The Californian Nation
A history teacher, if you spoke of a “Californian nation” to his ears, would laugh you in the face. It would be appropriate to talk of a geographical region named California, as well as the fact that it spans Mexico (“Baja California”) in addition to the United States, but there never was a Californian nation, not even before the “invaders from the Old World” laid hands on it in the 16th century. California was then home to scores of different American Indian tribes, with not even a superficial sense of unity binding them. Whoever should speak of a “Californian nation” would, at best, be committing the error of imposing the concepts of recent European nationalism upon a very different time and place. Anachronism, at best.
And so too was the Middle East until quite recently, until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1919: there were concepts of nationhood, but not of the European kind. Their scale was different: both larger and smaller than that of European nationalism.
On the large scale, there was Arab nationalism: the concept of all speakers of Arabic, whether in the Arabian peninsula, in Iraq or in Egypt, as being one nation. It was a nationalism that excluded the Turks and the Persians, and included, for example, Iraqi Christians. It was this nationalism that gave the Christian Lebanese Michel Aflak, the father of Baathism, and likewise Edward Said, and still gives the Alawite Bashar Assad and the Christian Arab Israeli parliament member Azmi Bisharah, the platform for the delusion of an Arab unity against the West and Israel. Which has always proved to be a fatal mistake, because Islamic religious identity is bound to trump Arab nationalism sometime, and then those non-Muslim Arabs become dhimmis in the best-case scenario.
On the small scale, identity in the Middle East was tribal: your kin was more important than farther identities, you were yourself judged according to who your ancestors were, and family loyalty was kept as tight as possible by the mechanism of cousin marriages. This is still an impediment to the formation of stable societies in the Middle East today.
Now I come to the crux of the matter: the “Palestinian nation”, which is being, as we speak, and has been for long decades, touted as the first and foremost issue upon which peace in the Middle East depends, and further, upon which Islamic terrorism worldwide, including 9/11, can be blamed.
Reading above on the large scale and small scale of Middle Eastern nationalism, one can easily see that the concept of a Palestinian nation falls between them. Palestinian nationhood is larger than a tribal identity—it encompasses many different tribes—and smaller than the pan-Arab identity. Yet these were the only two possible identities in the Middle East until the British and French took their rulers and drew arbitrary lines on the maps of the Middle East.
The reader may ask: Was there not a province called “Falasteen” before 1919? Was there no talk about “Egyptians” or “Iraqis” as peoples before 1919? The answer is: Yes, but in the same sense as you can talk of California as a geographical region, or of the “Californian people” as an ad hoc aggregate of all the people living in that region, much like “Highlanders” and “Lowlanders” in Scotland.
There was a Falasteen before 1919, and Arabs conversing with each other at the Hajj could always say, after hearing the dialect, “He is a Masri” (Egyptian) or “He is a Maslawi” (from Mosul, Iraq). That is no different from recognizing an English speaker as a “Liverpudlian” (from Liverpool).
But then, after 1919, overwhelmed by the retaking of the Middle East by Christian powers, and later the formation of the Jewish state, the locals tried their hand in various methods of reacting to the new situation. One of the first methods was the adoption of European-style nationalism as their own. It is from then on that we hear the talk of “the Syrian nation” and “the Iraqi nation”, and, of course, “the Palestinian nation”.
Today, after the less than stellar results of Arab nationalism, such as the failure of Nasser’s “Arab socialism”, there is an ongoing repudiation of Arab nationalism in favor of a return to the pan-Islamic method. It is not that Islam was not a force in the years 1919–79, nor that Arab nationalism was entirely absent from the 7th century to 1919, but that their respective roles were relatively subordinate at those periods. In the first few centuries of the Caliphate (the Islamic Empire, won by the sword of Muslim aggression—say that openly and you risk your academic position), there was debate between the Arab racists of Islam, who wanted to keep non-Arab converts to Islam in an inferior status to Arab Muslims, and the pan-Islamists, who wanted equality for all Muslims. In today’s Arabian peninsula, non-Arab Muslims are still at a disadvantage, contrary to the insistence of Muslims worldwide that their religion is the antidote to the “basic racism of the West”. But in general, until 1919, the banner of their expansion was Islamic, not Arab, and carried out by non-Arabs like the Ottoman Turks. As for the period from 1919 to 1979, the pan-Islamic impulse was always festering, so much so that Nasser had to execute Sayyid Qutb, until the Iranian revolution restored the primacy of the pan-Islamic way.
So if pan-Islamism is resurgent and replacing pan-Arabism, why do the Muslims still talk of “the plight of the Palestinian nation”? Easy: because of the great convenience of it. Framing it in terms of a nationalism gives it a package very familiar, and very pleasing, to Western eyes, especially those with post-colonial guilt over the past oppression of the nations of the world. And we can indeed see, that five years after 9/11, the guilt-stricken, self-hating Western Left has taken this narrative hook, line and sinker: instead of accepting the correct view of things, according to which 9/11 and the suicide bombings in shopping malls in Israel are sides of the same coin of the Islamic plan of world domination, the Left takes the suicide bombings in Israel to be the desperate resort of a nation struggling for self-determination, and 9/11 as a louder attempt to convey to the US the message that its foreign policy should change.
There has not ever been a “Palestinian nation”, except, in the sense of a single nation tied to the soil of Palestine, the Jews (what a house of cards this truth topples). This myth of a “Palestinian nation” is a modern invention for the cynical purpose of Islamic gain. Just as there has never been a “Californian nation”, and there never will be unless some people invent one out of political convenience.
As a hypothetical example of what that involves: it is perfectly possible, and would not be surprising, for a Mexican nativist group having the goal of land concessions from the United States, or for Native American radicalists wishing to restore all the lands to those who were on them before the coming of the Europeans, to invent a Californian nation for those purposes. No doubt it would captivate the hearts and minds of Leftist university professors to the same extent as does the “Palestinian nation” myth today.
I will go further into hypothetical territory: suppose (and note, it is hypothetical, I don’t believe any other group of people on earth than the Muslims could do such a thing) Native Americans in California were to engage in suicide bombing operations in the cities of the United States in order to leverage world pressure for land concessions on the part of the USA. Of the reactions of the Leftist academics I have no doubt: they would laud the resistance of the “poor, oppressed Californians” against the Western colonialist oppressors. What I have to ponder, in this hypothetical situation, is what the reaction of Americans outside the ivory towers would be.
I can think of two reactions, and both are abhorrent to contemplate. The first reaction is for Americans to say, “To hell with their demands for self-determination! You don’t get it by blowing yourself up with innocent women and children. Send the army to shut ’em up, to show them terrorism doesn’t pay!” That would be a sensible reaction. However, this is not the attitude of the nations of the world towards Israel’s confrontation with its “Palestinian” problem. The reaction would be laudable, the double standard not.
The second reaction may be even worse: that Americans should, after those terrorist acts, call for dialog, listening, negotiations and concessions. Peace at any price. The only thing good about such a reaction would be the employment of the same standard that is carried out on Israel. But except for that piece of consistency, the reaction would overall be criminally bad. Such a reaction would signal to all of humanity that violence pays. It is cut from the same cloth as the West’s lack of hesitation to put exhibits of a religious figure dipped in urine, touting “free speech” in favor of it, while refusing outright to print cartoons of another religious figure, stating “the necessity of respect toward the other” against it. We (all of us who are not completely Leftoxicated) know that this difference stems from the fact that the former would arouse protests and complaints, while the latter would arouse bullets and bombs.
Here we reach another great irony: the modern Left, always speaking about “resisting the powerful” and “speaking truth to power”, is the most accommodating force today in the face of Islamic violence, and refuses even to acknowledge, let alone speak of, the truth of the Islamic threat, all because of the danger that a reaction would not be a civilized letter of protest but a bullet through the head. The Left is appeasing an ideology that has “Might Makes Right” at its core. The Left praises Gandhi for his non-violent resistance against British rule, and urges the West to follow his example, while sympathizing with the quite non-non-violent resistance of the “Palestinians”. Nor do the Leftists realize that Gandhi’s non-violent resistance gained India her independence only because her rulers were the relatively civilized British; had Gandhi flourished during the rule of the Muslim Aurangzeb, the result of his non-violent resistance would be the independence of his head from the rest of his body.
If we are to win this war between Islam, which wants shariah law for the entirety of humanity, and the rest of the world, we must see beyond the façade of nationalism and convey to the Muslim enemy the message that terrorism doesn’t pay. And that needn’t involve military action—in fact, military action is the last resort, when the Muslims are numerous enough to pose a total physical threat, as is the case now for Israel, and will be the case for Europe unless it wakes up in time—but just the civil firmness of saying, “You will not force your way of life upon your host country; and you will accept our laws or be deported”. No removal of St. George’s cross from the flag, and no burka hospital gown for female Muslim patients. No concessions to those who strap exploding vests on their children, no gestures of goodwill to the uncivilized.