Historians, politicians, and analysts continue to debate as to how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict originated and what viable solutions exist. The international community has developed an obsessive bias against Israel and has rewarded the “victim” label to the Palestinian cause. Despite intense mediation efforts and offers, this intractable conflict continues to rage on and leaves no sign of optimism. One state, two-states, three-states; are we truly considering the interests of both parties? Or are we wrongfully implementing conflict resolution theories to an exceptional case? I propose a different approach, one which consists in providing a new definition to the conflict, a definition where Israel is not solely responsible for the current state of affairs. A definition which starts with the recognition of Palestinianism as a prominent political movement.
Despite its difficulty and controversy, try asking any well-rounded individual to define Zionism. Although the wording might be different, it will be a relatively concise answer which describes the movement as: “the belief that Jews are entitled to a homeland in Israel”. Now ask any Palestinian in the West Bank or scholar to define Palestinianism. Many will say that no such thing exists, and the remaining answers will most likely lack consistency.
It is irrefutable that Palestinianism is a political movement. As Zionism reached its zenith in 1948 with the independence of the State of Israel, Palestinianism would only be founded two decades later in 1964 with the establishment of the PLO. The Palestinian Liberty Organization marked the birth of Palestinianism as a movement. It is simply incorrect to label the Arabs living in Palestine before 1948 as Palestinians. Since the 15th century until 1917 the Ottomans had ruled the territory and established a common identity throughout their regional empire. When WWI concluded and Britain assumed administrative powers over the territory of Palestine, they had adopted a population which saw themselves as part of a greater Arab-Muslim nation. Even as the Balfour declaration was signed in 1917 with the promise of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the mandate of Palestine, the Arab population in the territory demonstrated no organized aspiration of self-determination just resistance. The violence committed against Jewish settlers in Palestine, such as the 1926 Hebron Massacre, was not a display to the international community demanding independence.
With the creation of the PLO’s charter in 1964, the phrase and motto “Free Palestine” was born. This phrase provides sufficient evidence, supported along all aisles of the political spectrum, which accepts Palestinianism as a countermovement to Zionism. This motto is still chanted in the streets of Hebron, Ramallah, and even New York. The world’s demand for Israel to seize its “occupation” has blinded the international community’s understanding of where the true conflict lays; the lack of a common and shared Palestinian identity. This internal struggle can be seen with the policies of the PA (funding terror, delegitimizing Israel, and encouraging anti-Semitic indoctrination) and their public support for a two-state solution. Arafat claimed his commitment to abandon the PLO’s military struggle by seizing all terror activities in 1988, yet all we have seen until 2017 are: two intifadas, hundreds of lone wolf terror attacks, and the political recognition of Hamas as part of the Palestinian government.
Palestinians have every right to achieve self-determination and Israel does not fall short of mistakes and wrongdoings. Terror and settlements are not the obstacles to peace, they are mere side effects of the Palestinian struggle for identity.
Do they still legitimize their existence as a counter Zionist movement? Or are they genuinely interested in establishing a homeland for their people with the promise of a life with dignity and prosperity? Therefore, the bias resolutions against Israel in the UN and the constant de-legitimization attacks are not proper measures to resolve the conflict because they continue to assume that Israel is the source of the region’s instability
The international community would better invest its resources into guiding the Palestinian leadership and its people to a path of revelation; where a decisive question of “who are we? “will have to be answered. Who better to aid in this process than the people who have maintained a common identity despite two thousand years of exile, anti-Semitism, and genocide?
Let us put political correctness aside and define the conflict as a struggle for Palestinian identity. Everything done until now has failed, perhaps this is the way forward.