Palestine’s winter

FILE - Palestinian activists hold up a large national flag during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 3, 2012 to protest against the violent dispersal of two similar rallies over the weekend. (AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)

Since the so-called Arab Spring began a year and a half ago, there has been one cause conspicuous by its absence: that of Palestine.

This is a subject that was described as the central issue of Arab nationalism and was the inspiration given for revolutions and military movements that have taken place since the great catastrophe of 1948.

Leaders in the Arab world have fed their population on rhetoric about Palestine and the restoration of the Palestinian rights, to such an extent that those countries’ failures economically and socially were blamed on their preparation for the great battle of liberation.

These archaic dictatorships stayed in power long beyond their welcome, armed with emergency powers and economic policies that, rather than delivering the wealth they promised, instead produced only poverty.

Yet the Arab people persevered in the belief that all that was done was done in the name of Palestine.

Year after year, incident after incident this has proven a misguided belief.

Now we have come to the Arab Spring, which has heralded true change on a scale nobody could have predicted. Yet, amid all this change, the question of Palestine has not been heard.

The good news is that the Palestinians now have the opportunity to learn a lesson and enact their own change. This may be an opportunity for the Palestinians to begin to depend on themselves, and cease being pawns for others who have for too long used them for their own ulterior motives and interests. The change that has swept the nation could yet reach Palestine, provided Palestinians are able to direct the movement in the right direction.

For too long the leadership in Palestine has been fragmented in its confrontations with Israel, still divided between Gaza and its ambitions and the West Bank and its internecine politics. Meanwhile Israel takes advantage of this uncertainty, making strategic gains as the Palestinians look the other way, distracted by their leadership vacuum.

Israel is a master of seizing opportunities. The tragedy is that it is too often the Palestinians who hand them these opportunities as they turn their focus on the trivialities of their internal politics. The challenges faced by Palestinians now, as ever, require as much harmony and unity as possible, so that they may face Israel with their combined strength. Nothing should take precedence over this.

Palestine is at a crossroads. The revolutions taking place around the world are an opportunity for Palestinians also to realize they do not have to suffer at the hands of leaders who are unable or unwilling to work for their best interests.

Palestinians must now become an organized force for change, so that they may mount a real challenge to Israel and achieve the ends that so many believe in. Otherwise it will be no surprise if the Arab world wakes up with no cause to fight for or any territory left to die for.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2012, on page 7.




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