OPINION by Daoud Kuttab – The escalating violence in Palestine is the result of many long-standing, festering issues, but mostly, it’s the outcome of a total absence of hope.
When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced from the UN rostrum that Palestinians are no longer obliged to adhere to the Oslo Accords, his words ended much more than a 22-year-old memorandum of understanding between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel; Abbas’s statement blocked the last ray of hope of Palestinians for a better future.
The majority of the Palestinian population today are young. According to the Palestinian Census Bureau, 70 percent of the 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are under the age of 29. For these young people, the view towards the political horizon is obstructed, and there appears to be no real future for an independent and viable Palestinian state.
No matter how many times the word “Palestine” is repeated, and no matter how many pompous flag-raising ceremonies are held – at the United Nations or anywhere – young Palestinians look around them and see very little reason for hope.
In Jerusalem, Palestinians feel the entire burden of the Islamic world on them as they try single-handedly to defend Islam’s third holiest mosques. Aside from hollow rhetoric, the Arab and Muslim world are watching in silence as a handful of Jerusalemites take on the powerful Israeli security machine, intent on changing the decades of status quo on premises of the Haram al-Sharif.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Palestinian youth would react violently to this unknown future that has nothing pleasant to offer them.
Not only do they see the impotence of their own leadership, which had to wash its hands from the Oslo Accords, but even a sovereign state like Jordan – a strong US ally with diplomatic relations with Israel – is unable to do anything to stop the daily Israeli aggression on al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the restriction of the right of worship enshrined in all international covenants and supposedly guaranteed in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. The kingdom, after all, was given special standing with regards to al-Aqsa Mosque and other religious places in Jerusalem.
Perhaps the one place with the greatest cause for hopelessness is the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian population feels abandoned by the world. Even Gaza’s southern Arab neighbour, Egypt, is denying Palestinians in Gaza the right of movement under the guise of its fight against violent extremists in the Sinai Peninsula. The flooding of the borders after the destruction of some 3,500 homes on the Egyptian side of Rafah has further frustrated Gazans, who are now left totally at the mercy of the Israeli occupiers.
The Israeli occupiers and Arab and Muslim countries aren’t the only ones to blame for the sense of hopelessness among Palestinians today. Palestinians need to own up to part of the responsibility for what has happened to the once-shining example of a liberation struggle.
Deeply divided at all levels (Gaza and West Bank, PLO and Hamas and within Fatah itself) Palestinians must realise that there is a lot that they can do to improve their plight. It is unacceptable that Palestinians are unable to meet and agree on a national strategy that can provide a badly needed ray of hope. The Palestinian cause is a just one that can easily garner worldwide support, but this requires Palestinians to be united with a clear and reasonable national goal and a feasible action plan.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is not going to succeed if Palestinians in the diaspora and in Palestine do not work together with the same spirit, goal and direction.
The zenith of the Palestinian national movement was when all Palestinians, both inside and outside the occupied territories, were united in purpose under the auspices of the PLO. The Palestinian parliament in exile provided a useful forum for all Palestinians to meet, plan and implement a strategy for liberation. Now the deep divisions have made the act of holding a regular session of the Palestinian National Council an impossible task.
A line from a famous poem by Mu’ayyad al-Din Al-Tughari goes something like this: “How limited life is without a window of hope.”
Palestinians today are in dire need of a window of hope that will make them believe in a better tomorrow.
Everyone interested in de-escalating the current level of violence in Palestine must think about how to provide this beam of hope rather than search for more repressive actions or further the disunity of a proud people yearning for freedom and liberation. Al Jazeera