Palestinians are worse off today than they ever have been, and there is no clear sign that anything will change. They are stuck in a repetitive pattern of self-destruction, and they are being misled into believing it is a path to freedom.
Instead of inspirational leadership, they are incited to fan the flames of their growing anger.
The Palestinian leadership on all sides of the divided political arena has nothing to offer except more anger. Instead of coming together as one voice of strength, Palestinians have allowed themselves to be divided, rallying round the lowest common denominator of anger and emotion.
Hope has been corrupted into a new form of hatred in which normal civilians randomly attack any Israeli or Jew they can find. That is not a strategy for statehood, or even a means to survive: It is a recipe for disaster.
As much as it angers me that Israelis exploit this violence, which is caused by their own vicious and racist brutality, Palestinians who attack Israelis with knives are stabbing their own cause to death. When people take to the streets in worthless protests driven by uncontrollable emotion and frustration, it only reinforces Israel’s domination.
Israel controls Jerusalem. Israel controls the West Bank. Israel controls the Jordan River. Israel controls the land it stole in 1948. Israel controls the Palestinians. Israel controls Palestine’s fate. And the Palestinians control nothing — not even their own emotions.
Palestinians do not need other Arabs to cheer them on with the bombastic lies that characterized the era of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, or the empty threats of the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein.
The only thing many Arabs seem capable of achieving is to destroy themselves. Syria is a good example of how an entire Arab population that was once proud and powerful can be pushed to the brink of extinction.
Palestinian hallucinations are fueled by the constant exaggerations and falsehoods from the mouths of activists and leaders. For example, events in Jerusalem last month were not a victory. In fact, we lost that battle, again.
Yes, Israel dismantled its metal detectors at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, but they were replaced with CCTV cameras that give the Israelis an even greater level of surveillance and control over the Palestinians.
The right of Palestinians to statehood and to be free of the oppressive yoke of the Israeli occupation is absolute. It is covered by the international rule of law. Yet not one Palestinian effort has been made to use the rule of law to achieve justice. Instead, individual Palestinians have turned to injustice, through violence and crime.
Palestinians need an inspirational leader to teach them that violence only entrenches Israeli oppression and the road to freedom is through the courts.
We are not going to win Jerusalem by hiding knives in our pockets and randomly murdering Israelis, whether they are civilians or in police or military uniform. It is not justice to murder another human being solely because they wear a uniform of oppression. Resistance is a means of protection from violence. If the uniformed Israeli oppressors are not using violence to inflict harm on Palestinians, Palestinians cannot simply randomly inflict violence on Israelis.
Israel is wrong. Israel’s actions are unjust. Israel is violating the international rule of law. So why cannot Palestinians prosecute Israel in the International Criminal Court, or lobby for sanctions against Israel for their oppressive human rights violations? Years of frustration and anger at the failure to pursue legal indictments against Israel have created a vacuum that is being filled by violence.
What Palestinians need today is another Yasir Arafat, someone with the courage and brilliance to develop a strategy that led them out of the darkness. The world said they did not exist. They had to fight to prove they did.
And when they finally got to the table to negotiate a compromise after 45 years of failure — the failed 1948 war, the failed 1956 war, the failed 1967 war and the failed 1973 war — they began a process that would have resulted in peace were it not for the rejectionist hatred of the extremists on both sides.
Israeli extremists murdered Arafat’s peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin, whose death fueled the rise of Israeli fanaticism and lunatics like the murderous Ariel Sharon and his disciple, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian extremists also murdered peace, using suicide bombings and shocking violence to help Israel’s fanatics bring the process to a grinding and abrupt halt.
And we have been at that same spot now for 24 years. Instead of finding light in the shadows of despair, we continue to snuff out hope and help Israel oppress us even more.
Palestinians need to stop this fatalistic cycle of destruction. We need to embrace a non-violent peace movement in a dramatic way. We need to shatter the false perception that we reject peace, and prove to the world that we can live in peace in two states, accepting compromise.
Palestinians need to show the world that we are realists and are capable of living in peace. Right now, all Palestinians are doing is making it easier for Israel to brutalize our people, to reject Palestinian statehood and blame our extremists for the horrible plight in which we find ourselves.
This is not an environment in which we can continue to survive. We need to act now. We need a new leader who can end the violence and reignite the morality of peace.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]