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The Cause was the Price - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Back in 1969 when I was 17, I was fascinated by all things nationalistic and leftist. I would hang around bookshops and street book vendors to pick up everything that had to do with Marxism and existentialism and the novels of Maxim Gorky, Sartre and Camus.

It was at that time that the fighting abruptly broke out between the members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in the wake of the split between George Habash and Nayef Hawatmeh when they differed over the understanding of the theoretical basis of the ideology they both shared, such as who had a better understanding of Marxism and was a better representative of it, much in the same way that political Islamist parties argue today.

Ideologies may change and contradict one another, but the essence ultimately remains the same. Fighting between the two fronts was not over Palestine and its liberation, or even how to achieve that; rather, it was a purely theoretical difference over the concepts of the proletariat and the petite bourgeoisie, and whether the guerilla warfare should be fought in the Ernesto Che Guevara or Jules Régis Debray way, or like what Fidel Castro did in Cuba, or Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. They were also arguing over Leninism and its accomplishments, Maoism and its pioneering role and Trotskyism and its internationalism.

But all these were theoretical differences that could not be resolved in conferences, festivals or in the ‘backstage’ − decision-making moved to the Street. Of course in battles such as these, there were no winners or losers; both parties are defeated even if one appears to have won.

During that same time, the Fedayeen were the masters of the scene in Jordan, while both the state and the government were disregarded. Each Fedayeen group had its own sphere of influence in which it exercised the full role of the state. However, Fatah had the biggest share of influence and was almost a state within the state.

The situation ended up as one in which everything related to the state, including the army, was provoked and the Jordanian national symbols were violated, which was the reason for the instigation of regional feuds between the Jordanians and the Palestinians. Many Jordanians were recruited for the numerous clandestine movements that openly stated the necessity of assuming power under slogans, such as “the road to Tel Aviv passes through Amman” and “Amman is the Arabs’ Hanoi”, among many others.

Armed Palestinian organizations even began to act as though they were in control, they had checkpoints that rivaled the army’s and the security forces’ and furthermore established their own airport near Ramtha, which they called the ‘Matar al Thawra’ (Revolutionary Airport), and which they used to land hijacked planes. Additionally, they started to rename districts in Amman; Jabal al Hussein became Jabal al Thawra in a direct provocation to the incumbent political regime.

The late King Hussein (may his soul rest in peace) had opened the door to these organizations in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, raising the slogan “we are all Fedayeen”. The problem was that those same Fedayeen turned into politicians and revolutionaries who were more concerned with Jordanian affairs than with their own cause, which became of marginal importance, and as such, these armed organizations started getting involved in Jordanian internal policy and made attempts to revolt against the state’s legitimate authority.

In light of that situation, matters had to be decided: it could either be the restoration of the state’s dignity, especially in the eyes of Jordanians, and to reinstate power to the legitimate authority − or the armed militias could seize power. Soon it became a race against time. The volatile situation culminated into what became known as ‘Black September’ in 1970, which put an end to the armed Palestinian organizations in Jordan.

The armed Palestinian presence in Jordan was a historical opportunity for the Palestinian resistance to achieve something for its cause, especially in the wake of the Battle of Karama, which took place between the Jordanians and the Fedayeen on one side against the Israeli army on the other. But the cause was forgotten and the organizations engaged in unnecessary political games.

After the Six-Day War defeat in June and scandal that the Arab armies endured, particularly after the Battle of Karama in which the Fedayeen fought courageously, the Arab people pinned their hopes on them and their spirit of resistance to resolve that major issue. And yet, it was those same Fedayeen who abandoned the cause and engaged in other matters that finally drove them out of the Jordanian arena.

The armed Palestinian organizations left Jordan for Lebanon, which could not refuse to host them after what had happened in Jordan. Most of the Lebanese people offered sympathy and support, however there were some who feared a repetition of the Jordanian experience and called for the regulation of the Palestinian armed resistance in Lebanon, and that they refrain from interfering in Lebanese affairs. Raymond Eddé was one of those who adopted that stance; however they were labeled unsupportive ¬− if not traitors.

But the Palestinians did not benefit from the bitter Jordanian experience and entered the depth of the political game in Lebanon, allying themselves with one party and antagonizing another. The played the same pre-September role they had played in Jordan. The situation could but only explode, especially since regional and international powers that had interests in the prevalence of chaos took advantage of it.

Thus, it was Ayn al Rumana in 1975 that sparked the 15-year long civil war. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon resulted in the occupation of an Arab capital city for the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Israeli occupation prevailed in the south of the country for approximately two decades.

However, our purpose is not say that the Palestinians caused the Lebanese Civil War. There were many causes, including purely internal ones that had to do with the Lebanese social structure and with regional and international ones. Rather, the point is to say that the Palestinians implicated themselves as part of an explosive structure that they had nothing to do with at the expense of a cause that was no longer such. The Palestinian cause had transformed to become justifications for various political behaviors since the Palestinians meddled with the internal policies of their host countries, and thus unknowingly caused harm to themselves and to others.

What happened in Jordan happened in Lebanon and the Palestinian Diaspora was launched once again. They left for Tunisia in 1982 and the cause was lost until the Second Gulf War and the Madrid Conference (and others that followed), where the practical solution for the Palestinian cause began with the Gaza-Jericho agreement as an initial step towards an independent Palestinian state.

Matters had proceeded favorably until Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 and the right dominated the Israeli political arena. Apprehensive about the creation of an adjacent Palestinian state, this right tried its best to hinder the progress of the peace process and was aided by the Palestinian right wing, which regarded the entire Israeli presence as illegitimate. And thus came the end of the peace process when it should have begun.

But the question now is: If the Israeli right has an interest in hindering the peace process, what is the Palestinian interest in that ¬− especially since they are the weaker end of the equation and the side that would benefit more in its aftermath?

Reality dictates that practicing politics in a realistic world that imposes itself on us means that you first take then demand. After all, he who wants everything gets nothing. This is what the Palestinian Authority has come to realize to a large degree, however the religious Palestinian right cannot accept this position, as it would divest them of their legitimacy that derives from the ‘sacred cause’ just as the Israeli right would have to relinquish the sacred ‘Promised Land.’

In this right-wing view, the peace process, among other things, is concerned with politicizing and desecrating the issue, which clashes with the ideology-based religious approach. From this we can understand the nature of the tense relations between Fatah and Hamas and the nature Hamas’ position in light of the fact that peace would terminate its legitimacy and threaten its existence.

Here, the Fatah-Hamas relationship is not as important as raising a direct question that has to do with the neglected issue: Where were we, where are we now and who is to blame for the critical situation that the Palestinians are living − especially the average Palestinians, and us with them?

There may be numerous causes that together brought about the present situation, but the bigger share of blame lies on the Palestinians themselves. From Amman – we do not want to mention what happened earlier – to Beirut, Madrid and Oslo, the Palestinians, or rather their leaders, have missed out on chances that most likely could have changed the situation.

Today, they are pointing their guns at one another and shedding their own blood, disregarding the Mecca Declaration and forgetting their oaths in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque for the sake of an ideological difference. They are fighting for a fragile authority or over a cabinet portfolio or a handful of bloody dollars − and then they wonder how their blood is cheap for the enemy even though it already cheaper among themselves. The cause became insignificant because those entitled with it made it so by not living up to the responsibility. For some, this cause even ended up as a profitable trade that is bought and sold for the lowest prices.

The Quran says, “Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts” (13: 11), and the Bible tells us that God does not help those who do not help themselves. And here lies the gist of the issue… and of everything else.

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad

Turki Al-Hamad is a distinguished Saudi Arabian political analyst, journalist and novelist. Mr. Al-Hamad was educated in Saudi Arabia and the United States, where he obtained his PhD from the University of Southern California, later returning to Riyadh to teach political science. He retired in 1995 to take up writing full time.

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