Palestine and the Palestinians in the 21st Century

By Rochelle Davis; Mimi Kirk | Go to book overview

8. Other Worlds to Live In
Palestinian Retrievals of Religion
and Tradition under Conditions of
Chronic National Collapse

LOREN D. LYBARGER

Today, perhaps more than ever, the question of Palestinian identity has become obvious and urgent. The always-fragile national consensus has ceded to open schism. In the wake of devastating interfactional bloodletting, the Islamic political movement, Hamas, now dominates the Gaza Strip while the weakened secular-nationalist Fatah movement putatively controls the West Bank. The choice for Palestinians, as it comes across in media analyses and think-tank position papers, seems stark: either an embattled secular-nationalist Fatah movement reasserts itself, or Palestine becomes “Hamastan.”1 But, even the very possibility of Palestine, or, for that matter, “Hamastan,” seems ever more unrealizable. Israel, backed by the United States and the European Union, relentlessly presses its advantage. It has expanded its settlements and road networks while extending a system of walls, fences, and checkpoints that have isolated Palestinians within their towns, villages, and camps, and in the case of Gaza, within a besieged coastal strip subject to punishing bombardments from air, sea, and land. Negotiation and armed resistance have seemed to yield little more than cynicism, despair, and death. The parties backing these diverging approaches—Fatah and Hamas, primarily—have failed to galvanize consistent broad majority support. Neither secular nationalism nor Islamism in their current forms appear to offer any clear basis for political unity and collective action.2 But if not these, then what?

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