Turning the Palestinian Cause into Medusa

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In Greek mythology, there is a famous story about the beautiful Medusa who was turned into a horrific monster with hair of serpents. The transformation came about as “punishment” by the goddess Athena after the sea god Poseidon raped Medusa at Athena’s sacred temple. The story goes on to say that anyone who looked at Medusa afterward turned into stone.

Like Medusa, the Palestinian Cause began as a lovely maiden; innocent and irresistible to anyone who loved justice. But she has been raped repeatedly by despotic Arab and Islamic regimes, as well as extremist groups either to increase their base of support or to divert the public’s anger at impotent policies. The Palestinian Cause has truly proven to be a great rallying cry, however insincere.

But most bothersome has been the rape of the Palestinian Cause by the groups Fateh and Hamas.

Both Fateh and Hamas have been seduced by their own self-importance and insatiable love for power. The internal strife led by these two groups is turning genuine supporters of Palestinian justice into stone.

Each claim to be the protectors of the Palestinian Cause yet each one has greatly harmed it. The great strength of pluralism that has been symbolic of the Palestinian struggle from day one now threatens to be its greatest weakness. In the past, there were differences in ideology and tactics but one line was NEVER crossed — Palestinians spilling Palestinian blood.

Not so anymore as Fatah and Hamas have traded live ammunition, resulting in dozens killed.

Both Fateh and Hamas perceive themselves in the right, but the Diaspora and their children perceive them otherwise. As one daughter of the Diaspora, I’d like to share some different perceptions. The thoughts are abbreviated but are by no means solitary nor do they beat around the bush.

We’ll just call the current crisis the “Two heads, no brain” syndrome.

The first head belongs to Fateh.

Secular and nationalistic like the overwhelming majority of the Diaspora, Fateh is also viewed as corrupt and stealing from the people. Therefore, it was an understandable response to these despicable behaviors for Palestinian voters to hand Fateh a much-needed pummeling at the ballot box in January 2006. Instead of graciously losing and understanding why it lost, Fateh took on the unflattering role of “sore losers.” Hopes that democracy would prevail in Palestinian society were shattered.

This brings me to the second head –” Hamas.

Was it necessary to take Gaza over violently? Was the victory worth the subsequent starvation of the population in Gaza due to an inhuman collective punishment for the takeover? According to the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting, 70 percent of the 1.5 million people in Gaza Strip suffer from lack of food and 71 percent suffer from lack of medicine.

Hamas could win the support of all Palestinians if it said, “Though we won the original election democratically, we love our people far too much to see them collectively punished in such a cruel way. We will step down for them.”

What a precedent this would set for the world, including those who demanded free elections in an occupied land.

Back to Fateh . . . what exactly is the logic behind remaining silent when legislators from the Hamas party are kidnapped and imprisoned by the Israeli government? We’re all familiar with the proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but the silence takes it to the level of treason. What part of “il quwa fil itte7ad (strength in unity) do you not understand?

Back to Hamas . . . what is with replacing the Palestinian flag in Gaza with a mono-colored flag? For decades, Palestinians of all ideologies, beliefs, and personal histories have rallied around the red, white, black, and green.

The late national poet Mahmoud Darwish put it best when he said before an audience of 2,000 in Haifa, “We woke up from a coma to see a mono-colored flag (of Hamas) do away with the four-color flag (of Palestine)," Darwish said.

"We have triumphed," he said with thick irony. "Gaza won its independence from the West Bank. One people now have two states, two prisons who don’t greet each other. We are victims dressed in executioners’ clothing."

Back to Fateh . . . the Fateh-affiliated “General Intelligence” reportedly abducted a Palestinian journalist with sympathies for Hamas immediately after setting him free on the order of the Palestinian High Court of Justice.

Back to Hamas . . . in 2007, Hamas banned the Palestinian folktales book, “Speak Bird, Speak Again” from school libraries. Thankfully, it withdrew the ban after widespread protests but the Taliban-like mentality is still alarming.

Both Fateh and Hamas regularly engage in imprisoning members of the opposing faction. Reports of torture have been made by both sides.

The rivalry has now spilled into the schools and hospitals.

Regarding Fateh . . . reports indicate that a fifth Palestinian child has died in Khan Younis as a result of a politically-motivated strike by Fatah-affiliated doctors.

And back to Hamas . . . reports indicate Hamas removed teachers and principals who are affiliated with Fatah. The dismissals occurred on the eve of the new school year. In response, the Fateh teachers’ union went on strike.

And the ping pong match goes on. Is your head spinning?

It’s enough that Israel is now the Fourth Reich, a term aptly selected after Israeli deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai warned Palestinians in Gaza of a holocaust. Humanitarian goods and medical supplies are not allowed in; Palestinian university students cannot get visas to pursue their education abroad; Jewish settlers regularly stone Palestinian children on their way to school; and on and on.

What possible purpose does the ill-fated rivalry between Fateh and Hamas serve? It is hardly an exaggeration to say that there was greater leadership under the First Intifada (1987 –” 1993) when power was concentrated on the grassroots level.

In fact, more and more voices have expressed their desire to see the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority — whether it is headed up by Fateh or Hamas. Neither has demonstrated maturity and neither has demonstrated that it loves their people more than they love their power. And what’s worse, both are taking part in a charade before the world which implies that there is symmetry with Israel. As everyone knows, there is nothing of the sort — Israel calls the shots and lays the facts of more settlements/land grabs and repression on the ground.

It’s an embarrassing display of inferiority and disrespect for one’s self. “W’aman La Yokarrem Nafsaho la Yokarrami” (He who doesn’t respect himself shall not be respected.)

Does this Arabic expression mean anything or are they empty words that just sound good for public consumption??

While I was not a fan of the late Yasser Arafat, few can dispute that his legacy incorporated the unity of the Palestinians. The same will never be said for Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.

If the dissolution concept is rejected, then a national unity government is a MUST! No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s neither a choice nor a luxury. It is a necessity. And those who hinder efforts at Palestinian unity, internally or externally, are not friends of the Palestinian people.

So how did the mythological story of Medusa end?

Well, the hero Perseus beheaded Medusa by looking at her reflection in her mirror instead of looking at her directly. Perseus then used her head as a weapon until he gave the head to Athena to use on her shield.

With the long and remarkable history of the Palestinians, dating back to their ancestors the Canaanites and Philistines, going extinct is not applicable. It was the late British moral philosopher Sir Bernard Arthur Owen Williams who said, “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” And resilience is inseparable from the Palestinian identity.

Will the Palestinian Cause continue to be used as a shield by various regimes and groups? Probably, and there’s not much we can do about that.

The two-pronged question is whether Fateh and Hamas will continue turning the Palestinian Cause into Medusa? Or will they wise up and return the Palestinian Cause to the beautiful and innocent maiden it once was?

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