Ever since the outbreak of the internal Palestinian fighting that has resulted in the death and injury of hundreds, two different points of view have surfaced. One simply put this shameful action at the front steps of the Palestinians. Those who think this way insist that there is no way one can blame the Israelis for this and that Palestinians are in need of inner reflection and stop blaming others for their fate.
On the other hand, while calling for an end of brother killing brother, some insist that the infighting, especially in Gaza, is a direct result of the big jail that the Israelis have created for Palestinians.
Israeli journalist Amira Hass bluntly says in the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz that the Israelis are responsible.
“The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other. They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended experiment called ‘what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space like battery hens’.”
There is also a feeling that the 39 years of forced military occupation has desensitised Palestinians; one killed here, one university burnt there is all in a day’s acceptable news.
Senior Hamas adviser Ghazi Hamad wrote a strong article a few months ago in one of the Palestinian newspapers, talking about the culture of violence that has become prevalent in Palestine. It is no wonder then that 20-year-old Hamas, or the Fateh fighters, try to solve their problems using violence.
A quick look at the daily attempts by international and regional powers to solve their problems militarily makes it difficult to blame the Palestinians for doing the same.
For years, learned Palestinians have been warning that it is difficult to expect that a community’s violent rebellion against an outside occupier will not translate, sooner or later, into a legitimisation of rebellion against one’s own people. When a youth starts questioning authority and in fact rebels against it (and is honoured for it) it is very difficult to put a stop when this rebellion takes an inward look. When a young Palestinian youth is hailed as a hero for confronting a military occupier, it is hard to expect this hero to respect his teacher, parent or boss at work.
Part of the minimum requirements for any stable society is a collective sense of identity and direction. While for many years the Palestinian sense of identity has been very strong, there is a big question mark about the direction Palestine and Palestinians are going in.
The unending number of failed peace plans has resulted in a huge level of disappointment and hopelessness. If one bears in mind that the majority of Palestinians are under 21, it is not strange that the vast majority, nearly two generations of Palestinians, has known nothing but a brutal military foreign occupation that controls their lives, their movements and, most importantly, their future. With every new settlement and every new closure order, and with every failed promise, Palestinians loose sense of direction for their lives and the lives of their families.
The economy is also a major issue in the internal conflict. When jobs are scarce, as they are in Gaza, when families live on the brink of starvation and when a job in a militia guarantees $200 a month salary, ownership of automatic weapons and the chance to flex your military muscles, it is no wonder that many lose their integrity and honour by carrying out attacks against fellow Palestinians and Palestinian institutions.
Much can be said about the sources of civil wars. In Palestine, there are no religious or ethnical differences; there isn’t a huge economic gap between classes.
Palestinian discussions going on in Mecca promise to produce a political breakthrough that will hopefully stop the crazy internal fighting. But no matter what happens in Mecca and thereafter, unless some of the underlying causes that produced the recent internal killings are dealt with, we will, unfortunately, be discussing this issue for some while.
So while much can be said about the need for Palestinians to look at themselves in the mirror and put a stop to their infighting, there is no way out of this issue except by ending the occupation and the siege and providing Palestinians, young and old, with direction and a true source of hope.