The Palestinian national movement and the anti-colonial struggle

Monday, 29 July, 2013 - 15:00

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The paper explores various aspects in the development of the Palestinian national movement, with a focus on the ways in which it has conceptualized its core political goals. In particular, it looks at the extent to which it can be regarded as an anti-colonial or anti-apartheid movement. Although the two are related, they have distinct features. An anti-colonial movement regards its struggle primarily as national liberation from external rule while an anti-apartheid movement aims primarily to transform relationships between internal forces. These concepts are regarded as ideal types or benchmarks, which allow concrete historical movements to combine elements of the two or shift focus over time. The discussion is divided into three periods, with 1917, 1947, 1967 and 1987 as key historical moments that shaped the nature of following developments. The first formative period saw the Palestinian national movement emerging as a unified force, which was defeated by the end of the period, in what became known as the Nakba. Its constituency – the Palestinian people – became fragmented into three main segments: refugees who lost their houses and were forced out of their homeland; residents of historical Palestine living under Arab rule, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Subsequent periods necessitate a separate – but thematically related – discussion of these segments. For each period and each segment the paper examines different conceptualizations of Palestinians as a national group indigenous to the country, and their evolving relations to Jewish settlers and – after 1948 – Israeli citizens. The focus of the discussion is on the extent to which the latter have been regarded as an external force to be defeated or pushed back (and perhaps even removed from the scene altogether), or rather as a force that is internal to the country, regardless of its origins, with which alliances may potentially be formed and a shared future may be envisaged.

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