Meron Benvenisti
Haaretz (Opinion)
October 11, 2007 - 3:01pm

Take note of the collection of items that were published on a single day this week: negotiating teams discussing a declaration of intentions that will be presented at the Annapolis conference; the prime minister's deputy reiterates his plan to remove "neighborhoods on the edge" of Jerusalem from the city's municipal borders, and causes a stir; the Knesset Finance Committee discusses a draft law that will permit the Jewish National Fund to lease land only to Jews; and the firing of a Katyusha rocket from the Gaza Strip leads to a noisy debate about the issue of taking control of areas of the Strip.

The connection appears to be merely coincidental; after all, what connection does the JNF have to Katyushas? But a more thorough examination may reveal that, in fact, they are different aspects of what is called "the Palestinian problem." We have broken down this problem, for our convenience, into small issues, on the assumption that "if it is smaller, it will be more convenient to deal with."

We are so accustomed to the paradigm of dismantling issues that we have forgotten that it is not the "problem" that we have broken down into its parts, but rather we have caused the Palestinian people to shatter, over the last three generations, into subgroups. We have not merely crushed them with force but also caused them to take upon themselves split identities and to surrender to an agenda that we have dictated to them.
The Palestinian participants in the negotiations ahead of the Annapolis conference humbly accept their role as the representatives of the Palestinian splinter that lives in the West Bank, and are struggling to get better conditions for about only one quarter of the entire Palestinian nation. Others will deal with the fate of the remining splinters - the Gazans, Palestinian Israelis, the diaspora, and residents of East Jerusalem. The residents of East Jerusalem want only to be left alone and not to be forced ("out of patriotism") to forego the privileges they enjoy as Israeli residents; in the argument between Haim Ramon and Benjamin Netanyahu over the division of Jerusalem, the residents of East Jerusalem support the latter.

The Palestinian Israelis are fighting for the right to lease land from the JNF as part of their demand for recognition as a "national minority" and for equal rights. They do not tie their struggle to the struggle of their brethren who live on the other side of the separation fence.

The Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip are not interested in the implications of their violent acts and their rhetoric about the interests of the entire Palestinian nation, and are continuing with their policies that bring in their wake the ostracism and excommunication of one-and-a -half million Palestinians.

And those in the diaspora? They are continuing to carry around the keys to the homes that they left in 1948 and to dream of "returning."

The process of splitting up into sub-communities has not yet reached its consummation, and the political, economic and security constraints are deepening the entrenchment of the divided identities.

The Zionist enterprise, whose development challenged the Palestinian Arab community and unified it into a distinct national group, became over the generations the dominant force under whose fist the Palestinian community was shattered. The process of splintering became the major tool of Israeli control. It is thanks to this alone that Israelis can preserve control over all the areas of the Land of Israel and it serves as a guarantee against the "demographic danger" that will occur when, very soon, the Palestinians achieve a numerical majority in the region between the river and the sea.

The ruling Jewish community will continue, even when it becomes a minority, to force this split on the Palestinians with the usual means - the carrot and the stick, dictating the agenda, threats, collective punishments and bribery. This will preserve and even deepen the lack of coordination, the conflicting interests, and the weakness of the splintered Palestinian communities.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the policy of fragmenting was aimed at the small minority of "Israeli Arabs." Now it is being put into practice in the most sophisticated fashion against five million Palestinians, almost without attracting attention, and not by chance. Israeli propaganda has no interest in stressing the achievements of this split; on the contrary, Israel aims at erecting an "existential threat" scarecrow that portrays a monolithic adversary that relies on the dark forces of "Islamo-fascism." In this, they are unwittingly assisted by leftist circles who remain steadfast to the romantic notion about a Palestinian people united in its struggle for freedom, and they are joined by Palestinian spokesmen who do not believe in the success of the policy of shattering and who view the very utterance of the theory about a divide as hostile propaganda.

That is why this strategy can succeed; attention is diverted to marginal issues such as the JNF and "the division of Jerusalem," and even those who are informed and well-versed, are surprised when the fragmentation is brought to their attention. It is not a Nelson Mandela that the Palestinians need, but rather a Giuseppe Garibaldi, who should rise from their midst and unite them.


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