The truest thing that can be said about Palestinianism is this: if not for Zionism, Palestinianism would not exist. It is, in every way, a reaction to Zionism and what has been achieved through it – namely, the reconstitution of the national home of the Jewish people. And where Zionism is the spontaneous national liberation movement of a people whose connection to the land predates antiquity and modernity alike, Palestinianism was imposed upon Arabs who resided in what was once the colony of Palestine. More than that, it is an adaptation of Arab nationalism, which can be viewed as the intellectualization of a percieved need to reclaim the colonial privilege and sense of ethnonationalist unity that were lost when the Islamic Empire dissolved at the end of WWI. 

The truest thing that can be said about Palestinianism is this: if not for Zionism, Palestinianism would not exist.

And when the Arab League began the process of transforming resettled Arab refugees and Arabs who were adapting to the reality of life in Israel into a discrete Arab Palestinian people, the glue that held together the notion of that people was so weak that the Arab League felt it necessary to strip resettled Palestinians of their rights as citizens and residents of the Arab states wherein they made their homes and to then ghettoize them regardless of their wealth, achievements, and contributions lest they forget that they were now Palestinian first and Arab second. This new condition of otherness and statelessness had two effects. The first was the setting apart of newly minted Palestinians from the pan-Arab world. Many were confined to UNRWA camps that would shortly become slums wherein an authentic voice and the power to transform one’s condition were impossible to come by. The second was that Arabs turned Palestinians were now limited to a politics defined by a hatred for Jews, Israel, and Zionism. This had and still has the added effect of drawing into that trifecta of hatred anyone who sympathizes with Palestinians. Meaning, per Palestinianism, to sympathize with the plight of Palestinians is to hate their “persecutors” and to never look beyond that hatred in order to  gain a deeper understanding of the conflict. 

But, what is Palestinianism? Simply put, it is the belief that freedom for the Palestinian people will not be achieved until Palestine, which was never a state and never exclusively Arab and Muslim, is restored to its pre-1948 boundaries. Meaning, Palestinianism is defined by a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and the dispossession of millions of its citizens. But, how do the proponents of Palestinianism intend to accomplish that destruction? As different as Yasser Arafat, the man who once led the PLO, and Edward Said, the Palestinian American academic and author of Orientalism are, both men agree that Palestinians lack a counter-narrative, or as Said would say, a “counter-myth.” Enter BDS (the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel) with its false claims of Palestinian indigeneity, forced dispossession, genocide, and of course “Israeli apartheid.” Arafat and Said would also agree that developing that counter-myth and convincing the world of its “truth” is key to reversing everything that has been accomplished through Zionism. But, where Said naively imagines a “post-Zionist” reality wherein the end of the Jewish state and the removal of every political and national boundary between the river and the sea has resulted in equity between Arab and Jew, Arafat imagined a a purely Arab and Palestinian state in place of Israel and the territories of “Palestine.” His stated intention was to realize that state by “making life unbearable for Jews” via psychological warfare and demographic change, or, as he put it, “population explosion.”

Palestinianism is defined by a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and the dispossession of millions of its citizens.

As the primary vehicle for Palestinianism, BDS, or rather those who lead it, excel at applying the language of Said and those like him to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while covertly pursuing the agenda of Arafat and his terrorist successors. And this habit of obfuscation is as much a part of Palestinianism as its rejection of the Jewish right to self-determination in the ancestral home of the Jewish people. For proof of this, look no further than the official home page of the BDS movement, which describes BDS in this way: 

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and to force Israel to comply with international law.

Compare that statement to this one made by Omar Barghouti, the founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: “Israel was Palestine and there is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.” Barghouti also said this: “…we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” But, it isn’t just Barghouti who holds these views. Barghouti’s Egyptian counterpart and the co-founder of BDS, Rami Saath, has proven ties to Ikhwan Al Muslimeen or the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational Sunni Islamist organization that is directly responsible for the creation of Hamas in Gaza. Rather than renounce the Brotherhood (which once tried, but failed to transform Egypt into a theocracy), Saath gave up his Egyptian citizenship and left Egypt altogether. 

As the primary vehicle for Palestinianism, BDS, or rather those who lead it, excel at applying the language of Said and those like him to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while covertly pursuing the agenda of Arafat and his terrorist successors.

Realizing that BDS, which has done the most to propagate Palestinianism in the West, is fundamentally ultra-nationalist and supremacist should lead one to another realization: that it and thus Palestinianism are cloaks for Islamism, which is to say for a group ideology that espouses not just the destruction of the State of Israel, but the destruction of the West. If Islamists succeed in both endeavors it will be because they, along with far-left ideologues, were able to convince enough people that the rights of seemingly marginalized or oppressed groups matter more than those of seemingly privileged groups—for how else could Palestinianists and Islamists convince the world that Palestinian freedom and sovereignty can only be achieved through the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state and that persons who push for that elimination will be on the “right side of history”? The pursuit of that ethical sea change is the common ground that the far-left and Palestinianists/Islamists stand upon and that serves as the basis for their strange fellowship. I say “strange” because the Islamist is necessarily opposed to everything that the left holds sacred. Gender equality and women’s rights? Haram (forbidden)! LGBTQ rights, including the right to be one’s authentic self without fear of harm and persecution? Doubly haram! And then there is the right to be free of compelled religious practice and forced compliance with religious beliefs. As far as the Islamist is concerned, that right is yet another Western blasphemy. 

Realizing that BDS, which has done the most to propagate Palestinianism in the West, is fundamentally ultra-nationalist and supremacist should lead one to another realization: that it and thus Palestinianism are cloaks for Islamism, which is to say for a group ideology that espouses not just the destruction of the State of Israel, but the destruction of the West.

And when leftists call upon Israel to end her blockade or “siege” of Gaza absent any call upon Hamas to alter its disposition toward Israel, they appear to be blissfully ignorant of the reality that made that blockade necessary. That reality is not a product of Israeli malice toward Gazans (it was Israel that gave all of Gaza to its Arab residents and that not only sends massive amounts of material aid to Gaza on a continual basis, but that regularly treats Gazan children in Israeli hospitals), but a product of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism. When Israel last eased the blockade by allowing Gazan fishing boats to venture further into the Mediterranean and by allowing material goods and technical aid to flow more freely into the Strip, the end result was the appearance of “terror tunnels” that led from Gaza to Israeli communities and the deployment of Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets that that could threaten lives in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Islamist is necessarily opposed to everything that the left holds sacred.

This is where the obfuscation that is so regularly employed by Palestinianists meets the ignorance of their audience – an audience that, by every appearance, prioritizes the propagation and defense of a  sociopolitical identity over evidential reasoning and moral clarity (mind you, right-wing ideologues suffer from the same disease of the mind). I’m speaking of course of young adults who are either in the process of becoming liberally educated, or who lack formal education and view themselves as social outsiders and members of an underclass. The former is most likely to take part in actions that are confined to the safety of a college or university campus while the latter could be found ‘decolonizing’ Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood during the summer of 2020 and, in so doing, depriving thousands of Seattle residents of basic public services (emergency services included) for just under two months while also contributing to more than one homicide inside the protest zone. 

But the goal of the Palestinianist is not to engender chaos for its own sake. Instead, his or her immediate goal is to alter the fabric of Western culture—to make it thinner and more prone to tearing. Think of that fabric as the Judeo-Christian tradition with its rejection of collectivism, which proceeds from the Judeo-Christian belief in the divinity or sacredness of the individual. Now, think of those tears as moral confusion. The tearing of that cultural fabric is nowhere more evident than on Western college and university campuses, whereupon Palestinianists have compelled some faculties and administrations to divest from Israel by selling shares in any enterprise that does business in or with Israel and by ending relationships with Israeli academics and institutions. To be clear, it is the normalization of the Palestinianist hatred for the Jewish state and a unified Jewish people that creates those tears, not the acts of divestment and boycott themselves. In all likelihood, the Palestinianist understands this and regards any increase in that hatred as a sign of success. 

But the goal of the Palestinianist is not to engender chaos for its own sake. Instead, his or her immediate goal is to alter the fabric of Western culture—to make it thinner and more prone to tearing.

And because the West has already imbibed too much of that hatred and hatreds like it, it has begun to lose sight of the truth. Should it continue to drink from that cup, it may soon become crtically demoralized and fall prey to an enemy whose brand of morality would have once been regarded by virtually every member of that society as evil, or, at the very least, wrong-headed. And make no mistake, the West is well on its way to becoming so. That many in the West do not see Palestinianism for what it is proof enough of this. That is not to say that Palestinians do not suffer and that the average person is wrong to sympathize with Arabs who must navigate checkpoint after checkpoint in order to travel from village to city and back again or who are confined to Gaza, a place with crumbling infrastructure and a weak, insular economy. But, why do these conditions exist? Does Israel truly engineer and maintain them for her own benefit? A Palestinianist would certainly say so but could not honestly tell you why. That Palestinianist might tell you that it’s all about land – that the Zionists want it all. 

Never mind that it was the Zionists who offered to exchange land for peace whenever Jerusalem sensed that peace might be possible. Israel most famously exchanged land for peace when it returned the Sinai to Egypt, but decades earlier, some Zionist leaders in what was then Mandatory Palestine agreed to the British plan to place half of Palestine under Hashemite rule and thereby divide the land in the hope that doing so would quell Arab nationalist unrest and strengthen the British position in Palestine. Rather than quell that unrest, the creation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan made the prospect of a full-blown civil war in Palestine inevitable by giving Arab nationalists a base from which they could launch attacks against Jewish Palestine. Still, Israel clung to the hope that she would one day be at peace with her neighbors. That hope bore fruit when Israel, with the help of U.S. brokers, struck permanent peace deals first with Egypt and then with Jordan

But, according to the Palestinianist, a just peace with Israel is impossible. This claim was repeated when the Palestinian Authority scuttled the Oslo Peace Accords and publicly endorsed the use of terrorism against Israeli civilians and military personnel alike during the Second Intifada. While it is true that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin would have negatively impacted Arab confidence in Oslo, it is just as true that Israel demonstrated her good faith by evacuating every last Israeli soldier and civilian from the Gaza Strip and by pledging to recognize a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem should the peace process continue. So, why make this claim in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? It has been said that honor culture (a culture that relies on extra-judicial violence and the threat of the same to enforce claims and to deter enemies) is to blame, but a better theory may be that the Palestinianist rejection of peace is, in reality, an Islamist rejection of the same for it is Islamism that most informs Palestinianism and it is Islamism that holds that Islam forbids the Islamic world from entering into that peace. A hudna or temporary peace? Certainly, but a permanent peace? Never. 

The realization that a rejection of peace with Israel, which is to say peace with Jewish self-determination in the region, is a matter of course and even a matter of faith among Islamists coupled with the realization that Palestinianism is little more than a vehicle for Islamism can be a hard pill to swallow. It becomes less so when one explores the timeline of Arab nationalism in the region. That timeline begins with Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the man who was installed as the Grand Mufti (chief Islamic jurisconsult) of Jerusalem in 1921 and who is pejoratively known as Hitler’s Mufti. Much has been said about the Mufti’s relationship with Hitler, which was supposedly based upon a shared desire to extend the Shoah or Holocaust to Palestine, but all of that has the effect of drawing attention away from the relationship that did the most to shape and determine the political beliefs of Al-Husseini and thus the political beliefs that comprise the Palestinian national movement, for it was al-Husseini who groomed Yassar Arafat to lead that movement into a new century and who lent Arafat all of his credibility. 

Palestinianism is little more than a vehicle for Islamism.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Mufti’s intimacy with the Muslim Brotherhood. In its role as the foremost Islamist organization in the Muslim world, the Brotherhood tirelessly promoted the Mufti to its members and supporters during the war years and beyond. Those members included Arab heads of state who, after the war, were able to compel the French to release al-Husseini from house arrest (it was really more of a protective custody necessitated by the need of the French to strike a deal with the influential Mufti lest he turn on them in the way he turned on the British). Once free, al-Husseini was brought to Cairo, which was then a place where, for the most part, the Brotherhood could do and say as it liked. Hassan Al-Banna, who led the Brotherhood’s Egyptian branch did just that when he brazenly declared that an unshackled Mufti would “continue the struggle” against the Americans, the British, and the Jews now that Hitler and Mussolini were gone. And continue that “struggle” he did. 

Before and after the war, al-Husseini fomented anti-Jewish pogroms in the British Mandate of Palestine that would give way to a full-blown civil war and Arab insurgency, which he also agitated for. That war forced the British to abandon Palestine and obliterated any hope for the creation of a state wherein Jews and Arabs could enjoy equal shares of power and benefit from a politics not determined by ethnic and religious conflict. But, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends, or rather can be bent toward justice, this had the effect of justifying the Zionist effort to carve a new state out of the Territory of Palestine wherein Jews could, after millennia of exile and persecution, once again be free and enjoy some measure of security. 

Were it not for the Cold War and the attention given to the Soviet-PLO relationship, the true beginnings and thus the true nature of Palestinian nationalism might be better understood for it was the Mufti, a man who collaborated openly with the Nazis and the Brotherhood alike, who breathed life into what his apprentice, Yassar Arafat, would recast as the “Palestinian national struggle.” Arafat gave credence to that struggle by inventing an “ancient Palestinian people” who, in Arafat’s imagination, could lay claim to every dunam of the land. Arafat became expert at disguising the Islamist and supremacist tendencies of that struggle by playing the role of the tough, but erudite secularist and righteous anti-colonialist when speaking to the English, Dutch or French press and then only sharing his true thoughts and intentions, which were frequently bloody, with the Arab press. Sadly, for Arafat, this Janusian communication strategy ceased to bear fruit when Hamas, which is the Brotherhood by another name, could not be convinced to go along with his plan to weaken Israel via the concessions that Arafat believed would ultimately include the re-partition of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Rather than allow Oslo to proceed, Hamas and its affiliates launched the wave of bombings and melee terror attacks known as the Second Intifada. Arab support for that intifada laid bare Arafat’s failure to sell his strategy, which was to trick Israel into bringing about her own destruction, to the Arab public. And thus, hard-line Islamists were able to perpetuate status quo, the status of Gaza notwithstanding, at the cost of hundreds of innocent Arab and Jewish lives. 

This brings us back to the present – a present wherein the status quo is still with us and wherein Islamists clothed as pro-Palestinian activists would see Israel collapse under its growing weight. And it may be that Israel will soon be forced to shoulder that weight without, or with reduced help, from the U.S. and the West in general. Not because those activists were able to make Israel a pariah, but because America’s as well as the West’s ability to project power abroad is waning. What the Islamist does not realize is that this would be to Israel’s benefit. Why? Not just because Israel is socially, politically, and technologically capable of shouldering that weight, but because the growth and endurance of pro-Palestinian activism is dependent upon the subconsciously held belief that the West is paternally obligated to steer the affairs of the Near East and make it more Western, or progressive in character. As the West continues to turn inward, this belief will be exercised with decreased regularity until it ceases to be exercised at all. That is not to say that Islamism and its cloak, Palestinianism, are no threat at all. 

It bears repeating that the more immediate threat may be to the cultural fabric of the West, which is to say, to the ability of the average Westerner to discern right from wrong and good from evil using a cultural framework that centers and even sanctifies the individual and that would never sacrifice the essential rights of one human collective, which is really a collection of individuals, in order to appease another collective. And when one pulls back the curtain on Palestinianism, one discovers the Islamist desire to do just that with regard to Jews living in their ancestral homeland. For that reason, seeing Palestinianism with clear eyes is the duty of any person who would see the experiment that is individualism continue and thereby bear the fruit that we call human rights, which may be cultivated and enjoyed by any people who generally think as Elie Wiesel, the author of Night thought when he declared, “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”