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Opinion: We Should Be Ashamed | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palestinians demonstrate in front of the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Ramallah to protest the death of Palestinians in the Yarmuk refugee camp in Syria, from malnutrition, demanding Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas intervene on January 4, 2014. At least 15 Palestinians have died of hunger since September in the besieged refugee camp […]

Had shame found its way into the hearts of many Palestinian leaders, they might have saved their people much pain and misery. This is not to mention their responsibility for the Palestinian fathers who died as martyrs, leaving widows, orphans and bereaved mothers.

Some of these leaders have feigned shame. Some have even made a living from doing so, touring world capitals, becoming rich and showing off those riches while trampling on people’s modesty.

You might ask me what has brought on all this talk about shame. ‘You are writing like someone who has been irritated by something in particular,’ you could even say.

Well, as for being irritated, I am, and as for what led me to mention shame, it was the way in which Zien Al-Abidine Al-Rikabi chose to end his article in this newspaper on Saturday, January 11, by saying: “How can people be victorious when they try to defeat their enemy by doing what the enemy wants, which is achieving the permanent division of Palestinians? Be ashamed, be ashamed for yourselves, for your children and families; be ashamed for your friends and the supporters of your cause. Be ashamed . . . Be ashamed . . . Be ashamed.”

It is possible that the anger of another caused by their concern for a cause you both love can move something in you that you had previously stifled, revealing what has been hidden for many years. I had thought the pain had passed, numbed by all the other tragedies that followed.

Rikabi’s conclusion was a mix of anger, regret and sorrow towards a process of division which has taken control of the Palestinian leadership, prompting his angry cry: “Be ashamed . . . Be ashamed . . . Be ashamed.”

How can I not be angry when I feel this writer’s pain and anger even though I am far away, particularly when I am suffering from the same pain? He talks about the place where I suffered the pain of asylum as a child and then as a young man dreamed of returning from Gaza to Beersheba. And my own professional experience as a journalist gave me access to Palestinian leaders to discuss politics with them, and listen to what they said “off the record” in their local gatherings.

How can I not be angry by the call to “be ashamed . . . Be ashamed . . . Be ashamed.” I recall the number of times many souls wept because of the actions of those who imposed their leadership on the Palestinians. It is true: if you have no shame, you can do whatever you like.

These days, I see the shameful actions of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus, and it reminds me of the tragedy of Sabra and Shatila, and other places in Lebanon, during what became known as the War of the Camps of 1985. This was when Palestinians who led Palestinian organizations affiliated themselves with the elder Assad, and became allies of the Amal Movement, which was allied to the Syrian regime at the time, in order to expel the Fatah Movement led by Yasser Arafat from Lebanon.

Those who paid the price for that vicious war were the innocent refugees besieged and starved by those who claimed they were leaders of a revolution whose aim was to liberate the stolen homeland, but in reality were not ashamed to sell the Palestinian cause in favor of the interests of the Syrian regime and its agenda.

To be dependent on the ruler in Damascus mirrored Palestinian leaders’ submission to the ruler in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein began to plant in the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s soil any factions he wanted to plant, paying them handsomely at times and reprimanding them at others, aiming to divide the Palestinians, even using murder and assassination. Meanwhile, those of the ilk of Sabri Al-Banna (Abu Nidal) were not afraid, let alone ashamed, to fire their bullets at those who were once their comrades.

The allegiance of some Palestinian leaders moved from Damascus and Baghdad, again with no shame, to Muammar Gaddafi’s Tripoli. There were rumors that some of them even stood beside the despot and fought against the Libyans in the February 25 revolution, as though bolstering the dictatorship of Bab Al-Aziziyah [Gaddafi’s main base] was a prerequisite to enter a liberated Jerusalem, just as someone previously said Amman was the “Hanoi of the revolution,” as though the Jordanian capital must be destroyed in order for the Palestinian phoenix to rise from the ashes.

Jordanian–Palestinian, Lebanese–Palestinian, Syrian–Palestinian or Palestinian–Palestinian, who cares? As long as the twisted logic of “my brother and I against my cousin” prevents the Palestinians from feeling guilt when they fight against their brothers in arms and their comrades—or, worse, they don’t question it and they don’t feel shame.

The infighting that erupted in Gaza between the leaders of Fatah and Hamas at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 was not the first conflict between Palestinians, either between one faction and another or within the same faction, although people hoped it was the last one and that the leaders of both sides would respect the Mecca Agreement signed on February 8, 2007.

Then there was the Doha Agreement signed on February 6, 2012, which went the same way as its predecessor, with the divisions remaining the same, possibly because the minority who benefited from it was not interested in the harm inflicted on the majority. So, again, where was the shame?

The Israelis buried Ariel Sharon, whose coffin was covered with wreaths. Some saw him as a “hero” and some called him a “king,” but the so-called “honor” he deserved in the eyes of all those with consciences outside Israel, and some inside, should be the “dishonor” reserved for a war criminal. On the other hand, the Palestinians’ “pride,” which destroyed itself as a result of this shamelessness, allowed Sharon himself to celebrate a victory that was presented to him by his very enemy more than once.

Is there any possibility of any shame or remorse, dear leaders who are responsible for the people of Palestine and their cause? I repeat the question, using the cry of Zein Al-Abidine Al-Rikabi at the end of his touching article. And so that despair does not take hold, we must hope. Perhaps one day.