The Palestinian Ideology Ignores Reality

Among ideology, a fundamental belief system, and recognition of reality, there has always been a huge intellectual gap.  History is full of instances when all too many people have refused to recognize the disastrous consequences of adhering to an ideology, usually based on myth, regardless of a reality that contradicts their firm beliefs.  The key problem is that individuals espousing some ideological point of view may have invested so much emotional attachment to it that they not only abandon objectivity, but also are incapable of renouncing a viewpoint, a myth, or a false political religion that has been discredited or may be irrelevant.  They do not want to disavow the part of themselves that has accepted falsity.

This is now true of the ideological believers in the Palestinian narrative of victimhood.  Almost everyone recognizes the mistakes of "true believers" in refusing to admit the horrors of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union and the Mao Zedong years in China.  Supporters of and apologists for those regimes persisted in ignoring the reality that they were totalitarian, savagely cruel, responsible for systematic terror, and engaged in the slaughter of tens of millions of their innocent citizens held to be enemies.  

Adherence to the ideology of Communism meant both condoning the horrors and cruelty as inevitable and refusing to accept any possible compromise or qualification of that ideology.  Nor could adherents accept that this ideological view, though partly rational, was largely a myth, albeit one capable of mobilizing people.

Today, that mixture of reason and myth is present in a Palestinian ideology of victimhood, an ideology that seeks to mobilize political support by insistence that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israel, a state that must be rejected.  Supporters of the Palestinian cause can argue as part of that ideology for Israeli withdrawal from disputed or occupied territory captured in 1967, for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and for a solution to the Palestinian refugee question by a Palestinian right of return.

But the ideology departs from objectivity in referring to Israel as a colonial power from which Palestinians must be liberated.  That power is said to oppress Palestinians and to engage in terror against them.  The reality is that it is Palestinian terrorism that has accounted for the murder of more than 1,500 Israelis over the last twenty years.

The ideologists may raise legitimate points about the settlements built since 1967 in the West Bank.  Yet it serves no purpose to argue that these settlements are the main obstacle to peace negotiations.  Nor is it reasonable to argue that Israeli policy has been unchanging and inflexible, that it is unremittingly oppressive, and that it is based on the argument that "Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty."  It is true that this argument was made by a relatively small group among the Likud party in 1977.  But it is not the policy of Israeli governments, as has been shown by the various offers of a compromise solution on territory shown by Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.

The Palestinian ideology has formulated the concept of Nakba, catastrophe, resulting from the Arab defeat in their war against Israel in 1948-49.  Left unsaid is the crucial reality that it was Arab armies that had invaded Israel on its creation and caused the catastrophe.  The Palestinian state, because of Arab refusal, never came into existence 66 years ago, as proposed by the UNGA resolution of November 1947, but the refugee problem did.  Moreover, it was the threat reiterated by President Nasser among others to eliminate the Jewish State of Israel and his actions producing a casus belli that led to the 1967 war and the capture of Arab territory -- the now disputed West Bank and East Jerusalem.  It was this threat and consequent actions that have prevented a Palestinian state from being established.

The Palestinian ideology and activists on behalf of that ideology or apologists for Palestinian terrorism refuse to recognize benefits that arise from employment of Palestinians by Israeli enterprises.  Rather, they insist on the self-defeating policy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions in so many areas of life against Israel.  Or they maintain the image of Israeli/Jewish conspiracy eager to rule over an oppressed people.

Even more, the ideologists refuse to recognize both the security problem of Israel and the reality of the continuing attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezb'allah from Lebanon on Israeli civilians.  Rather, they concentrate on a number of issues: an uncompromising view of territory in the area; a solution of the refugee problem that would eliminate the Jewish State of Israel; the insistence on Jerusalem as a capital of any Palestinian state; and anti-imperialism, which means hostility towards the United States as well as Israel.  Hatred and venom are more noticeable in these arguments than are overtures of conciliation.

No conciliation is likely if the starting premise of Palestinian ideology is insistence on a state that must consist of the whole area of Palestine as defined in the British Mandate, thus eliminating the existing State of Israel.  Equally, the Palestinian refugee problem remains unresolved if Palestinians, and previously other Arabs who also used it as a propaganda device, persist in holding that all refugees, and now their descendants including grandchildren, have the right to return to places where they lived before the war in 1948, and most of which no longer exist.  The demographic impact of this would clearly mean the end of the Jewish State of Israel.

The issue of the future of Jerusalem is also related to the fallacious Palestinian ideological narrative of victimhood.  This asserts that Jews have no historic right to any area of Mandated Palestine, since they lived there for only a short time, if at all.  This assertion means there is no connection between Jews and their ancient homeland and their historic holy places.  Rather, the ideology identifies "Palestinians" with the Canaanites of several thousand years ago and asserts that because there have been Islamist conquests of the area since the 7th century, they are another Islamic group having a right to the land.  In this absurd distortion of history, Israel has no legal right to Jerusalem or anywhere else in Palestine.

The Palestinian ideology has incorporated what is now the politically correct mantra of opposition to colonialism and imperialism.  Not only is Palestinian self-determination an end in itself, but it also implies the end of Israeli colonization.  An ideology of this kind can hardly be the basis of peace negotiations when it, above all in the version of Hamas and other radical Islamists, calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.  Nor can it be useful if Palestinians insist on preconditions or concessions by Israel before any negotiations start.

If Berlin and Vienna are trying, with considerable success, to come to terms with their infamous past of Nazism, why can't Palestinians do the same in recognition of the Jewish past in Palestine?  That recognition is not near at hand.  Instead, Hamas's answer is building a very large, well-constructed, and sophisticated tunnel from Khan Younis in the south part of the Gaza Strip into Israel in order to attack civilians in Israeli border towns and villages.  Hamas, the Islamist expression of Palestinian ideology, prefers to waste resources of its subjects and to invest in terror, not peace.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.