Blog 329 December 12, 2016
The first Palestinian I became acquainted with was a tour guide named Simeon who was amazingly knowledgeable about the Holy Land and the Middle East. After the political tensions elevated, Simeon disappeared. My next most intense involvement was a Palestinian woman becoming a relative. That’s when I learned more than I ever wanted to know. She had grown up in a nomad’s tent and once worked for the Jordanian secret service. That’s where you can get the real inside information. (name is withheld for security reasons).
Most Westerners are either violently opposed to or enthusiastically for the Palestinian people, but actually know little about them. It’s worthwhile to update ourselves periodically. Where did they come from?
Legal historian Assaf Likhovski states that the Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the 20th century. Many were nomadic people or local residences. They had drifted in from across the Arabic world looking for work. Some Palestinians wanted self-government in the face of fears that Zionism would lead to a Jewish state and the dispossession of the Arab majority. Local newspapers in a limited way used the term “Palestinian” to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people until the exodus of World War I. After the creation of the State of Israel and the massive Arabic exoduses , Palestinian came to signify not only origin, but also a shared past and future in the form of a desire for a Palestinian state. Modern Palestinian identity now claims to encompass the heritage of all ages from biblical times up to the Ottoman period. The origin of the idea of a national consciousness as Palestinians is debated by scholars, but the idea is basically recent. Today’s Palestinians are basically, Arabs.
The day after Israel was declared a nation (by the approval of the United Nations), the Arab world descended on Israel and war followed. Arabs ran to leave the country and set in motion the land division that exists today.
Founded in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became an umbrella organization for groups that wanted to represent the Palestinian people before the international community. The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Under Yasser Arafat, secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, groups who at that time believed that political violence was the only way to “liberate” Palestine. The result became a continuing state of war with suicide bombers, rocket attacks, and the murder of civilians.
In the next blog, we will explore the impact of these changes on the everyday people on the streets in the West Band and Gaza. The story remains gripping.