We are about to enter the world of the Arab-Israeli dispute, the world of “Black September,” Henry Kissinger, the “Year of Decision,” the “Decade of Decision,” the “Rejectionist Front,” three Arab-Israeli wars (1956, 1967, 1973), the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, massacres at Sabra and Shatila, the Johnston Plan, the Rogers Plan, the Rogers Initiative, the First Geneva Conference, the Second Geneva Conference, the 1978 Framework for Peace in the Middle East, the Schultz Plan, the Reagan Plan, and the Madrid Conference. We might therefore be forgiven if we pause before we dive into this rather depressing phase of the conflict and take one more look at the nationalisms that lie at the conflict's core.
When I say “nationalisms that lie at the conflict's core,” I mean, of course, Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. Defining the conflict in these terms, however, is a bit of an oversimplification. As we have seen, neither nationalism is monolithic. In the case of Zionism, I have described Labor Zionism, Revisionism, and Religious Zionism. In the case of Palestinian nationalism, I have described it as it was conceived by society's elites and as it was conceived by its nonelites. Even these breakdowns are oversimplifications, since not all Revisionists are the same, nor do all nonelite Palestinians hold to the same agenda. Although every nationalism attempts to present itself to the world as a monolithic bloc, beneath its indivisible exterior lurk class, gender, geographic, generational, and ideological cleavages. This fact alone is enough to raise a number of questions. How do nationalisms draw their doctrinal boundaries? How does one strain of a nationalism achieve dominance over others? What happens to those other strains when this occurs? How do the symbols chosen by nationalist movements to represent themselves restrict the meaning of the nationalisms they advocate?