The West lacks first-hand knowledge of Palestinian society, but relies on local intellectuals. They inflate the problems beyond recognition. From Ancient Greece to Russia to America, poets have eloquently expressed nostalgia over the loss of patriarchal values while the general population happily switched to new lifestyles. Common people live “here and now,” but intelligentsia either look back or hope forward. Palestinian journalists and poets sing odes to the olives and villages of their forefathers allegedly expropriated by Zionists, but for majority of Palestinian Arabs that’s an irrelevant past—and life goes on. Arab throngs in refugee camps are the only exception because the past is their only connection to dignity.

A rare nation is fervently religious. Arabs rally around Islam where it provides a communal identity, but religion plays otherwise little role in their lives. Palestinian Arabs were notoriously irreligious. Religious professionals from Hamas slowly turn the Arabs to religion, a process helped by religion’s role as the national platform. Palestinian Arabs are not given to religious concerns, but rationally side with anyone who helps them against the Zionist enemy. From the anti-Zionist Muslim-Christian associations in 1920s to the current alliance with the EU, Palestinian Arabs are fighting against the Jews, rather than for Islam.

The Palestinian mentality evolved to be unwarlike. Palestinian Arabs dwelled safely in the Middle East’s backyard, protected by Ottomans against external enemies and by the hilly terrain against the Bedouin. Just like their Christian counterparts of old, primitive Palestinian villagers enjoyed robbery rather than war. Palestinian Arabs resisted Ibrahim Pasha’s demands for conscripts during the Egyptian conquest as much as they have distanced themselves from the PIJ’s calls for insurrection. Israel befriends the Bedouin, whose mentality is infinitely worse than that of the settled Palestinian Arabs. Lacking attachment to the land, the Bedouin acquired a “hit-and-run” mentality, ever ready to stab their friends in the back.

Palestinian Arabs have never managed to build large militia. Fatah’s security forces provided nominal employment; out of the tens of thousands of members of Fatah forces, only a minuscule number participate in guerrilla activity. Hamas, too, rallied a formidable number of gun-toting Muslims, but few of them participated in military actions. Guerrillas, however, need not be many. Jewish guerrilla groups such as Etzel and Lehi, though small, terrorized the British occupiers into running away from Palestine. Arabs assembled much larger units than Etzel, such as the gangs in 1929, Izz ad-Din Qassam’s Black Hand in 1930s (hundreds of active members), PFLP-GC, PIJ, and PRC. The small numbers of Palestinian Arabs who actually fight the Jews does not imply powerlessness.

Peasant revolts are often disorganized, but powerful. Jewish paramilitary organizations never achieved the level of violence seen in the 1936 Arab revolt, when thousands of Arab civilians attacked the Jews and the British. Arabs mined bridges, blew up railroads and oil pipelines, attacked British military installations, and disrupted life in Palestine for years. The British had to abandon the pretense of civilized humanity, and razed villages and hanged popular religious leaders such as Sheikh Farhan Saadi. The British eventually crushed the Arab revolt, which had lost momentum anyway, but the memory of the revolt was a major factor in the British decision to evacuate Palestine. The revolt was not primarily directed against Jews, but was a typical peasant turmoil involving racketeering, marauding, refusal to pay debts, indiscriminate attacks on property and (British) officers of the law, and class struggle generally. The Arab revolt ended when the guerrillas alienated the local population with racketeering, violence, and British retaliation. Hamas now assiduously avoids a similar alienation by collecting money abroad and keeping the gun-toting militants at bay—and trying to avoid Israeli retaliation. Fatah avoids Israeli reprisals, but cannot stop the racketeering and grassroots violence. The Palestinian population is now ready to temporarily embrace any regime, Israeli included, that offers safety. Civil war in Palestine is Israel’s best bet for a contented rule over the local Arabs.