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by Tarek Fatah
Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2015 at 7:36 PM
As the world focuses its attention on millions of refugees uprooted from Syria and Iraq in part because of the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), no other cause has suffered as much as that of the Palestinians.
Indeed, the word “Palestinian” and mention of groups like “Fatah” and “PFLP” (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are fast disappearing from Arab and Islamic discourse.
They’ve been replaced by ISIS and the new kids on the block, the myriad of jihadi groups who actually believe in no states, let alone a Palestinian one.
For the Islamists and their terrorist extensions the very idea of a nation state — be it Syria, Egypt or even a future Palestine — is an anathema to the fundamental principle of an Islamic worldwide caliphate.
In one swift ideological move, the Islamists pulled the rug from under the feet of the Palestinian national struggle, something even the Israelis failed to accomplish.
Even when late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir supposedly declared, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people”, she was widely scoffed at.
Today, even the typhoid epidemic in the devastated Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus, has caused barely a ripple either in the Arab world or the West.
The camp, once home to over 100,000 refugees, now contains a mere 18,000 including 3,500 children, after it was attacked by ISIS jihadi fighters in April.
Things were not always this bleak for Palestinians or the future state of Palestine.
Many of us, well-wishers of both Israel and the Palestinian people, remember being giddy with joy 22 years ago this month, when on Sept. 13, 1993, Palestinian and Israeli shook hands in a gesture of reconciliation.
In the words of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times:
“In a triumph of hope over history, Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the P.L.O., shook hands today on the White House lawn, sealing the first agreement between Jews and Palestinians to end their conflict and share the holy land along the River Jordan that they both call home.”
I distinctly remember an event hosted by the then Ontario premier Bob Rae at Queen’s Park, where Canadian Palestinians and Jews and their well-wishers thought we had come to the New Jerusalem.
Our ecstasy, however, was short-lived.
On both sides, enemies of the deal worked to sabotage it.
A radical Jew assassinated Rabin inside Israel while Arafat was forced to take up a confrontational posture just to appear credible on the Arab street.
Seven years later, on July 11, 2000, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat were to meet at Camp David under the chairmanship of U.S. president Bill Clinton to sign the “final status settlement.”
They did meet, but Arafat rejected the deal. He made a monumental mistake, best described by Shakespeare in another context:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Today, if Israel wants, it can facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Jews have given more than their share to civilization.
But creating a state for a sworn enemy could be their greatest glory.
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