Palestinian Nationalism and its Utilization of Jewish Symbols
par Ruth, R. Wisse, Université Harvard
The special ingredient of Palestinian nationalism that really does set it apart from, say, Jordanian nationalism, or that of Syria or Egypt, is its basis in antagonism to Israel and its usurpation of Jewish symbols, history, and identity.
The most important date in the Palestinian calendar is no Muslim, Arab, or native Palestinian commemoration or celebration, but May 14, 1948, the day of Israel’s founding.
Drawing their images from both the destruction of the Temple and the mass murder of the Jews of Europe, Palestinians commemorate the birthday of Israel as their nakba, or cataclysm. They refer to the nakba as “Palestine’s endless Holocaust,” describing the flight of Arabs during Israel’s War of Independence in terms that imitate Holocaust commemoration. Web sites offer “survivors’ testimonies” and allege “mass deportations,” ascribing to Palestinians the role of Jews and to Jews the role of Nazis.(1)
A Palestinian calendar that offers up the Palestinian story “from before the British mandate and up to today’s Apartheid Wall [sic]” contains not a single entry that is independent of Israel.(2) January 7 is Martyr’s Day, commemorating the “documented deaths” of Palestinians as a result of Israeli occupation. February 17 highlights “the Lavon Affair,” marking the day in 1955 when the Israeli defense minister Lavon was forced to resign after exposure of an Israeli spy ring in Egypt.
The entry for Palestinian Mother’s Day, March 21, reminds us that tributes of flowers are no longer to be brought to mothers but laid by them on the gravesites of their martyred children. April is the cruelest month: 3 to 12 marks the “massacre of Jenin in 2002” and April 9 the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin, but by way of compensation, April 16 honors the start of the first “Great” Arab uprising, led by Haj Amin al Husseini, anticipating December 9, which the calendar marks as the date of the second—not the first—intifada against Israel in 1987. An Addams Family caricature could not do justice to the ghoulish delight this document takes in self-torment, self-pity, self-punishment, and self-destruction at the hands of demon-Israel.
This Palestinian strategy of inversion and usurpation obviously demoralizes Jews, but its greatest damage is surely to the Palestinians themselves. When Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him,” he had in mind the European psychopath who cannot experience his selfhood, let alone his manhood, except in opposition to the Jew.(3) Sartre could scarcely have imagined a people that fashioned its entire identity, its myths and holidays, its symbols and slogans, its domestic and foreign policy, around opposition to the Jews. Likewise, when the political philosopher Leo Strauss wrote in 1962 that the Nazi regime was the only regime he knew of “based on no principle other than the negation of Jews,” (4) he could scarcely have imagined the exclusivity of the Palestinian obsession.
The above article is an excerpt from Jews and Power by Ruth Wisse, ed. Schocken Books, New York, 2007, (p 160 – 161). Published on Tolerance.ca with the author’s permission.
1. These examples are drawn from www.Jerusalemites.org; alnakba.org; and the Web site of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center. The Muslim Council of Britain (representing 55-0 organizations) annually announces its refusal to attend Holocaust Memorial Day on the grounds that the ceremonies ignore ongoing genocide in the “Occupied territories of Palestine” and because it “should include al nakba.”
3. Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Sémite and Jew (Réflexions sur la question juive), trans. George J. Becker (New York: Grove Press, 1948), 13.
4. Leo Strauss, “Why We Remain Jews,” in Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, ed. Kenneth Hart Green (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997), 321.