Unity - and wise, unselfish leadership - are the crying needs of the hour for the Palestinians. It looks as if a decisive moment has arrived in their long history of suffering and humiliation when their long term future will be seriously affected by how they behave at this moment. They will be required to make extremely difficult but crucial decisions affecting their future. Painful choices will have to be made and the slightest mistake or indiscretion on their part will be very costly. Without unity in a common cause and wise and able leadership, the Palestinians will be hopelessly lost.
Judging by the recent stirrings in the Obama administration, we are likely to see the US exerting enormous pressure on the weak and helpless Palestinians to give up many of their legitimate rights. Things seem to be moving in that direction. The burden of peace will be placed entirely on the victims. The successful oppressor will be rewarded with the spoils and awarded much glory for making peace. The Palestinians will be asked to show gratitude to the magnanimous oppressor. When that happens, as seems likely, the Palestinians will find themselves in an extremely difficult situation. It will be a severe test for them.
Israel does not want to go back to its pre-1967 borders. Nor do they want to give up any part of Jerusalem or allow the refugees to return. They want to expand and expand and create conditions that will totally break the Palestinian spirit of resistance and sense of self-respect. It does not matter which party is in power in Israel; the goals of all the parties are the same, only the methods differ. Israel wants the never-ending charade of the peace process to gain the time to achieve its ends, not peace.
Only overwhelming US pressure can compel Israel to go back to pre-1967 borders and allow the Palestinians to have their rights. There is no other power in the present world that can make Israel budge an inch from its ruthless expansionist policy and its course of brutal suppression and humiliation of the Palestinians.
The question is: will the US exert enough pressure on Israel to make it give up all its plunders and behave better? It seems highly unlikely. The US might press Israel up to a point, but not enough to bring justice to the Palestinians. Israel is an extension of the US. US leadership does not feel sufficiently outraged by Israeli atrocities and does not possess the courage and determination to take any measure which might upset Israel. We may see occasional disagreements, sometimes even nasty ones, between the US and Israel, but they will quickly evaporate like bubbles in the air as they have always done before.
Still the US is beginning to feel the need for some kind of resolution of the conflict in its own interest. So the only thing the US can do is put tremendous pressure on the helpless and desperate Palestinians to accept an unfair deal. The US has always put unacceptable pressure on the Palestinians, but this time it is going to exceed all previous limits. Are the Palestinians ready to face the situation?
Unfortunately, Palestinians are tragically divided. They do not have a united, strong and incorruptible leadership. Much of their energy is spent on fighting among themselves. For their present leader Mahmoud Abbas one observation should suffice. In a six hundred page book of his, he never for once uses the word 'occupation'. Then corruption in his PLO is legendary. If Robert Fisk is telling the truth, some PLO leaders even have gold- plated fittings in their bathrooms. Many of these leaders can be cheaply bought or are too eager to relinquish their legitimate rights in order to remain in the good books of America. Prime Minister Fayyad provides a recent example. Then there is Hamas. In the devastated Gaza, reconstruction is hampered by Hamas officials' indifference and procrastination. They even levy taxes on essential goods smuggled in from Egypt through the tunnels. They cannot allow some PLO members back to Gaza on the flimsy ground that these men want to have their own body guards. No, very unfortunately the Palestinians do not have the kind of leaders who are fit for facing the enormous challenges before them.
What about the Arab leaders? How much help can the Palestinians expect from them? Very little or nothing. They will not offer the Palestinians any kind of meaningful help. We will hear a lot of tall talk, but that is all. In fact, they abandoned the Palestinians long ago. To many of them, the Palestinian problem is a nuisance they have to suffer. To some, it is an opportunity to promote their self- interest and to better indulge in rivalry with one another. Palestine is no longer a common cause for which Arab leaders are willing to make any true or painful sacrifice. There are also those who encourage Israel in its policy of cruelty and destruction in occupied Palestine and besieged Gaza. Remember Zipi Livni's remarks to Al-Jazeera during last year's war of attrition in Gaza that Israel and some Arab rulers want the same thing in Gaza. Remember Egypt constructing an iron wall to throttle the people of Gaza to death. Today it is no longer a secret that there are Arab rulers who seek help from Israeli intelligence to protect themselves.
The Arab rulers are legendary for bickering over trivial matters, humbug and grand postures, ignominious retreats, and at times outright betrayals. The ordinary Arab people's frustration, anger and outrage do not affect the ways of their masters or translate into anything positive. We occasionally see hysterical outbursts, harmful to their cause and quickly spent. The cozy urban Arab middle class has turned into a bunch of shoppers devoid of any sense of self-respect or dignity. It is hard to believe that they are descendants of those early flag-bearers of Islam.
What about the rest of the world, that is, those in whose hands real power lies? In the first place, one has to ask, how many of them care about their own people? Why then should they care about the Palestinians who mean hardly anything to them? They occasionally make a little noise in order to appear decent or politically correct as occasion requires. We love to talk about "the international community": there is no such thing. There is only a small and exclusive club of clever manipulators presided over by the US. The UN is a terrible hoax. We ought not to forget that it is this very United Nations that in 1947 partitioned Palestine, awarding an astonishing 55% of the land to the Jewish settlers, who were only one-third of the population and till then had owned only 5.8% of the land. Closer to home, the Arab League and the OIC are just a bad joke. The Arab League only talks and the OIC is permanently asleep.
The Palestinians have a lonely and painful journey in a hostile world. There is no hope unless they can unite in a common cause, stop their insane quarrels over lesser issues to focus on the most important ones, and show Israel, and by extension the US, that they stand together under all circumstances, speak with one voice, and are determined to make any sacrifice to fulfill their legitimate aspirations. Let them throw away all those hollow, corrupt and inept elements in their present leadership. This needs to happen soon, very soon. Unity and wise and unselfish leadership are their crying need of the hour. In these lie their real and only strength and hope. Only unity can pave the way for wise and able leadership.
Finally, a word for the Arab rulers. They are all doomed. Let them not harbour the illusion that they are safe. Allah forbid, if Israel succeeds in annihilating the Palestinians, it will turn quickly to subjugate the Arab countries, one after another. The Arab leaders will all perish and with them, the helpless people who patiently bear their yoke today. Woe to them if they contribute to the coming of that tragic and unthinkable day.
A K M Mohiuddin, born in 1945 in what is now Bangladesh, is a retired university teacher of English literature. He taught in university in Bangladesh and abroad for nearly 42 years. He can be reached at akmm45 [at] yahoo [dot] com.