These lines are being penned on the eve of March 30th, referred to as “Land Day” on the calendar of Arabs who have Israeli citizenship, and also by the Arabs living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria – in memory of six of their brothers killed in violent demonstrations that erupted on that date forty years ago as a result of the Israeli government’s land appropriation in the Galilee. “Land Day” is commemorated every year at public events, but those land appropriations have long been consigned to the realm of vague memories and the public events are mainly an opportunity to raise a long list of condemnations aimed at the State of Israel.
The real truth, however, is that this day personifies the crux of the Palestinian tragedy, namely, the lack of a common goal for all those who are called “Palestinians.”
The four main groups of Palestinian Arabs, described below, are the proof of the pudding.
Is their goal to drive Israel out of the lands it freed from Jordanian and Egyptian occupation in 1967 and establish one state on these lands despite the lack of territorial contiguity between Gaza on the one side and Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) on the other?
Alternately, is the goal to erase the Jewish State, the 1948 “Occupation” recognized by the UN, in order to establish the State of Palestine on the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean?
And how can they merge the two main political forces, PLO and Hamas, nine years after Hamas established a state in Gaza and has no intentions of giving up its political gains, despite the fact that officially Gaza is ruled by the PLO?
The lack of answers to these questions leads to a lack of a collective consciousness, lack of the feeling of peoplehood among the residents of these areas, and paralyzes every attempt to make headway in peace negotiations with Israel.
The second group is something else entirely and consists of the residents of cities and villages in northern Jordan, who call themselves “Palestinians” only to prevent their being called “Jordanians.” The reason behind this phenomenon is that in 1921 Great Britain called the area in which the Transjordan Emirates and later on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were established by the name “Palestine.” The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was, however, based on a coalition of Bedouin tribes and the Emir Abdullah son of Sharif Hussein from Mecca. Those northern city and town dwellers did not want to be identified with the Bedouin, whom they considered lower on the cultural scale, so they refuse to be called “Jordanians” and continue to call themselves “Palestinians.” They are Jordanian citizens and do not want to be part of any other country, not even a “Palestinian State,” if that should ever become a reality.
Then we have the third group, the Arab citizens of Israel, called “internal Arabs” (meaning that they live within pre 1967 Israel) or “1948 Arabs” by those who want to avoid mentioning that they are Israeli citizens. They are full citizens of the democratic and liberal state of Israel, with civil rights identical to those of Jewish citizens. They are divided religiously, some are Muslim, others are Druze, Christian, Alawite or Ahmadi, which is the reason they have no feeling of a united people.
They are also divided on a tribal basis (“hamoulot”), and the administration of their towns and villages reflects the tribal culture deeply ingrained in the entire Middle East. Despite the fact that some call themselves “Palestinians,” they do not want to relinquish Israeli citizenship and have no desire to join a Palestinian State, should one arise.
For the last five years, as they observe the catastrophe that befell the Arab world during the so-called “Arab Spring,” they have come to understand that Israel is the preferred option, not out of love – they certainly don’t love Israel – but because life is tranquil and calm there, in contrast to all the Arab countries except for the Persian Gulf Emirates.
A considerable number find it hard to live with the strange situation that makes Israel preferable to Arab countries, and that frustration is given an outlet when they badmouth the Jewish state, as can be seen in the recent behavior and extreme statements of some Arab MKs.
This brings us to the fourth group, the “refugees” living in camps since 1948, in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This group is divided according to the countries and regions in which the refugee camps are located. They are called “Palestinian refugees” because they fled the battles going on in the British Mandate areas west of the Jordan up until May 14,1948, and in newly-established Israel from May 15 of that year, mainly because of the large-scale invasion of Arab armies on May 16th.
Most of them were not native residents but migrant workers who came from the entire Middle East in the first half of the twentieth century to find employment, created by the growing Jewish population. When they fled the war, the Arab League decided not to absorb them in the countries to which they had fled, but to keep them in camps so as to demand their return to Israel – for the purpose of destroying the Jewish state culturally and demographically.
What is odd is that even in what is called “Palestinian” territory, there are camps of “refugees” from “Palestine” – the question that arises is, of course, how a person can be a refugee in his own land. And the answer lies in tribal culture, as these people are considered strangers from another tribe who fled their homes for whatever reason and settled near the established local tribes dwelling in the area. They are seen as “not one of us” by the locals, even if they are, like them, also “Palestinians.” This is proof of the lack of collective consciousness among “Palestinians.”
Up until 2011, about 400,000 “Palestinian refugees” lived in several camps in Syria. These were destroyed in the civil war raging there and most of the residents of those camps are dispersed in Jordan, Lebanon, Europe and the USA. Lebanese law contains a long list of occupations that are off-limits to these refugees, aimed at keeping them from becoming part of the social fabric of this crisis-laden nation. They did receive citizenship in Jordan, but are considered third class.
In other words, this fourth group known as “Palestinian refugees” is not in possession of a common goal, excepting the desire to return to the state of Israel, not to a Palestinian state if that comes to pass, but to a state that is neither Arab, nor Muslim or “Palestinian.” This group, too, has no “vision” of a “Palestinian” nature.
Most of the “Palestinians” who migrated to Europe, the US and other parts of the world, have settled in those lands and lost their Palestinian identity and their feeling of belonging in the Middle East in general. Very few still want to return to “Palestine,” that is, the State of Israel.
All this brings us to the conclusion that the Palestinian dream to establish a collective consciousness has failed, while the differing agendas of the groups called “Palestinians” make it impossible that a political entity could ever be established for them all. On Land Day, they are really mourning their collective failure to present a united plan, one goal, anything that allows the building of an attainable, defined and joint future.
The abyss that separates the “Palestinian dream” from the divided and crumbling reality on the ground is what brings them out to the street to demonstrate. They are really protesting the unbelievable success of the Jewish People’s Zionist venture, that of a people who came as refugees from all over the world, a venture that succeeded despite the fact that some of them came from the crematoria of a Europe in ruins, despite the differences between them and in spite of the wars they faced. The Jewish people built a flourishing state, a thriving democracy and a prospering economy and this success gives rise to jealousy that breeds hatred on their part and on the part of the entire Arab world.
Israel has succeeded in the exact places in which they have failed, its existence is the mirror that reflects their failure – and that is why they hate it, that is why they want to get rid of it, that is why they fight and protest against it in Europe, the USA, the Arab World and even within the Jewish State. This is especially evident on March 30th, the “Land Day” that settles over the dream they cultivated for years, a dream whose fulfillment gets farther and farther away every day because of their collective failure to create a “Palestinian nation” with one common goal.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News