In his commentary anticipating a Palestinian initiative to promote statehood at the United Nations, Aaron David Miller chooses to focus almost exclusively upon the realities of Palestinian political and demographic fragmentation. But rather than providing an explanation of how these divisions have come about, or recommending means to overcome them, Miller instead suggests that on their account Palestinians remain unworthy of freedom.
The fact of the matter is that Humpty Abu Dumpty did not accidentally fall off a wall; he was purposefully shoved off the edge of a cliff, beaten to a pulp, and then bombed to smithereens. As for the king's men, as Miller well knows, they made no effort to put him back together again, instead providing the gang responsible for his torment a steady supply of crack and endless rounds of ecstatic applause.
Miller's analogy fails on another count as well. Despite the extraordinary traumas of 1948 and 1967 and numerous lesser ones between and since, the Palestinians managed to build and maintain a reasonably coherent national movement that until the early 1990s was perceived as genuinely representative by a clear majority within virtually every Palestinian constituency. The fragmentation that, for Miller, today defines Palestinian existence and should therefore limit Palestinian aspirations, was therefore until fairly recently all but irrelevant.
The most important culprit in this respect has been the Oslo process. Among its many mortal sins, it subordinated the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and in so doing marginalized that majority of Palestinians that does not reside in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and national to local interim agendas. Oslo not only institutionalized existing differences and gave them political dimensions that previously were all but non-existent; it additionally fostered new divisions.
Among these has been the Fatah-Hamas schism, which Miller characterizes as fundamentally ideological. Yet there is ample evidence these two movements no longer differ all that much in their political programs, and are primarily involved in a struggle to control the PA and its dwindling resources. This conflict additionally needs to be seen in the context of the West's open encouragement of Palestinian political fragmentation and even civil war, and its active obstruction of national reconciliation.
Put differently, fragmentation is a symptom of Palestinian dispossession, and Miller surely knows better than to promote it as its cause and suggest that resolving it is a prerequisite to sovereignty.