Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why is there no Palestinian Gandhi?

In the current issue of The Weekly Standard, Israeli dove Gershom Gorenberg asks:
Why is there no Palestinian Gandhi, no Palestinian Martin Luther King? Through violence--from airplane hijackings to suicide bombings and rocket fire--Palestinians have failed to reach political independence. They have not stopped the spread of Israeli settlements or ended the occupation of the West Bank.

Gorenberg imagines what the effect of such a leader -- he calls him Sheikh Nasser a-Din al-Masri -- would be. He says that in the mid-1980s a Palestinian Christian, Mubarak Awad, might have been that man. However, Awad was mistrusted as an outsider and as a non-Muslim. He lacked leadership skills, charisma and a popular platform. His appeal tended to be to fellow Christians (4% of Palestinians) and intellectuals. More importantly, Yassir Arafat snuffed out anyone who emerged as an alternative force. Because he left Palestine young, and did not speak Arabic fluently, his chances were grim. Ultimately, the Israelis deported Awad, when his tourist visa expired.

Part of the reason Mr. Gorenberg's question interests me, is because I asked this very same question in this column:

I don't think the reason no Palestinian Gandhi has emerged is because Islam is a violent religion, founded by a warrior committed to jihad. I think it's just a matter of time before the Palestinians realize that violence and armed struggle will always fail, will always make their lives worse. When that happens, a Muslim Gandhi will emerge.

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