In the name of God, the Almighty, and the martyrs and every drop of blood that has saturated the soil of your beloved homeland, I appeal to you not to give a chance to the enemies of our people and nation who are sowing sedition, before it's too late."

This earnest call of a "broken-hearted" Palestinian citizen, which was heard on TV, represents the position of the Palestinian people everywhere (both in the Diaspora and those under occupation).

But what about the attitude of the "others" - Arabs or non-Arabs - towards the conflict between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, as "Palestinian" warmongers, mercenaries and tribal gangs wreak havoc there?

Television comments and public stories burn our hearts and fill us with sorrow. One Arab astonishingly wonders: "Where were all these arms when the Israeli occupation forces were raiding Palestinian towns and villages, inflicting death and devastation?"

A second says, "Fatah and Hamas are the real source of danger to the broader Palestinian cause, for both have found it easier to solve their differences through the gun." A third sees the situation as being "so dangerous that it could lead to collective Palestinian suicide".

The most optimistic Arab would have said: the Palestinians have failed to run their own affairs, so let an international mandate, with Arab participation, do the job!

As such, the "others" now behold a different image of the Palestinian from the one they were used to. In the past, Arab TV stations projected the image of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.

The image was that of a people who had been fighting for decades against the strongest army in the region. But that image has now altered to that of Palestinian in-fighting. And this is depicted by a masked guy holding a machine gun, shooting at random, even at compatriots. The image has changed very rapidly.

Thing of the past

Gone are those days when the just Palestinian cause topped the list of media stories, and when great efforts were made to alter the inherited, negative image of the Palestinian in the eyes of the West.

Now, the former Western mentality is prominent in the Arab world itself. Indeed, some frustrated Palestinian youths may show up out of the blue, firing in the air. But the internationally recognised Palestinian - the victim of Israeli occupation - has now become the executioner of his brother, doing so while flashing a V for victory sign.

Hence the Palestinian cause is losing its sheen. In fact, the Palestinians haven't learnt lessons from other peoples' experiences. Bloodletting among "comrades in arms" has befallen the cause. This can lead to grave dangers. Foremost among these is the possibility that the cause could lose its appeal in the Muslim and Arab world.

What is going on in the Occupied Territories, especially in Gaza, is quite strange. Many people observe the contradictions in the rhetoric and the public statements of the factions, including the warlords and tribal chieftains. The rhetoric is nothing more than empty promises.

Thus insecurity, disorder and chaos have become normal in the lives of the Palestinian people, and Arab solidarity has declined to its lowest level, though Israeli raids, incursions, house demolitions, land theft, Judaisation of Occupied Jerusalem, imprisonment and assassinations continue unabated.

The "others" wonder about the ability of the new Palestinian "leaders" to run Gaza Strip as a mini model of a Palestinian state.

Moreover, the developments in Gaza have made the "others" less certain about the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance, because some of its factions have resorted to practices similar to those of terrorist groups in Iraq - kidnapping not soldiers of occupation, but journalists and academics; bombing not colonies, but governmental, service and educational offices and institutions; and killing people, even on an "ID basis".

So while the world yawns in reply to Israeli killings, it is now nauseated by our own killings.

In the past, the Palestinians lost a lot because of differences with factions serving different external forces. Today, they are also losing as a result of differences among power-hungry leaders.

The in-fighting among local groups and the crimes of warlords have together distorted both the Palestinians' image and cause.

Ironically, when an increasing number of Palestinians say their life under occupation was "better", what then have these "leaders" to offer?

Thus, the "others" see Palestinians who perceive their own party as being greater than the homeland. Besides, it is not unusual to find a Palestinian these days who thinks of his party's record and experience as being richer than the history of his people.

Logic cannot explain how the Palestinians acquired this new image. This is the picture of Palestine that is seen by the "others".

The question that comes to mind is: Have the Palestinian people changed overnight, or has the leadership changed? Until the answer comes, congratulation to Israel, and no condolences to the Palestinians.

Professor As'ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia.