Palestine proper would be, indeed, Arab and Islamic. That is written explicitly in the draft constitution of the planned state: “This constitution is based on the will of Palestinian-Arab people,” (Article 1), “the Palestinian people are a part of the Arab and Islamic nation,” (Article 2), “sovereignty belongs to the Palestinian Arab people,” (Article 10), “the legal character of the Arab-Palestinian people will be embodied by the state,” (Article 13). “Islam will be the official religion of the state,” (Article 6).
We can verify this last principle (the Islamic quality of the state) in the light of the use of rhetorical obfuscation (Article 6) to which the drafters of this constitution resort when they give the appearance of making space for non-Moslems: “Islam will be the official religion of the state. The monotheistic religions will be respected.”
Who are these odd “monotheists” and what about] the Hindus, the Confucians, the Bahais, etc., forbidden to live in Palestine?) if not a politically correct version of the old dhimmi status imposed on non-Moslems by the Koranic law? In practice, this article would apply only to Christians, because there should be no more Jews in the State of Palestine …
This strange “monotheistic” statute permits us to understand by deduction the Palestinian Authority’s vision of the state of Israel (that is to say of Jewish Israelis). In Palestine, the Jews theoretically would not be citizens, because they are neither “Arabs” (the key to Palestinian nationality according to articles 10 and 13), nor “Moslems,” (key to the Palestinian national law according to article 6). Although they would be “respected,” they would fall outside of national sovereignty, the exclusive privilege of the Arabs (Article 10), who could be Christians or Moslems, indeed, but with a restriction. Since the law would conform to Islamic law, Christian Arabs could only be second class citizens, subjected to the status which Koranic law imposes on them, a status which excludes them from the general law which applies to the Moslems, a status granted however as a privilege. As they are not subjected to the rules of (Islamic) national law with regard to their personal status, they will be permitted to act autonomously within the framework of their law and religious tribunals.
This was already the case before the colonial era, before Islam lost all power over non-Moslems, and this is indeed what the Palestinian constitution provides for in its Article 7: “the principles of Islamic Sharia are the first source of legislation. The legislative power will determine the law of personal status under the authority of the monotheistic religions in conformity with their religions, with due respect to the clauses of the constitution and the preservation of unity, of the stability and progress of the Palestinian [Moslem] people.”
The problem is twofold: Sharia will not only apply to them when their “personal” status is at stake (and this status is segregative: it included, in the pre-colonial era, political submission, submission in behavior and religion, payment of a head tax, the djizya, or a financial tax on the land from which they have been dispossessed, the kharadj, etc) but also in their quality as citizens. It will indeed govern the citizenry as the law of the state (art. 6). Non-Moslems will be subject to its rulings as citizens and not only as believers.
How does the “monotheistic” statute reveal the vision which the Palestinian Authority has with regard to what the State of Israel should be, and which it does not want to recognize as “Jewish”? Would it recognize the “monotheist” character of the Israelis but not the Jewish character of their state? Would not the term, “Jewish,” designate a “monotheist”?
It is the understanding of the status of the dhimmi which could help us to grasp this apparent contradiction which contains a nasty trick for those who do not understand the categories of Moslem culture. The status of the dhimmi, one must know, is not personal but applies to collectivities, to the “nations” (millet from the times of the Turks) politically subjected to Islamic power since the “Conquest.”
It is necessary to explain the theological basis of the collective condition of the dhimmi. According to the Koranic vision, there were different “umma” [peoples] in history, each one rising to the call of a prophet (Moses, Jesus, etc.), until the advent of the final “umma,” which rose to the call of Islam. The basis of an umma is thus a ‘religion.”
In this sense, the Palestinian leaders cannot recognize the right of a Jewish state (and in fact any state which would not be Islamic), which would entail the self-determination and sovereignty of a collectivity whose only possible status under Islam is that of dhimmi. This would be an affront to the Islamic umma. A Jewish state thus constitutes essentially a scandal. The two terms, “State,” and “Jewish” therefore constitute, as theological-political matter, an impossible alloy. The Jews cannot have a state. They are not a people of political standing, because there can only be The Umma. They [the Jews] can neither be free nor sovereign.
An unclear “nationalism”
This classical Islamic perspective was much more evident in the sixties and seventies when the PLO did not resort to double talk to such a sophisticated degree, even if it already made use of western concepts (religion and state) to express Islamic notions. What does one read indeed in the PLO Charter in its first version (1964)? “The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything which derives from them are declared null and void. The claims of the Jews to historical and religious links with Palestine are incompatible the historical facts and the true conception of what a nation consists. Judaism, being a religion, does not constitute an independent nationality. For the same matter, the Jews do not constitute a unique nation with its own identity. They are citizens of the states to which they belong” (Article 20).
This is already a strange remark for a culture which confuses the political and the religious… It does not prevent the PLO, in the same text, from insisting on the exclusive Arab character of Palestine: “Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people. It is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people is a part of the Arab nation (Article 1.)” […] “Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine constitute two complementary goals” (article 13) “The people of Palestine play the role of the vanguard in the realization of this sacred objective.” Here, the term, Arab nation, really designates the Umma.
We discover in this remark the extent to which the strictly Palestinian “national” framework is recent (the second version of the charter was published in 1968). “The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order for it to contribute to the realization of this objective, it is necessary however, at this stage of the struggle to safeguard the Palestinian identity and develop its consciousness of this identity,” (Article 12) because (Article 1): “Palestine is the home of the Arab Palestinian people. It is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people is an integral part of the Arab nation.” Actually, despite the “nationalistic” formulation of this clause, the term, Arab nation, defines other words the Islamic Umma. Palestine belongs to the Umma (which cannot renounce a part of Islamic land).
It is noteworthy that in their constitutional documents, the Moslem Brotherhood write the same thing about Jews/Israelis, although in a more extreme manner in the case of the Hamas. Let the reader judge. With regard to the dhimmis, the Hamas charter declares that “the Islamic Resistance Movement … is guided by Islamic tolerance when it deals with the faithful of other religions. It does not oppose them except when they are hostile. Under the banner of Islam, the faithful of the three religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, can coexist peacefully. But this peace is not possible except under the banner of Islam.” With regard to the nature of the Palestinian country, the Hamas takes the view that: “The Movement of Islamic Resistance believes that Palestine is an Islamic Wakf [Religious patrimony] consecrated for [the future] generations of Moslems until the Last Judgment. Not a single parcel of this can be divested or abandoned to others […] (Article 11).
Racism: the reality whose name we dare not speak by Seth Frantzman