Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

5 - From Nationalism in Palestine to Palestinian Nationalism


Of all the public utterances made about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, none sums up each side's sense of victimization at the hands of the other better than two that straddle the 1967 war. On the eve of the war, Ahmad Shuqairy, then chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, boasted that the Arab armies would drive the Jews into the sea. Not to be outdone in imprudent remarks, Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister from 1969 to 1974, gave an interview in the Sunday Times (London) on the second anniversary of the war. In that interview, she purportedly stated that there were no Palestinians.

Although Meir's attitude toward Palestinians is well known, were she alive today she might cite in her defense Yogi Berra's famous remark, “I didn't really say everything I said.” The full text of the question and her answer is as follows:

Q: Do you think the emergence of the Palestinian fighting forces, the Fedayeen, is an important new factor in the Middle East?

A: Important, no. A new factor, yes. There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the first world war and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.

Suggestions for Further Reading
Budeiri, Musa. “The Palestinians: Tensions between Nationalist and Religious Identities.” In Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East, ed. Jankowski, James and Gershoni, Israel, 191–206. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Acute analysis of the role of religion in Palestinian nationalism.
Johnson, Nels. Islam and the Politics of Meaning in Palestinian Nationalism. London: Kegan Paul International, 1982. An anthropologist looks at the relationship between religion and nationalism in Palestine.
Lesch, Ann Mosely. Arab Politics in Palestine, 1917–1939. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979. Overview of early period of Palestinian nationalism.
Mandel, Neville J.The Arabs and Zionism before World War I. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Examination of early encounters between Zionists and Arabs and their political and cultural effects.
Mattar, Philip. The Mufti of Jerusalem: Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Palestinian National Movement. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Biography of figure central to Palestinian politics from the interwar period to the end of World War II.
Miller, Ylana. Government and Society in Rural Palestine, 1920–1948. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985. The impact of the mandate on the Palestinian countryside, where a majority of Palestinians lived.
Porath, Yehoshua. The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918–1929. London: Cass, 1974. Standard work on the early history of Palestinian nationalism, based mainly on Israeli sources.
Porath, Yehoshua. The Palestinian Arab National Movement, 1929–1939: From Riots to Rebellion. London: Cass, 1977. The second volume of Porath's history of Palestinian nationalism.
Swedenburg, Ted. Memories of Revolt: The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995, esp. 76–137. Analysis of the role of the Great Palestine Revolt in shaping Palestinian identity.
Swedenburg, Ted. “The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936–1939).” In The Modern Middle East, ed. Hourani, Albert, Khoury, Philip S., and Wilson, Mary C., 467–501. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Overview of the Great Palestine Revolt, with a good dose of social history.
Johnson, Nels, Islam and the Politics of Meaning in Palestinian Nationalism (London: Kegan Paul International, 1982), 45
Lynd, Staughton, Bahour, Sam, and Lynd, Alice, Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (New York: Olive Branch Press, 1994), 27–8
Lockman, Zachary and Beinin, Joel, eds., Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising against Israeli Occupation (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 331