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"Ideological Views of the Palestinians"

HOLIDAY, Vol. 18 (November 1982)

By Gordon Welty
Wright State University
Dayton, OH 45435 USA

I. [November 14, 1982]


It is necessary to begin with a disclaimer. It is not possible for anyone validly to represent the Palestinian people except for its sole legitimate representative, the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.). The P.L.O. has consistently affirmed the national identity of the Palestinian people and its historic right to its homeland in Palestine.

While principled, the Palestinian position has not been inflexible. In 1969 it advocated the establishment of a secular democratic republic in Palestine; after 1977 the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestinian government in-exile, advocated the establishment of a nation- state in the West Bank and Gaza as soon as those territories were liberated from Israeli occupation.

This Palestinian programme must be contrasted to those of the Zionist entity. Israel is neither a secular nor a democratic republic. Israel is a Jewish theocracy, and Israel does not have, and presently does not care to have, a constitution. We will return to assess the issue of religion in a moment.

With reference to the absence of a constitution, it has been suggested that the Israeli position accords on the one hand with its pretense to tribalism and, on the other hand, its inability to justify in writing its theocracy, especially to the American Zionists, those Jewish tourists and Christian tourists to whom the excesses of Orthodoxy and Zealotry are scandalous.

The Palestinian position does not lend itself to interpretation as religious controversy. It is rather a secular demand for the re-establishment of its historic homeland, a demand to be pursued through national liberation struggle. Only when we turn to other ideological positions does the possibility of understanding the conflict in the Middle East in terms of religious controversy emerge.

In the complex pattern of Middle East politics, we can identify three interested parties. It is convenient to distinguish several ideological positions which are contending within each of these three parties, regarding the Palestinian people. The three parties are Israel, the United States, and the several Arab countries.

What are the contending ideological positions in Israel regarding the Palestinian people? The dominant ideological position is called Revisionist Zionism. The other major position is called Labor Zionism.


Revisionist Zionist arose in the 1920's under the direction of Vladimir Jabotinsky and is a member of the family of ideologies known as radical nationalism. In brief, any people without their own homeland doesn't deserve to exist.

Moreover, any people which does have a homeland will remain isolated within that land. This isolation will either come from that people's own affirmation of their racial purity, or else it must be enforced by other, neighboring peoples who have homelands.

This ideological position is held by the Israeli Herut Party under the leadership of Menachim Begin, regarding the Palestinians in particular and Arabs in general. It finds its most receptive audience in the Sephardic Jews, the Israeli ethnic group caught between the hegemonic Ashkenazim and the oppressed Palestinians, constantly aspiring to the higher status of "real Jew," constantly threatened by the status of "just an Arab," susceptible to religious superstition and adulation of "great men."

In fact, Israeli Sephardim publicly worship Menachim Begin as a "living saint." Gross manipulation of religious sentiment may be an element of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Parenthetically, the ideological position of the Phalange Party in Lebanon, lately under the leadership of Bashir Gemayel, has a close family resemblance to Revisionism.

Since Israel has deprived the Palestinian people of its homeland, and has also deprived the vast majority of Palestinian persons of their homes and landed property, the Herut Party and the Likud Alignment consistently consider the Palestinians to be, in Begin's terms, "two-legged beasts."

As such, Palestinians are appropriate victims of pogroms such as those perpetrated at Deir Yassin in 1948 and at Shatila in 1982. Those who fled from the Nazi holocaust in Europe would perpetrate one of their own in the Middle East.

Parenthetically, since the Palestinian people has been deprived of its historic homeland and has come to reside in refugee camps in Lebanon, the Phalange Party considers itself to be the appropriate agent, and agent under Israeli tutelage and with both U.S. government and Israeli consent, to perpetrate pogroms such as those at Tel Zataar in 1976 and Shatila in 1982.


Turning to the other major ideological position in Israel, Labor Zionist arose toward the end of the Nineteenth Century and is a member of the family of ideologies known as herrenvolk democracy. It views the world in pragmatic and optimistic terms, always looking for the "quick fix."

It is Eurocentric and fundamentally racist. The racism of the Israeli Ashkenazi justified colonial rule over the Palestinian people to bring civilization to the Sephardim, and incidentally superprofits to the metropole.

In case the Sephardim don't just now appreciate this European civilization, carefully engineered anti-Semitic scares can enhance their understanding. In case the Palestinians don't appreciate this colonial rule, carefully orchestrated night- riders and Jewish thugs can facilitate their emigration from the "Promised Land."

This ideological position is held by the Israeli Labor Alignment under the leadership of Shimon Perez (or is it Yitsak Rabin).

It is clear that these ideological position accord no place to the Palestinian people. The populace of the surrounding Arab lands can perhaps be subjugated and balkanized by Imperial Israel. But not so the displaced Palestinian people. The popular phrase of the Israeli Defense Force is to "kill the Palestinian while they are young" while the weak sisters in the Israeli populace simply wish the Palestinian out of existence, tacitly acquiescing in the deed of the fascist state. II. [November 21, 1982]

Next, what are the contending ideological positions in the United States regarding the Palestinian people? The dominant ideological position, although an increasingly questioned position, is what can be called "Dual Loyalty." The other major ideological position in the United States regarding the Palestinian people is the U.S. Department of State "official position."


Dual Loyalty Zionist fully emerged in the Fifties and is one of the earliest of the family of ideologies known as "ethnic" or "single-issue politics." It recognizes, promotes, and even depends upon the profound ignorance and apathy of the American people regarding the Middle East in particular and foreign policy issues in general.

It has thus been a relatively easy task for Dual Loyalists to "screen" political aspirants on a seemingly innocuous topic: how does this candidate feel about Israel? On the one hand, those candidates who mindlessly and unconditionally support Israel will themselves be supported.

Those who have minor misgivings can be reassured by the allegation of the identity of interests of Israel and the U.S. (hence the name "Dual Loyalist"), by all-expense-paid trips to the Holy Land, by the promise of campaign contributions and speaker's honoraria. Much of these items take the form of the Dual Loyalists' tax-deductible contributions.

On the other hand, those who have serious doubts about the justice of Israeli aggression and aggrandizement in the Middle East, or about the wisdom of U.S. support for Zionist land- grabbing and terrorism, can unceremoniously be dumped by the Dual Loyalists at an early and practically invisible stage of the political process. Meanwhile that process presents an unruffled surface to the electorate.

According to this ideological position, itself about as well-informed as the typical tourist mentality, Palestinian are depicted as terrorists, barbarians, etc. and the U.S. would do well to consider withdrawing from the United Nations or any other international context where representatives of the Palestinian people are, or even might some day be, present.

Parenthetically, it might be noted on the issue of terrorism that it is the Israeli practice of taking no prisoners in border violations and its policy of "no negotiations" with the Palestinians which precipitate the fire fights during which Israeli citizens are cut down by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Like the Israeli Zionist, there is no place for the Palestinian people in this Dual Loyalty brand of Zionism. In fact, this Dual Loyalty Zionism, the philosophy of tourists and, one surmises, Rev. Jerry Falwell, appears at times to be more blood-thirsty from the safety of American shores than its Israeli counterparts.


The other major ideological position in the United States, that of the Department of State, is also ambivalent in its loyalties, but with different ambivalences. Under the pretense of promoting U.S. national interests, this position simply promotes corporate interests in the Middle East.

This loyalty to corporate interests is not to be vulgarly construed as promoting particular corporate interests such as those of Aramco or Bechtel. When we realize the official position promotes these corporate interests _in general_, paradoxical Department of State policies become more clear.

The most intriguing instance of that paradox is the official support of "moderate Arab regimes" as well as the "special friendship" with Israel. Vulgarly, this can be attributed to careerists loath to experience the wrath of the Dual Loyalists, the charges of "anti-Semitism," etc.

More insightfully, this support is due to the Department of State realization that the "moderate Arab regimes" are nothing of the sort. More on that point later. Those regimes need Israel to deflect the Arab masses from domestic concerns. In turn, the corporate interests need those regimes.

Despite the antipathy of much of the corporate leadership towards Israel, the ideological position of the Department of State promotes the corporate interests directly by supporting the so-called moderate Arab regimes and indirectly by supporting Israel.

There is no place in this ideological position for the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. After decades of dismissing the Palestinian people as refugees, decades of wishing them out of existence, the Department of State appears to be formulating a more active ideological position.

The Department of State seems to favor the assimilation and _thereby_ the disappearance of the Palestinian people within a reconstructed Lebanon, or Jordan, or _almost_ anywhere else.

It is clear that this "official position" regarding the Palestinian people is extremely dangerous. it attempts to _internalize_ the Arab-israeli conflict within Foggy Bottom, as it were. This is illustrated by the "Camp David agreement." One would suppose that the explosiveness of such policy would be patent in light of the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy after the debacle of 1948.

More recently, West Bank Palestinian resistance to Zionist designs led the Israelis, with the complicity of the U.S. government, to invade Lebanon and then Beirut to destroy the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. That this imperialist adventure failed, despite the five or six to one numerical superiority of the I.D.F., portends the long-term failure of U.S. schemes for the Middle East as well. III. [November 28, 1982]

Finally, what are the contending ideological positions among the Arab countries regarding the Palestinian people? The dominant ideological position is that of the so-called moderate Arab regimes.

The other major ideological position is the Arab masses' national aspirations in general and support of Palestinian national aspirations in particular.

The spokesmen of the so-called moderate Arab regimes pay lip service to the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, and even pay some of the bills, as it were, of the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

These regimes are only marginally integrated with their Arab masses, and are increasingly unable to maintain domestic accord and the appearances of legitimacy. In part this marginality is due to the Arab nation's imperialist and colonial heritage.

The arbitrary divisions and regimes of the British, French and other colonial powers were imposed as successors to the religious or confessional divisions of the Ottoman Empire. In part this marginality is due to the regimes' own policies. It is a time-worn quip that the Egyptian army was ineffective in the Sinai because it always had its sights trained on the Arab masses in Cairo.

These are backward if not reactionary regimes; regimes of the comprador class of the Arab world; thus they are in truth the "extremest" Arab regimes. The U.S. Department of State cannot acknowledge this extremism because of the cognitive dissonance it would occasion among the American electorate.

The ideological position of the so-called moderate Arab regimes barely tolerates the Palestinian people and its legitimate representative.

On the one hand, the realization of the Palestinian national aspirations would relieve the so-called moderate Arab regimes of the highly educated and culturally modern Palestinian from their midst, thus lessening the potential for social change in the Arab world.

On the other hand, it would remove the lightening rod of Middle East politics with consequences unimaginable from the standpoint of these regimes.


What of the other major ideological position in the Arab world regarding the Palestinian people, the Arab masses' own national aspirations?

Arab nationalism fully emerged since the end of the Ottoman Empire and is a member of the family of ideologies of national liberation. It holds that the Arab nation, today numbering over 150 million people, is an historically constituted nation reaching from the Fertile Crescent and the Arabian Peninsula across North Africa to Mauritania.

It has artificially been dissected by the European colonial powers and will reconstitute itself only through struggle against contemporary imperialism. It tends therefore to be anti- imperialist but not anti-American except to those who would presume to identify corporate interests in the Middle East with the interests of the American people.

This position has been infrequently articulated in the West during the last decade, in part because of the monopolization of the mass media by the spokesmen of the self-serving regimes; in part because of the distraction from more lasting themes provided by the Sadat media hype.

But the magic still worked by Nasserism and Aflaq's Baath doctrines is suggestive that the national aspirations of the Arab masses are not to be dismissed.

It is a key provision of Arab nationalism that the heartland of the Arab world cannot remain occupied by European colonialists, the Ashkenazim, and their Sephardic allies. It is common historical knowledge of Arabs that Algeria was rid of its European colonialists after a century of occupation.

Another key provision of Arab nationalism is that the Palestinian people, an integral part of the Arab nation, cannot remain displaced, dispersed throughout the world. Thus the recognition and active promotion of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people is a necessary element of any viable doctrine of Arab nationalism.

These are the doctrines which mobilize the Arab masses.

There are compatibilities and affinities among these ideologies which are revealing of profound and extensive social relations.

For instance, the three Zionisms increasingly manifest affinity. While the relations of Revisionist and Labor Zionism have frequently been strained, the Likud Alignment's electoral successes and the increasing demographic strength of the Sephardim have brought a detente.

Likewise Dual Loyalists briefly recalled that Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and other prominent Jewish intellectuals had warned in the New York Times in 1948 against Begin's Fascist tendencies. But the Dual Loyalists soon and completely accommodated themselves to the new realities of a politics they had never really understood anyhow.

The ideological position of the U.S. Department of State and the so-called moderate Arab regimes have deep affinities, although occasional divergences of the two positions are inflated in the mass media. The 1973 oil embargo is a case in point. It is convenient to forget that the price increase was initiated by Iran to pay for the Shah's modern weapons systems _prior_ to the October 1973 war. It is convenient to forget that the Nixon administration needed these arms sales to Iran because of the steady deterioration of the Vietnam War and the attendant decline in demand.

When the oil embargo was finally instituted, it merely continued inflationary pricing tendencies already underway. But the mass media portrayed this as an Arab initiative, as the fearsome "oil weapon."

Finally, the several Zionisms and the "official" U.S./Arab positions find an ultimate compatibility in there mutual need for objects of distraction of their respective masses. These affinities reflect the unity among differences of the several aspects of modern imperialism.

The one position which tends to be incompatible with the others is Arab nationalism. The fear of Nasserism and Arab radicalism recurrently grips ruling circles in Israel and the United States, and the so-called moderate Arab regimes. But this ultimate incompatibility reflects the profundity of the anti- imperialist struggle.

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