Courtesy Reuters

Thinking the Unthinkable: A Sovereign Palestinian State

Every time the Palestinian resistance is clobbered, or appears to be so, there is new hope in some quarters that the Palestinian component of the Arab-Israeli conflict will somehow disappear from the Middle Eastern scene. Such was the case after the showdown in Jordan in 1970-71, and the Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976; such is the case today after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. However, the hope will remain elusive because it is based on a fallacy. This is that the salience of the Palestinian component of the Arab-Israeli conflict is necessarily a function of the organizational strength or military prowess of the Palestinians.

II

The Arab states' system is first and foremost a "Pan" system. It postulates the existence of a single Arab Nation behind the facade of a multiplicity of sovereign states. In pan-Arab ideology, this Nation is actual, not potential. It is a present reality, not a distant goal. The manifest failure even to approximate unity does not negate the empirical reality of the Arab Nation. It merely adds normative and prescriptive dimensions to the ideology of pan-Arabism. The Arab Nation both is, and should be, one.

From this perspective, the individual Arab states are deviant and transient entities: their frontiers illusory and permeable; their rulers interim caretakers, or obstacles to be removed. Champions of pan-Arabism speak in the name of vox populi. Their mandate is from the entire Arab Nation. Before such super-legitimacy, the legitimacy of the individual state shrinks into irrelevance. It is these credentials that pan-Arabists of various hues have presented and continue to present, be they a dynasty (the Hashemites), a party (the Arab Nationalist Movement, the Baath, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), a charismatic leader (Nasser), or an aspirant to his mantle (Qaddafi).

The oneness of the Arab Nation has corollaries in the concepts of the dignity of the Nation, and the oneness and therefore the inviolability of its territory "from the [Atlantic] Ocean to the [Arab/Persian] Gulf." These

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