Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Cultural Hegemony, Resistance and Reconstruction of National Identity among Palestinian Students in Israel

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Cultural Hegemony, Resistance and Reconstruction of National Identity among Palestinian Students in Israel

Article excerpt


IN THIS ESSAY, I FOCUS ON the experience of the Palestinians who fell under Israel's control in 1948 and their struggle to maintain and preserve their national identity despite systematic Israeli efforts to create a state of hegemony through the control of the economy, society, the media and educational institutions. More specifically, I discuss ways in which the formal educational system for Palestinian students in Israel is designed to control, shape and manipulate their national identity. Also, discussed is their ongoing struggle and resistance against such a colonizing education.


The most fundamental myth created and advanced by the Zionist movement in its attempt to establish a Jewish state in Palestine has been its systematic denial of the existence of the Palestinian people (Schoenman, 1988). Palestine was "a land without people for people without land," goes the Zionist argument. However, within their internal circles, the Zionists were well aware of the fact that the native Arab people of Palestine aspiring for their own independence and self-determination had populated the country for centuries. Addressing an audience of Israeli students, Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Defense Minister at that time stated that, "... we came to this country, which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages ... there is no single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population" (Haaretz, 4 April 1969). Just three months latter, Golda Meir, the Israeli Prime Minister, was quoted in the press arguing that, "... it is not that there were Palestinian people in Palestine considering themselves as Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist," (London Sunday Times, 7 June 1969).

The inevitable clash between the Zionist colonial endeavors and the national aspirations of the indigenous people of Palestine resulted in the majority of Palestinians being into refugees (number about five million today), the destruction of nearly five hundred of their towns and villages and the construction of new Jewish settlements on their ruins. The Palestinian people, who remained in their homeland and became Israeli citizens after 1948, constitute the last challenge for the Zionist myth of Palestine as a land without people. The systematic ethnic cleansing campaign conducted against the Palestinian people by Zionist organizations, which have resulted in the capture of their homeland and the creation of the refugee problem is documented by a group of Israeli new historians (e.g., Pappe, 1994; Morris, 1989; Beit-Hallahmi, 1998).

The second myth fashioned by Zionist propaganda is Israel's claim of being a Western democracy (Davis, 1987). The common practice among Western scholars studying the Israeli political system is their tendency to single it out as the exception in a region otherwise lacking in democratic regimes. It is a strange hypocrisy for Israel to claim itself as a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. According to Rouhana (1989), "a state that is defined as belonging to only one people, when its population is composed of two, cannot offer equal opportunities to all its citizens" (p. 40). More succinctly, the Jewish-Zionist nature of the state of Israel exposes its Palestinian citizens to an inherent conflict between their national identity as Arab-Palestinians and their civic status as Israeli citizens (Rouhana, 1997).

Unlike many Third World minorities living in Western societies, the Palestinians in Israel did not immigrate to the new system; rather, the system was imposed on them resulting in the destruction of their society and the disposition of the rest of their people (Makkawi, 2004). From the perspective of the Palestinians, it is clear that the state of Israel was established to serve the goals and objectives of another colonialist group, which could be achieved only at the expense of their own national goals and aspirations for self determination (Rouhana & Ghanem, 1993). …

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