A nation is constituted by the belief of belonging together, accompanied by a strong solidarity among its members. Nations, where they exist, are the product of a nation-building process. The concept of nation-building presupposes two elements: a common identity and concerted political action. Belonging to a particular nation is also related to a pre-existent common identity based on objective criteria. In the case of statehood, it is the people forming the whole citizenry who define ‘national belonging’. In other words, the state is the outcome of the political action of a nation, but it is also be a creator of a new nation. Nations are composed of human beings with their own history, language and culture. The legitimacy of the state depends on its respect of the nation’s historical and human dimension and the degree to which its structure and institutions reflect the will of its constituencies. Once a state exists, it should not use these elements to discriminate against citizens who are not part of its cultural heritage. The challenge for contemporary states is their being multi in terms of the nations, cultures, languages and ethnicities within their borders. All constituent groups and individuals should be able to consider the state as their own, and should be able to identify with its constitution in order to preserve the unity of the state. Those who belong to a particular nation (being French, German, Hungarian, Egyptian, Jordanian nationals etc.) may coincide with parts of the citizenry of a particular state (France, Germany, Hungary, Egypt, Jordan etc.), but they do not necessarily coincide with the totality of the citizens of that state, nor are they limited to its borders. Thus, one still talks of ‘Algerians’ living in France, although they have been French citizens for at least two generations. For the same reason, Germany facilitates citizenship for German nationals living abroad who apply for citizenship. In other words, since we no longer live in the era of nation-states, being French, German, Jordanian or Egyptian nationals does not mean necessarily being French, German, Jordanian, or Egyptian citizens, and vice versa. This distinction applies in particular way to Palestinians. Self-determination can be expressed in statehood, and a Palestinian state may exist when the organs that represent the (indigenous or ‘artificial’) people exercise sovereign powers over a territory. Once the state exists, the constituent power is enacted.1 The constituent power is related to popular sovereignty. As such, it cannot be enacted outside the state, since it is the expression and reflection of popular sovereignty.
Khalil, Asem. Palestinian Nationality and Citizenship: Current challenges and Future Perspectives. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI) European University Institute, CARIM Research Report 2007/7. 2007.
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