The anguish of the Palestinian people seems to be a never-ending tragedy. Abandoned by their Arab neighbours Egypt, Jordan and Syria and betrayed by the short-sightedness of its own divided leadership, they have slid further into the arms of Hamas and its cult of celebratory martyrdom as the ultimate honour.
As if news of deaths from the Turkish invasion of Syria's Kurdish region of Afrin were not enough, Friday morning Twitter alerts woke me to the death of 18 Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defence Forces after nearly 30,000 Gazans charged towards the border with Israel.
Israel could have and should have shown restraint, but it did not. Hundreds were injured as IDF soldiers fired directly into the charging crowd. In such an imbalance of power, restraint is always the responsibility of those with weapons.
The protest march was an expression of the Palestinian demands for a "right of return" to what is now Israel. Most of Gaza's two million people claim they are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the 1948 war when Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon with troops and volunteers from Saudi Arabia and Sudan invaded Israel, but were defeated.
Three more wars and 70 years later it seems no lesson is learned by those who push generation after generation towards supposed martyrdom and paradise, turning a national movement for a Palestinian homeland into a jihadi struggle to wipe out the Jews.
Gaza could have been a Mediterranean paradise with mile after mile of beaches that could have turned the territory into an example of Palestinian ingenuity and resolve in the face of adversity. Instead Gaza became a laboratory of Islamic extremism where leaders of the Palestinian Authority were tortured and assassinated, thrown over the roofs of buildings and adversaries were killed and their bodies dragged by motorcyclists.
The days preceding this latest conflagration seemed to have escaped media attention, but deserve to be part of any analysis.
As The Associated Press reports, the Friday march on the Israel border came after a bomb targeted but missed the Palestinian prime minister and his intelligence chief during their visit to Gaza earlier in March as part of an Egypt-led attempt to bring peace between rival Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas.
This assassination attempt apparently conducted by Hamas on the Palestinian prime minister reminded me of Nov. 12, 2007. That was the day Hamas gunmen fired on a rally inside a Gaza City stadium that was commemorating the late Yasser Arafat.
Many people died that day. Palestine died too.
One thing is for certain. The Two-State solution is dead while the Three-State outcome I had predicted on these pages in 2012 is the only way forward: "Gaza is Palestinian territory, where the president of Palestine cannot set foot. … Imagine a Tito not welcome in Serbia or a Ho Chi Minh denied entry in Hanoi or Nehru told he was not welcome in Mumbai after the British left."
Palestine as imagined in Oslo is dead. And it died not as result of Israel's continued occupation or its "harsh" encirclement of Gaza. Palestine died because Palestinians killed it.
Palestinians today must recognize two bitter realities:
- Israel will never commit suicide by permitting a 'Right of Return' to millions of descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees.
- Israel will never hand over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Palestinians. Would Muslims hand over Mecca's Kaaba to the Pagans?
Stop killing each other, and then offer more for martyrdom. The best of the Arabs deserve better.
Tarek Fatah is the Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum