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The Palestinians have been divided temporally and spatially, but who is responsible?

Israeli settlement groups storm Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on 5 May 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on 5 May 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israel has allocated time and space for illegal Jewish settlers within two major mosques in occupied Palestine: Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. There's nothing really new in this — no matter how unwelcome — but what is new is that Israel is applying spatial and temporal divisions on the people of occupied Palestine. This has largely gone unnoticed, despite its success.

Why did we Palestinians fail to preserve the unity witnessed during the Sword of Jerusalem battle in May last year? Yet again, it seems that Israel has succeeded in dividing the Palestinian people into five distinct zones: the diaspora; those within the Green (1949 Armistice) Line — within Israel "proper"; Jerusalem; the West Bank; and the Gaza Strip. It deals with each zone according to different policies, and has succeeded in separating the people within each one psychologically, socially and politically.

The greatest success in this respect was when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, without addressing the Palestinians within the territory occupied since 1948. The occupation state has also succeeded in dividing the Palestinian people according to which zone they live in and which state terrorism it uses against them. The Gaza Strip is not like the West Bank, and Jerusalem is not like the Palestinians in Israel. Now the spatial division has reached the level of governorates: Jenin is not like Nablus or Bethlehem, for example. What I fear is that Israel's treatment of Balata refugee camp will be different from Hawara or the city of Nablus itself.

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The temporal division is linked to the occupation's ability to set the time and date of its terrorism. A year ago, Gaza was in the eye of the Israeli storm — again — accompanied by Palestinian silence; today Jenin is in the midst of everyone's silence. We did not even see a peaceful march in any of the five zones, and this is the biggest strategic threat to the Palestinian collective consciousness, because it establishes the idea that we are a scattered group of people united only with those where we live.

One of the most important gains of the Sword of Jerusalem battle was that Palestinians across all of the specified zones were united in the face of the occupation's aggression, as we were at the time of the 1987 intifada. This was manifested in marches and confrontations in Jaffa, Nazareth and other Palestinian towns within the Green Line, Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as demonstrations in London, Chicago and elsewhere.

What happened to this unity? The answer is simply that we are divided over everything, masters in making enemies, and adept at flexing our muscles at each other while evoking painful and dark matters in the history of our people. Even our victory speeches have become a source of resentment and anger among some, which confirms that defeat is ingrained. In order to stop this farce, we need to acknowledge the disease.

READ: 1 Palestinian killed, 10 injured in confrontations with Israeli forces in West Bank

This stems from the fact that we established the "Palestinian Authority" while still under Israeli occupation, so the occupation state became our benefactor, and the determinant of our welfare and the prosperity of our economy. International donors became captive to the trends of this abhorrent occupation. Moreover, the Palestinian leadership of this authority has become a group with a vested interest in the security of the occupation state, because this serves their own interests.

The occupation state is thus able to use a carrot and stick approach against us. The stick is for those who disobey, the resistance groups whose members are arrested or assassinated; the carrot is for those who maintain calm. It is they receive grants and VIP official travel permits. There is a psychological war between the two in which the various parties which support the occupation participate. Those who are affiliated with the resistance movement are deprived of travel, grants and aid, while the others are rewarded for their complicity.

Our division has taken on more than one form, so it has become more difficult to overcome than the Israeli occupation. We have a geographical, political and ideological division, and it has become part of the politics of axes and alliances. There is an axis of resistance that has goals related to the interests of each party within it. Iran, for example, funds the resistance factions in order to distract Israel and blackmail the US so that Tehran may fulfil its nuclear ambitions. The other, non-resistance factions are part of an axis that wants stability and peace with Israel; they unite against the resistance under the smokescreen of the "war on terror".

There is a huge gap between the people and their political leaders, as Palestinian society has itself split in three directions: some Palestinians want to work inside Israel, their ultimate dream; others live on aid crumbs and dream of the cheque or the Qatari grant; and yet others live off the PA table, institutions and factions, so that national work is now a job waiting for someone else to do in order to obtain salaries and incentives at the expense of self-sacrifice. The national project has become an economic project with a national nature.

READ: Israel forces demolish Palestinian greenhouse in occupied West Bank

We can conclude from this that the sacrifices of our people deserve us to knock down the wall, have our say, and not remain slaves to forces, factions and labels. We must say to those who made mistakes that they made mistakes, and then offer support and put pressure on for major reforms in the structure of the Palestinian political system, including the PLO. This needs a national conference to evaluate and assess the political track in all its aspects to work out where we went wrong, and see what we did right. Then a national strategy can be formulated and agreed that takes into account the mistakes of the past and establishes a new future. This future must include a presidential election and parliamentary election, as well as comprehensive polls across all political, union, local and student bodies.

None of this can be done while we sit on the couch and complain. Everyone must be active. Our homeland needs to be repaired and the discourse for ending the occupation is based on prophecies the accuracy of which I am uncertain. However, in a nutshell, I say that Israel is making progress, while we aren't. The reason is not the ingenuity of the Israelis and their occupation, but the failure of our leaders. Our decision-making is dependent on outsiders, and that must end.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 19 June 2022

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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