When I was growing up, being Arab and Palestinian were the two most important
principles that guided my identity besides being a proud American.
were “Arab” first and “Palestinian” second, the first to stress the unity of the
Arab world through its powerful culture, and the second to emphasize the
identity that Israel is trying so hard to erase.
In fact, we became more
Palestinian in direct proportion to the intensity of the pressure against us.
When Golda Meir declared we did not exist, that was a challenge to prove we did
in fact exist.
And we proved it.
Yet the real challenge isn’t from
our external foes, but rather from within.
In part because of the nature
of the Palestinian revolution, which forced the world (including Israel) to
recognize the Palestinians as a people, Palestinians began to “wander.” Instead
of being focused on one, singular goal, we became splinter groups. Revolutions
that last a long time can do that, eventually. But there is a tipping point
where the “revolution” becomes diluted and begins to break up into small spheres
of rival goals.
That’s what has happened.
On the face of it,
Palestinians are like all other Arab peoples. They have been victimized by
oppressive dictators and tyrants, demagogues who gained their power not through
the strength of the citizens’ fight for freedom, but through the politically
motivated strategies of foreign interests, from the Allies in World War I to the
Western powers that have leveraged clout against oil profiteering.
don’t really understand democracy.
We think we do. Many people in the
countries where protests have succeeded or are taking root like Tunisia, Egypt,
Libya and Syria, are seeing the huge price of freedom in terms of so many lives
lost and the selfishly driven political gamesmanship of the self-proclaimed
“champion” of freedom, the United States.
America doesn’t really care
about giving Arabs freedom, or at least not as much as it cares about
controlling their politics, their oil and subjugating any criticism. US policy
is basically a Westernized version of the “benevolent” dictatorships or the
Those velvet hammers exist in Arab countries that are
considered more pro- Western like Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
really exist in those countries or in Gulf nations like Bahrain, but the United
States is willing to look the other way to protect its political
It’s not about freedom in those countries.
It is about
protecting Western interests and oil and investments.
unlike many other subjugated Arab people. The majority of Arabs people are
subjugated by their own rulers. Arab tyrants are easily able to create “hate
distractions” to lure the people away from questioning their own brutality and
civil rights violations.
On the other hand, Palestinians are subjugated
by Israelis, mostly immigrants from Western nations (including Russia) where
their suffering as Jews at the hands of the West (Germany, Europe, etc.) has
transformed into an expression of oppression against non-Jews in “the Land of
As a result, the Palestinians have spliced their “struggle” over
and over again. There isn’t just one Palestinian movement any more. It’s many
movements, movements that have competing interests and conflicting goals. In
fact, the Palestinians are so divided that they often find themselves attacking
each rather than defending Palestinian national rights. The Israeli occupation
has essentially become the backdrop for these new divisive
There are things I like about some of these groups and things
I don’t like or agree with. But because Palestinians are like all Arabs – they
lack experience or maturity with regard to tolerance of free speech, free
opinions and differing views – one disagreement overshadows all of the larger
areas of agreement.
For example, Palestinians who oppose the BDS
movement, like me, are often vilified.
What do I support? I support
boycotting and divesting from any business enterprises that assist in the theft
of resources by illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in east
Jerusalem. But I oppose boycotts against Israel. I believe if you genuinely
support the concept of two states you have to live by that, not as political
rhetoric but rather as a principle that directs your conduct.
So I don’t
support the push by many in the disheveled BDS movement to expand the boycotts
and protests from targeting the West Bank to also include Israel. It’s a
contradiction of a desire for genuine peace.
That’s not to say that the
Israelis don’t have major problems with principles, ethics and morality. They
do. But that is not the point here. The point is that Palestinians can’t expect
to create their state in any size or form until they can bring everyone together
around one definition of national identity.
That identity has to break
away from pure hatred of Israel and Jews that drives many Palestinians and Arabs
and instead embrace righteous struggles to win equal rights in the face of
We have to fight for principles that are applied
equally and fairly across the board. If we are militant against Israeli killing
of Palestinians, we must be equally militant against Palestinian killing of
Israelis. That is the sort of moral line that defines a strategy of ethics that
is the only way to succeed in achieving independence.
But without the
experience of true democracy and free speech, Palestinians are encumbered by
burdens of politics and internal divisions and leaders who are ignorant but who
know how to fan the flames of violence and hatred.
And in that
environment, they are doomed to failure. That bodes poorly for Israel, too. For
if the Palestinians do not succeed in achieving their national freedom, Israel
will never be the state it had hoped to be either.
The writer is an award
winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host.