By Tariq Shadid
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
It is as old as we can remember: unity is a source of strength. Therefore, in battles, one of the main and first objectives is always to divide your enemy, if possible even to the extent of breaking him up into opposing camps. If you succeed at this, the new situation creates many advantages, which you can then exploit according to your aims.
Looking at the present situation, we can safely say that Israel has recently come very close to achieving this goal. The clues that give away Israeli involvement in causing this rift in Palestinian unity are manifold. Nevertheless, it practically goes without saying that without Palestinian involvement as well, it would have been impossible.
Ever since Israel was created, it has engaged itself in dividing the Palestinians, mainly by scattering and displacing them. Therefore, we now have the so-called Israeli Arabs, who speak fluent Hebrew, and have been forced by their circumstances to accept life as sub-class citizens in a state that identifies itself internationally as a ‘Jewish State’. We have the Palestinians of the West Bank, still trying to make a living off the remaining fertile patches of Palestinian land that they have not been uprooted from. They now have fallen under the emergency government of Mahmoud Abbas, which enjoys the dubious protection of the occupying power, Israel.
The Gazans, another newly formed subspecies of Palestinians, have now fallen under the Hamas government they elected into power, and are suffering the cruel and deadly isolation that results from the Western-imposed boycott. I wonder which considerations led these superpowers to believe, that one can actually achieve a dialogue by starving people. Most of all, it shows us that despite all its mind-baffling technology and its pretty words, when it comes to morals and civilization, the West is still quite medieval in its concepts.
Its siege tactics are targeting the poor with starvation and disease, in the hopes of setting them up against their leadership. Unfortunately, the Western powers do not have the accompanying medieval courage to openly admit that this is their strategy. Instead, they apply typical 21st century hypocrisy, by declaring that they only mean well for the people that they are subjecting to these horrendous conditions. Does this remind you of the 12 year starvation of Iraq? Isn’t today’s war and destruction there also the result of Western ‘benevolence’? I rest my case.
The Jordanian Palestinians live in an economically unviable state, which can only survive through political subservience to the United States and Israel, which ensures the inflow of subsidies. Little if any of this money ever makes it into the refugee camps, while economical competition among the poor has now increased through the recent influx of vast numbers of refugees from Iraq.
Other Arab countries, like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and formerly also Iraq, all have their own brands of Palestinians, each adopting in part the characteristics of their host country, in language and other aspects of daily life.
The rest of the world also has many Palestinians living in practically every country on the globe, but rarely in enough numbers to make them stand out as a recognizable community. Many in the West are unseen, unheard, and often lose their recognition by the outside world as being ‘true’ Palestinians, once they manage to get their hands on documents of permanent residence. The biggest smiles can then be found on the faces of the Zionists in Tel Aviv. After all, when you expel people, your most favoured outcome is that they settle permanently elsewhere.
Ever since the Oslo era, whenever the media mentions Palestinians, they are only talking about those living in Gaza and the West Bank. For most people in the West, when the millions of Palestinian refugees outside of Palestine are mentioned, it is an unpleasant reminder of something so comfortably and systematically forgotten.
Does anyone ever wonder, why elections for the Iraqi puppet government installed by the American occupiers, were publicized worldwide, and Iraqis in the entire world were enabled to cast their vote, while no Palestinians living outside of Gaza and the West Bank were ever even considered as voters for the Palestinian elections?
Do we wonder, why the use of the word ‘Israeli Arab’ has become commonplace all over the world, while this practice conveniently aids the goals of Zionism by reducing their Palestinian identity to a mere dream, as well as reducing the number of people recognized worldwide as Palestinians?
It is important to realize, that the majority of Palestinians in the world are living outside of the West Bank and Gaza, and that there can be no semblance of democracy, as long as their opinion is not weighed in the negotiations, especially concerning the right of return. Isn’t this right primarily the concern of the displaced ones?
It is very important to note, that the fragmentation of the Palestinian people is the single most threatening factor to the existence of their national identity and unity, let alone of a viable Palestinian state.
The bond between a Palestinian and his homeland can only be cut by that Palestinian himself. I know of some who do this, and decide to raise their children with an American, Australian or European identity. I know of a lot more, however, who refuse to give the Israelis the easy prize of having one less Palestinian family branch to worry about, and who pass the Palestinian identity on to their children.
But there is no outside pressure that can weaken this bond, nor is there any magical formula through which anyone in the Palestinian National Authority, or in Washington, Brussels or Tel Aviv, can wish it away, only because it stands in the way of the Zionist ideal.
Before the Israelis suddenly attempt to create yet another forced division among Palestinians by yet another displacement or border, or by paying one side while starving the other, let us not forget that the one thing that will always keep the Palestinians unified as a people, is their common enemy.
Since this enemy has proven throughout the decades to have the Palestinian national identity as its main target for annihilation, Palestinian unity should be forged upon the realization of this all-encompassing threat, and it should always remain the most primary concern. Abbas, who is now so favoured by the West, can only regain credibility for his commitment to the Palestinian cause by conducting negotiations with Hamas. The latest opinion polls published in Al Quds newspaper, display his current self-earned all time low in popularity (an embarrassing 13.5 %). This simply reasserts that anything that reeks of collaboration has never been, and will never become, the way to gaining popularity as a Palestinian leader.
If Abbas insists on dividing, he should realize that in the eyes of those he now considers allies, he is still nothing more but another Palestinian, as disposable as any of his brethren. Divide and rule – but when he who is not in a real position of power, divides, he doesn’t rule – but gets ruled.
-Tariq Shadid is an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause, and board member of the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands. He regularly writes articles for the Palestine Chronicle. He is a surgeon by profession, and also founder of the web project ‘The Musical Intifada at www.musicalintifada.com