoned, it was good enough for its twentieth-century successor.
When the British took over what they came to call Palestine, they found both Jews and Arabs living there. Jews and Muslims, really, for the Arab part of the Arab Muslim equation reflected the fact that so many of the Muslims who populated Mandate Palestine had come from parts far away, as far away as the Arabian peninsula. Some were absentee landlords, living in Beirut or Damascus. Others were fellaheen, or peasants, who tilled the lands of these absentee landlords. The Jews were also of heterogeneous origin. Some were descended from families who could trace their lineage back to ancient times when Judea had been an independent kingdom. Others had come in the waves of return to Zion from Eastern Europe starting in the 1800s. In the nineteenth century Jews comprised a majority of Jerusalem’s inhabitants when that city was still under Ottoman rule. The British, therefore, did not colonize a previously sovereign Palestine, but exercised rule over a population of Jews, Arabs and Christians who had lived there in different mixes since Roman times. They exercised this rule in the form of a Mandate given to them by the League of Nations, subsequent to the San Remo Treaty which recognized Britain’s commitment to establish a Jewish National Home there. At the time the Mandate covered what today is known as Jordan, but in 1922 His Majesty’s Government subtracted three quarters of the land covered by the Mandate and gave it to the Hashemites, another extended clan of Arab Muslims, as their kingdom. So part of what the British called Palestine was, in fact, given to the Hashemites to occupy as they saw fit. The Arab Muslims of Mandate Palestine did not go on a rampage accusing their brethren of illegally occupying their land. Instead they turned their wrath against the Jews and against the British for tolerating the Jews in the little that was left of their National Home to be.
The Palestinian Arabs opposed Jewish settlement in Mandate Palestine from the outset, not because they longed for an independent Palestine, but because they could not stomach the idea of Jewish sovereignty in that land. In this they were faithful not to Palestinian nationalism, but to Muslim political doctrine. Not for nothing did the Palestinian leadership oppose Jewish settlement even while many of their members sold land to the Jews. Nor was it accidental that the Palestinian Arab leadership throughout the Mandate period was directed by a Muslim cleric, Haj Amin al-Husseini, whose favourite means of political engagement were murder and intimidation, which he used both against the Jews and against his Arab Muslim rivals. Then as now, the self-styled Palestinian leadership was not interested in creating a functioning state of their own. Its main thrust was to deny
“The Islamic land of Palestine is one and cannot be divided. There is no difference between Haifa and Nablus, between Lod and Ramallah, between Jerusalem and Nazareth, between Gaza and Ashkelon. The land of Palestine is Waqf land that belongs to Muslims throughout the world and no one has the right to act freely or the right to make concessions or abandon her. Whoever does this betrays a (trust) and is nothing more than a loathsome criminal whose abode is in Hell!”
- Preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Sheikh Yosuf Abu Sneina, 2000
all Jewish aspirations to sovereignty in a land which Muslims had at times controlled, be it from Baghdad or Constantinople. For Muslim political doctrine holds that once Muslims have exercised sovereignty somewhere and lost it, that land is considered occupied territory forever. That is why latter-day Palestinian nationalists of whatever stripe - Fatah, Hamas and all the rest - consider all of Israel to be occupied territory, just as Spain is so considered. That too is why, now as during the British Mandate, the people who rule Ramallah and Gaza cannot and will not compromise in any way that will enshrine their recognition of Jewish statehood in Israel.
Palestinian nationalism is therefore extremely flimsy. It is not rooted in a land over which self-styled Palestinians ever exercised any sovereignty, though far away Muslim rulers did at various points. This is in stark contrast to the Jewish claim to Israel. Jews can trace their attachment back to the two Jewish commonwealths of ancient times. Indeed, for two thousand years they maintained this bond, looking on their lives outside of Israel as an exile and always longing to return. So Palestinian nationalism has to invent a history, and an invented history is inherently false and ultimately delusional. Witness the claims by Muslim clerics that Moses was a Muslim and the ancient Israelites were themselves Muslims. Witness too the claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, not a Jew. Witness too their denial that Jews have any claim to Jerusalem and that the Temple Mount ever housed Solomon’s or Herod’s temple. Even the Wailing or Western Wall has to be renamed al-Buraq and UNESCO has to be lobbied to have that holiest of Jewish places recognized as a Muslim heritage site. That the West acquiesces to this charade is only testimony to its own cognitive blindness, moral obtuseness and downright lunacy. But then, madness is catchy
Because Palestinian nationalism is a chimera it cannot sink any roots, cannot build any institutions, cannot do anything but destroy. This is what it did for thirty years under the British, launching pogrom after pogrom against the Jews - in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936 and 1947, culminating in the call to arms to other Arab states to invade and destroy the nascent state of
“ Our belief is that this war between us and the Jews will continue to escalate until we vanquish the Jews and enter Jerusalem as conquerors, enter Jaffa as conquerors. We are not merely expecting a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we are heralding an Islamic caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.
– Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, lecturer on water and ecology at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, in a Friday sermon broadcast on PA TV, September 21 2001.
Israel in 1948. Indeed, its never ceasing appeal to the surrounding Muslim Arab countries to fight its battles underscores how pan-Arab and pan-Muslim Palestinian nationalism really is. This too is why the Palestinian cause is a never-ending source of instability for any Arab country trying to establish a modicum of institutional life along the nation-state model. The demagogy of Palestinian nationalism infects political and cultural life throughout the Middle East. Every nation state that has succumbed to its allure has only suffered defeat and setback. Nasser’s Egypt was the most notorious example of the Arab Muslim world’s inability to resist the siren call of the Palestinian cause with its very long shelf life. Jordan and Egypt, two countries that signed peace treaties with Israel, nonetheless maintain a cultural boycott of the Jewish state and sabotage her at every opportunity. In part this reflects the political instability of all Arab Muslim states, which still found their legitimacy on Muslim political doctrine at best. Hence the Saudi peace initiative, the competition between Jordan and Saudi Arabia for oversight of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, the inability of any
Arab Muslim state to carry on a coherent diplomatic relationship with the Jewish state. And hence too the claims of the PLO even when Arafat was running it that the true aim of Palestinian nationalism was not only the conquest and dismantlement of the Jewish state, but its return to the fold of the Arab Muslim nation in the form of a latter-day caliphate. ISIS had its forerunner in the Palestinian Authority, just as contemporary Islamic terrorism originated in Palestinian nationalism.
For the hallmark of Palestinian nationalism has been ideology, on the one hand, and terror, on the other. In the absence of any coherent political philosophy or constitutional thought, Palestinian nationalism can only serve up a never-ending stream of lies. Abbas and his henchmen incite Palestinian youth to stab and murder Jews wherever they find them, then accuse Israel of executing Palestinian children. The justification is one of the Palestinians’ oldest lies: the Jews are seeking to defile and destroy the al-Aksa Mosque. Abbas, like Arafat before him, claims the Palestinians defend Christian holy places while under their rule they have emptied Bethlehem of its Christians. To the international community the Palestinian Authority claims it only wants peace and an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, but to the people living under its rule it offers up a daily stream of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective that promises the destruction of the Zionist entity. Little wonder that the population living under its ferule consistently supports violence in pursuit of these delusional aims. For violence indeed has become a way of life for Palestinian nationalists. Children as young as nine have been set loose on Israeli streets in search of Jews to stab, maim and kill. That the resultant death toll is inevitably higher for Palestinians than for Israelis makes no difference to these merchants of death who run what passes for Palestinian governing institutions. Violence is also the preferred means of settling disputes among Palestinians themselves. Fatah used to knee-cap its opponents even before Hamas took over Gaza and turned such tried and true tactics on its originators, offering new and improved versions like throwing people off of rooftops. Even when Palestinians sought refuge in neighbouring countries they brought their mayhem with them. In the Lebanese village of Damour in 1976 the PLO massacred over 500 Christians, left corpses with genitals stuck in their mouths, and turned the church into a practice shooting range. That was the beginning of the end of Lebanon. Six years later it was Hezbollah’s turn to massacre American marines. Today Beirut, once the Paris of the Levant, has become a permanent war zone.
The fantasy world which characterizes this putative Palestinian nationalism is best exemplified in the refugee question. According to international law, refugees do not pass down their status from one generation to the next. Only in the case of refugees produced by the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 has the United Nations made an exception, such that the current estimate of so-called Palestinian refugees far exceeds their initial number. Indeed, the United Nations created a special agency for Palestinian refugees alone, and the funds allocated to this agency far exceeds what is spent on all other refugees in the world combined. The continuous inflation of the number of Palestinian refugees fuels the totally unrealistic demands of the Palestinian political leadership. The demand for them to return to their homes, which comes to a demand for them to invade Israel and take it over, is but the ideological counterpart to the ongoing terrorist attacks the Palestinians have launched against Israel ever since 1948. It is a form of demographic jihad waged against Israel much like the one that has produced the Muslim invasion of Europe, with the small difference that so far Israel has not been willing to be totally blackmailed by appeals to their so-called and self-inflicted plight.
Even the initial definition of Palestinian refugees created by the war their leadership started is testimony to the tendentious nature of Palestinian nationalism. Under British rule many of the Arab Muslims who lived in Mandate Palestine were seasonal workers, come from surrounding Arab countries for work made possible by Jewish entrepreneurship and labour. They would cross borders legally and illegally from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, Egypt, as they had done for centuries, because state borders were much less important in defining social ties than kinship relationships. Indeed, the two most notorious Palestinian leaders, Husseini and Arafat, were Egyptian born, while the celebrated Edward Said, an Egyptian, was born in a Jerusalem hospital. In defining who could be considered a Palestinian refugee in 1948, however, it was deemed sufficient for an Arab to claim he had lived in Mandate Palestine for the two years prior to 1948 in order to be granted that status. Needless to say, many Palestinian refugees subsequently returned to their homes in other Arab lands, all the while clinging to their refugee cards, cards which the Palestinian leadership have been playing ever since in their plans to return to what their maps continue to portray as occupied Palestine, namely Israel.
“We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state…
I have no use for Jews.”
– Yasser Arafat, Stockholm, 1996.
That borders of Arab states were and remain porous underlines that kinship ties continue to be the sediment of Arab Muslim society. The chronic instability of contemporary Arab states reflects the fact that whenever those states have to incorporate ethnic or religious minorities they experience immense difficulty. Tolerance is not a virtue of countries that have not yet enshrined the rule of law and institutionalized political opposition as part of their functioning. The Syrian government headed by Assad, for example, can
kill its own citizens with impunity because they are not part of the Alawite sect to which Assad and his clan brethren belong. Syrians are clan members first and foremost, citizens in name only. The overriding importance of blood ties as the basic dividing line of Arab Muslim society contributes to the violence endemic to it. Kinship societies are also honour cultures, where loyalty to kith and kin trumps any other kind. Murder, vengeance, rape are all legitimate forms of action to redress perceived wrongs, and appeals to clan solidarity may even require changing alliances in order to defend family honour. This is true patriarchy in its most pristine form, a product of nomadic desert culture from which Islam sprung and to which it has remained faithful ever since. Little wonder that one sees birthday parties and funerals celebrated by grown men shooting Kalashnikov rifles into the air. Little wonder too that a dispute in the Jordanian parliament led to one member’s biting off the ear of another, which a third member justified by saying this sort of thing happens in parliaments around the world. For people to whom such violence is the normal conduct of business, such an assumption is hardly surprising. It is therefore equally hardly surprising that such a social structure fuels the violence endemic to life under the Palestinian Authority. Differences within Fatah and Hamas are often overlaid and fed by clan rivalries, such that little is thought of getting rid of enemies using the foulest of methods. One can equally understand why and how even in Palestinian families rebellious sons and daughters are summarily dealt with. Rebellion is often synonymous with sexual behaviour we take for normal in the West, but there it is taken as a stigma on family honour, for which death is not an unreasonable punishment.
The only conclusion to which a reasonable person can come when looking at this situation is that Palestinian nationalism is a no-go, a delusional fiction whose sole purpose is to fuel a lethal mix of ideology and terror that has nothing to do with achieving any kind of peace with Israel. Such a combination is typical of totalitarian regimes, as we know from our study of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Its ultimate result is the murder of millions of people and the destruction of any social order in which a modicum of trust necessary for daily life can be established. That kind of society eats its own children, which is exactly what life in Gaza under Hamas or in the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has become, literally organized child abuse. How else should we call the use of children sent out to stab any Jew at random, an act which their families later deny knowledge of when they are not celebrating it? The only difference between Hamas and Fatah is that the former is overtly theocratic in character while the latter resembles rather the gangster mentality of familiar totalitarian thugs. In either case they do not deserve the name Palestinians, a misnomer if ever there was one. Scumbags would be a better term and far more accurate. That the West continues to encourage them financially and diplomatically is a story of folly best told elsewhere. That the Jews continue to indulge them with talk of a peace process, moderate Palestinians and a two-state solution is even more perplexing, but that too is a story better explained in another text. What is clear, however, is that Israel has but one option in its approach to Palestinian nationalism: its total defeat and the unconditional surrender of the scumbags who peddle it.