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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 28, 2003

Palestinian Democracy is an Oxymoron

Barbra Lerner writing in NRO dismisses Palestinian democracy as a pipedream. She also dismisses the Palestinians as a people.
I think, to expect anything like democracy in the southern half of the Middle East any time soon — and a dangerous illusion to expect a Palestinian democracy ever.

They have no past to hearken back to. No past glories, no nation or people, no unique language or history or culture. And no wonder: Until the 1960s, they didn't exist. They are as much a product of the Sixties as slogans like "Make love, not war" or inventions like the kindly, democratic Uncle "Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh." Before the Sixties — when Arabs from what is now Jordan, Egypt, and Syria moved west of the Jordan River to take advantage of new economic opportunities opened up by the returning Jews — they took their nationality from their countries of origin, or from whichever Arab country claimed sovereignty over the land at the time. They were mostly Jordanians, but all three Arab states claimed the land, and each ruled it, or parts of it, at different times.

Intra-Arab rivalries notwithstanding, all Arab nations — the whole Arab world, 200 million strong — agreed from the start that the Jews would never get to keep any part of ancient Israel, that everything from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea was Arab land, and that Arabs would take back every inch of it. This played well to Arab audiences, but it made for ineffective public relations with the outside world. "Help 200 million Arabs drive a handful of Jews into the sea" was not a winning slogan in most parts of the world. And as the Israeli handful defeated the attacking Arab millions in war after war, it became a liability the united Arab rejectionist front could no longer afford.

Unable to win militarily, they resolved to attack diplomatically instead, with a relentless new propaganda war. Job One was to obscure the fact that the same old Arab Goliath was still bent on destroying the Israeli David. To do that, it needed an Arab rejectionist front in miniature — a few million dedicated Arab warriors to present a saleable image to the world, an ersatz victim image to compete with the all-too-real victim image of the Jews. And so they invented a new Arab people, "the Palestinians," whose entire raison d'etre is hatred of the Jews, based on a false claim that "their" land has been stolen from them by greedy, foreign Jewish oppressors.

This new national identity gave the re-named Arabs an instant claim to a separate new state of their own, and it gave every Arab dictator a cruel new cause to champion — a new and more effective way of redirecting the popular rage at real oppression at home into rage against manufactured oppression abroad. To give that rage a permanent base, all the Arab states together made pariahs of the so-called Palestinians — popular pariahs, but pariahs nonetheless. The Palestinians were unwelcome in every Arab state but Jordan, where they form the majority — and even there, the door is shut to further immigration. Consider: A million Jews who had lived in the Middle East since time immemorial were forced out of Arab lands and into Israel, but the Arabs in Israel were locked in, goaded with a constant stream of propaganda, supplied with clandestine weapons, and given large sums of money for murdering Jews.

These Arabs will never be at peace, will never know the blessings of democracy so long as they are encouraged to cling to a false and hateful identity as "Palestinians." They are not a separate people; they are part of the Arab nation and, with few exceptions, they need to be absorbed back into it. Until they are, there will never be peace in Israel or real and lasting progress toward democracy in the southern Arab states.

The biggest mistake America can make would be to keep this evil identity alive by giving it a U.S.-sponsored mini-state. The ancient land of Israel has already been divided between Arabs and Jews, into Jordan and Israel. It cannot be divided again to create another viable state.