The war between the Jews and the Arabs in former British Palestine has been going on for eighty-one years. In 1921, the first Arab explosion against the Zionist pioneers announced the beginning of the fray. Hatred and suspicion have undermined any successful resolution of the conflict.
After the Jewish War of Independence in 1948, the conflict became a war between the Jewish state and external Arab enemies. In that conflict, the Israelis were generally victorious. The Israeli triumph in 1967 crushed Gamal Abdel Nasser, the hero of Arab nationalism. But in 1987 the Palestinian Arabs chose a new kind of battle--internal rebellion. The infitada was born. And it has grown in fury ever since.
The foundation of the war is the power of nationalism. Jewish nationalism was born out of the defiance of the oppressed masses in czarist Russia. It was fed by racial anti-Semitism. Diaspora nationalism sought to liberate the Jews of eastern Europe and give them cultural autonomy. It was destroyed by native resistance and the Holocaust.
Zionist nationalism also saw itself as a national liberation movement. It naively proposed to solve anti-Semitism by returning the Jews to their ancient homeland. Reinforced by socialist idealism and the revival of Hebrew as a popular language, it led to the establishment of a Jewish settlement in Palestine. The closing of the doors to immigration in the United States, the support of the British government, and the rise of Adolf Hitler gave this nationalism the impetus that the slaughter of six million Jews was to make irresistible. Zionism became the most powerful movement to mobilize the Jewish masses in the twentieth century.
Arab nationalism was an import from the West and was cultivated initially by Christian Arabs as a way of countering their exclusion by Muslims. Propelled by Turkish oppression and by the humiliation of European conquest, the Arab nationalist movement was led by Westernized intellectuals …