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The Global Empire of Palestine

The Palestinians have something better than a state. They have the backing of today’s worldwide power brokers.

by
Lee Smith
December 20, 2023
Greta Thunberg at a climate march in Amsterdam, Nov. 12, 2023

Roger Anis/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg at a climate march in Amsterdam, Nov. 12, 2023

Roger Anis/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This piece is part of Tablet’s top 10 of 2023. Find the full list here. 
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Polls showing that Palestinians in the West Bank as well as Gaza continue to celebrate and support Hamas, with nearly 75% backing the Oct. 7 massacre that killed 1,200 in southern Israel, would seem to dash U.S. policymakers’ hopes of gaining momentum toward establishing a Palestinian state.

But for the Palestinians, that’s irrelevant. Why should they bother with arduous negotiations leading to compromise over two noncontiguous plots of land when they already have something far greater and much rarer? Empire.

The ongoing marches around the world to “flood” Western cities, college campuses, and government office buildings, and halt traffic on major arteries and thoroughfares in support of Hamas, are evidence that the Palestinians have managed to create something much loftier than a mere political arrangement of institutions and offices that would make them no different from the 193 members of the United Nations. With Oct. 7 representing the high-water mark of their long campaign against the Jews, and Americans, the Palestinians have called forth from the nations those who are ready to awaken and celebrate the new spirit of the age.

Since Oct. 7, pro-Palestinian protesters—Arab and Muslim immigrants joined by locals—have filled the streets of European and North American cities with crowds of thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands in Berlin, Washington, Stockholm, Paris, Toronto, Oslo, Chicago, London, Rome, Los Angeles, and others. In Glasgow last week, they shut down a Zara’s outlet because, according to pro-Palestinian activists, the retail giant’s advertising campaign featuring mannequins wrapped in white cloth resembled dead Gazans. Students at Harvard University can’t study in Widener Library or walk to class without being confronted by mobs calling for Israel to be emptied of Jews “from the river to the sea.” It’s as bad or worse at other elite universities.

By continually ‘revitalizing’ the Palestinians, the stewards of global affairs have engendered something that by definition cannot survive in nature on its own: a society that celebrates death as its highest value.

In New York City, large crowds of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags besieged the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, fought with police, and harassed tourists, then moved down Fifth Avenue and defaced stores with pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli, and antisemitic graffiti. At Grand Central station, commuters and tourists are greeted regularly by large mobs masked in black-and-white keffiyehs and draped in other resistance styles enacting their version of “intifada.” Thousands marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and hoisted Palestinian flags a stone’s throw from a mass grave holding the remains of 2,753 people killed by terrorists who claimed the Palestinian cause as their motive for murdering Americans.

With the intifada globalized, and millions from West to East—from the dispossessed of the Southern Hemisphere to privileged Scandinavians—stirred by similar furies, it’s like an end-of-times World Cup parade every day. Supporters cheer their champions, the world’s team, the Goliath that kidnapped, raped, executed, and beheaded children.

The protesters’ goal is hardly a two-state solution or any other dispensation likely to bring peace to both peoples. Rather, the cease-fire they’re calling for is a tactic to strangle Israel’s war effort and thereby empty the Jewish state of Jews. If the Israeli government can’t establish a buffer zone between Gaza and the southern areas attacked on Oct. 7, as well as the northern towns and kibbutzes within Hezbollah’s range, the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have relocated to the center of the country cannot return home. With Iran-backed terrorists using Oct. 7 as a precedent to redraw Israel’s borders in cooperation with U.S., EU, and U.N. bureaucrats, the country will be shaved at the edges until all of it becomes uninhabitable.

The Biden administration’s post-Hamas reconstruction plans imagine that, as Vice President Kamala Harris told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, a “revitalized” PA will take over Gaza. But that will hardly pacify the Palestinians or their impassioned supporters around the globe. In fact, Abbas’ men, manifestly unpopular in Gaza and especially the West Bank, will have to meet the expectations created by their rivals’ Oct. 7 assault if they hope to survive the intra-Palestinian contest for power that is sure to ensue.

The salient fact is that the crushing military defeat suffered by the Palestinians will hardly matter, as long as the world’s one superpower—alongside Europe and the Gulf Arab states—stand ready to rebuild whatever Israel destroys. By continually revitalizing the Palestinians, by giving them new life, the stewards of global affairs have engendered something that by definition cannot survive in nature on its own: a society that celebrates death as its highest value. The Palestinians claim that it is their perseverance and faith, their willingness to suffer great losses, that ensures their ultimate victory. But the source of their steadfastness—their ability to replenish their arsenal and refurnish their tunnels and other military infrastructure—is, in fact, a luxury repeatedly afforded them by the U.S. and its European partners. Had world powers simply allowed Israelis and Palestinians to make war, the party of permanent resistance would have had two choices—change radically or perish entirely.

Instead, having immolated themselves and their children many dozens of times in their efforts to burn down Israel, the Palestinians have again been led back across the river of death. Their escorts past and present—from the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc allies to Europe and the United States as well as the Gulf States and Iran—have employed them in the way minor actors have typically been used throughout the history of the Levant: as assets in the great game of nations.

But no power had ever thought before to preserve a culture so devoted to death that its highest purpose is to extinguish itself in the service of killing others. No one before had means or the motive to do so.

Now, however, something new has been brought into the world, something monstrous.

All the wretched of the earth have attached their hopes and grievances to the Palestinians not because Hamas and the PA, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and others are indigenous underdogs resisting the colonialist war machine, or stalwart subalterns on a campaign for universal liberty. Rather: Terrorists, criminals, psychopaths, and fantasists from every part of the globe have grafted themselves on to the Palestinian cause because the most basic laws of nature have been revised to accommodate it. The Palestinian cause gives hope to each of these groups—hope that their own nihilistic and murderous ambitions could win world favor as well. And they have.

Under the rules set by great powers to govern the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anything is possible. Losing is winning. Crime is justice. Rape is love. Death is life. These are the slogans of the new spirit of the age, the dawning of the Empire of Palestine.

Analysts have compared the Oct. 7 massacre to the 1973 Yom Kippur war, another massive failure of Israeli intelligence to read its enemies’ intentions and capabilities. But the more relevant historical date is Sept. 5, 1972, when Palestinian terrorists raided the dormitories housing the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich games. The Palestinians held 11 Israeli coaches and athletes hostage, then tortured and killed them, and mutilated their corpses.

The Palestinian terror group responsible for these atrocities, Black September, was named after the Jordanian campaign that expelled the Palestinians a year earlier after they failed to overthrow the Hashemite kingdom. Black September was a cutout for Fatah, the largest faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The false front let Western governments deny PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s involvement in terrorism in order to deal with him because of his involvement in terrorism.

Forced to relocate to Lebanon, Arafat saw that the only way to break out of a doomed cycle of local conflicts was to internationalize his war and turn Palestine into a global cause.

Staging its debut on the front line of the Cold War was a shrewd choice. The Soviets had armed and trained the Palestinians as local proxies for their regional conflicts, but Arafat wasn’t satisfied to be just part of the play within the play of the larger superpower struggle. In Germany, he made the Palestinians stars on live television.

Equally important was the German angle. The Munich Olympics, held in the birthplace of the Nazi Party, marked the country’s return to the society of civilized nations. That Germany was divided underscored its kinship with the Palestinians in one crucial respect—both were losers in big wars they’d forced on their opponents and that consequently shattered their own societies.

Yet conveniently for the Germans, and all of Europe, the Palestinians’ foes were the surviving witnesses to their fathers’ crimes. Arafat couldn’t entirely blot out what the Europeans had done, but he made himself a mirror for their self-pity that allowed them and today their children to recast their legacy in gentler hues. Is it not true that the grays are subtler in a world where the Nazis’ victims victimize the Palestinians? What constitutes a great crime when everyone is a criminal?

Europe was tested. Munich and its aftermath showed that even before a single generation had passed, their vows were hollow, their honor a fraud. You could kill Jews in a live broadcast to hundreds of millions of people, and the great men of Europe would arrange the assassins’ passage to safety.

By promoting the Palestinians’ cause, the Europeans joined them in creating the prototype of “Third World man.” The collaboration served the narcissism of Western elites, and the political ambitions of the Western-educated elites of the decolonized world who weaponized their resentment to extract money and arms from their onetime overlords. A century removed from the apex of their strength, and their will to defend a civilization built by better men long depleted, Western elites’ self-image is sustained by Third World man. By attributing to Westerners responsibility for his suffering, Third World man fathoms the reservoir of their once formidable power and hints they may again someday be replenished. Accordingly, the Soviets used the Palestinians for the same reason street gangs employ children to commit felonies: Western elites do not punish those who commit crimes for which they blame themselves.

In March 1973, the Palestinians kidnapped and executed two American diplomats in Sudan, Ambassador Cleo Noel and Deputy Chief of Mission George Curtis Moore. The Nixon administration knew that Arafat had ordered their assassinations, but the president’s top foreign policy aide overlaid U.S. foreign policy with a European perspective in which small neighboring states exchange pieces to obtain a permanent balance of power. Losing two foreign service officers was regrettable, but Henry Kissinger’s priority was moving Egypt from the Soviet column to America’s, and Israel’s victory in October 1973 secured Kissinger’s. And yet with the failure to repay Arafat for killing Americans—Noel and Moore’s State Department colleagues said Kissinger had simply forgotten them—the unraveling began. By acclimating themselves to terror, the Americans incentivized it.

Days after the murders in Khartoum, Arafat’s agents set off three bombs, unsuccessfully, in New York City that had been timed to explode during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. In September 1974, Black September brought down a passenger plane flying from Tel Aviv to New York, with stopovers in Athens and Rome, killing all 88 people aboard, including 37 Americans.

Nonetheless, Arafat was welcome in New York two months later when he carried a gun to the U.N. and threatened more war unless the world appeased his band of stateless brigands. The august body recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians as well as their right to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty in Palestine. The Palestinians had won entry into the community of nations by killing Jews.

A year later, the Europeans again rewarded the Palestinians for unburdening them of their guilt when the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, designating Zionism as a form of racism. Among all the world’s national independence movements, the nationalism advocated by the survivors of the Holocaust was uniquely racist. It seemed that the U.N.’s only purpose was to consecrate Third World man and condemn the Jews. Thanks to Arafat, the world had turned reason on its head.

“The Americans have to remember that unless Palestinians achieve something,” said Arafat, “they will face the typhoon.” Bill Clinton blamed him for rejecting his proposals for a two-state solution, but the Palestinians saw through his gambit. The sticking point wasn’t the right of return, never mind land swaps and border demarcation. What the Americans had in mind struck at the essence of what the Palestinian cause had come to represent.

Had any nation-state pursued the Palestinians’ decadeslong tactics, they would have been committing themselves to war. But with no capital to seize, no industrial centers to destroy, the Palestinians were accountable to no one. Clinton wanted to change that with statehood, and Arafat fooled those who wanted to be fooled that he wanted the same.

Instead, the Palestinians pocketed the Americans’ money to fund a military aristocracy, a black-velvet painting version of Sparta whose kings were pampered, pot-bellied assassins in off-the-rack Muslim Brotherhood suits. Maybe at one time the Palestinian cause was just to drive the Jews into the sea, but then what? With more than 8,000 square miles of sand where the State of Israel once was, what was the next move?

A state would have required the generalship of hard and cynical men, men whose ambitions were sharply limited by the work it would take to make things function every day. But after so much fantasy, it was too late for that. Besides, the world would continue to pay the Palestinians what they needed to flourish. What was once a political movement became a mode of existence, not a death cult but rather a permanent exhibition of death in life.

The Oct. 7 massacre was savage, like the murder of the Israeli Olympians was savage. But the Palestinians are not savages. They’re not the North Sentinel Islanders, who want no part of civilization and anyone who approaches their shores is met with a hailstorm of deadly arrows. Third World man, by contrast, feeds off civilization. The Palestinians can barely manage to kill anyone besides themselves without the resources donated by foreign powers. One-fifth of Hamas’ homemade rockets misfire and kill Gazan civilians. But more important than arms and technology is Western vanity, the source of Third World man’s magic.

With his 1984 masterwork, Political Ponerology: The Science of Evil, Psychopathy, and the Origins of Totalitarianism, the late Polish psychiatrist Andrzej Łobaczewski sought to explain “the general laws of the origin of evil.” The bulk of post-Holocaust historical, clinical, and journalistic research argues there is nothing remarkably evil about those who commit atrocities. Most are just ordinary people caught up in a bureaucratic hierarchy doing what they believe to be their duty, even if they question its rectitude. This interpretation is famously captured by Hannah Arendt’s phrase describing Adolf Eichmann as an embodiment of the “banality of evil.”

Łobaczewski’s conclusion cut against the grain. He argued that what he called macrosocial evil is the function of pathologically evil individuals. They disguise their true ambitions for power, wealth, and notoriety behind ideology, using terms like “social justice” which are vague enough to convey the righting of wrongs, to animate social movements united by grievance. Inside these movements, genuine psychopaths and those who adapt most easily to a pathological order rise to positions of power and influence. Evangelizing on behalf of deviant and destructive causes and desecrating, or criminalizing, what is true, beautiful, and natural, in turn lays waste to social structures, institutions, industries, entire nations. The rise of the Empire of Palestine represents this pathological process on a global scale.

It was only a matter of time before the mutation forged by serial revivals of a pathological society jumped cultures and began to infect those billed for reanimating the Palestinians—Americans. In a recent poll, 51% of Americans between the ages of 18-24 expressed their belief that the Israelis should be forced to abandon their country and give it to Hamas. Fifty-one percent shows that what’s driving the numbers at the pro-Hamas rallies isn’t just the failure of Western officials to close their borders to Middle Eastern populations unwilling to shed the pathological racism and political scapegoating of their homelands. No, their ideas preceded them, and prepared the way for their arrival.

“We regard the U.S. government as the controlling force of neocolonialism, imperialism, and racism, and we have no doubt that the U.S. employs Israel to spearhead its strategy of domination in the Middle East,” said Arafat in the middle of the Cold War, slogans echoed today across the great cities of Europe and North America. Decades later, Barack Obama replayed the same message back through the U.N. to announce that America was switching sides and enlisting its resources to advance the cause of death.

With less than a month left in office, Obama strong-armed U.S. allies to push through U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, holding that Israel illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including historical Jewish religious sites—a position that no American government had ever taken. Critics at the time noted that the resolution signaled the United States had adopted the position of the Arab rejectionist camp. But the real issue was even more serious—after all, the Arabs rejected not only Israel but also reality. The fact that so many European nations seconded Obama’s effort to reverse the outcome of a war decided in 1967 is evidence not of its moral probity but rather that the president had committed America to global leadership of a malignant fantasy. The “great euthanizer” had inverted the historical and moral order.

To the literal-minded, and others who do not yet recognize the character of the pathologies ushered in with the age of the Empire of Palestine, it may seem bewildering, for instance, to see LGBTQ+ organizations demonstrating on behalf of a Hamas triumph. But Queers for Palestine don’t need to be told how Hamas actually deals with queers in Gaza and the West Bank. That’s irrelevant. In the Empire of Palestine all difference is transcended. It’s not a place, it’s a spiritual principle guided by the inversion of reality and governed by the equation 2+2=5.

Few in the climate change movement could have been surprised to hear Greta Thunberg express her desire to “crush Zionism.” In her strident warnings of catastrophic global climate change and the end of humanity, the Empire of Palestine has always been the subtext, a land of chaos and confusion, an inverted Eden in the desert presided over by an unforgiving earth goddess.

The Empire of Palestine is an aesthetic convention. It’s an “open-air prison” and “the Riviera of the Levant.” It’s a forgery. A postcard from the continent of unreason.

Climate millenarianism, the mass replacement of native populations, the government-sanctioned sterilization of children—everywhere you look the mark of civilizational suicide is on the horizon as Western elites assemble under the imperial banner. Flown in European capitals and university campuses, it represents the longings of a powerful faction within the West of those exhausted by life and wanting one last time to feel something like life coursing through their veins as they await the cleansing fire, redemption culminating in the coup de grace.

It was inevitable they, too, would stand against the Jews, who have chosen life over death.