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Monday, December 24, 2007

A tradition of 'collaboration'

At The New Republic, Marty Peretz reviews a new book called Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948.
The facts as mustered by Cohen show that what he calls "collaboration" was a widespread phenomenon across classes and political groupings. Some individuals, even many, were motivated by monetary emoluments from the Jews. But this did not seem to be the underpinning of Arab opposition to their own ultra-nationalist -under the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin Husseini, actually fascist- leadership which specialized in assassinations but could not mount much more than marauding expeditions. Neither was active sympathy with the Zionists a disproportionate allegiance of the Christian Arabs of Palestine. What we learn about the three decades after General Allenby conquered Jerusalem from the Ottomans was that the nationalist impulse among the local Arabs was not one impulse at all, but fissured and, in any case, intrinsically weak. The elites of the Arab Higher Commission sold their lands to the Zionists; many Arab professionals worked with the Zionists; many ordinary Arabs found deeper sympathy among the Jews than among their own effendi. So they did not much view their routine cooperation with Jews and Jewish associations as disloyal. Palestine Arab nationalism was a minority sentiment. It did not cohere and its cement, such as it was, was fear. Perhaps seeing how weak Husseini faction was and how powerful the Zionists seemed, those Arabs who opposed the "resistance" by selling land or sharing intelligence felt their actions were more realistic than the hard-liners. Who now can say that they were not? The "collaborators," called by others the "traitors," Cohen insists, "viewed themselves as loyal Palestinian Arabs, more loyal than the national leaders."
Among the reasons that apparently didn't occur to Peretz for Arab 'collaboration' with the Jews are the following:

1. There was no such thing as 'Palestinian Arab nationalism.' Peretz refers to it as a 'minority sentiment,' but the truth is that no one believed that 'Palestinians' were a distinct entity from other Arabs.

In an interview given by Zuhair Mohsen to the Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, Mr. Mohsen explains the origin of the 'Palestinians':

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
If Mr. Mohsen could authoritatively assert that the 'Palestinian people' did not exist in 1977, why would any Arab think they existed in 1917 or 1948?

2. In fact, at that time there wasn't even 'Arab nationalism,' rather there was an Arab people, many of whom were wanderers (Bedouin) spread across the Arabian peninsula. The 'national boundaries' of the Arab 'countries' were drawn up by the British and the French in the aftermath of World War I and were fictitious lines used to reward sheikhs who had been helpful to them in defeating the Turks during the war.

3. Given that there was no such thing as a 'Palestinian' during the period in question, and that Arab 'nationalism' was based on border lines that had no basis in history or reality, it is not all that surprising that the Arabs who inhabited the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (what is now the State of Israel, including Judea and Samaria) would have acted - or attempted to act - to further their own and their families' economic interests just like any normal person who was trying to raise and support a family would do. In fact, Joan Peters has shown in "From Time Immemorial," that most of the Arabs who reached these parts were not indigenous, but wandered here from other parts of the Arab world to improve their economic lot once the Jews started to arrive in large numbers and build up the economy. Continuing to act to improve their economic lot by 'collaborating' with the Jews would be consistent with their motivation for being here in the first place.

Elder of Ziyon points out some issues that may have prevented Arabs from 'collaborating':
My own research seems to support this thesis, that a significant number of Palestinian Arabs supported the Zionists and despised the Mufti and his henchmen, and that many did not want to be dragged into a war in 1948.

It is interesting that the same fear that Palestinian Arabs had in the 1930s against publicly opposing the Mufti exists today in a more institutionalized form: the death penalty for selling land to Jews, the threats against anyone wanting to co-exist with Israel, and the underlying fear that stops would-be critics from saying anything out loud, even extending to journalists who work in the territories.
I find his first sentence to be quite enlightening (I always assumed that by 1948 most - if not all - Arabs in this area did support the Mufti). His second sentence needs to be pointed out again and again to those who believe that the 'Palestinians' are going to wake up one morning and suddenly decide to co-exist with us. They've had more than a hundred years to change their tune and have given no indication of doing so.


At 9:43 PM, Blogger Elder of Ziyon said...

I do want to make clear that "significant number" does not mean "most" - I was thinking about things like this and this.

At 12:56 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Pan Islamists see the division of the Muslim World into nation states as a Western plot to divide and weaken the Islamic realm.

There is no real national consciousness among Muslims. Egypt and Iran are the exceptions but that is due to their long pre-Islamic history. No such memory exists in the rest of the Muslim Middle East.


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