Mar. 13, 2019
The Failure of Palestinian Nationalism – Dr. Alex Joffe (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- The February 2019 Warsaw Summit, which saw the Israeli PM take his seat beside Arab leaders, was a turning point that signaled the ebbing fortunes of the Palestinian cause.
- The continuing inability of the Palestinian Authority to build a functioning state has generated frustration among once-reliable supporters, as has the ever-looming presidential succession crisis.
- The steady cutoff of American aid, including to UNRWA, has not prompted a fundamental rethinking of Palestinian goals, but rather a retrenchment.
- Why has Palestinian nationalism failed to construct a state? On the one hand, it relies on romantic visions of an imaginary past, the myth of ancestors sitting beneath their lemon trees.
- This is at odds with the hardscrabble reality of pre-modern Palestine, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, dominated by its leading families, and beset by endemic poverty and disease.
- On the other hand, Palestinian nationalism is resolutely negative. The essential symbols of Palestine – a fighter holding a rifle and a map that erases Israel completely – is a nationalism based in large part on negation of the Other, preferably through violence.
The writer, an archaeologist and historian, is a senior non-resident fellow at the BESA Center.