One cannot understand Arab society without understanding the honor/shame dynamic.
It is not racist to point out that Arabs are brought up in a culture where receiving honor, and avoiding shame, are the top priorities. Westerners, on the other hand, are raised in a “guilt” society. In the West, what you do has inherent value even if no one else knows about it; in the Arab world nearly everything is dependent on how you are perceived as opposed to what you are.
In Arab culture, shame must be avoided at all costs. This is why there are so-called “honor killings.” Even someone’s life can be sacrificed to preserve one’s supposed honor.
Arabs historically regarded themselves as warriors, with romantic Islamic artwork showing Muslims on horseback with swords fighting their enemies.
Yet Arabs and Muslims have lost wars many times in their history to the Christian West, possibly starting in 732 with the Battle of Tours.
After a while, it was not considered so shameful to lose to the Christians and their powerful armies.
This never applied to Jews, though.
Muslim antipathy to Jews is as old as Islam itself, and Arab hate for Jews goes back to Ishmael. Under Muslim rule, Jews were regarded as despised and weak second class citizens.
In 1948, the combined Arab armies not only failed to push the hated Jews into the sea, but they lost, convincingly, to these weak dhimmi Jews.
This is the reason the loss, alone among all Arab and Muslim losses in history, is called the “nakba.” The scale of the military defeat isn’t the important factor – the fact that it was so humiliating is.
There are two reasons the Arabs of Palestine who fled were never integrated into the Arab world and remain a separate, stateless people 71 years later. One is that their very existence reminds the Arab nations of their impotence in war, and the Arab leaders want to blame the Palestinian Arabs for fleeing rather than fighting for their lands. The other is the realization that a large refugee population can be weaponized itself in the insistence of the “right to return.” The hope that Israel can still be destroyed through a combination of terror, demographics and politics remains.
Israeli concessions for peace are invariably looked upon as evidence of weakness and they embolden Israel’s enemies, rather than appease them.
Something interesting has happened in recent years. Arab nations have slowly gotten used to the fact that Israel is strong and will not disappear so soon. As they did with the Christian West, they are recognizing that they cannot defeat Israel militarily and therefore it starts to make sense to begin to cooperate with Israel in cases of common interest.
Palestinian Arabs have not reached that point. Their classrooms still teach that they will one day “return” and claim all of the land from the river to the sea. They still pretend that symbolic support from the Arabs is meaningful. They have created an entire mythology around a Palestinian nation that never existed. Their need for pride precludes their ability to recognize reality.
Until they reach the point of knowing that Israel is a Jewish state and will remain there for a long time, the Nakba will remain a catastrophe to them.
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