1) The Palestinians' inventiveness
In the wake of candidate Newt Gingrich's assertion that the Palestinians are an invented people, Lee Smith wrote that indeed the Palestinians are invented but that it's a Useful Fiction:
The problem is that current Palestinian nationalism is not strong enough. If it were, Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas might have been more inclined to accept the peace deals offered by Israeli prime ministers and American presidents. If Palestinian leadership were more like the early champions of Zionism, who wanted a state for the Jews no matter its size, then the conflict might have been resolved at any point over the last seven decades.
Gingrich’s vague formulation cuts directly against the grain of the U.S. regional strategy. If the Palestinians aren’t a nation, which is the Arab nation that American officials are supposed to deal with regarding the Palestinians? Or, more vaguely yet, who is the representative of the “Arab people”? Is Gingrich referring to that entity imagined by the ideologues of Arab nationalism, a single and unified Arab nation?
Respecting that particularity is not only good for the inhabitants of the region but also for the interests of the United States and Israel. The United States has bilateral relations with other nation-states and political institutions like the Palestinian Authority. But this country is ill-equipped to deal with large amorphous bodies like the “Arab people” or, alternatively, the “Muslim world.”
In short, Smith is arguing that by giving the Palestinians an identity means that there is a way of addressing their issues.Smith writes that Palestinian nationalism is "weak," but weak is the wrong word. Nationalism, in other words, the building of a new state is not the only goal (or perhaps not even the primary goal) of Palestinian nationalism; rather it is the destruction of the Jewish state.
The twentieth article of the the Palestinian National Charter states:
The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute asingle nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.
Whether is was Yasser Arafat telling President Clinton that there had never been a Jewish temple in Jerusalem or Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, this remains a fundamental belief of the Palestinians. Even now Arabs generally raise alarms about Israeli efforts to "Judaize" Jerusalem. Now that the Palestinians have been accepted to UNESCO, their efforts in that organization are to have the Machpeilah cave (Ma'arat Hamachpeilah) declared a Palestinian cultural site. (h/t Israel Matzav)
"The Ibrahimi Mosque is for the Muslims and the Palestinians, not for the Jews nor for the settlers and I'm proud to be getting married in this magnificent place," said Lubna al-Natsheh, Taha's 19-year-old bride.
"We will not abandon it," she vowed. "We will continue to come here and return one day with our children."
The Palestinians say they will ask UNESCO to formally recognise their cultural attachment to the Ibrahimi Mosque in February — a move only made possible by their admission to the UN body two months ago.
Or take a line from today's Washington Post op-ed by Maen Areikat, Palestine, a history rich and deep:
Our recent history became intertwined with the plight of European Jewry seeking an end to centuries of persecution brought upon them by the West.
Though Areikat goes on to write of a bakery shop owned by his grandfather and a Jew in Jerusalem as demonstration of the co-existence between Jews and Arabs in what was then called Palestine prior to World War II, the intent of the sentence is clear. Jews, for the most part, are Europeans with no historical connection to Israel. He, of course, ignores Jews who lived in Arab lands for centuries who were forced from there homes in 1948. To Areikat the conflict is between native Palestinians and European interlopers, and that the creation of Israel was atonement for European sins inflicted on the uninvolved Palestinians. This is a false narrative.
In September, Maen Areikat declared that a Palestinian state would be Jew free. Would the Washington Post have published an op-ed by anyone expressing similar views in other contexts?
2) Follow the money
A few days ago the New York Times reported Hamas Leader Leaves on Tour of Arab Nations to Seek Support The end of the article cites a reason for the trip:
One of Mr. Haniya’s goals on his trip, expected to last up to two weeks, is to raise money to rebuild Gaza, which suffered extensive damage during the three-week Israeli offensive three years ago in which some 1,300 people were killed. Israel’s goal was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into its southern communities.
At the time the reason struck me as false. Billions have been pledged to rebuild Gaza and certainly some that money has been paid.
An article National Unity Gov’t formation depends on Quartet’s reply- Abbas in Asharq Al-Awsat-UK suggested another possiblity:
According to the sources, the Palestinian President also pointed out that he is afraid that any hasty step toward the formation of a new Palestinian Government under this climate might lead to a US resolution, and even a European one, to put the Palestinian Authority under siege, and punish it by stopping aid offered to it. The sources stress that this stance explains the internal consensus to postpone the discussion of the issue of forming the upcoming Palestinian Government until after 26 January 2012, which is the date on which the Palestinian side is supposed to receive clear replies from the Quartet to the proposals presented by the Palestinian Authority about the borders and security, as the Authority requested.
According to this article Abbas is concerned about losing aid from the United States and Israel if he completes a unity deal with Hamas. Could it be that Haniya's trip is about arranging alternate pledges of aid in anticipation of an American cutoff?