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Arab Nationalism and Palestine
E. G. H. Joffé
Journal of Peace Research
Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 157-170
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/424086
Page Count: 14
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Despite the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the critical issue in the Arab World, there is a striking lack of sympathy with the specific demands of the Palestinians, both amongst Arab regimes and the Muslim populations in the area. National consciousness has few indigenous roots in the Middle East because of the assumptions of universality within Islam. When it did arise, it was a specific response to European technological dominance and political aggressiveness and to the newly-awakened ethnic consciousness of the late Ottoman empire. Moreover, it did not express itself as nationalism in the European sense. Instead it turned to the ready-made vehicle of Arabic to define a much wider entity — the Arab Nation. The strong Muslim component involved in this ultimately made the concept acceptable to Arab population at large. Three different and at times conflicting concepts — Muslim, Arabic and secular identity — confronted European colonialism and Zionism until 1948. These concepts altered only when the Palestinians began to create an effective national community after 1967, leading to an ideological contradiction within the Arab World that explains the ambivalence shown towards the Palestinian issue today. Arabism has been shown to be vacuous and divisive, whereas nation-states, with their claims to secular ethnic nationalism, have led to Camp David in the case of Egypt, and the Iran-Iraq War elsewhere. The only remaining source of ideological relevance for the Muslim World is a return to pure Islamic social organization, and this rejects all question of secular nationalism. In short, although the issue of Israel as an alien intrusion within the Muslim World is relevant, the issue of Palestinian nationalism is not.
Journal of Peace Research © 1983 Sage Publications, Ltd.