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PALESTINIAN NATIONALISM: IS IT VIABLE? Granville Austin . he Palestine problem has been a constant in the turmoil of the Middle East for nearly seventy years. Lebanon's current agony, and the many events and changes in the Middle East during this time, are directly or indirectly attributable to the Palestinians' unfulfilled national aims. The problem goes far beyond the well-being of the Palestinians themselves. It involves the identity of Arab peoples and governments. The United States, Europe, and Japan are unavoidably involved because they wish to protect Israel, assure access to vital energy resources, and limit Soviet influence in the region. Pending resolution of the problem, these powers are attempting to preserve as much regional stability as possible. The Soviet Union uses the Palestine problem to extend its influence and to challenge that ofits superpower rival, the United States. A year and a half of setbacks for the Palestine Liberation Organization (plo) and its heretofore preeminent leader, Yasir Arafat (e.g., military defeat by Israel, attempted takeover by Syria, and internal leadership struggles), have raised questions about the viability ofPalestinian nationalism and about the continued importance of the Palestine problem to the United States. The answers to these questions, to the extent there are any, will come first from analyzing the condition of the Palestinian people and their current capability to sustain a national movement. The plo that was defeated in Lebanon was neither the entire organization, nor the national Granville Austin writes extensively on issues relating to international affairs. Dr. Austin has held senior research and policy positions at the Department of State in addition to publishing a study entitled Public Policy Education (Cedar Falls: University of Northern Iowa Press, 1977), and The Indian Constitution—Cornerstone of a Nation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966). 161 162 SAIS REVIEW movement itself, nor the Palestinians as a people. The Palestinians could revive the plo or build another organization in its place. Questions about viability evoke other questions of definition and time frame. A minority of radical Palestinians through violent action might advance the goal of nationhood more effectively than the moderate majority. The Palestinians might remain a viable national community, although without a homeland, for many years. Answers will also come through assessing the strength and longevity of outsiders' interests in the Palestine problem—either in supporting its resolution or seeking its perpetuation. This paper will, first, briefly examine the external influences on Palestinian nationalism and the involvement of outsiders in the Palestine problem. The focus of the article, however, is the Palestinians: their development as a people; their development of a national movement during the thirty-five years since the partition of Palestine; and their future, including that of their national movement. As the article proceeds, one conclusion will become clear among the many uncertainties: the Palestine problem will continue to threaten U.S. interests and vex its people until it is resolved to the satisfaction of the regional and global powers concerned. Implicit U.S. support for Palestinian nationalism can be conveniently dated from the U.S. vote in favor of an Arab state on the West Bank of the Jordan River—the other half of the United Nations resolution that created Israel. United States support has continued through its large contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (unrwa) and its support for U.N. resolutions calling for the return of territory to the Palestinians if they make peace with Israel. Since 1967 the United States has made several major efforts to bring about negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Most recently, President Reagan has called for world recognition of the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinians. Most world governments support the Palestinian national movement either directly or through the United Nations. For example, more than 100 governments have allowed the plo to establish diplomatic missions in their countries. The very existence of the unrwa is evidence of the widespread view that the Palestinians have not been dealt with fairly and that, pending ajust resolution of the problem, unrwa should continue to educate and to protect the health of Palestinian refugees under its care while providing them, through registration cards, with proof and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 161-177
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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