Is there a Palestinian nationalism




Palestinian nationalism and the PLO

XXII. The soil on which a specifically Palestinian nationalism could flourish was to be found during the mandate among the intellectuals within the Arab - mainly Christian - merchant population. They developed an extremely westernized appearance, with newspapers and magazines playing a leading role in campaigns to resist Zionism and in the development of Palestinian and Arab national consciousness.

Key external factors in its formation included the refusal of the British imperialists to grant the residents of Palestine self-determination or their own government, and the separation of Palestine in 1918 from Syria (which was a French mandate) and Transjordan (a puppet monarchy of the English) . As a result, trade routes were disrupted and the economy was decisively reoriented by the mandate government. Agricultural exports began to predominate in the most fertile areas, the coastal plain. The export of citrus fruits, mainly to Great Britain, increased tremendously.

The effect of Zionist colonization was no less significant. In 1935, Jewish organizations and individuals owned 12% of all arable land. In view of the depleted small parcels of the Arab population (who were burdened with debts and unable to maintain irrigation systems, machines and fertilizers to increase production), the Arab peasantry's hunger for land increased.

This external pressure, together with the destruction of pre-capitalist social relations, created the basis for the birth of a national consciousness among the Arab population of Palestine. Until such pan-Arab movements as Nasserism were unmasked, however, a specifically Palestinian nationalism was condemned to silence.

Today the PLO ("Palestine Liberation Organization") has become the umbrella organization that includes all main forces in the fight against Zionism for the national self-determination of the Palestinians. As an alliance of political, cultural and military mass organizations, it has become the center of national resistance and plays the role of a "substitute state" in the entire Palestinian diaspora.

It has its own armed forces, a parliament and a "government", but it does not exercise sovereignty over any particular territory; Ultimately, it depends on the support or tolerance of the other Arab states. Founded by Nasser and the Arab governments in 1964, the "official" PLO under Ahmed Shukeiri was unable to achieve supremacy even within the Palestinian masses and remained a compliant tool of the surrounding bourgeois Arab states. in reality, Shukeiri was soon overtaken by the growth of Fatah ("Palestinian National Liberation Movement"), which soon gained popularity after its first guerrilla attack against Israel in 1965 and which eventually took control of the PLO in 1969.

Fatah was founded with financial support from the Palestinian bourgeoisie in exile. It reversed the previous strategic scheme - first pan-Arab liberation, then freedom for the Palestinians. Faced with the apparent failure of Egypt and Syria in 1967 and the successful guerrilla warfare of the 1960s - such as the FLN in Algeria, the NLF in Vietnam, the "July 26th Movement" in Cuba - Fatah fought a similar struggle for destabilization and internal The Zionist state is shaken. The attacks were to be carried out from neighboring countries - Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Revolutionary communists (Trotskyists) are against guerrilla warfare as a strategy for the following reasons: Our strategy is to mobilize the masses in town and country under the leadership of the working class. To withdraw the bravest fighters from production, from the cities and even from the most densely populated rural areas, to limit their activities to combat training alone, means to rob the oppressed people and the exploited classes of their cadres for direct mass action. It disarms and weakens the economic and political struggle in favor of military action, which is more or less episodic and incoherent. Hence, although the factions of the PLO have built armed militias based on refugee camps for more than twenty years, they neglected the organization and mobilization of the Palestinians within the Zionist state. The result of this was to have produced an elite of trained fighters, but not an avant-garde of mass struggle.

In fact, the PLO and Fatah were never able to develop guerrilla warfare on a massive scale or invade the Zionist state with the exception of daring but always suicidal missions. The only victory that Fatah won was fought on Jordanian soil in Karamah, where it halted the attack by Israeli stormtroopers on a refugee camp. Moreover, since the guerrilla groups are dependent on the Arab governments, whether conservative or "radical", for their finances and bases of operations, they have been repeatedly restricted, disciplined and also driven out and disarmed by these regimes. In addition, they were put under pressure to make repeated attempts at a diplomatic solution. Fatah, which has the closest ties to its supporters in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, has repeatedly shown itself open to these projects.

The limits of this bourgeois nationalist strategy were tragically exposed in Jordan in 1970. When the PLO's power began to expand beyond the Palestinian camps to include the institutions of the Jordanian state itself, the Hashemite regime launched a bloody attack on the PLO resistance. Despite a general strike and widespread calls for the overthrow of the monarchy, the policy of non-interference and explicit support for the kingdom's Jordanian-Palestinian bourgeoisie led them to seek demobilization of the Palestinian and Jordanian masses in the face of King Hussein's attack. The subsequent massacre of 2-3,000 Palestinian fighters - the so-called "Black September" - must be seen as a direct result of this strategy of dependence and alliance with the Arab regimes.

One organization within the PLO that rejects the principle of non-interference, at least in words, is the PFLP ("Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine"). Founded by former leaders of the "Arab National Movement", best known among them George Habash, the PFLP quickly developed towards Stalinism. Although she herself called for resistance in 1970 in order to seize power in Jordan, given the leadership of the movement, this could only be understood as a call for the establishment of a bourgeois-democratic regime. Indeed, the PFLP is fully committed to the Stalinist stage theory, which limits the immediate goal of the national struggle to the realization of democratic demands. No anchored tendency in the Palestinian movement fought for a revolution in Jordan in 1970 that would have required councils of workers, peasants and soldiers' delegates to seize power. This missed a crucial opportunity to deal a real blow to imperialism and its local agents.

Although its program includes the need for a "Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Party", the PFLP has no strategy for organizing Palestinian workers for the mass struggle against Zionism. In fact, after "Black September" it sank to the strategy of individual terror, petty-bourgeois despair, and initiated a wave of aircraft hijackings and hostage-taking. While Trotskyists unconditionally defend those militants who use such methods against state repression, we also reject and oppose the use of this form of struggle, as it is wholly unsuitable for achieving victory in the national liberation struggle and condemns the masses to the role of passive spectator instead of making them the subject of their own liberation.

XXIII. The failure of the PLO strategy to produce results, along with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, encouraged support within the PLO for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the newly occupied territories; such a "mini-state" should exist alongside the Zionist state. Between 1967 and 1973 the PDFLP (Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; later also simply called DFLP), which was a breakaway from the PFLP led by Naif Hawatmeh, argued for a liberated zone on the West Bank , free from Israeli troops and no longer under Jordanian tutelage. Under the influence of the defeat in the 1973 war, Fatah transformed this idea into that of a "mini-state". Despite the DFLP's opposition to Fatah's increasing dependence on the Arab regimes, the policy of the "mini-state" has led straight to maneuvers with "democratic" imperialism, the Arab bourgeoisie, the United Nations and the USSR - all in an attempt to persuade the Zionists to grant limited autonomy to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

All consistent advocates of self-determination for the Palestinians must reject this slogan as a reactionary impasse for the struggle for national liberation. A sort of Bantustan, economically and militarily ruled by Israel, is an enticing prospect for those powers that wish to "stabilize" the situation in the region by undermining and diverting the prospect of sustained anti-imperialist revolt.

Support within the PLO for this comes largely from circles eager to gain the power and material assets of office. For the Palestinian masses, such a solution would be a betrayal of their justified desire to return to their homeland as free and equal citizens of a non-denominational and democratic state. So far only the "Communist Party of Palestine" has drawn the line of compromise and withdrawal to its logical conclusion and recognized Israel's right to exist.

Since Hussein's decision to forego the West Bank, the PLO has expressed its increased willingness to recognize the State of Israel and to seek a political solution based on a West Bank state. The election of a Labor government could accelerate the PLO's surrender and betrayal of the legitimate goals of the Palestinians for a state across all of Palestine.

The opposition to the "mini-state" project was led by the so-called "rejection front" of Palestinian organizations, most notably the PFLP. However, this stance is only quantitatively more progressive than that of Fatah and the DFLP. All Palestinian organizations (with the exception of "Islamic Jihad"), whether they are "realists" or "rejecters", support the PLO's central slogan of a "democratic, secular state" in Palestine. Our rejection of this slogan is not based primarily on its ambiguity (which allows for various interpretations including the "mini-state"), nor on its clearly progressive aspect of defining a non-denominational basis for a future state in Palestine.

Our rejection is based on the absence of any indication of which class in Palestinian society is capable of overthrowing Zionism and which class must rule in the future state. Once all the ideological disguises of religious and national mythology are torn off, then every state remains nothing but an instrument of coercion in the hands of a particular class to defend its particular property relations. The question of the class character of the Palestinian Republic cannot be hidden by deceptive phrases.

It is only there. Proletariat, supported by the peasantry and parts of the urban petty bourgeoisie, which has the power to smash the Zionist state. In this process it must ensure that there can be no return to the rule of the imperialists over the economy, their banks and agriculture. The demand for a democratic, secular state remains extremely utopian on the ideological level and would in practice lead to a capitalist Palestine. Such a state would be in the iron grip of imperialism from day one, like any Arab state today.

Although the PLO will be an important arena where the militants and cadres of a future revolutionary party of Palestinian workers will be gathered, it is nonetheless a popular front of diverse class forces held together by a bourgeois nationalist ideology and by the agents of the Palestinian and Arabs Bourgeoisie is ruled. It must be replaced politically and organizationally if the Palestinian revolution is to advance to its ultimate victory.

Because of the failure of the PLO to advance the process of self-determination, Palestinian nationalism in its hegemony over the masses within the West Bank and Gaza is increasingly being challenged by Islamic fundamentalists. Any movement towards recognition of Israel by the PLO will allow Islamic officials to pose as adamant enemies of Israel and thereby gain prestige.

This movement gets its inspiration from the Islamic revolution, which overthrew the Shah in Iran. In the refugee camps in Gaza as well as in Lebanon, the spread of Islamic influence is based both on the provision of finance and other means and on the visions of liberation that the Islamic fundamentalists can conjure up. In reality, Islamic fundamentalism has a reactionary ideology that includes anti-Semitism. This prompted the Israeli state to encourage the growth of Islamic groups in order to give credibility to their repressive policies and to split the Palestinian resistance.

The goal of an Islamic republic for Palestine would result in a disaster for the Jews, but also for the Palestinian masses. The current example of the Iranian state is evidence of this; an Islamic republic (like that in Iran) would involve the enslavement of women, the oppression of other religious groups such as the Christian Arabs, and the total denial of the democratic rights of the masses.

Although it is possible and necessary to fight with these militants against Israeli oppression in the occupied territories, a really consistent fight for democratic rights for the Palestinians includes the sharp criticism of the denial of such rights, which fundamentalism brings as a result, and a struggle to defend and extend such rights, even against Islamic militants.

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