was very hesitant before I wrote this “harsh” title. I erased it time after time and rewrote it. But every time I reread the article, the title jumps to my mind and drags me towards it
The title hit me while I was attending a meeting of some political powers. I was listening to them talk for more than three hours and it seemed futile, lost, insipid.
It was not the first meeting I left feeling aggravated. I had previously taken part in discussions, be it bilateral between Hamas and Fatah or “national” dialogue that brings everyone together. I attended tens of conferences, seminars and workshops for “brainstorming.” But this time a profound sadness overcame me and feelings began to consume me. What are they saying? What are they doing? What time are they wasting? What world are they living in? Suddenly, a thought popped into my mind, unbidden: Now do you understand why Palestine is lost?
It was dangerous, frightening and scary. I no longer have any doubt that these sterile seminars and workshops that were repeated a thousand times, were nothing but blabbering, rumination of the past and fleeing from facing the facts.
I recalled many of these summits, agreements and understandings that have been signed since 1993 until the اتفاقية الشاطئ Shati Agreement in 2014… they passed in a moment and disappeared.
It seemed to me that we had lost dozens of years in haggling, disagreements and differences over texts that did not bring us anything but more resentment and fragmented, failed solutions. And because of the devolvement of these issues, I look at where we have arrived after a twenty year political process of failure and searching for success on paper, and I look at the state of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in terms of its weakness and attenuation, and I look at the political and societal division and how our divisions have sharpened until it became an indispensable tradition?
What calamity did the Palestinians create by themselves for themselves?
We have always held the Arab regimes responsible for the loss of Palestine, which is an indisputable matter, and have equally faulted the Western regimes for their collusion and unlimited support for Israel… But what is our share in bearing responsibility?
It is true that we, as Palestinians, fought and struggled, presented an amazing model of sacrifice, and created revolution after revolution, intifada after intifada. We knocked on the doors of the international community and prowled the streets of world capitals in search of support. Many applauded us at international forums and we received “theoretical” recognition as a country. But where is the practical result on the ground? Where is the Palestinian expansion – after 65 years – versus the cancerous occupation? Where are the foundations of victory and liberation that we release as empty slogans?? Where is the source of deficiency given these great sacrifices and tremendous lengths of political effort?
What is strange is that after a fierce war that lasted 50 days (which inspires pride in the resilience and heroism [of Hamas]); our demands reflected nothing but a lack of political and strategic vision. [All we requested was] the opening of border crossings and the expansion of the fishing zone!
Oddly, everyone believes they are close to achieving their goals: Fatah believes it’s a step away from achieving statehood, while Hamas thinks it’s on the brink of liberating Palestine!
Instead of getting a state as is our historical right, we have begun to expect it through a UN resolution that cannot be implemented!
Often we transform into nihilists: We damn everything, we reject everything, we doubt everything.
Palestine cannot be freed or built by this lacking, arbitrary path that is far from any deep planning, strong preparation, and joint, continued and accumulated national action. It is transforming into merely wishes and no more. This does not mean that I am downplaying the value of what each side is doing, but the fracturing of directions and of efforts will lead us to counterproductive results.
Why and how did our efforts come to naught?
In short, because Palestinians lost two of their national pillars: strategic vision and national consensus. Hence, their paths diverged. They moved – or let us say dissipated – to opposing areas that drained their energies and deflated their abilities. They moved between temporary and permanent solutions, between the PA and resistance, between the PA and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), between the statehood project and the liberation project, between strategy and tactics, between legitimacy and illegitimacy, they got lost between reconciliation and division…
This dilemma has exacerbated the divisions between Palestinians until they became a model of professional discord. You will find that we disagree about everything, from the liberation or statehood project to the most trivial of issues. This has dragged us into drowning in the small details that have worn us down and blocked us from thinking about strategic issues.
Indeed, the lack of a strategic vision is a national disaster for which everyone bears responsibility.
President Abu Mazen is rushing between capitals searching for signatures for a country (that doesn’t exist on the ground) while the other factions watch from a distance, without participating, as if it were a fate created behind their backs.
Fatah is going along with the political negotiations as if they were an inevitable, inescapable fate and Hamas clings to resistance and doesn’t see anything else. Hamas doesn’t benefit from Fatah’s political strength and Fatah doesn’t benefit from Hamas’s military strength. The result: How does the nation benefit from these two options if one hand can’t clap on its own?
Hamas claps with one hand at its festivals, sings of its heroism, listens to itself and describes the other as faltering. Fatah claps with one hand at its central and revolutionary councils and receives ominous reports about Hamas and its activities.
Does Hamas want Fatah to be weak and fragmented? Does Fatah want Hamas isolated from the political spectrum? It is an equation bred on failure and political fatigue.
Rather than focusing the struggle against the occupation, the struggle has become intra-Palestinian par excellence. It is a struggle in which each of the sides tries to prove that his option is best and the other’s has failed. How long has this battle lasted, undecided? Is it really necessary for us to do this?
The occupation has benefited greatly from these disputes and fought against each party as it suits it. It has fought against Fatah and its PA by procrastinating, deceiving, and suffocating them, transforming them into a subservient authority. It has also fought against Hamas by isolating it in Gaza, keeping it occupied with construction and blockade. As a result each group ended up with its own particular “goal” and its considerations in the conflict.
Today, we have arrived at the moment of facing bitter reality. Everything is stalled, suspended, and failing: Negotiations, Reconciliation, and Government. Now the people are confused and frustrated.
The Magic Solution: A Unity Government
We no longer see anything prosperous, successful, and inspiring except for flogging and smashing. We’ve even destroyed the (nascent) government formed just a few months ago, cursed it, and said that it is failed and incompetent. “Okay, give me one government that satisfied the Palestinian people since 1994!!”
We tried a Fatah government and corruption was rampant in both the administrative and security services. Then came a national unity government, but it only took two months before it reached its demise. Then there was the Hamas government, accompanied by wars and a siege….Then came the reconciliation government (after seven years of discussion and debate) and we said that it was weak and incapable…But we finally said let’s move forward and we discovered the magic elixir of life, “Oh people, Let’s seize the opportunity of a unity government, it will save us!!” Even if they formed a national unity government, would it be a “Superman” capable of untying all the knots?
The tragedy goes beyond just being a government problem: it strikes at the heart of the divided nation.
As has become our custom, we are rushing from failure to greater failure!!
Then we turned our attention to the rebuilding process — with my appreciation for all the criticism that it is facing — and we began by sharpening our knives. Soon everyone started to compete with each other in demonstrating their “rhetorical” and spoken skills. Thereafter, conspiracies penetrated our thinking and we began damning the rebuilding process and spreading false rumors about it without posing a practical alternative.
Often we transform into nihilists: We damn everything, we reject everything, we doubt everything. No one poses a pragmatic alternative or a comprehensive positive change. We only employ the language of rejection and doubt even in the smaller aspects of our lives. In this respect, we are failing and failing again (we enjoy the pain and injustice), we repeat them in other forms and colors.…We complain and grumble…Then we complain and grumble again…Our failure only increases in size…Then we complain and grumble again!!
It has become exhausting for the ball of failure to continually roll from one square to another.
He, who fails, finds someone watching him closely…taking pleasure and joy in his failure. No one extends a helping hand to save him and no one acts kindly. No one provides him with advice or succor. Thus, he continues to fail again and again.
As a result — after six decades — Palestine has vanished and its blood has been divided between the different tribes/factions.
Excuse me for my tardiness in explaining my understanding (of the situation)!!
Ghazi Hamad is the deputy foreign minister of Hamas. He was the chairman of the border crossings authority in the Gaza Strip. This op-ed was written in Arabic and originally on Arabic language websites. It is translated and published here by permission of the author.