Lately I’ve been wondering — given what we know about the nature of the ‘Palestinian cause’, why does it have so many supporters? What is the secret of the propaganda success of one of the ugliest, most vicious political movements around, one that explicitly calls for the violent destruction of another nation and displays its adherence to this principle by murdering vulnerable members of its civilian population on an almost daily basis?
The answer is that like a successful prostitute, the Palestinian movement is whatever its ‘clients’ want it to be, with appropriate targeted messages aimed at various communities:
A religious message for the Muslim world, in which Jewish Zionists have usurped Muslim control of a part of dar al Islam, which must be redeemed. This has been hugely successful with the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims, even outside of the Middle East. For Arabs, there is the associated issue of Arab honor which must be regained.
A postcolonialist message aimed primarily at Europe, troubled by guilt for its exploitation of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Palestinian Arabs are presented as an indigenous people oppressed by European colonialist invaders who have taken their land and dispossessed them. Although based on a false historical narrative, this resonates well in Europe and also in the halls of academe in the US, Canada and the UK. For academics, there is the added benefit that the popularity of post-modernist theories of truth make it impossible to refute any theory, no matter how nonsensical.
An anti-racist message aimed primarily at the US, where the white population is suffused with guilt for the institution of slavery followed by institutional discrimination against African-Americans. Palestinian Arabs are (nonsensically) presented as discriminated against because of their ‘race’, comparisons are made to apartheid South Africa, and violent terrorism is compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. This argument is epitomized by a recent article by Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.
A human-rights message aimed at the West generally, in which the conflict is presented as a powerful militarized state oppressing powerless victims for reasons of race, ethnicity or just to exploit them and take their land and resources. This message is designed to obscure the real nature of the conflict, which is that the Palestinian Arabs are pawns in a concerted effort by the relatively powerful Arab states and Iran to destroy Israel.
In order to make the objective of destroying the Jewish state more palatable in the West, organizations like the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and various Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) sponsoring groups often present themselves as nonviolent. But the ISM functions to provide human shields for violent Arab terrorists, and the international BDS leadership says that they will not be satisfied until Arab ‘refugees’ get their ‘right to return’, so at best they are using nonviolent tactics to support a violent and murderous movement.
A message aimed at Christians, in which Israel is accused of driving Arab Christians out of Bethlehem and other places (in fact, Muslim fundamentalists are responsible), and of violating Christian principles in its treatment of Palestinian Arabs. It is also often combined with ‘replacement theology’, in which Judaism itself is attacked as illegitimate, as well as traditional Christian antisemitic concepts (“the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ”), etc. This message takes different forms, but has been effective with both liberal Protestants and some Evangelical Christians in the US.
A message aimed at liberal US Jews, in which it is falsely suggested that Israel is becoming a racist, undemocratic Orthodox theocracy, incompatible with the universalist ethics of liberal Judaism — and that it is therefore not worthy of support. This is the position I call “Beinartism.” Organizations such as J Street promulgate this view, and even claim to be “pro-Israel” while they work to undermine it.
The movement has attracted a great number of ‘useful idiots’ (a phrase attributed to Lenin), people from Western societies who are misled about the historical realities and the true ideology of the Palestinian movement, but whose fantasies are titillated by some of the false messages above. A paradigm case is “Queers for Palestine,” a group which somehow manages to ignore the fact that both the Muslim fundamentalist and Arab nationalist branches of the Palestinian movement would murder them as soon as look at them.
Another example is that of female volunteers for ISM and other pro-Palestinian groups who have been systematically sexually abused by Arab men.
Finally, last but not least:
A message for Jew-haters, in which it is pointed out that the enemies of the Palestinian cause are mostly Jews. And you can’t find a better argument than this one for a surprisingly large segment of the world’s population.