by Roberta Kalechofsky
Contrary to popular conception, the identity of the Palestinian Arabs as a nationality is a recent phenomenon. As has often been observed, it was ironically the creation of the state of Israel which created Palestinian Arab nationalism. As recently as 1967, United Nations article 242, pertaining to the disposition of borders in Israel, did not refer to a Palestinian Arab people. The view of the problem between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs as “a Greek tragedy of two equal nations locked in mortal combat over the same territory,” caters to a modern intellectual appetite for spurious parallels in reasoning: As A is to B, so C is to D.
The prospects of a Palestinian Arab state was not a problem for Israel, which accepted the idea in its formation; nor was it Israel’s fault that such a state which did, in fact, exist for 24 hours, was never implemented. It was destroyed by Syria, Jordan and Egypt which grabbed the land assigned to the Palestinian Arabs after their war against Israel in 1948. The bedeviling complexity which has evolved since then is that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), invented by Egyptian President Nasser in 1964 as an instrument of Pan Arabism strategy, acquired the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, overriding Jordan’s King Hussein’s declaration that the Palestinian Arab people formed a natural cultural unity with Jordan.
The idea of a PLO-led state on the West Bank, in distinction to a Palestinian Arab-led state, should cause consternation to everyone concerned with peace in the Middle East. The PLO has endangered and corrupted every community it has been part of, including the United Nations. Jordan was forced to expel the PLO in 1970 in order to protect itself. Lebanon was subject to a reign of terror from 1976 -1982 during the PLO’s stay there. Jillian Becker’s book, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization, (St. Martin’s Press, 1984) records public executions at traffic crossings, rapes, kidnappings, and the indiscriminate murder of citizens, including children, leaving a trail of “desaparecidos” that has not yet registered on the mind of the western world. One incident speaks for many: In Damour, during a massacre of Lebanese by PLO, “In a frenzy to destroy their enemies utterly, as if even the absolute limits of nature could not stop them, the invaders broke open tombs and flung the bones of the dead into the streets.”
The PLO also has commitments to international terrorism besides its nationalistic identity with the Palestinian Arabs, or commitment to their welfare; and their ranks are filled with international extremists. It is the tragic fate of the Palestinian Arabs to have had their national movement identified with this organization. Nor can they, for reasons of personal safety, attempt to dissolve this identification. Only a responsible world leadership, determined to penetrate beneath the artificial liaison between the PLO and the Palestinian Arabs, can help dissolve this dangerous Gordian Knot.