Livin’ in a Happy (Virtual) Nation
Of the things that the Leftards come complaining to me about, the top one is my assertion that the “Palestinians” are a fictitious nation, conceived for the purpose of winning hearts and minds in the West against Israel. “That’s a conspiracy theory worthy of the Protocols!”, they say. (Interestingly, that’s the same sort of complaint Bat Ye’or and Fjordman got about the Eurabia theory, which the latter masterfully refuted. I’m flattered to be in such company.) Here is my answer, which I give by taking the same situation but with a different nation that I hold to be fictitious, a nation whose reality I don’t particularly care about (contra the “Palestinian nation” question).
A conspiracy involves a group of plotters hatching a plan in secret. I do not say, nor did I ever say, that the “Palestinian nation” was devised in such a setting. The “Palestinian nation” is the same as the “Iraqi nation” in being the artifact of the pencil-strokes of Western colonial powers, drawn independently of the demographic divisions on the ground; this is true for Africa also. Many pan-Arab activists in the past, and many pan-Islamic activists in the present, have written against the idea of such “nations” precisely on that basis. The patriotic ideal, which holds that different groups of people can form unity on the basis of geographic proximity, has been a near-total failure; Belgium is one of the few countries in which it is successful, while Czechoslovakia (1919–39), Yugoslavia (1992–5), Lebanon (1976–90), Rwanda (1994) and now Iraq are just a partial list of where it can be seen to have drowned in a pool of blood. The nationalistic ideal, which puts ethnicity first and geography second, is the way to go; though not without its problems (especially when promoted into imperialism, as Nazism did for German nationalism), it is far more conducive to peace than the idea that mere lines on the map could act as melting-pot for very disparate groups.
There is no Iraqi nation; a Britishman and a Frenchman just sat and drew lines on the map to decide which territories each would get upon the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Britain got Mesopotamia, to govern it as an entity called, “Iraq”, an entity comprised of Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds and Assyrian Christians. France did the same for Lebanon: Maronite Christians, Sunnis, Shia and Druzes were lumped up in that single entity, regardless of their irreconcilable differences. The “Iraqi nation” held on just like the “Yugoslavian nation”—by the force of a strongman. Lebanon’s state was from an early stage, and is right now, like walking on a tightrope, with demographic shifts and non-state actors (PLO, Hizbullah) ever threatening to plunge it into a civil war. “Lebanese” is a geographic reference; there is no such nation.
Likewise there is no sharp demarcation line separating the Arabs of the Land of Israel from those of the Sinai Peninsula or of Syria or of Jordan; British Mandate borders were once again ruled arbitrarily. In truth, all the Levant is a continuum of Arabs; the Arab living in the Galilee has no problem comprehending the Arab just across the border in Lebanon, while he will regard the Bedouin Arab of the Negev as an alien, though both are living in the same state (Israel) and regarded by the world as being “Palestinians”. The idea of the “Palestinian nation”, just like the idea of internationalizing Jerusalem, had not come to the fore until there was a concrete and urgent purpose for it: fighting the Jews. From the beginning of this conflict (early 20th century) to this day, the grievance toward the Zionist Jews has always been the exact same grievance toward the Christian Spaniards post-1492: land once ruled by Islam cannot lawfully be brought back to non-Islamic rule. Mufti Hajj Amin El-Husseini (long may he roast in hell) thought so in his day, and Ismail Haniyyeh (may he go to hell soon) thinks so now, and the fact of Christian Arab dupes still believing in the “Palestinian” dream changes nothing. But there is great utility in keeping the “Palestinian nation” narrative, just as there was great utility for Jordan and Egypt to keep the refugees of 1947–9 in their squalid conditions from 1949 to 1967, as a propaganda point against the “Evil Zionists”. One has only to read a Leftist website or magazine to see this.
If there is any theoretical negotiated peace proposal for this conflict, then it could only be a two-state solution, for the two conflicting nations, the Israeli Jews and the “Palestinians”, are very different—more different from each other as the warring sects in present-day Iraq, for they share neither ethnicity nor religion in common. Anyone who advocates a one-state solution here, all the while that the fruits of a one-state aggregation of disparate groups are clear for everyone to see in Iraq, is either criminally stupid or diabolically malicious. But, as I said, the two-state solution is only theoretically better than the one-state solution, which has no redeeming value, because the narrative of “two nations being equal claimants to the land” is false. While the Israeli Jews, on the grassroots level and not just from the government, gave that narrative its chance for at least seven years (1993–2000, from the Oslo Accords to the Second Intifada), the “Palestinians” have never, not in 1929 and not now in 2007, been willing to think of Zionism as anything other than a colonialist invasion, an attack on Dar Al-Islam. For them, any two-state solution is just a step toward a one-state solution, itself only a stage on the way to the dream of reliving the past glory (of Arab supremacism, or Islamic supremacism, or both at the same time).
For as much as can be salvaged from the mess of Iraq—the result of President Bush’s naïve vision of making friends through democratization—the best solution is for it to be partitioned according to its demographic lines. The damage of Sykes-Picot was covered for more than 80 years by the strong rule of the British, the Hashemite kings and finally Saddam Hussein, but make no mistake: just like in Yugoslavia, the lid was waiting for the slightest opening in order to burst out. This is because of the simple fact that there is no Iraqi nation—lines drawn over a map do not a nation make.
Nor is there a case for a de facto “Palestinian nation”, based on the patriotic ideal, even when the Jews are factored out: as I outlined briefly, even within the 1949 Armistice Line borders of Israel there are many groups, far too different from each other for peaceful coexistence. Christian Arabs, Druzes, Muslims, Circassians, Bedouins and the multitude of tribal divisions that make the stories of the feuds of Irish clans look tame in comparison are too great an obstacle for peace. In the entire Middle East, the only states without internal strife are those where all the population is the member of a single tribe. Tribe, umbrella ethnos (Arab) or religion (Islam) are the only demarcations recognized here; nationalism has no chance, for it is a foreign import, brought along with Napoleon Bonaparte and his men. A foreign import, with only one exception.
And that exception is the Jews. Whether at the first time, when the Land of Israel was divided between Canaanites, Emorites, Jebusites, Girgashites and numerous other Semitic tribes, or in the modern era, when it is being claimed by people both splintered among themselves (as warring tribes and clans) and viewing themselves as part of a greater whole (Arab supernation or Islamic global ummah), the Jews have always been the only true Israelis, the only true Palestinians, the one and only real nation of this land. This nation was created not by two foreign officials dividing a pie for their own nations to eat, but by G-d; brought out of slavery in Egypt and birthed at Mount Sinai by the Ruler of the World for His purpose, under His infallible hand. If some American officials, on both sides of the political map (a rare occurrence nowadays), have come to the conclusion that an “Iraqi nation, governing itself on Western principles, just like any European state” is a lost cause, and is better off partitioned according to its demography, then it should not be so far-fetched to repartition the Land of Israel according to its constituent nationalities; only change that plural to singular, because there is only one group that is really a nation on the Land of Israel, and that is the Jews. “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea!” indeed, but only when it has been recognized that the Palestinians (the true ones, without scare quotes) are none other than the Jews.
As for the rest… the rest of the Middle East, and the rest of the world at large—the thorn in the side of world peace is now, as it was in World War II, imperialism. The fact that that imperialism is in the form a religion makes no difference. And trying to solve it by addressing the grievances of virtual nations won’t work. There is no “Iraqi nation”; there is no “Lebanese nation”; there is no “Palestinian nation”; there is a Jewish nation, an Iranian nation (its heritage suppressed by Islam), a welter of Arab identities along a geographic continuum, and a religion that is split between a particular cultural heritage (of the 7th century Arabia from which it sprang; hence the ability to paint anti-dhimmitude as “anti-Arab racism”) and a global mission (world domination, subjugation of all humanity to its rule, much like Nazism and Communism). A tangled web, no doubt. But at least the Leftists now can’t blame me for being simplistic…