Thursday, June 14, 2007

Synthetic Myths

How can one judge a good myth? What makes a myth strong and powerful is very difficult to discretely identify, but the properties of a strong myth would seem to be slightly less vague. A good myth is trafficable such that it does not loose efficacy in a different time or space. The Jeffersonian myth of American federation would appear to be one of those good myths. Whether in a classroom or on a farm, in a courthouse or in battle, Americans internalize the story of their founding, and the values such as liberty, freedom and felicity that it radiates.

For the last half decade I have fervently challenged the notion that Palestinian nationalism was a false (i.e. weak) myth. The fact of the matter is, I would argue, if people say they are Palestinian, they are Palestinian irrespective of historical evidence to the contrary. The events of the past six days in Gaza are leading me to challenge this dogma.

Dennis Ross mentioned
the "three state solution" this week (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza) but dismissed it out of hand. I believe he did this more out of a pragmatic approach to politics than a reasoned one. The factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah reveal a very live and significant rupture between the two societies. The West Bank and Gaza are very different in their social, religious and economic composition, and it is beginning to appear as if they are more different than they are similar. That coupled with the geographic divide between the two stretches of land makes the eventual confluence of these two cultures seem only that much more remote. I agree with Mr. Ross that a two state solution might be more convenient, but I don't know if it should be more possible.

And here is where I feel Palestinian myth wears thin. Its claim is too bold and too recent--many who are alive today still remember when this narrative was being composed. While Palestinians may have self-identified for many years, the ability to forge a national identity, one that is beyond self-identification (meta-self-identification, as it were) only began in the '70's with Yassar Arafat. When this myth is now threatened and forces rise which seek to subvert this story to Egyption-Qutbist ideologies, the people, qua nation, does not rise to combat this perill. When liberty was at risk in America, brother rose up against brother to ensure that a nation constituted of the people and by the people shall not perish from this earth. The fact that American myth was strong enough to sustain the country through the war between the states and narrate history through the waters of national despair is indicative of its fastness. I fear that the synthetic nature of the Palestinian myth is evidence through the wear of this resolve.

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