The Psychosis of Palestinian Nationalism

The Psychosis of Palestinian Nationalism

The Jerusalem Post‘s inestimable Arab correspondent, Khaled Abu Toameh, argues that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem–equivocally, and reluctantly–only because U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had called him “twice over the past few days to demand that the Palestinians stop anti-Israel incitement.”

Kudos to Kerry–and to the media monitors that have sounded the alarms about incitement, notably Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI. (Kerry’s reaction to the attack was also commendably unequivocal in its condemnation–unlike that of President Obama.)

Yet as Abu Toameh notes, “Abbas has radicalized his people to a point where he is now being roundly condemned himself for speaking out against a terrorist attack on a synagogue.”

Indeed, the Palestinian cause itself seems to have been reduced from a nascent expression of longing for self-determination in a historic homeland to a pure cult of Jew-hatred and martyrdom. If, as George Orwell famously observed, “A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige,” the competition that preoccupies Palestinians is not keeping up with the success of Israel but the destruction and depravity of rival terror groups.

There are no Palestinian national holidays; there are few celebrations of Palestinian pride. There are only rituals of self-pity and anti-Israel hatred, such as the so-called “Nakba.” Whereas Jews in the Diaspora have gathered funds to plant trees and invest in Israeli development since long before the State of Israel itself existed, Palestinians rally around convicted terrorists including Rasmieh Odeh and fashion themselves into a kind of anti-Western bloc within the West itself, capitalizing on old European antisemitism and postmodernist anti-establishment chic.

There is much to be said for retaining equal empathy for two sides in a conflict–even if the actions of each side are not morally equivalent. But it is not possible to care more about the Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves.

By now it is clear that the most ardent supporters of the two-state solution are well-meaning Israeli and American leftists, but it is an approach Palestinians have rejected. Palestinians do not even seem interested in building a state of their own; rather, they apply their passion to cultivating old hatreds and new factions. And despite the lessons of repeated military defeat, Palestinians seem addicted to the belief that the latest would-be juggernaut–be it Hitler, Nasser, Saddam and now Khamenei–will come to their aid by destroying the enemy they have obsessively dehumanized.

Palestinian nationalism is not actually a form of nationalism, properly speaking. It is a mass psychosis, an extreme and violent version of the Xhosa cattle-killing cult of Nongqawuse, the prophetess who led her people to starve themselves to death in the pitiful belief that doing so would bring about the expulsion of the colonists from South Africa.

In this case the violence is directed both inwards and outwards, as Palestinian suicide terrorists martyr themselves for an essentially empty cause.

This is not a national movement that can be bargained with, that is prepared to accept compromise. It can only be defeated and contained until the fever passes–however long that may be.


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