Yalla peace: The wandering Palestinians

Palestinians must create one definition of national identity, one that breaks away from pure hatred of Israel and Jews. Our struggle must be for equal rights.

Palestinian flags, mosque_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Palestinian flags, mosque_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
When I was growing up, being Arab and Palestinian were the two most important principles that guided my identity besides being a proud American.
We 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.
So we 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 “velvet hammer.”
Those velvet hammers exist in Arab countries that are considered more pro- Western like Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Freedoms don’t 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 interests.
It’s not about freedom in those countries.
It is about protecting Western interests and oil and investments.
PALESTINIANS ARE 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 Israel.”
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 struggles.
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 Israel’s occupation.
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.