Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that along with Iran and Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process was one of his highest priorities.
Indeed, the latter has been the central, most constant problem in this part of the world for the last 65 years, feeding into and affecting many other regional conflicts and issues. But while the peace process may still be one of Obama’s alleged priorities, for many in the Palestinian community, whether at home or in the diaspora, it appears that is the last thing on their minds. For many, it appears that internecine battles over small-scale territorial control are a bigger concern.
And while of course these self-interested individuals represent a minority, their actions leave an impression, and they are detracting from the position of respect and standing that the Palestinian people – millions of whom have struggled for their rights for generations – deserve on the international stage.
Of course, it is important to remember that the Palestinians have been used and manipulated by external actors, whether Arab states or those further afield, to further their own interests in the region. But these attitudes, coupled with an apparent self-destructive streak, leaves Fatah members fighting other Fatah members in camps in Lebanon, and Hamas more concerned with how to deal with the Egyptian authorities than with the Israelis.
Sometimes it seems that more Palestinian lives are being lost at the hand of other Palestinians than by members of the Israeli army. In the Yarmouk area outside of Damascus, almost 100,000 have been rendered refugees after pro- and anti-regime Palestinians brought the civil war firmly into their neighborhood.
For many Palestinians, any resistance they practice in their daily lives is not being directed at Israel, but at each other, their concentration being targeted not at their right to return, but at nurturing their own egos.
The occupation of Palestinian lands and the subsequent and continued disregard for Palestinians’ most basic rights and freedoms – to work, to live in freedom and dignity, to move freely, and to feel secure – is one of the biggest global injustices of the last century.
And while there are partners around the world who would be willing to work together with Palestinians on this cause, the sheer number of small-minded and apparently masochistic individuals, whether in Palestine or the diaspora, who seem intent on undermining the struggle looks set to jeopardize the successes that Palestine might have on the international stage.
If Palestine is to have any chance of global recognition, if Palestinians are ever to live in freedom in their own lands, then all efforts must be focused in this one direction, and these germs, present at the grassroots level, must be weeded out. Otherwise negotiations held in New York or London will achieve nothing, and we can only expect further decades of bloodshed and strife.