Only through unity within and among Arab countries can Palestinians achieve a life of dignity. Palestinians need life, like those in prosperous Arab countries
Under the shadow of violence and injustice, the Palestinian people face a heart-wrenching reality yet again. While Israel’s actions are undeniably wrong, the collective assault and destruction inflicted upon Palestine could have been avoided without resorting to such brutal measures. However, abstract discussions and philosophical debates offer little solace to the families of those who have been kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. If our children were subjected to such atrocities, how would we react? How would we demand justice? The time for empty words and inaction has long passed. It is indisputable that the Palestinian people deserve to live in peace and security, free from the constant threat of violence. Yet, justifying Hamas’s actions, regardless of funding sources or other factors, is equally reprehensible and misguided.
The debates surrounding the Palestinian struggle have long faded into the abyss of history. While the creation of Israel was undoubtedly a monumental injustice against the Palestinian people, such acts of oppression and manipulation are far from unprecedented. The hand of the powerful has repeatedly redrawn the political map of West Asia (Middle East), leaving the Arab people to navigate the treacherous waters of change and upheaval.
What sets the Arab-Israeli conflict apart is the insidious brew of religious, cultural, and racial hatred, fueled by centuries of animosity and exacerbated by a series of devastating wars. The world, in its perplexing hypocrisy, simultaneously laments the dehumanising brutality of war while celebrating the prowess of victors and mocking the vanquished. After the Arabs’ successive defeats, they became the punchline of jokes that echoed around the globe, their inferior military capabilities the subject of derision and disdain. Fueled by desperation and wounded pride, a few misguided souls embarked on a path of vengeance, their actions ultimately fueling the flames of terrorism and further enraging the international community.
The conflict’s gravity lies not solely in its intractable nature but also in its strategic significance, with the region’s vast oil reserves and the geopolitical chess match between global powers adding an explosive dimension. The existence of rogue terrorist organisations, with their shifting allegiances and unwavering determination to achieve their goals, further complicates the situation, transforming the region into a tinderbox ripe for the spark of international conflict. The Palestine-Israeli dispute is a tragic testament to the enduring power of prejudice, the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition, and the devastating impact of political manipulation. It is a conflict that demands urgent attention, a resolution that transcends the narrow interests of any one faction, and a commitment to fostering understanding and tolerance amidst the maelstrom of hatred and violence.
Look at the consequences of celebrating the Arab Spring. True that was not an unforeseen eruption, but rather the culmination of years of accumulated dissatisfaction with oppressive governance and economic stagnation. The uprisings were not primarily driven by the pursuit of democracy, but rather by fundamental necessities such as employment, food, and security. The United States and other Western powers were overly eager to embrace the uprisings, failing to comprehend the profound political and economic issues that had ignited them. The uprisings have resulted in a power vacuum in numerous regions of West Asia, which has been filled by extremist groups and authoritarian regimes. The United States' foreign policy in West Asia has been a significant contributor to the region’s instability and requires significant rethinking.
In the current landscape, the question arises: What truly matters today? The hatred against Jews isn’t about rallying against Israel but urging for Arab unity in times of need. It’s not about eliminating Israel but finding a compromise for both sides, granting a chance for those exploited as propaganda tools to live. Attacking Israel doesn’t significantly contribute to the Palestinian struggle; while Israel is wrong, it’s essential to recognise that they aren’t the sole perpetrators. They are paying the price for the actions of older generations now gone.
The Palestinian struggle to reclaim independence has been further hindered by a multitude of internal obstacles, including disunity, corruption, and systemic irregularities. These factors have undoubtedly exacerbated the protracted and complex nature of the conflict, arguably to a greater extent than Israel’s preemptive strikes and strategic manoeuvres.
The deeply entrenched disunity among Palestinian factions has been compounded by ideological differences, personal rivalries, and the meddling of neighbouring Arab nations, who have exploited the Palestinian cause to advance their political agendas. The Palestinians have become mere pawns in a game of regional power politics, their aspirations for self-determination sacrificed at the altar of strategic interests. Similarly, corruption within Palestinian institutions fuels the flames of frustration and disillusionment, eroding public trust and legitimacy. Sectarian violence and human rights abuses tarnish the cause and complicate international support, rather than eliciting symbolic sympathy. These internal challenges intertwine with external factors like vested interests of neighbouring Arab countries, creating a labyrinth for the Palestinian people.
The crisis in Palestine differs from Ukraine. Palestinians suffer not only from Israel but also from internal divisions and hypocritical Arab nations playing old colonial games. Yasser Arafat rightly noted, “The biggest enemy of Palestinians is the internal divisions among them.” This tragedy isn’t just due to Israeli occupation but also their own mistakes. The Hamas brutality sparked a new wave of attacks, but responsible parties in Palestine largely ignored this, focusing on pure hatred against Israel. This deep-rooted disunity burdens the people, not liberating them.
The sight of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, taking to the streets to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people, including American citizens, is truly inspiring. However, similar scenes have played out across the United States in response to the US’s wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and other parts of West Asia. While these protests have been overwhelmingly popular, they have unfortunately failed to alter the course of US foreign policy. This is evident in the US’s unwavering support for brutal embargoes against countries like Cuba and Venezuela, despite widespread opposition from even its closest allies. Yet, this is the first time in over 70 years, since the creation of Israel over Palestine that such a groundswell of public support has emerged for the Palestinian cause. This surge of support is undoubtedly due to the Israeli government’s disproportionate response to the most brutal attacks against Jews since the Holocaust.
Within hours of the Hamas attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated a military operation on Gaza, resulting in over a month of emergency. The outcome may see Palestinian land diminishing into Israel. Criticising Israel’s responses requires a recall of old political doctrines – a cruel attack doesn’t demand a civilised counterattack. The ongoing conflict deepens crisis; the focus should be on resolution. Despite some analysts predicting the West’s decline, this crisis presents an opportunity for the West to shift attention away from its ongoing international failures and the protracted conflict in Ukraine.
Arab nations with economic power rarely invest in Palestine, offering few employment opportunities. Palestinian leaders compromise unity for power, neglecting plans to uplift the poorest. Have any Palestinian political leaders compromised national unity to secure their power, despite continuing to fight like Kilkenny cats? Undeniably, collective punishment won’t solve problems. Killing indiscriminately won’t succeed; history proves it wrong. They murdered and buried the innocent, believing them to be truly dead. But in time, they will realise that they were seeds, a truth they never comprehended. Ceasing fire is imperative, but it alone cannot heal the wounds of this conflict. Only through unity within and among Arab countries can Palestinians achieve a life of dignity. Palestinians need life, like those in prosperous Arab countries.
(The writer is a Sri Lanka-born journalist and author. He was the editor of Sri Lanka Guardian and worked as a Communications Consultant for the Government of Sri Lanka; views are personal)