Soleimani is no Arafat and Haniyeh should know that
Nobody denies the right of Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinian Hamas movement, to go on political tours in support of the cause of the Palestinian people and their legitimate goals.
However, when the head of the Hamas political bureau chooses to bestow the title of “Al-Quds martyr” on Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of al-Quds Force who was killed in an American drone strike, he is trespassing on political boundaries. That title is the one, among many possible others, that the Palestinian people chose for their leader, the martyr Yasser Arafat.
Comparing Soleimani to the great Arafat hurts the feelings of most Palestinians and Haniyeh knows it. So how dare he stretch his arms from Iran over thousands of kilometres to morally vandalise a tomb most cherished by Palestinians, a tomb in the vicinity of the holy city of Jerusalem, and remove from its occupant the one title that the Palestinians bestowed in recognition of his devotion to their struggle?
This is nowhere near the gratitude and respect that Arafat reserved for Hamas’s late leader and martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Arafat would refer to Sheikh Yassin using only the title of our “venerable sheikh.”
Haniyeh’s words strongly reflect the Palestinians’ divisions. It is only natural that the discord about the next Palestinian elections, which many Palestinians were looking forward to, deepens, making the elections rather distant.
The Palestinian people, and the whole world for that matter, know that it was because of their courage and unity and not because of the abundance and diversity of their weapons that they have saved their southern land since the Nakba.
Palestinians fought fierce battles against the Israeli occupation during the first intifada, the fight of the Jerusalem Tunnel and the second intifada and inflicted the greatest losses on Israel long before they had access to rockets, missiles or other advanced weaponry.
If Hamas wants an explanation for how that precious part of the Palestinian lands was preserved it need not look further than the unity and sacrifices of the Palestinian people, the bravery of their youth from both Fatah and Hamas and from the Palestinian factions as a whole. No, it was not the rockets nor was it reliance on any foreign party.
With the announcement of presidential and legislative elections, the Palestinian political scene regained some of its vitality but developments in the region cast a heavy shadow over the Palestinian situation and turned the much-anticipated elections into a probable mirage.
Israel has never been willing to take any step, measure or back any achievement that would support and consolidate the Palestinian presence or give international acceptance to an entity with political independence in a viable, connected and sovereign state. It is also true that elections would still be possible if the Palestinians agreed to have them anyway and let the best factions, parties and movements win.
All or most of the obstacles and conditions placed by Israel in the path of that important Palestinian goal could be swept aside by Palestinians agreeing on a timetable and a joint political programme, with Arab and international support.
Failing to have the elections will lead to a very difficult Palestinian situation at all political, economic and living conditions levels and may undermine the limited accomplishments of the past decades.
Has the Palestinian dream of having an independent Palestinian state evaporated or are we going to have whatever is left of our land permanently split into a North-eastern Palestine and perhaps a Palestinian Emirate in the south, along the lines of the split in Cyprus between Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus?
We don’t know the consequences of another Palestinian failure. Will the Arab world split between supporters of the one-Palestinian-state solution and supporters of the two-Palestinian-entities solution? Will there be in exchange an increased Arab-Israeli rapprochement?
Such questions seem strange and far from reality but they are core questions that will shock, shake and dog the Palestinians as long as they are divided and Fatah and Hamas fight each other with their Arab, regional and international alliances.
Despite these complications, there is room for hope and time to work to save the Palestinian people from the cruel fate of wiping out decades of their struggle, sacrifices, martyrs, wounded and detainees.
The two major Palestinian movements that have led the struggle and made sacrifices can restore hope to the Palestinian people and the peoples of the Arab nation that have accompanied and supported our struggle and to all other people and governments in the world that supported our goals, by bringing back cohesion among our people, agreeing on common goals and arriving at a common political programme.
The Palestinians, along with the people of the Arab world, may wonder why the leaders of the two largest Palestinian movements find it easy to roam the world and meet with all the state leaders in it but do not think of meeting with their Palestinian counterpart, who happens to be just a short hop away.
Perhaps this mystery is one reason no Arab or Muslim head of state has proposed to intervene or demand an intervention for an inter-Palestinian summit, as is done daily in Arab, Islamic and African capitals with leaders opposing each other.
There is no way to change the course towards a real catastrophe except for Palestinians agreeing to work together.
None of the rival factions will be able to triumph by clinging to one or the other of the powers and alliances with specific agendas in the region. They will not have the last word even if they benefit from the whole world’s money, support and weapons.