All oppressed people had one thing in common: great leaders. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi.
These are recognized names that command respect. These gentleman were esteemed leaders that knew the game of oppression and cracked its crippling codes. Gandhi gained overthrew British rule in India with peaceful boycotts. Dr. King quelled the U.S.’s inequality with fiery speeches and mass marches. Mandela was imprisoned for over 25 years, and when he finally was released, worked not only to end apartheid for his people, but to dismantle it in other regions as well.
The Palestinians, unfortunately, have never had a revered leader like those above. Maybe some people acclaim Yasser Arafat as the core of Palestinian pride and struggle, but his contributions didn’t do much. And if they did, we aren’t seeing everlasting effects on the Palestinians as we do with India and Gandhi, Dr. King and the U.S., and South Africa and Mandela.
Oppression can’t be defeated through war. Somewhere along the line, the victors will degenerate into dictators and tyrants. It has to start with a defined leader. One who knows how to articulate peaceful messages and gatherings, one who is dignified as a man of the people. When Dr. King spoke, the masses were silenced. The same applies for Mandela. Look up one of his speeches, and you’ll be entranced. Gandhi was a bit more soft-spoken, but his words still carried immense truths.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what kind of leader a country has, just as long as he’s truthful, prudent and objective. Right now, everyone for the Palestinian cause wants to be a leader. We have the PA who’s trying to regulate issues amongst its own people, and who diligently try to negotiate with Israel. And then there’s Hamas, which imposes harsh prison sentences for crimes such as marijuana. While Hamas and the PA have bettered their relationship, it stands that no progress for the Palestinians has really been made.
In fact, many Palestinians resent the PA, viewing them as Israel’s puppet. Either way, neither of these parties feature a illustrious leader. Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president, is older and fatigued. He doesn’t have the ardor required to surmount Israel’s oppression.
Palestinians are lost, and rightfully so. Despair is the only thing that meets them daily. They’re exasperated. They’re hopeless. They’re tired eyes come face-to-face with walls of injustice and the barrels of guns. Any way they turn, no answers can be found.
But a leader can change that. A real, true trusted leader. Not Arafat, who was the first to extend his hand toward Yitzhak Rabin. And not Abbas, who’s been a leader for many years but hasn’t changed much. We need a Palestinian leader like Gandhi. We need a Palestinian spokesperson like Dr. King. We need a Palestinian activist like Mandela. These three were on the battlefronts. They weren’t hiding behind the doors of their posh homes with comfort and peace. They weren’t hiding behind cameras and promising future bliss and prosperity. They weren’t disregarding the people’s cries and yielding so easily.
They were risking themselves. They were imprisoned, battered and ridiculed. But they were successful, and that’s what everyone remembers the most.
When history shines, it isn’t the bad that’s highlighted. It’s all the moments of bravery and triumph that surpass all else. And until the Palestinians get a formidable, committed leader, their history won’t shine with that victorious light other oppressed groups obtained.