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Palestine and the Arab State System: Permeability, State Consolidation and the Intifada*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2009

Rex Brynen
Affiliation:
McGill University

Abstract

This article examines the sensitivity of Arab states to the political and ideological repercussions of the Palestine issue by focussing upon Egypt, Syria and Jordan. It suggests that the policies of Arab regimes towards the Palestine issue have been substantially shaped by historical patterns of state formation, and by the gradual consolidation of the Arab state system. This has served to “harden” the Arab territorial state, creating conditions under which Arab states are increasingly (if only partially) insulated from the transnational effects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Résumé

Cet article examine la sensibilité des États arabes face aux répercussions politiques et idéologiques de la question palestinienne; l'accent est mis sur l'Egypte, la Syrie et la Jordanie. On y suggère que les politiques des régimes arabes envers la question palestinienne ont été substantiellement façonnées par d'historiques tendances de formation étatique, et par la graduelle consolidation du système d'États arabes. Ceci a « endurci » l'État territorial arabe, créant des conditions selon lesquelles les états arabes sont de plus en plus (bien que partiellement) à l'abri des effets transnationaux du conflit israélo-palestinien.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 1991

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References

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26 Korany, “Alien and Beseiged Yet Here to Stay,” 66–71. Indeed, in the Arab world the determination of “haves” and “have nots” has largely been a function of where state territorial boundaries are drawn, a fact dramatically evident in the Arabian peninsula where per capita GNPs in 1987 ranged from $420 (South Yemen) to $15,830 (the United Arab Emirates) (World Bank, World Development Report 1989 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1989]Google Scholar).

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36 Conversely, the loss of this rationale may render this process of military state-building more problematic. The Egyptian armed forces' search for a national security role in the aftermath of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli treaty—a quest that has taken it into the business of chicken farming (“food security”), among others—and its sensitivity to any questioning of its continuing demands on societal resources represents perhaps the clearest case. See Springborg, Robert, “The President and the Field Marshall: Civil-Military Relations in Egypt Today,” Middle East Report 147 (1987), 516Google Scholar, and Abdalla, Ahmed, “The Armed Forces and the Democratic Process in Egypt,” Third World Quarterly 10 (1988), 14521456CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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44 For example, Anis Mansur (editor of the pro-government journal Mayu) proclaimed that “192 Palestinian millionaires residing in Egypt are of Israeli origin” and accused Palestinians of deliberately selling their lands (AFP [Paris], July 21, 1990 [FBIS].

45 As Raymond Hinnebusch notes, “The 1976 Lebanon intervention against Palestinians and Muslims in defense of Christian rightists greatly damaged regime legitimacy among its own supporters and Sunni opinion generally,” setting the stage for the rise of Islamic opposition forces in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Hinnebusch, Authoritarian Power and State Formation in Ba'thist Syria, 293).

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47 Typical of this effort is a short film recurrently played between programmes on Syrian television since the uprising, which intersperses heroic portraits of the Syrian armed forces with footage of the intifada and other Palestinian symbols. See also MERIP, “Repercussions in the Middle East,” 47–48.

48 Although noting that “we are in a state of war, which, for scores of years, has forced us and is forcing on us the application of the emergency law,” President al-Asad also went on to call for legal reforms—thus implicitly confirming the extent to which the “hardening” of the Arab state system has rendered the Palestine issue an increasingly less effective means of legitimizing authoritarian state policies (Damascus Television Service, March 8, 1990 [FBIS]).

49 For a similar argument regarding the primacy of security consideration in Syrian policy, see Lawson, Fred, “Syria,” in Brynen, , ed., Echoes of the IntifadaGoogle Scholar.

50 The demographic balance between Palestinians and Tranjordanians on the East Bank is an issue of considerable political dispute and sensitivity in contemporary Jordan. In a frequently cited study, Valerie York has suggested that Palestinians constitute only 40 per cent of the population (Yorke, Domestic Politics and Regional Security, 33). Most other analyists would put the figure at 50 to 60 per cent, however.

51 According to one 1986 survey, more than 93 per cent of Palestinians in the occupied territories viewed the PLO as their sole legitimate representative; less than 1 per cent looked to King Husayn (Shadid, Mohammed and Seltzer, Rick, “Political Attitudes of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Middle East Journal 42 [1987], 1631Google Scholar; see also Sahliyeh, Emile, In Search of Leadership: West Bank Politics since 1967 [Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1988]Google Scholar).

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53 King Husayn's speech announcing disengagement (text in Journal of Palestine Studies 18 [1988], 279283Google Scholar). Husayn later asserted that Palestinians comprised only 40 per cent of the Kingdom's population (Amman Television Service, August 7, 1988 [FBIS]).

54 For an overview of these measures, see Andoni, Lamis, “Jordan,” in Brynen, , ed., Echoes of the IntifadaGoogle Scholar.

55 Among other things, the PLO has encouraged Palestinians to support the value of the Jordanian dinar, refrained from interfering in the 1989 elections and discouraged Palestinians from engaging in illegal protests (Jordan Times [Amman], August 22, 1989, 16; Andoni, “Jordan”).

56 This was particularly evident in Husayn's position at the May 1990 Arab League summit in Baghdad, where he warned that Israeli pressures had “drained all our financial resources” and that “our national commitment [to the Palestine issue] should not be a source of punishment to my country.” He went on to appeal for renewed pledges of Arab aid (New York Times, May 30, 1990, A13).

57 The continued permeability of Jordan, and the radicalizing effect there of the intifada played at least a partial role in the electoral victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in the November 1989 parliamentary elections. Similarly, periodic violent protests have continued to erupt in the Kingdom, notably in December 1989 (on the second anniversary of the uprising), May 14, 1990 (on the anniversary of Israel's establishment) and again on May 22 (following shootings in Israel and the occupied territories). Twodemonstrators were killed by Jordanian security forces during the latter.

58 Speech by King Husayn to the Summit, Algiers, Amman Domestic Service, 06 8, 1988 (FBIS)Google Scholar.

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