Formation of the Palestinian nationality
Until the 19th century, most modern Arab national groups, including Palestine, had no distinct national identities; there were well-known regions - including Palestine, or Filasteen فلسطين, which was considered to be the southern region of the Levant, ash-Sham الشام - but there was no sense that a person should owe a particular loyalty to his region rather than to his religion or ethnic group, or in the case of a Bedouin his tribe. However, starting in the 19th century, the European concept of nationalism crept in, in many varieties; some pushed the idea of a Syrian or Fertile Crescent state, some pushed the idea of a pan-Arab state, while some pushed for smaller states such as Lebanon.
Even before the end of Ottoman administration, Palestine, rather than the Ottoman Empire, was considered by many Palestinians to be their country. On 25 July, 1913, the Palestinian newspaper al-Karmel wrote: "This team possessed tremendous power; not to ignore that Palestine, their country, was part of the Ottoman Empire." The idea of a specifically Palestinian state, however, was at first rejected by most Palestinians; the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations (in Jerusalem, February 1919), which met for the purpose of selecting a Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference, adopted the following resolution: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds." (Yehoshua Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion: 1929-1939, vol. 2, London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1977, pp. 81-82.) However, particularly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the French conquest of Syria, the notion took on greater appeal; in 1920, for instance, the formerly pan-Syrianist mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Qasim Pasha al-Husayni said "Now, after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine". It was nonetheless still rejected by many groups; in 1937 Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, leader of the small pan-Arabist Istiqlal party, told the Peel Commission: "There is no such country [as Palestine]! "Palestine" is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria." (Myths & Facts. A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard)
Gradually, however, the Palestinians came to fully embrace the idea of a distinct Palestinian nationality in the course of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea of an independent nationality for Palestinian Arabs was greatly boosted by the 1967 Six Day War; instead of being ruled by different Arab states encouraging them to think of themselves as Jordanians or Egyptians, they were now ruled by a state with no desire to make them think of themselves as Israelis, and an active interest in discouraging them from regarding themselves as Egyptians, Jordanians or Syrians. Moreover, the natives of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip now shared many interests and problems in common with each other that they did not share with the neighboring countries.
Because of the gradualness of the creation of an Palestinian national identity (as opposed to a regional one) - and, many allege, for reasons of political convenience - many Israelis did not accept the existence of an independent Palestinian people, as in Golda Meir's statement: "There are no Palestinians," (see History of Palestine). Today the existence of a unique Palestinian nationality/identity is generally recognized even by most Israelis (, ).
In the period shortly after the State of Israel came into existence, many Arabs, including some Palestinians - in particular, supporters of pan-Arabism or pan-Syrianism - denied that Palestinians were distinct from other Arabs of the region. Zuhair Mohsen, leader in the seventies of the Syrian-funded Baathist group as-Saiqa and simultaneous head of the Military Department of the PLO, expressed the pan-Syrianist position of his main funders in an interview with the Dutch daily Trouw on March 1977: "There is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. It is for political reasons only that we carefully emphasize our Palestinian identity, because it is in the national interest of the Arabs to encourage the existence of Palestinians against Zionism, the establishment of a Palestinian state is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity... For tactical reasons, Jordan, which has defined borders, cannot claim Haifa or Jaffa; but a Palestinian can claim Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Jerusalem." After his annexation of the West Bank, King Abdullah I of Jordan forbade the use of the term Palestine in Jordanian official documents, for fear of encouraging separatism among the Palestinians. However, both pan-Arabism and pan-Syrianism have massively declined in popularity, and few Arabs now deny the distinctiveness of the Palestinians.
Palestinians' political representatives
The Arab summit meeting in Algiers in June 1988 stated that the PLO is the "only legitimate representation of the Palestinian people". However, Israel, and to a lesser extent the United States and parts of Europe, preferred to deal with what it regarded as more moderate Palestinian groups for a long period of time.
The Palestinian Authority governs large sections of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It considers itself, and has often been considered by Israel, to be the primary political representative of the Palestinian people.
In recent years, terrorist organizations such as Hamas have been claiming to represent the Palestinian populace, and gaining support amongst them due to corruption amongst the Palestinian Authority; its current weakness may yet make the 1988 resolution obsolete.
- Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian exodus, British Mandate of Palestine, Palestinian refugees
- List of famous Palestinians, Palestinian culture, Palestinian cuisine, Palestinian Arabic, Palestinian music, Palestinian Christian
- Palestine, PLO, Hamas
- Definitions of "Palestine" and "Palestinian
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