From the CIAO Atlas Map of Middle East 

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CIAO DATE: 03/02

Global Conditions and Global Constraints: The International Paternity of the Palestinian Nation

Dietrich Jung 1

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
July 2001


In a recent article, Michael Mandelbaum depicted Middle Eastern states as the most combative members of the international community. He painted the picture of a region in which "traditional motives for war — gold and God — are still alive" (Mandelbaum 1999). In line with this rather stereotypical perspective, the Middle East is often viewed as a zone of conflict, in which competition for scarce resources ("gold") inevitably leads to violent encounters between actors that are guided by irrational ideas ("God"). The long and bloody history of the Palestine conflict has contributed a lot to coroberating this image of a region in which violence seems to be endemic. In terminating the so-called Middle East Peace Process, the current "Al-Aqsa Intifada" marks another violent step in this conflict that has frequently escalated to warlike proportions in the form of popular unrest, communal riots, anticolonial insurgencies, guerilla and terror attacks, as well as civil and interstate wars. Yet behind these waves of violence and counterviolence, we can easily discern patterns of a kind of nationalist conflict with which European history is far more familiar than the stereotype of Middle Eastern irrationality admits. 2 Despite the academic obsession with proclaiming the "end of territoriality" and the "decline of the nation-state", the Palestine conflict represents a painful but vivid remnant of those national conflicts that politically characterized the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe. 3


Note 1: This paper has been prepared for the panel The Forms and Mechanisms of Relations on a Global Scale (II) at the 2001 Hong Kong Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA). It builds on a previous working-paper for the European University Institute in Florence (Jung 2000) and is part of a larger project of the author on the future of Middle Eastern Security. I am grateful to Carlsberg Foundation, which supports this project with a travel grant enabling me to discuss matters of Middle Eastern security in that region. Moreover, I thank Catherine Schwerin for her valuable comments. Back

Note 2: Another stereotype is to associate the character of these wars with a specific "Arab inclincation toward terrorism and guerilla warfare" (Schiff and Rothstein 1972: 32). Yet guerilla warfare is rather the result of asymmetric power structures and the lack of acknowledged political legitimacy on the side of the guerillas. Back

Note 3: Concerning these discussions about the future of the nation-state, see Badie (1995), Brock and Albert (1995), Neyer (1995), Rosecrance (1996), Ruggie (1993), Strange (1996), Zurn (1992). Back