If You Like Syria, You'll Love Palestine

Syria's civil war shows what a Palestinian state would look like.

 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce fighting in Damascus province between rebels and troops backed by pro-regime militias and fighters from Lebanon's Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah.
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Few observers seem able to recognize noteworthy predictive connections between the unraveling situation in Syria and the likely outcomes of Palestinian statehood. Still, this overlooked linkage is significant. In essence, the whole abhorrent panoply of war crimes and crimes against humanity revealed in Syria, including perhaps the use of chemical weapons against civilians, is what we might also expect in "Palestine."

There, openly fratricidal warfare between Hamas, Fatah and several other Palestinian splinter groups could effectively replicate what we are witnessing today between pro- and anti-Assad forces in Syria.

There is more. With a newly emerging geostrategic polarity between Russia and the United States, the old Cold War antagonists could quickly line up on opposite warring sides in Palestine. Among other things, including possibly parallel cleavages in a steadily nuclearizing Iran, this polarity could portend substantially enlarged instabilities in the Middle East.

For all of its predictable liabilities, both national and regional, Palestine would represent an historically new state. While still not generally understood, there has never been a Palestinian state. Never.

Within all contending Palestinian factions, there is agreement on one central objective: that all prospective Palestinian leaders seek statehood because of an alleged right under international law to "self-determination." For them, the November 29, 2012 upgrade of the Palestinian Authority to the status of a "nonmember observer state" at the United Nations was merely an intermediary and partial achievement. Now, Hamas, Fatah and assorted sister groups will agree, there still needs to be a follow-on grant of full sovereignty.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

Ironically, should this legally upgraded condition actually be realized, it would likely represent the juridical beginning of another Syria. Somehow, it has become customary to explain the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of a purported absence of Palestinian "sovereign equality." More precisely, so proceeds this conventional narrative, the Middle East plainly requires the decently enhanced juridical symmetry of a "two-state solution." Only when a Palestinian state is created alongside the existing Jewish state, goes this contrived argument, can there be "peace."

To be sure, a great many evident holes puncture this feeble explanation, many of which have to do with its most utterly core assumptions. By now, we should all readily understand, no major Palestinian leader or faction could ever be content with "coexistence. " Rather, for this person or group, peace can be expected only when all of Israel has finally been incorporated into Palestine.

Seeing requires distance. The movement for Palestinian statehood has never really been about land. It has always been about God. In its modern form, moreover, the grotesque and ultimately genocidal Palestinian view of Israel stems from Hajj Amin el-Husseini's canonical Jew hatred, and the World War II-era Arab Muslim leader's corresponding promulgation of Jihad.

The 1988 "Hamas Covenant," a documentary wellspring of any future Palestinian state, explicitly ties the irreducible obligations of Jihad to Islamic rules: "It is necessary to establish in the minds of all the Muslim generations, that the Palestinian issue is a religious issue, and that it must be dealt with as such."

[See a collection of political cartoons on Syria.]

This recalcitrant view remains unhidden. Today, on any Palestinian Authority or Hamas map of the region, Israel is unambiguously identified as "Occupied Palestine." Naturally, such a conspicuously irredentist view does not bode well for area diplomacy. As recently as October 19, 2013, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged "armed resistance" as the only correct Palestinian orientation to Israel.

Enter Syria. With the Syrian civil war continuing to rage, even as President Bashar al-Assad is praised by U.S. President Barack Obama for reportedly complying with the destruction of his chemical weapons, we can get a palpable sense of what Palestine would look like. Although rarely considered in this manner, the current situation in Syria is actually a reliably portentous omen of what ultimately awaits in "Palestine."