One of the most dangerous mistakes that Europeans — and more broadly, the gatekeepers of the public sphere in the West — made in late 2000 was to view the Intifada as a nationalist uprising against Israeli oppression, a cry of despair at the oppression of occupation. In so doing, they operated from certain basic axiomatic principles that had no real support in reality (independent evidence) and only appeared within the rhetorical world of Palestinian discourse tailored for Western audiences. Among the most dangerous of these axioms was the idea that Palestinians wanted their own independent state, to be, as the Israeli national anthem puts it, “free people in our own land.”
And the key corollary to this nationalist assumption was that such a nation would be a secular one, that it would separate “mosque and state” and grant everyone freedom of religion.
Nothing better illustrates liberal cognitive egocentrism, and the easy assumption that others share such liberal perspectives than this willingness to believe that Arab culture shares our commitment to separating “church and state.”
Benny Morris wrote a book on the War of Independence, 1948, during the research for which, much to his surprise, he found that it was not a “nationalist” war between Israel and Palestine, but, in the Arabs’ eyes, a Jihad, a religious war. Not only was the “secular discourse” a late phenomenon (under the influence of Soviet propaganda techniques), but never seriously held among Arab Muslims.
This came as something of an unwelcome surprise to his publishers who did not like the idea of spreading such awful and anomalous evidence to the public. They refused the book and it was only after that that Morris found the Yale University Press willing to publish it. If the gatekeepers had their way, we wouldn’t know about Jihad.
So when the Intifada broke out in 2000, the Europeans in particular were eager to believe that this was a) a local conflict between two nationalist movements, and b) by siding with the Palestinians, they would curry favor with their Muslim populations. Instead, it was the beginning of a new stage of global Jihad which targeted the Europeans as much (if slightly later) than the Israelis, and by siding with the Palestinians (actually the Jihadis) the Europeans showed just how cowardly and feckless they were — attacking their friends/allies and siding with their enemies. As a result they speeded up the process of weaponizing their own immigrant Muslim populations against them.
Benny Morris: The myth of a secular Palestine
Posted: May 13, 2009, 7:02 AM by NP Editor
Excerpted from One State, Two States by Benny Morris. Published by Yale University Press. © 2009 by Benny Morris. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.
The Palestinian national movement started life with a vision and goal of a Palestinian Muslim Arab-majority state in all of Palestine — a one-state “solution” — and continues to espouse and aim to establish such a state down to the present day. Moreover, and as a corollary, al-Husseini, the Palestinian national leader during the 1930s and 1940s; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which led the national movement from the 1960s to Yasser Arafat’s death in November, 2004; and Hamas today — all sought and seek to vastly reduce the number of Jewish inhabitants in the country, in other words, to ethnically cleanse Palestine.
Al-Husseini and the PLO explicitly declared the aim of limiting Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who had lived in Palestine permanently before 1917 (or, in another version, to limit it to those 50,000-odd Jews and their descendants). This goal was spelled out clearly in the Palestinian National Charter and in other documents. Hamas has been publicly more reserved on this issue, but its intentions are clear.
The Palestinian vision was never — as described by various Palestinian spokesmen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to Western journalists — of a “secular, democratic Palestine” (though it certainly sounded more palatable than, say, the “destruction of Israel,” which was the goal it was meant to paper over or camouﬂage). Indeed, “a secular democratic Palestine” had never been the goal of Fatah or the so-called moderate groups that dominated the PLO between the 1960s and the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power.
Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi has written that “in 1969 [the PLO] amended [its previous goal and henceforward advocated] the establishment of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews, replacing Israel.” And Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah has written, in his recent book, One Country: “The PLO did ultimately adopt [in the late 1960s or 1970s] the goal of a secular, democratic state in all Palestine as its official stance.”
This is hogwash. The Palestine National Council (PNC) never amended the Palestine National Charter to the effect that the goal of the PLO was “a secular democratic state in Palestine.” The words and notion never figured in the charter or in any PNC or PLO Central Committee or Fatah Executive Committee resolutions, at any time. It is a spin invented for gullible Westerners and was never part of Palestinian mainstream ideology. The Palestinian leadership has never, at any time, endorsed a “secular, democratic Palestine.”
The PNC did amend the charter, in 1968 (not 1969). But the thrust of the emendation was to limit non-Arab citizenship in a future Arab-liberated Palestine to “Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion” — that is, 1917.
True, the amended charter also guaranteed, in the future State of Palestine, “freedom of worship and of visit” to holy sites to all, “without discrimination of race, colour, language or religion.” And, no doubt, this was music to liberal Western ears. But it had no connection to the reality or history of contemporary Muslim Arab societies. What Muslim Arab society in the modern age has treated Christians, Jews, pagans, Buddhists and Hindus with tolerance and as equals? Why should anyone believe that Palestinian Muslim Arabs would behave any differently?
Morris makes a critical distinction here between what people say and what they do. The track record of Arabs in democratic experiments is abysmal, and believing that they will do what they say when it’s about democratic promises of, say, religious tolerance, offers us a virtual definition of what it means to be a dupe of demopaths.