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Religious, Cultural and Rhetorical Aspects
in Palestinian Strategy

Mordechai Nisan
Policy Paper No. 81,
from the book,
Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


The Palestinian struggle against Israel is a political-cum-military campaign rooted in the culture-code of a particular community and civilization. Thus, the public and visible Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process provides only an external exposure of a concealed and complex array of Islamic notions and precedents, cultural characteristics of the Muslim East, and rhetorical devices suited to a revolutionary Palestinian idiom. The Palestinians seek victory, not peace, in this long and brutal fight against the Jews and the State of Israel.

There is no foundation for mutual and satisfactory Israel-PLO accommodation inasmuch as Palestinism is diametrically opposed to Zionism, just like Western democracy is juxtaposed to Muslim tyranny. Such generalized cultural and political factors derive from the specific history and mentality of the Palestinians as Oriental Muslims and Arabs. With absolute Islamic faith, endurance and extremism as indelible features of character and politics, the Palestinians are unable and unwilling to accept the legitimacy and viability of a Jewish state in "Palestine".

This is a zero-sum game but one that is driven not only by modern nationalist ideology and contemporary political grievances, but by a durable ancient memory, identity, and lexicon. As such, the PLO demand for a state is no more than a rhetorical mantra for the more fundamental demand for the annihilation of Israel and its Jews. This is the way to understand the incompatibility between Israel and the PLO, the gravity of the Palestinian menace to Israel, and the need for a radical re-evaluation of the necessary Israeli policy response.

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