I received a phone call from a highly educated and cultured woman who asked me about the secret behind the West Bank's silence regarding the Right of Return and the marches taking place in the Gaza Strip. She said that Gaza is suffering from difficult living conditions imposed by the siege, while the West Bank is suffering in a different way, despite the better living conditions compared to Gaza. So why, she asked, is Gaza taking action with firmness, determination and commitment, while the West Bank barely takes action? Her argument is that there are enough reasons to prompt the people in the West Bank to take action in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people, and she wanted a concise and focused answer.
The answer is that many parties, beginning with the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel and the US, have worked since the establishment of the PA to demolish and destroy the Palestinian nationalist culture and the moral value system of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It has succeeded in the West Bank, but the fact that the PA lost its grip on the Gaza Strip has largely spared the area from sabotage.
Nationalistic culture is still very much felt in Gaza, along with a sense of national responsibility and commitment, but this culture has been seriously lost in the West Bank. There have been three successive wars against Gaza, accompanied by mass killings and immense destruction, but the interaction of other peoples with Gaza has been more than that of the West Bank. Gaza has been besieged for years, and its people endure great hardship, but the West Bank is an accomplice to the blockade.
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The various aforementioned forces have worked, by various means, to destroy the national psyche of the people, especially in the West Bank, and push them away from national concerns. One of these mechanisms is the policy of corruption adopted by the PA, which has been the subject of constant criticism since the establishment of the PA. Anyone wanting to destroy a society only needs to hit its fabric, namely the social and moral fabrics.
The task of corruption is to lead people towards violating national values, laws and customs, and to develop a culture of shrewdness, which includes working towards gaining as much as possible from others unjustly, without being held legally accountable. If the head of the house is corrupt, then we must expect others to lean towards corruption. People say if the land is full of thieves, why don't I just become a thief and relieve myself from the grief of work and productivity?
Corruption has spread widely at the official level, and the popular level began to imitate its leaders, who claimed to be patriotic. The culture of thuggery, which includes intimidating, terrorising and extorting others, has spread in various villages and cities and is ongoing till this day. Due to their repeated attacks on the people, many thugs have become wealthy and influential individuals in society and in the world of domestic economy.
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The educational system was also attacked in order to eliminate the national aspect from education and teaching, and to distort history and religious ideology in order to please the Zionists and meet the conditions of the Europeans and Americans. The people of the West who established Israel and displaced our people are the ones who have dictated our educational curriculums, media programmes, and even many of our laws over the years. They worked to exclude national and patriotic ideas and national duties and affiliation from these platforms.
The most effective mechanism to take away the people's will is to deal a blow to the peoples' reassurance regarding their living conditions and financial situation. With encouragement from the Zionists and Americans, the PA has linked the livelihood of a large number of people to their incomes, the money for which had initially come from abroad. This forced employees to watch what they were saying and doing, so they would not partake in the opposition or activism in issues the Israelis did not approve of. Hence, every employee would watch themselves knowing that there were Palestinian and Israeli security agencies watching them as well and tracking their news and activities. Then banking facilities became available to the people, a large number of people fell in to debt and were forced to always think about how they would repay the debts and how to manage their monthly expenses in order to buy a loaf of bread. What can we expect after the people's livelihood is linked to the will of the enemy?
On the other hand, it was necessary for people to feel a kind of blessing and luxury compared to the Gaza Strip. European countries opened their hands to NGOs and employed thousands of people. They also funded several projects, including services and production projects. The Americans did the same through USAID.
The people in the West Bank began eating Kit Kats while the people of Gaza couldn't get their hands on za'atar (thyme) and olives. Will the people of the West Bank return their patriotic and national responsibilities, and thus sacrifice their consumerism culture that has developed within them? A consumerist culture has developed in the West Bank, eating up the national culture, replacing national concerns in many people with personal concerns. It is true that the people in the West Bank realise the difficulty of the situation in the Gaza Strip, but the majority of them are content with expressing grief and sadness at what happened.
That is why the West Bank is silent, and I am sure that others will offer other reasons complementing those that I have mentioned. The West Bank is experiencing a national tragedy, but the culture of consumption and leniency that is currently prevalent will inevitably change. However, there is no hope of change as long as the Oslo leadership is in control of the people.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 28 May 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.