An Arab columnist from Tunisia has criticized the Palestinian leadership for its preference for violence over negotiated peace.
Al-‘Afif Al-Akhdhar’s July 21 column ran in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat and was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, an independent, nonprofit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Al-Akhdhar specifically points to July 2000 as the turning point in Palestinian diplomacy.
“My generation opened its eyes with the loss of Palestine, and is about to shut them with the loss of the opportunity to retrieve what can be retrieved. …” he wrote. “Until 2000, the solution was within reach. But the Palestinian leaders refused to extend it a hand. This was the last costly missed opportunity to get back the land, and with it a measure of honor that would have been sufficient to heal our wound, which has bled since our defeat by Napoleon in 1798 and more since we were defeated by Ben-Gurion in 1948.
“Clinton presented proposals to the Palestinian leaders on a golden platter, and they answered him with an intifada of armed struggle and suicide bombings – in an era when these are no longer appropriate. Thus, at one blow, we lost [both] the land … and our reputation. The occupation army returned [to the territories] and in everyone’s eyes our image was tarnished by egotism unprecedented in our history.”
The commentator then decried the fact that so many Arabs are enthusiastic about suicide attacks.
“Before our suicide operations against Israeli citizens, our image was one of men struggling for liberty,” Al-Akhdhar wrote. “But when the most important Palestinian organizations – among them Fatah – became involved [in suicide attacks], and when the vast majority of Arab intellectuals, the Arab street and 80 percent of the Palestinians supported them, we were slapped with an image of a suicide [attacker] who disdains life – his life and the lives of others.”
Analyzing defeated nations in history, Al-Akhdhar says the Palestinians respond in the wrong way – by making excuses and refusing to take responsibility for failures.
“Historically speaking, elites [of nations] have responded to defeats in two ways,” he explained. “[The first was] a creative response to challenge, as the elites in Japan and Germany did in the 19th and 20th century when they opened up to modernization in the economy, politics, sciences and philosophy, in a way unprecedented in their national autocratic history. [The second was] a conceptual introversion within these nations’ identity in which emotionalism overrode rationalism. …
“Our reaction to repeated defeats over the past two centuries [unlike the Japanese and the Germans] was as follows: After every defeat, we became less courageous in asking [ourselves] painful questions and more deeply mired in the culture of finding excuses, placing responsibility for our defeats on the unknown and settling for complaining about the trap laid by the West and its ‘stepdaughter’ Israel, who have targeted our land and skies.
“All this [has happened] without us asking [ourselves] the embarrassing question of whether internal factors have made us, unlike all other nations, easy prey to all. The [Arab] elites have opted for … denying their overwhelming responsibility for these defeats.”
Al-Akhdhar highlights the leadership of Arafat, saying he “tore up Clinton’s proposals and rode [the wave of] the intifada of the suicide bombers, only to lead his people to a dead end.”
The columnist calls this type of behavior the “Palestinian Failure Neurosis,” which compels the leadership “to do everything within their power to punish themselves and their peoples with failure where success was certain. Their “Failure Neurosis” has several symptoms:
- “Conceptual Stagnation, making them incapable – at every stage of the struggle – of reading the regional and international balance of powers, and incapable of drawing the necessary conclusions, so as to make a political and military decision in keeping with the situation.
- Political Backwardness, preventing them from changing their means of struggle, way of thought and goals which are not compatible with the political changes. [This political backwardness] makes them resist the changeover of the generations, in both the government and the opposition, and made them prefer yes-men over knowledgeable people.”
- The Mania of the Armed Struggle, with all its terrible ramifications – transforming the armed struggle from a means serving the ultimate goal of a viable Palestinian state into a goal in and of itself. This is the cause for the missing of historical opportunities since 1937 to 2000. …
- Inability to Define the National Interest: Are we talking about the liberation of Mandatory Palestine, or about regaining what can be salvaged of the Palestine occupied [by Israel] in the 1967 war? What are the optimal means of armed struggle for actualizing one of these two options? Are we talking about an Intifada of armed struggle and suicide bombings, or about negotiations, or about both …?”
Al-Akhdhar concludes his analysis by expressing opposition to the “verbal radicalism” sweeping the Palestinian culture and the “emotionally charged words …” which “fill the vacuum created by the lack of analysis and the vacuity of thought.”
Wrote Al-Akhdhar, “Words packed with content such as ‘rationalism,’ ‘moderation’ and ‘concessions’ arouse horror. What meaning could concessions and interim solutions have when compared to ‘the sacred rights’ – which exist, of course, only on paper?”
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