NATIV Online        

  Vol. 3  /  April 2004                      A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS      


Religious, Cultural and Rhetorical Aspects
in Palestinian Strategy

Mordechai Nisan

This article is an excerpt from the book,
ACPR Publishers & Zmora Bitan Publishers, 2001, Hardcover
(Large format), 532 pages.

The 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 alongside her.

This 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 1980s-1990s.

However, 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-Pritchards notion of the “function of culture as a whole to unite individual human beings into more or less stable social structures”. 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.

Pierre 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.

Our 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.

The PLO, 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 Jihad

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 perhaps disappear.6

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 Hamas 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 Campaign

The complex 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 cultures code.

The Bedouin 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

The artful 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.

Other 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

The 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

For its 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.

At every 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

The 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

The 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.

The 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.

The hallowed 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 liberation”.

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 trench.”31

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 Fatah 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 “tribal” collectivism.

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 communitys 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 habitat.

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 and triumph.

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, naively believed.

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.


In 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.


The 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.


The 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.


See 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.


H. St. John Philby, Forty Years in the Wilderness, London: Robert Hale, 1957, p. 52.


A. 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.


P. 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, p. 128-29.


Al-Qabus, (Arabic), Kuwait, March 7, 1978.


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. 3-16.


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.


From Fatah Online Constitution, <>, (Dec. 1998).