To see the recapture of the six prisoners who dug a tunnel out of the high-security Israeli prison of Gilboa was painful. Their breakout and rearrest turned into a heart-wrenching dramatic humanitarian story that the whole world watched unfold, but it was surely the hearts of Arabs and Palestinians that were the most broken.
So, how should we look at this inhumane scene that torments the conscience? We can see it from two angles. The first and prevailing angle is the emotional, sympathetic perspective that denounces the occupation and its presumptuousness. The second, less commonly (or even scarcely) seen angle is one that judges with rationality. The scene of the escape and capture of the prisoners is a replication of the entire Palestinian cause: you can plan to escape or confront the situation you’re in, as happened in the tunnel-digging and escape stages and the various stages of the cause, but what’s more important is having a post-escape strategy. This is the predicament that not only faced the six men and eventually led to their recapture, but also faces the entire Palestinian cause.
Some are betting on time and the changing of circumstances. It’s a comfortable wager that nonetheless fails to properly grasp the history of conflicts. Some others believe resistance, especially in the form of rejection fueled by alliances with others, is the only way; but states change their positions according to their interests and the interests of their allies. A recent example is what happened to the economic institutions of Hamas in Sudan!
One must admit that the Palestinian issue is unique. Some like to compare it to South Africa, which would be unjust. The Palestinian cause only resembles the Palestinian cause. As such, it needs minds above all else, especially emotions. The cause is here (despite no convergent strategy to confront what ensued from the Israeli occupation), clear as day, and stable so far. The longest global conflict still, unfortunately, lacks a long-term strategy that can achieve minimum progress toward obtaining rights. One must not be naïve and disregard Israeli intransigence; but those among the people who believe that time is on their side -- and they’re rather a majority --must also face the truth that time is unbiased, and the smarter side is the one that uses it wisely.
The Palestinian people is not without smart men and women who can help develop a coherent strategy. Some even wrote about one. However, those are usually either alienated in Palestine and abroad, or victims of intellectual terrorism that prevents them from sharing their ideas and thoughts.
Clearly, Palestinian top leaders across all factions are all driven by populism, albeit to varying degrees. Some others are driven by outdated perceptions and only look at the scene from ancient or emotional perspectives. However, the last thing Palestinians need is external advice; instead, they need free and rational internal discussion. Rationally speaking, such a door cannot be opened for at least two main reasons and several other secondary reasons. The first is the sensitivity of the cause for a large segment of the Palestinian people given the emotional load that accompanies it. The second is their leaders’ attachment to their choices, which have never changed and may never will.
Most of the anger filling Palestinians goes in one of two directions: an old/new internal conflict, or their conflict with nearby and faraway Arab communities. In terms of the former, a series of assassinations perpetrated by Palestinians against Palestinians at a certain time left a significant number of victims. This is still seen today, albeit to a lesser extent. The latter is exemplified by arbitrary conflicts with Arab communities and bias here and there that proved to fail time after time, burdening the Palestinian people with exorbitant prices. Here, we must remember Lebanon’s misery with energy, and how a Palestinian faction blew up the oil tap line linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Al Zahrani, throwing the interests of a large segment of the Lebanese workforce out the window and damaging Lebanon’s economy. This is one of many examples that never hurt Israel nor benefited the cause even slightly, and such practices are still happening.
Another example is the dispatch of some missiles from Iraq to Israel in 1990, when some brothers in Palestinian leadership positions considered that the “Bismarck of Arabs” is coming. Yet another instance is the labeling of the destructions of certain nations over the heads of their people at the hands of certain militias as “resistance to liberate Palestine.” Deploring the past is painful and bitter, but what’s more painful is this sickly competition that may eventually squander the few gains that the cause did achieve.
Do I have the key to the first step on this path? Yes. The key is for Palestinian minds to rise and look at the cause with a realistic perspective that takes international developments into account, and then set a roadmap. I can almost hear readers saying that the first step on this roadmap is the “unity” of the Palestinian people, who never managed to obtain their rights as a divided people who are always at each other’s throats, relying on an ideology that draws much more from the past than it does from the future.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Lebanese news outlet Annahar al-Arabi.