Palestinians' Digital Honor

A Syrian company is releasing a video game about Palestinian life that seeks to show Palestinians' self-sacrifices so that others can live. This is probably the only sympathetic description that the Palestinians can expect from other Arabs.

Radwan Kasmiya is a Syrian programmer and the director of a media company which has made a great deal of money from selling computer games. Toward the end of the year the company will release a new game, entitled "Under Siege," which will describe the Palestinian uprising. In a press interview Kasmiya said, "This is an attempt to present the Palestinian struggle in a different light."

"This is not a game about despair but about self-sacrifice so that others can live. We are providing a new type of digital honor for the Palestinians." By the way, in this game killing civilians is not allowed - players lose points for killing civilians, either Israelis or Palestinians.

"Digital honor" is probably the only sympathetic description that the Palestinians can expect from the Arabs. There are half-hearted condemnations, but it's difficult to find an Arab leader who has recently delivered a stinging speech against Israel or who has come out with a new political initiative.

True, in mid-November the president of Egypt will dispatch his prime minister and his chief of intelligence to Israel to discuss "a variety of issues," but President Hosni Mubarak doesn't yet know whether there will still be any political issue to discuss by that time. The big show is the disengagement plan and it is perceived by the Arabs, and by the Palestinians especially, as an internal Israeli matter.

It's difficult to explain why the Palestinians adopted the approach holding that the disengagement plan is an Israeli issue. Even if they don't believe that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is sincere in his intentions, and if they don't think - and justly so - that disengagement of the Sharon model will lead to a political solution, it gives them a useful opportunity to try to generate a turning point.

The publicist Hassan al-Batal last week reminded his readers in the Palestinian paper Al-Iyam that they are facing their third historic disappointment. After the disappointment of the liberation of the occupied lands and the disappointment of the right of return, there now looms the disappointment of the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians now have two possibilities, al-Batal explains: "To wait for many years until the Israelis will resolve their [political] disorder, or to agree to a Palestinian state."

His assumption is that at the conclusion of a lengthy period Israel will order its house and that in the end the great solution will come: the Palestinian state. In large measure, the Palestinian reaction recalls the official reaction of Lebanon and Syria when Israel announced its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.

It took a great deal of Arab pressure, including Egyptian mockery, to persuade Lebanon and Syria to "agree" to the Israeli pullout. The Gaza disengagement plan is another fraction of a step. It is not a Palestinian state and it is not the end of the conflict.

But it is a great deal more than a theoretical struggle over bankrupt ideological megalomania, a kind of ideological debate which need not interest anyone. The removal of the settlements from the Gaza Strip could be recorded as a Palestinian achievement, one that outdoes even the Lebanon withdrawal - which did not demand an ideological decision, only a little erosion of prestige.

The disengagement plan would not have reached its present stage had it not been for the events of the past four years. Ascribing the achievement to the Palestinians should not deter Israelis from implementing the plan, and it certainly should not leave the Palestinians cold.

Thus the great disappointment at the Palestinians' silence, at their expectation to see which way the political decision in Israel goes without trying to influence it. No, there is no need for Palestinian children to stand in the streets and applaud or hoist the Israeli flag, but it's not superfluous to expect to hear a loud Palestinian voice that will encourage the undecided segment of the Israeli public.

Maybe that voice will only be heard toward the end of the year. When the Syrian computer game is selling as well as its predecessor, which was called "Under the Ashes." Only after digital honor is restored to the Palestinians will it be possible to hear their leaders, too.