- Palestinian Nationalism: An Overview
According to the literature there are two types of nationalism: First, Civic (territorial) nationalism emphasizes the common territory and citizenship as the criteria for individuals’ inclusion in the national group.1 Here the national group is the totality of citizens, with no emphasis on their primordial ethnic affiliation; the national culture consists chiefly of civic and universal values. This kind of nationalism is found in France, Great Britain, and the United States. Civic nationalism crystallizes under the shadow of attempts to establish hegemony for the dominant group culture, values and basic beliefs.
Second, ethnic nationalism lays the major emphasis on primordial ethnic affiliation as the criterion for inclusion within the national group. The values shared by the members of the national group are chiefly the group’s historical heritage and primordial ethnic values. This type of nationalism can be found everywhere—in the Third World, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa. This kind of nationalism is crystallized mainly as a reflection of the meeting or clash with the “other”.
Until the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) after the signing of the Declaration of Principles and Interim Agreement in 1993, the Palestinians’ demand for the establishment of an independent state went through several major stages. What follows is a general survey of the stages in the development of the Palestinian national movement from its beginnings through the establishment of the PNA. [End Page 11]
The Palestinians Awaken to a Crushing Defeat
The first steps in the development of the Palestinian national movement were taken in the early twentieth century and were strongly influenced by the Zionist movement and the Jews’ aspirations to establish a state. They emerged from the Emir Feisal’s abortive attempt to establish a state of “Greater Syria” and the subsequent institution of the British mandate over Palestine, as provided for by the Sykes-Picot agreement that allocated Syria and Lebanon to France and “Southern Syria” (Jordan and Palestine) to Great Britain.
This political separation helped reinforce Palestinian national consciousness at the expense of Pan-Syrianism. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, real attempts were made to establish national institutions and develop organizational structures for the movement. Special efforts were invested in founding Muslim-Christian societies in the larger cities and, later, nationalist societies that were considered to be “more advanced” forms of organization than the confessional societies. Various bodies were established to represent all or most of the Palestinian population. The first of these was the “Palestinian Arab Executive Committee,” in 1920, soon followed by the “Palestinian Higher Committee,” headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini. These organizations made a serious contribution towards crystallizing the early ideological lines of the Palestinian national movement and its arguments for the existence of a Palestinian people with a right to a Palestinian homeland.2 Violent disturbances against the Jews and the Zionist movement, as well as against the Mandate, broke out in 1929.
The first serious steps were taken towards the formation of Palestinian political parties. These parties, with the exception of the “Independence Party” (Hizb al-Istiqlal), reflected the clan structure of contemporary Palestinian society: the Husseini family and its allies versus the Nashashibi family and its supporters.3 During the 1930’s, because of events in Europe and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, there was massive Jewish immigration to mandatory Palestine; the pressures created by this immigration and by the British mandatory government led to the outbreak of the 1936–39 revolt, which included extended strikes and demonstrations. These events were a further step towards the appearance of the Palestinian national movement.
From the Palestinian point of view the results of these events were disappointing, especially after the massive intervention by Arab leaders from neighboring countries to end the strikes and disturbances. This intervention, which widened in subsequent years, marked the beginning of the “Arabization” of the Palestinian problem, which subsequently had a significant [End Page 12] impact on the course of the Palestinian problem and the evolution of political activity among the Palestinians.
The disappointing results of the Arab Revolt and later events caused the political strength of...