Is the Palestinian National Movement Dying?

So the Palestinian national movement has divided into two. The more vital, Islamist element -- Hamas -- is busy building an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It controls a sovereign space outside of Israeli occupation in which it is building a repressive prototype of Muslim Brotherhood rule. It remains theoretically committed to the destruction of Israel, but in real terms spends its main energies today ruling Gaza.

The remaining Ramallah-based Fatah authority, meanwhile, administers over the lives of 95% of the 2.4 million Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the West Bank -- but in a situation of only partial sovereignty. It is safe from Hamas for as long as the implicit threat of Israeli intervention remains. It remains unable to pursue a successful negotiation with Israel because of its adherence to the old shibboleths of the 1960s and 1970s vis a vis the “right of return.” Of course, it also has no credible military option against the Jewish state, which is its protector.

Nor is old-style Palestinian nationalism faring any better among the populations living under Israeli rule. The so-called “Palestinian-Israelis” may vote for nationalist Knesset candidates, but they reject with horror any suggestion that their areas might come under Palestinian Authority rule. In real life, they much prefer the company of the Zionists to their fellow Palestinian nationalists. Understandably so.

The Arabs of Jerusalem, too, are seeking Israeli citizenship in increasing numbers.

Divided, with no strategy for reunification, or for victory, or for compromise. This is the current state of Palestinian politics.

And yet, a bright spot on the horizon remains for all those who still hope for Palestinian victory over Israel. At the very time the actually existing Palestinian national movement faces a historic nadir, “Palestine” as an idea has made great inroads into the public mind in the West. Particularly, but not only, in western Europe.

The Jewish state’s moorings as part of the Western democratic world are more fragile than they were thirty years ago. Fervent anti-Zionism, sometimes shading into open anti-Semitism, is closer to the western European mainstream discussion than at any time in the last half-century. Israel’s fight against “delegitimization” is not an imaginary struggle.

And of course, the rising Islamist elements coming to the fore in the Arab world also despise Jews and reject Israel’s right to exist no less fervently than did their Arab nationalist predecessors.

These trends are coalescing into a new challenge to Israel: a bizarre alliance of Islamists speaking the rhetoric of human rights and western leftists dazzled and charmed by Islamist potency and fervor.