Another Perspective

Why the Palestinians Don’t Want a State

Diplomatic niceties notwithstanding, the reasons are pretty obvious.

By 3.5.10

Send to Kindle

President Barack Obama will soon be entering the lion's den of Middle East politics with the same conviction that has guided all his predecessors -- that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict lies in the Two-State Solution, leading to the early establishment of a Palestinian state.

The received wisdom has it that the Palestinians wish above all things to have a state of their own, but that their fervent wishes are frustrated by Israeli delaying tactics, such as endless arguments over West Bank settlements, security fences, water rights, and the like.

While the Israelis probably do not want a Palestinian state on their borders, an entity that could easily become Hamastan II (and yet another missile launching platform), there is increasing evidence that the Palestinians themselves are of two minds about the prospect of their own statehood.

The first piece of evidence is the unchallenged observation that Palestinian leaders have rejected or sabotaged every proposal for statehood since 1947. In that year the Palestinians rejected the UN-sponsored division of the former British mandate into Jewish and Arab states on the grounds that they did not want to share Palestine with the infidel Jews. Instead of developing trheir own state, they tried through armed conflict to eradicate the nascent Jewish state. Their leaders took this big step just two years after the end of the Holocaust; and, guided by Hitler's associate Haj Amin Al-Husseini, their implicit goal was to continue the slaughter. But if you start a war of politicide plus extermination you had better win it; otherwise, like Hitler, or Tojo, or the Palestinians of 1948, you will very likely end up with a bombed-out wasteland, or -- in the Palestinian case -- as a defeated rabble of landless refugees.

The Palestinian leaders did not draw the obvious conclusions from what they call their "Naqba," their catastrophe. Instead, the next time a state was practically handed to them, they again turned it down, in favor of war with the Jews. Thus, when Clinton and Barak, reviving the stalled Oslo Accords of 1994, made Arafat an offer he couldn't refuse -- 95% of the West Bank, control of the Temple Mount, border adjustments, etc. -- he refused it, while giving an ultimatum that only a thoroughly defeated Israel could accept: the resettlement of some five million "refugees" within the boundaries of the Jewish State. No diplomatic pause to negotiate this new demarche: just "take it or leave it," and Arafat flounced out, to fire up the second, soon to be crushed, Intifada.

Why don't the Palestinians learn their lesson? Why won't they accept the grant of statehood? To repeat, perhaps because they don't really want their own country? There are, after all, many bounties attached to their current status, perks that would disappear under the condition of statehood.

This is the age of the sanctified victim; and any person or group who can claim that title is automatically in a state of grace. Nobody is allowed to "blame the victim," and so these lucky unfortunates can follow any course, however bloody, so long as they can blame their violence on their victimized condition. Convincing much of the world -- including too many Jews -- that they were the embodiment of the new Christ, the latest targets of Jewish savagery in the holy land, the Palestinians year ago captured the victim's high-ground, and have since worked their claim for great profit. They are the darlings of the UN and of European elites: The West Bank hums with idealistic foreign youth eager to interpose their bodies between Palestinian flesh and Israeli tanks, as well as with foreign NGOs eager to drip healing valuta over the physical, psychological and financial wounds of this martyred folk. Unable to beat the Jews militarily, the Palestinians are winning the moral victories, and these are leading to decisive political victories as an outraged world threatens to sanction and boycott Israel.

But under statehood, the Palestinians will no longer have their special charisma as the world's premier victims, innocent agrarians suffering under a harsh occupation. When the fickle world turns its attention to the latest victim du jour, their welfare benefits are likely to be sharply cut,

Then too, the wiser Palestinians, who remember Arafat and his predatory crew, have their own good reasons for quietly resisting statehood. They realize that, should they gain their own country, externally imposed Israeli rule would be replaced by internally based oppression, by the corrupt or fanatic leaders who -- via factional warfare and the Arab politics of assassination -- typically reach the top in their societies.

Thus far, we have been looking at the Palestinians' practical reasons for avoiding statehood. They don't want to lose their world-celebrity status, nor the funding that goes with it, and they don't want either the likes of Hamas forcing Sharia law on them, or the likes of Arafat robbing them blind. But the Palestinian resistance to statehood has also less rational but equally compelling bases.

Foremost among these is the legacy of collective shame. With the possible exception of the Japanese, no culture is so vulnerable to a sense of shame and humiliation as the Arab world. Even in the 21st century, Arabs continue daily to lament Crusades that occurred nearly a thousand years ago. They still feel shame over the loss of Spanish Andalusia ("Andaluz" to the Arabs), their last European redoubt, evacuated in the 15th century. More recently, Palestinian Arabs have been exposed to traumatic humiliation by their defeat during the Israeli War of Independence. I remember how they initiated that war with febrile enthusiasm, confident that their magnificent Islamic warriors would sweep away the puny, cowardly Jewish opposition, certain that the Palestinians would inherit all of the Holy Land. But when push came to shove, instead of chasing the Jews into the sea, it was the majority of Arabs who ran away from the poorly armed Israeli Hagana (a militia that added insult to Arab injury by fielding women).

For example, the local Arabs had cleared out of Sidn'a Ali, a fairly prosperous village on the Sharon Plain, before our Palmach contingent had even arrived in their neighborhood. They ran on the rumor of our coming, and before our sparsely armed troops could have evicted them. The same drama was enacted across Palestine. A vast Palestinian and leftist PR apparatus has been developed to deny this truth, but the Naqba was largely self-inflicted.

The refugees' reluctant hosts in neighboring Arab states were not as sympathetic as Europe's Leftists: "You Palestinian whores! You sold your land to the Jews, and then ran away!!" The refugees, who had shamed not only themselves but also the whole Arab nation, were not generally accepted as citizens of the Arab countries to which they fled. Instead, they were penned up in fetid camps, where many remain to this day.

The calculus of Shame dictates that the Palestinian stigma of defeat can only be removed by a bloody victory over the Jews who inflicted it. By the same token, their state cannot be handed to the Palestinians by some benign international arbiter, or by a generous Israeli government. These are people who elect Hamas, who celebrate the "Victories" of Hezbollah, and who dance in the street when Israeli teenagers are blown up in a pizza parlor. The gift of a state that was not won in battle would only increase Palestinian shame. The Israelis tore their state out of the heart of Palestine; in order to get the Palestinians dancing again, their shame must be exported, to become Israeli shame. The Palestinian state must -- in an act of bloody reparation -- be torn out of the heart of Israel. Until a defeated Israel begs for terms, or better yet, is utterly destroyed, no final peace is possible, and no state otherwise gained can be acceptable to the Palestinians.

President Obama should realize that his dream of a Palestinian state can only be realized after a new, hi-tech Holocaust of Jews. These unfortunates would most likely die under a cloud of missiles from Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Gaza, even as Obama counsels them earnestly against any "disproportionate reaction."

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

David Gutmann is a professor emeritus of psychology at Northwestern Medical School and a veteran of the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.