Religious, Cultural and
in Palestinian Strategy
This article is an excerpt
from the book,
ISRAEL AND A
PALESTINIAN STATE: ZERO SUM GAME?,
ACPR Publishers & Zmora Bitan
Publishers, 2001, Hardcover
(Large format), 532 pages.
conventional international interpretation of the Palestinian struggle against
Israel holds that the PLO has abandoned its zero-sum strategy in favor of
accommodation with the Jewish state. It is accepted that from the 1964 charter
that called for “the liberation of Palestine” and the 1974 decision choosing
“the phases method”, the PLO haltingly yet consistently turned to limit its
goals and recognize its Zionist adversary. This is considered to be the
significance of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988 with its
reference to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which was
designed to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish; so
too regarding the wide-spread PLO campaign calling for a two-state solution to
the conflict rather than the advocacy of “one democratic state in Palestine”,
and the culmination of this Palestinian political trend with the signing of
the Oslo agreement in 1993 that committed the PLO to “peaceful coexistence”
with Israel and recognition of its “legitimate [and] political rights”. This
is briefly the encapsulation of “the Palestinian peace strategy” with a
renunciation of two-thirds of the homeland and acceptance therein of the
reality of a Jewish state.1 The
ostensible abrogation of the PLO Charter in Gaza in December 1998, or
minimally those articles which contradict the peace policy with Israel, was
seen as the final public Palestinian act in the name of rapprochement, no less
the fulfillment of Yasser Arafat’s commitment to Prime Minister Rabin from
September 9, 1993. Therefore, the future founding of a full-fledged
Palestinian state would allegedly not endanger Israel but peacefully co-exist
interpretation of contemporary Palestinian strategy presupposes the
independent validity of political decisions and regional diplomacy as a
mechanism for Israel-Palestinian conflict-resolution and peace making. It also
posits the authenticity of a fundamental change in the political thinking of
the “Palestine Liberation Organization” despite the glaring fact that the name
of the PLO itself posits a clear and absolute purpose to the contrary of the
purported peaceful transformation in PLO policy.
With this in
mind, we must consider that the idea of fixed goals, unalterable values, and
frozen patterns of thought varies from, and is rejected by, the modern
Enlightenment conviction in liberty, human reason, and intellectual openness.
Darwin posited change, Kant reason, Comte universalistic rationalism, and
Spencer evolution, in the spirit of the innate flexibility of the mind and
progress of mankind. Breaking with tradition and liberating old thinking were
sweeping Enlightenment themes, and that demarche seemed to resonate
within the radical innovation in Palestinian speech and praxis in the
thought considered in its continuity and the resilience of older “mental
habits” offer an alternative conception of the past connected to the present
in creating and conserving human identity. Levi-Strauss analyzed
“structuralism in thought” and Foucault probed “the archeology of knowledge”:
the apprehension of the world – itself the action of a collectivity – was a
product of socialization (perhaps fossilization). The mind works by absorbing
and retaining the past and thereby transcribing it into the present, as Freud
theorized, and the historian Dilthey posited in his comprehension of meaning
as fundamentally drawn from the past. People thus utilize ancient mental
materials as a regular and central mode of thinking and action. This approach
evolves from J.G. Frazer’s classic study of myth and religion in The Golden
Bough, likewise in Evans-Pritchard’s
notion of the “function of culture as a whole to unite individual human beings
into more or less stable social structures”.2
Repetition in language and thought, seen perhaps as a pathological blockage in
Nietzschean terms, becomes a reservoir for stability, continuity, and identity
in a world pregnant with dislocating changes.
Bourdieu in his sociological investigations questions the validity of abstract
rationalism and, like Foucault, recognizes older codes of social discourse as
the mental context for durable patterns of thought and culture. Accepted
social conceptions, called the “doxa”, channel the thinking and self-image of
people.3 Individuals do not alone and
autonomously fashion themselves, but are bound by a kind of cultural
geneticism and familial genealogy to the past. Tradition, not modernity, is
the axis of their identity in history.
examination of the Palestinians and the acclaimed PLO political alteration
draws upon an “anti-modernist” critique which will consider Islamic and Arab
discourse as enveloped within a meta-language of cultural tradition untainted
by Enlightenment presuppositions and prejudices. A protean Qur`anic mind-set
and rigorous Arab character definitively contain the past and prevent change.
The relevant social categories and historical institutions include the Muslim
religious community and mandates for leadership, clan affinity and
genealogical lists, that together serve as transmitters of the authorized,
sanctified knowledge and accepted modes of actions.
acculturated by and within its native environment, is a product of its
cultural creators and a reflection of them in modern times. Being in modern
times but not of modernity constitutes the springboard for this analysis,
which is armed with an appreciation of the extraordinary difficulty, perhaps
impossibility, for the PLO ever truly to renounce its covenant which was yet
festively annulled, although not formally, in Gaza in late 1998. For the
“truth” is not a product of reason and freedom; rather, it is a sacred dogma,
beyond the right or liberty of anyone, who is a living link in the chain of
the uninterrupted continuum of approved knowledge, to alter.
Islam, Arafat, and the Palestinian
Islam is a monotheistic religion
expounded in the early seventh-century by the Muslim prophet Muhammad and
centered in Mecca the holy city. Its message was universal and obligatory, its
tactics intrigue and war, its goals civilization and conquest. Muhammad broke
the Pact of Hudaibiya of 628 that he had made with the Qureish Meccans, when
his military capabilities had become adequate for further warfare; so too, his
Muslim warriors raided even in the sacred month.4
Competition, rules of domination, and hierarchy – not egalitarianism and
cooperation – constitute the building-blocks of Islam’s attitude to the world.
This is central in the doctrine of jihad: war to transform the
dar-al-harb (domain of war with infidels) into the dar-al-Islam
(domain of Islam). War exists until the former becomes the latter, when truth
eliminates untruth, justice overcomes injustice, and Islam reigns supreme and
achieves peace throughout the world.5
The Qur`anic attitude toward Jews is
explicit and predominantly negative. Rejecting the prophetic claim of
Muhammad, the Jews were defined as the enemies of Islam and its revelation.
“Shame and misery were stamped upon them and they incurred the wrath of God”
(Sura 2:61) serves as the categorical theological and historical statement for
Muslim animosity toward the Jewish people. Muhammad himself, in his violent
treatment of the Arabian Jews in the vicinity of Medina and specifically at
Khaybar, left no doubt that Islam would arise as Judaism would decline and
Yasser Arafat bears a profound personal
Muslim identity and Islamic consciousness. His father was an active member of
the Muslim Brotherhood organization and his maternal family included the
militant Haj Amin el-Husseini. The name chosen in the late 1950s for Arafat’s
new and radical Palestinian movement was Fath (Fatah) that indicates “a
war for Islam”. His underground nom de guerre Abu Ammar, by which he is
called and referred to until today by Palestinians and other Arabs, draws upon
the formative period of Islamic history. One of Muhammad’s early and dedicated
followers was Ammar bin Yasser, and Arafat decided to adopt Yasser as his
personal name, no less that of Abu Ammar as his nickname, and thereby bind the
Palestinian revolution to the origins of Islam.
Muhammad’s pilgrimage sermon prior to his
death in 632 took place at Mount Arafat outside of Mecca. The “Arafat sermon”
then and later further provides the symbolic connection between Arafat and
Islam, as the PLO leader has been sermonizing for decades on Palestinian
national rights and the evil of Zionism.7
The centerpiece of Arafat’s Islamic
policy vision is the ultimate demotion of Israeli Jews to lowly “Arab Jews” (al-Yahud
al-’Arab). This necessitates their subjugation and perhaps the elimination
of such truculent dhimmis (tolerated infidels) to the lowest rung in a
future democratic Palestine.8 The
likes of this goal Arafat sketched out in his address to the UN General
Assembly in November 1974. But this overlooks the obvious scenario whereby the
developments leading up to a single state of Palestine and Israel’s
destruction would involve the flight and death of the Jews of Israel, if
indeed “the liberation of Palestine” would occur; just as the idyllic image of
Muslim/non-Muslim coexistence ignores the long and bitter historical record of
Jewish humiliation and decimation under Muslim rule in Morocco, Egypt, Yemen,
Iraq, and other Muslim lands.9
These constants in mind and history
constitute the political repertoire of Yasser Arafat in the struggle against
the Jewish people and Israel. In his famous address in a Johannesburg mosque
in May 1994, the PLO leader did not only call for “Jihad for Jerusalem”
but made explicit reference in addition to the Hudaibiya agreement. Muhammad,
having violated that agreement, offers very conclusive Islamic evidence and a
mighty precedent for Arafat’s similar intention not to comply with the Oslo
agreement. The historical code-language employed by Arafat would not be lost
on any informed Muslim audience.
Another example of Palestinian Islamic
discourse vis-à-vis the Jews concerns the Khaybar massacre of 628 and
its use as a powerful rhythmic refrain during the years of the intifada
from 1987 to1992. The Arab chant taunted the Jews with: “Khaybar Khaybar Ya
Yahud, Jeish Muhammad Sauf Ya’ud” (Khaybar Khaybar Oh Jews, Muhammad’s
army will return.)10 This conveyed
the Islamic religious dimension of the Jewish-Muslim confrontation as did the
existence, nomenclature, and ideology of the two key Palestinian Islamic
groups: Islamic Jihad and Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement). The
covenant of August 1988 summarized its doctrine as follows:
Allah is its target, the Prophet is its
model, the Qur`an its constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the sake of
Allah is the loftiest of its wishes (Article 8).
When all is said and done, the war of
Islam against Israel was not, as some assumed, the basis of an ideological
rift between the religious and secular elements in the Palestinian political
community. In fact, Arafat and the PLO were no less grounded in the substance
and symbolism of traditional faith than their more explicit and forthright
believing brothers. Immediately after the victorious return of Ayatollah
Khumayni to Teheran on February 2, 1979, which consummated the Islamic
Revolution and launched the Islamic Republic, Arafat arrived in Iran and
declared: “We shall fight together as one Muslim nation.” Islam was cast as
the glue for unity and the solution for success in Palestine. Since
Palestinian television began broadcasting in 1995, it has had as its logo the
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, on its masthead a portrait of Arafat, and its
opening program incorporates Qur`anic reading and Islamic discussion.
Culture and Politics in the Palestinian
of culture incorporates ideas and attitudes, mores and modes of action, as the
natural form and substance of a specific people or society. Culture is native
and coherent, binding its members in a shared universe of meaning and
behavior. Together the various and multiple strands of culture constitute a
code for the “insiders” in their communication one with another. Outsiders
can, with difficulty, comprehend or accept an alien culture’s
ethos of hospitality, born of a lawless environment, meager resources, and
nomadic hardship, is a positive and comforting Arab characteristic that
Westerners have encountered with delight both in the desert and urban
settings. But St. John Philby of Arabian desert fame, known for his great
empathy for the Bedouin, his friendship with the Saudi regime, and his own
conversion to Islam no less, reported that Bedouin once shot at him because he
did not enter their camp to enjoy their hospitality.11
practice of deceit, intrigue, and the use of the ruse, are notorious yet
creative and colorful attributes in Arab behavior. But it was utterly
inconceivable for A.W. Kinglake, who sojourned to the East in 1834-35, to
imagine that Bedouin guards who were accompanying his party across the Sinai
desert would suddenly lie about the terms of the agreement between them.
However, his native Eastern dragoman (interpreter) clarified for him that
Bedouin audacity and cunning were exploiting his naiveté and innate softness
of character.12 Only thereafter did
Kinglake begin to unlock the Arab culture-code.
perceptive Europeans were more easily convinced. It seems that in the Arab
East “truth was quite unknown,” as British diplomat John Barker experienced
the region in the early nineteenth-century.13
P.J. Baldensperger, visiting the area of Judea (Palestine) in the late
nineteenth-century, offered a more delicate formulation for the verbal
mendacity of the native inhabitants: “These people would not call themselves
liars for putting facts in a way to serve their own ends.”14
instances and tales of subtle deceit by concealing true intentions are both
legion and legendary in Arab and Muslim history. The Umayyad Caliph Mu’awiya
in seventh-century Syria planned a remarkably sophisticated and staged
stratagem to trap an unsuspecting Byzantine victim.15
In 1173 Ayyub, the father of Saladin, the holy warrior of Islam, affected a
pose of advising submission against Nur al-Din the Zangi suzerain in Damascus.16
And the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II prepared to confront Byzantium in battle in
1453 by making truces with Venice, Hungary, Wallachia, and Bosnia – or as the
historian Edward Gibbon wrote: “Peace was on his lips, while war was in his
heart.”17 Al-Jabarti the Egyptian
chronicler transmitted the perfect ruse whereby one “would murder his victim
and later join his funeral procession.”18
part, the Palestinian strategy of success has utilized the terminology that
conforms to Western expectations and accords with moral and political norms.
The advocacy in the 1970s of one “single democratic state in Palestine” was
indicative of non-genocidal discourse for Israel’s dissolution.19
The demand for “self-determination” sounds legitimate and reasonable although
it is, as pointed out by Sami al-Atari, the Secretary of the PLO Central
Committee in 1978, “identical with the destruction of Israel”.20
The demand for “refugee return” is grounded in United Nations resolutions,
while it too is designed to emasculate and dissolve the Jewish state by the
influx of many hundreds of thousands of Palestinian returnees. In making peace
with Israel in 1993 Yasser Arafat, yet also soundly demanding both Palestinian
“self-determination” and “the right of return”, was artfully playing the role,
it might seem, of the murderer in al-Jabarti’s aphorism.
opportunity and signing ceremony in Washington, Arafat has declared
Palestinian commitment to peace in accord with the PLO’s adoption of the peace
strategy. At the While House on September 13, 1993, he declared that “the
battle for peace is the most difficult of our lives.” However the language of
jihad remains as always the mental prism of Arafat’s vision. This was
the case, as in 1970 in Beirut, when he addressed the Palestinians with the
message of “we must fight a holy war (jihad) against the Zionist
enemy.” Arafat broadcast the same message of war through the years after 1993.
At a rally in Gaza in November 1994 he said that “our people will continue its
jihad.” Addressing a rally in Hebron in February 1995 he declared: “our
people is a people of sacrifice, struggle, and jihad.” Speaking at a
rally at Deiheishe near Bethlehem in October 1996, he declared that “we know
only one word, jihad, jihad, jihad.”21
The West and
Israel have lived in a world of trance as the Palestinians have deftly juggled
the language of war and peace, mouthing their verbal commitments while in
essence violating them. From the first Oslo agreement to Wye Plantation, the
PLO-PA (Palestinian Authority) has consistently refused to limit the police
forces to the prescribed number, to disarm terrorist organizations, to
extradite murderers of Israelis, and to stop anti-Israeli propaganda and
incitement to violence. Arafat’s culture-code tactic conforms to the “Fahlawi”
personality portrait proposed by Dr. Hamid Ammar for the clever person: that
is, to convey “a readiness to express superficial agreement and fleeting
amiability which is meant to conceal the situation and his true feelings”.22
war-and-peace strategy allows Arafat to talk of peace but prepare for war,
while his Israeli partner offers territories and guns in quest of
accommodation and security. This utopian experiment wins concessions and lulls
the protagonist with the dream of peace.23
insightful Richard Burton, who journeyed through the Middle East a century and
a half ago, related the following Arab proverb: “Conceal thy tenets, thy
treasure, and thy traveling.”24
Burton chose precaution by not revealing his destination in the intrigue- and
treachery-filled Muslim lands. Arafat has at times chosen to hide his tenets
while traveling toward the liberation of Palestine.
Palestinian advance and assault on Israel bears the tradition-tried Bedouin
virtues of endurance (sabr) and saber-rattling raiding (ghazzia)
as terrorism hunts and haunts unsuspecting Israeli civilian victims on buses,
in the market-places, and on the roads. From the sociological studies of Ibn
Khaldun to Henri Lammens, the Arab fighters have been typed as more audacious
and impudent than brave.25
Palestinian suicide bombers have added a fanatic Islamic touch to the war with
Israel, killing some 300 people since the Oslo signing, while paradise awaits
the martyrs who obliterate the Jews.
political slogan of “territories for peace”, emblazoned in UN Security
Resolution 242 from November 22, 1967 and the core of the peace formula
between Israel and the PLO, may now be renamed “territories for terrorism”.
Ambiguity in Palestinian Rhetoric
The two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conundrum serves as the definitive political proposal to
resolve the conflict. It has been advocated since the late 1980s by prominent
PLO personalities like Abu Iyad, Bassam Abu-Sharif, Ziad Abu Zayyad, and by
Yasser Arafat himself.26 The Oslo
peace process as conceived in PLO circles will lead to a Palestinian state and
Israel will believe, writes Mamduh Noufel, a member of the Palestine National
Council in 1998, that this is the final solution to the conflict.27
But the PLO considers the Palestinian state not the end of the conflict, but a
vital stage to further the struggle against the constricted and withering
remaining Jewish state.
At the core of the PLO terminological
ambiguity lies the juxtaposition of language: as an inclusive tool within
defined cultural frontiers for generating cohesion and a common universe of
meaning for the “family” within; and the parallel and contrasting use of
language as exclusive to the foreign audience that is beyond the legitimate
perimeter of in-group solidarity.28
Arafat will refer to Israel by name and identify peace as the mode of
conflict-resolution when speaking in international forums. Arafat’s rhetoric
and that of his PA media and spokesmen will however differ markedly before
Palestinian audiences. Palestinian television will routinely equate Israelis
with the Crusaders, who were ultimately defeated by the Muslims during the
Middle Ages, and label Israel “the Zionist enemy”.29
Broad and categorical defamation of Israel as racist, fascist, and Nazi-like
have filled the written and electronic Palestinian media since the
establishment of the Palestinian Authority regime by Yasser Arafat. In this
respect, the language of the PLO covenant in Article 22 continues to delineate
the structure of attitudes toward Israel in the period of peacemaking.
The use of political double-talk is
standard rhetorical practice in regimes with a clear agenda for control and
conquest. This is also part of the theatrical form of Arafat’s own appearance,
sporting a kafiyya on his head and a gun on his hip, with an image that
hardly conforms to the moderate peacemaker he has allegedly become.
Central to the Palestinian strategy of
rhetorical and policy ambiguity are the terms “state” and “revolution”. These
two ideas have represented a dialectical tension in history as in the cases of
France and the Soviet Union after their revolutions, or Egypt after the 1952
revolution.30 In Israel’s case, the
Herzlian and Zionist goal of statehood blocked any further impetus for a
continuous revolution in territorial terms. But in the Palestinian case the
evidence points to revolution, that is the liberation of all of Palestine, as
the final goal which will traverse the period of statehood to full victory.
The PLO organizational badge bears the fitting motto: “revolution until
The PLO’s historical experience as a
liberation movement provides a collective consciousness for full victory and
the elimination or utter defeat of the enemy. Born as a Third World movement
for national liberation, Fatah and later the PLO identified with the FLN
Algerian struggle against French colonialism, the Vietnamese war against
American imperialism, and the South African campaign against white racism.
Meeting Nelson Mandela in Cairo in 1990, Arafat declared “We’re in the same
It is the Vietnam model in particular
which seems to have guided the path of PLO strategy, because the Palestinians
were not only inspired by guerrilla war tactics from Southeast Asia but also
by political tactics of pliancy and subterfuge. The PLO learned from the
Vietnamese that signing agreements, like the Geneva Accords of 1954 and the
Paris Accords of 1973, would facilitate but not block the dogged advance to
complete victory. Thus the “mini-state” approach, as an embryonic fetus within
the 1993 Oslo Accords, would galvanize Palestinian revolutionary energies,
while atrophying the spirit and eroding the will of Israel. Peacemaking, in
essence, was not a matter of principle but practicality. And as South Vietnam
and Saigon fell in 1975 following the Paris Accords, so would Israel and
Jerusalem fall following the Oslo Accords of 1993 according to this subtle
revolutionary and political model of victory.32
When Arafat addressed the UN General
Assembly in 1974, he made a dramatic gesture that in one hand he held the
olive branch and in the other the freedom fighter’s gun. He concluded his
remarks with the phrase: “it is in Palestine that peace will be born.” By
laying the guilt for the conflict on Israel’s shoulders, and threatening a
violent response if Israel would not surrender or be compelled to surrender by
the international community (read: the United States), Arafat demonstrated his
dexterous capacity for bellicosity couched in a pose of goodwill.
The Palestinians have basically never
given up their aspiration for achieving their end through any means and
methods available. In 1989 Faisal al-Husseini, a prominent Palestinian
responsible for Jerusalem in the name of the Palestinian Authority, intimated
the preference for the unity of Palestine, rather than a two-state solution as
conventionally advocated.33 Nabil
Shaath, the Minister for International Cooperation in the PA, was emphatic in
stating in 1992 that: “...nothing that we [the Palestinians] will
sign now will preempt our right to negotiate the right of return, or full
political rights to self-determination, and our right to an independent state.”34
These demands together would emasculate
the Jewish state.
Some Palestinian leaders abandoned any
last shred of circumspection to the wind. Arafat himself reportedly stated in
a closed session with Arab diplomats in Europe on January 30, 1996, that the
aim was nothing less than “to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a
purely Palestinian one”.35 This would
be achieved through the mechanisms of refugee return and psychological warfare
which would result in massive Jewish flight from Israel. A thunderous
demographic revolution would lead to Israel’s demise.
George Habash, the leader of the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who officially opposed the Oslo
process, did not nevertheless deny its great advantage for the on-going
struggle. “I am in favor of a Palestinian state at this stage,” he said in
1998, and this because he wanted all of Palestine. “All of it!” he added for
emphasis.36 To support the
establishment of a (mini) Palestinian state is not a moderate concession of
that part of Palestine (i.e. Israel) not included within its borders. This is
not Palestinian surrender but Palestinian strategy to get what is for getting
now and demand the rest later.
While the question of whether or not the
PLO/PA/PNC (Palestine National Council) had or had not amended/abandoned the
charter at Gaza in December 1998 remained an open political issue, the
constitution in the same month was unaltered, bold in its language and
objective. We should recall that Arafat had with colleagues founded Fatah in
1957 and headed the movement even before he took over the chairmanship of the
PLO itself. Article 5 of the Fatah Essential Principles states that
“liberating Palestine [not parts of Palestine] is a national obligation,”
while positing in Article 8 that “the Israeli existence in Palestine is a
Zionist invasion.” The Palestinian national revolution aspires in Article 12
of Fatah Goals to the “complete liberation of Palestine and eradication of
Zionist economic, political, military, and cultural existence”.37
The Fatah constitution serves to
highlight the fact, that whether the PNC amended the PLO charter or not, the
Palestinian strategy which employs the intermittent dissonant ambiguity of
rhetorical tactics continues to pursue the liberation of all of Palestine and
nothing less than that.
Concluding Thoughts and a Conceptual Revolution
In “tokens of higher and lower culture”
Nietzsche recognized that habitual and undiscussable principles contribute to
a living sense of community. The individual is subordinated to the group and
all the individuals acquire a firmness of character. But this stability, he
adds, produces stupidity as the possibility for spiritual regeneration, for
creativity and change, is aborted without the role of daring people who
introduce new ideas and forms of behavior into the life of a society.
An ethnographic and cultural study of the
Palestinians could elucidate their coherent character, harmonious within their
social structures and political norms. With patriarchal authoritarian
leadership, preferential cousin marriage patterns, and disciplined religious
faith, this Arab community rigorously preserves its identity and coherency.
The Palestinian mental universe is a virtually closed intellectual structure,
but this is not so much based on a rigid modern nationalistic consciousness
and political unanimity. For the deeper sources of the Palestinian popular
narrative and political experience rest upon anthropology more than
nationality. Palestinian ideology, in short, is a modern expression of a
A synthetic tribal existence collates
religion and culture, language and politics, in an ensemble of shared beliefs
and rites. The tribe is impervious to the outside world – and this is part of
its primitive quality and strength – and has no emotional or practical need
for it. Moreover, such an immutable and authentic Palestinian community
considers the outside world, in this case the modern West, and its Mideastern
Israeli embodiment, an alien force which threatens the inner harmony and
coherence of the community’s life.
At root, the PLO is a traditional
community which rejects the West and its baggage of Enlightenment civilization
with fanatical resistance, in order to maintain the tribe’s identity and
cohesion. Terrorism, blackmail, and fundamentalism feature prominently as the
means to stave off the universalizing “end of history” from the tribal
The Arab world as a whole is in a
protracted state of malaise and helplessness. Its political gods failed,
Nasser and Saddam Hussein being the two major candidates, and its vaunted
ideologies crashed – like Arab
nationalism and Islamic integralism. Tyranny and bitterness fill the Arab
lands. Only the Palestinians and Arafat offer a bleak hope for rejuvenation
Yet, Yasser Arafat is not only a
political leader or revolutionary hero, but the tribe’s sorcerer and shaman
wrapped into one. He has come to exorcise evil and malady whose source is
Zionism and Israel in Palestine. With magical incantations like “jihad,
jihad, jihad” he will rid the universe of the hoary spirits that threaten
the wholesome integrity of tribal existence. Arafat offers his distressed
people the legitimate leitmotif for ritual cleansing operations:
burning the Israelis in effigy, firing their guns wildly in the air,
mutilating the bodies of Jewish victims who have polluted the sacred space of
Palestine. Cathartic violence complements the Islamic conviction that
murdering the dhimmi Jew, who has surfaced as an armed demonic Israeli,
is never a moral problem. Recognizing the thin line between politics and magic
in the case of the PLO is no less compelling than that which in the past and
present divides physics from metaphysics, astronomy from astrology, and
chemistry from alchemy. The preoccupation and fascination with reason and
science have not created such a disenchanted world as many, in the West,
The coherent Palestinian universe faces
great danger of disruption and destruction. But Arafat has the magical ability
to save the tribe. His mysterious celibate life-style (before and since, with
or without Suha) hints at his total commitment and undivided sacrifice for his
people. With the mantra that calls for “a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as
its capital” Arafat will push the myth as far as reality will permit. In the
end the myth will become reality or reality will destroy the myth. Certainly
any alteration of the myth would be a perilous pollution of the hallowed
doctrine that Arafat, like an ijaza Muslim master transmitting the
tradition to the next generation, would not permit.
The language of the “peace process” is
therefore in its particular way the political code for progressively denying
Israel any semblance of territorial solidity until its final collapse. Using
the mantra of the “peace process” blends psychological warfare and diplomatic
legitimization that constitutes a grotesque verbal inversion. For the call for
peace is nothing but a declaration of war.
Muhammad Muslih, “Towards Coexistence: An Analysis of the Resolutions of
the Palestine National Council”, Journal of Palestine Studies, XIX,
4, Summer 1990, pp.3-29.
I.C. Jarvie, The Revolution in Anthropology, London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1964, p. 200.
Bridget Fowler, Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory: Critical
Investigations, London: Sage, 1997, p.92, and David Swartz, The
Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1997, p. 63.
Francesco Gabrieli, Muhammad and the Conquests of Islam, New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1968, pp. 68-69; also, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook,
Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977, p. 4 on the link between Islam and war.
The Islamic Law of Nation: Shaybani’s Siyar,
translation and introduction by Majid Khadduri, Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins Press, 1966, pp. 15-17.
mass murder of the Jews at Khaybar is well known. The connection between
the agreement with the Medinese at Hudaibiya and the subsequent massacre
of the Jews at Khaybar is analyzed in Michael Lecker, The Banu Sulaym:
A Contribution to the Study of Early Islam, Jerusalem: The Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, 1989, ch. 6, esp. p. 126.
mid-nineteenth century British traveler Richard Burton related the
religious ceremonies at Mount Arafat as he witnessed them, in his
Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, New York:
Dover, 1964, orig. 1893, Vol. Two, Ch. XXIX, pp. 192-201.
There is an explicit use of the term al-Yahud al’Arab, which denies
the idea of integral and distinct Jewish peoplehood, in Kamil Mansour from
an article in Majallat al-Dirassat al-Filistiniyah, (Arabic), 14,
Spring 1993, p. 40.
the research study and extensive documents section in Bat Ye’or, The
Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, London: Associated
University Presses, 1985.
Aviva Shabi and Rony Shaked, Hamas: Mi-emuna be-Allah le-derech
haTerror, (Hebrew), (“Hamas: From Faith in Allah to the Path of
Terror”), Jerusalem: Keter, 1994, p. 103.
St. John Philby, Forty Years in the Wilderness, London: Robert
Hale, 1957, p. 52.
W. Kinglake, Eothen, or Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East,
ed. B.J. Hayes, London: W. B. Clive, 1844, pp. 142-43.
Edward B. B. Barker, ed., Syria and Egypt Under the Last Five Sultans
of Turkey, New York: Arno Press, 1973, orig. 1876, p. 35.
J. Baldensperger, “Morals of the Fellahin”, Palestine Exploration
Fund Quarterly Statement, London, 1897, p. 123.
Mas’udi, The Meadows of
Gold: The ’Abbasids, tr. and ed. by Paul Lunde and Caroline
Stone, London & New York: Kegan Paul International, 1989, pp. 320-24.
Amin Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes, London: Al Saqi
Books, 1984, pp. 173-74.
Quoted in J.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World,
New York: Da Capo, 1987, p. 507.
Al-Jabarti’s Chronicle of the First Seven Months of the
French Occupation of Egypt, June 15-December 1798, ed. and tr. by S.
Moreh, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975, p. 88.
Gil Carl AlRoy, Behind the Middle East Conflict: The
Real Impasse Between Arab and Jew, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1975,
Al-Qabus, (Arabic), Kuwait, March
The Arafat quotations were drawn from the Palestinian and
Israeli press and published by Morton A. Klein and Bertram Korn Jr.,
Five Years of Palestinian Arab Violations of the Oslo Accords,
September 13, 1993-September 13, 1998, New York: Zionist Organization of
America, 1998, pp. 29-30.
From Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind, New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1976, p. 107.
On the Nazi strategy toward Europe between the two world
wars, see the remarkable book by Leopold Schwarzschild, World in Trance,
London: Hamish Hamilton, 1943.
Richard Burton, op. cit., Vol. One, p. 140.
Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to
History, tr. Franz Rosenthal, Princeton University Press, 1967, vol.,
I, ch. II, pp. 302-03; and Henri Lammens, Le Berceau de l’Islam,
1er vol., Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1994, pp. 108, 194-95, 249.
See Abu-Sharif statement in Al-Quds, (Arabic),
Jerusalem, December 10,. 1998 (Internet); and Ziad Abu Zayyad, “The
Palestinian Right of Return: A Realistic Approach”, Palestine-Israel
Journal, 2, Spring 1994, pp. 74-78.
Mamduh Noufel’s article on the Palestinian state option
appeared in Dirasat al-Filastiniyyat, (Arabic), no. 36, 1998, pp.
On language in anthropological and ethnographic research,
see Claude Levi-Strauss, Anthropologie Structurale, Paris: Plon,
1958, ch. II, pp. 37-91.
Israeli journalist Nadav Shragai surveyed PA television
broadcasting concerning Israel in an article in Ha’Aretz, (Hebrew),
Tel Aviv, September 3, 1998.
See Fouad Ajami, The Arab Predicament: Arab Political
Thought and Practice Since 1967, New York: Cambridge University Press,
1981, ch. 2.
“The PLO and Vietnam: National Liberation Models for
Palestinian Struggle”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 4, No. 2,
Autumn 1993, pp. 181-210; The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 1990.
See my article “The PLO and Vietnam: National Liberation
Models for Palestinian Struggle”, Small Wars & Insurgences, 4, 2,
Autumn 1993, pp. 181-210.
Al-Husseini interview in Journal of Palestine Studies,
no. 72, Summer 1989, p. 12.
“Reflections on the Peace Process: An Interview with Nabil
Shaath”, Journal of Palestine Studies, XXII, 1, Autumn 1992, p. 73.
Cited in the Middle East Digest, March 7, 1996.
Habash interview in the Journal of Palestine Studies,
XXVIII, 1, Autumn 1998, p. 100.
Fatah Online Constitution, <http://www.Fateh.org/e_public/constitution>,