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Mordechai Kedar: The Failure of the Palestinian Venture

Palestinians praying on a street outside the Damascus Gate

Palestinians praying on a street outside the Damascus Gate
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

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Lately, there have been many rumors circulating about the intentions of the Palestinians, specifically Abu Mazen, to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and return to the pre-Oslo days, when Israel was responsible for all of the territories of Judea and Samaria, including the Arab cities. About one month ago, in March 2012, a conference including Egyptian and Palestinian notables convened in Cairo, and discussed this as a serious possibility, “because at present there is no political solution on the horizon.” The questions that the conference dealt with were: who has the authority to implement a decision to disband the PA, and whether the advantages of such a move would outweigh the disadvantages. According to the participants, the PA has failed because it has not achieved a full Israeli withdrawal from all of the territories “occupied” in 1967, and has failed to impose the refugees’ “right of return” upon Israel.

Ibrahim Hamami, head of the Center for Palestinian Affairs in London, who participated in the conference, stated: “The Palestinian Authority was established to serve the goals of the occupation by continuing negotiations, while the Palestinian citizen did not benefit from it at all. On the contrary: it was the Palestinians who were forced to withdraw because of the settlement activity and roadblocks. An additional reason to dismantle the PA is the Israeli “fear of deterioration in security that will occur in Israel because of the absence of Palestinian security organizations.” By saying it, Hamami implies that the whole raison d’être of the PA security organizations is to foster Israel’s security, and thus undermines the legitimacy of the existence of the PA. Hamami claims that six years ago, in 2006, Abbas had already hinted at the possibility of dismantling the PA after Israel broke into the Jericho prison and arrested Ahmed Sadat and his associates. Since then, the possibility of dismantling the PA has arisen from time to time, when Abbas has become frustrated with Israel.

As a result, Palestinian spokesmen have it easy: they just have to blame Israel for their failure. It’s convenient and it provides an explanation that the West will buy, because it doesn’t have a deep understanding of the problems of the Middle East in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue in particular. The truth of the matter is, there never was a chance for the Palestinian Authority to succeed, because of the innate problems that flow from the nature of the political culture of the Middle East. We will focus on a few of them:

1. The fundamental problem of any modern Arab state is the problem of its legitimacy to exist as a state, principally because the state does not reflect a well-defined ethnic unit, and therefore is not a nation-state in the European sense, e.g. France and Holland. Traditionally, there is no “Syrian people”, “Jordanian people”, “Lebanese people”, or “Sudanese people”. There is an “Arab people”, which is divided into tribes, clans, religious groups, and sects. Arab states such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Sudan are creations of colonialism, which was responsible for the arbitrary division of the Arab nation, without regard to demographic facts. The PA suffers from this problem too, because – traditionally – there was never a “Palestinian People”, and there is no trace of such an entity in any book or newspaper that was printed before 1920 – before the area of “Sham” (Greater Syria) was divided into four political units: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine-Israel.

2. Most of the members of the “Palestinian People”, the virtual collective upon which the idea of a Palestinian state is supposed to be built, are descendants of immigrants that entered the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River during the second half of the 19th century and the twentieth century. The Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the Jewish villages that were established in pre-state Israel were an attractive source of livelihood for the immigrant workers, who came from the surrounding areas. Many Egyptians fled to Israel in the 1860s in order to escape forced labor – digging the Suez Canal. Therefore even today, many “Palestinians” have names such as “Al-Masri” (The Egyptian), “Masarwa” (Egyptians), and “Fayoumi”, names which point to their Egyptian origin. Others are called “Al-Haurani”, because they were brought by the British from the Hauran, in Syria, principally to work in the port of Haifa. The inhabitants of the village of Jisr al-Zarqa are Sudanese, and therefore they did not participate in the 1948 War of Independence and remained in the place where they settled, between Caesaria and Ma’agan Michael. European geographers who visited the Land of Israel in the 19th century, as well as the international investigative committees which operated during the first half of the twentieth century, documented groups of immigrants from Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, North Africa, and the Balkans, who were residing in Israel. Residents of Rehania and Kfar Kama, two Galilee villages, are Cherkessian from the Caucasus. The Booshank clan, which lives in Kfar Manda, came from Bosnia. All of the residents of the Negev, most of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and some from Mount Hebron are Bedouins, who for centuries wandered between the deserts of Sinai, the Negev, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Their Saudi Arabian dialect clearly testifies to their country of origin. Some of the Armenians – who are Christian – fled to Israel from Turkey in the years 1915-1918, because of the genocide the Turks were perpetrating against them. Therefore, “Palestinians” are mostly a mixed people, various groups whose origin is not the Land of Israel.

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About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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4 Responses to “Mordechai Kedar: The Failure of the Palestinian Venture”

  1. Ed Adamek says:

    A very interesting and different perspective – well worth a read.

  2. This issue will be debated well after the "cows have come home". Until there is universal acceptance, in all of the Middle East (and this includes Israel), that irrespective of gender, ethnicity and religion we are all humans and should all be treated equally, the problems of the middle east will never be resolved. Borders applied by British colonialism should never be the scapegoat for what is happening. For example many years ago I was told by a Lebanese gentleman who defected to Saudia Arabia because of the discrimation against his religious beliefs, that he could not identify with either country because one was his ethnic place of birth who rejected him and the other was his religious home who rejected him because of his ethnicity. This was back in the 80's and he had felt comfortable in Australia because (at that time) he felt accepted here in spite of his ethnicity and religion.

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