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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - The Palestinian National Movement


This chapter explores the impact of Palestinians on the 1967 War and vice versa, with a focus on the Palestinian national movement. Its main argument is that the descent into war was propelled not only by the conflict between Israel and Arab states but also by a multifaceted struggle among Palestinians and Arabs for control over mobilization for the Palestinian cause.

This struggle was defined by three overlapping realms of contestation: that among Arab states, between Palestinians and Arab states, and among Palestinians. During the years leading up to the war, Palestinian groups, principally Ahmed Shuqairi's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Fatah movement, advanced competing claims to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and their aspirations. Yet their competition was also testimony to the ambiguous boundaries between the Palestinian national struggle and the larger Arab world. In developing their own conceptions of Palestinian nationalism, they were forced to address its relationship to the call for Arab unity. In vying for resources and power, they could not depend on Arab governments. These governments, themselves competing for stature and security in regional politics, in turn invoked the Palestinian cause as justification for attempts to dictate, restrict, or interfere in Palestinian mobilization. Aspirant Palestinian leaders thus positioned themselves in a matrix of opportunities and constraints constructed by rival Arab state interests. This positioning influenced the strategies that both Palestinian and Arab leaders pursued in the conflict with Israel. It was, therefore, a crucial piece of the story of the third Arab-Israeli war.

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