Rarely have they shown authentic initiative. With some exceptions, they have been manipulated by their so-called leaders and by other Arab leaders. Ironically, each of their successive puppetmasters have invariably claimed that they were doing it out of love.
Their first leader, the infamous mufti of Jerusalem, manipulated them for his own hateful purposes which included his own personal enrichment and his severe Jew-hatred. After that the Arab leaders stepped into his role, each of them promising to defeat the Jews and give them land that they planned to annex themselves anyway. During the 1950s, self-appointed leaders collaborated with Arab leaders to stymie their desire to become naturalized citizens of their host countries, a practice that continues to this day.
While the first intifada had some actual homegrown leadership, the second intifada was a pre-planned disaster meant to pressure Israel and that resulted in thousands of people killed because of Arafat's intransigence in peace negotiations.
This year we have seen real, grassroots revolutions throughout the Arab world, from Tunisia to Yemen. Many pundits and anti-Israel activists have been predicting - or even actively desiring - a similar uprising from Palestinian Arabs against Israel. Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz lamented on behalf of the residents of Jenin in February, saying "This week, Jenin's wonderland was to be found in Egypt. Residents of the refugee camp closely followed events in the land of the Nile, in a mood of melancholy jealousy. Each night they crowded into homes to watch television and see what was going on in Cairo. But no winds of change are blowing in the West Bank. No solidarity demonstration was staged; not a single poster of support was to be seen on the streets."
Thomas Friedman even sketched out a scenario that he hoped would come to pass:
"May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”Friedman's desire for a revolution is another example of Westerners trying to pretend that their wishes are in consonance with those of the people they want to "help."
For a brief moment, the outsiders who were burning to see a genuine third intifada break out thought they found it, on May 15th, when there was a violent protest in Qalandia on "Nakba Day." But that faded quickly, and no one talks about it any more.
In fact there was only one genuine, grassroots expression of Palestinian Arab frustration in recent months, and that was not against Israel - but against their leaders. The "March 15th" movement was a Facebook-organized, coordinated protest that scared Hamas and Fatah into signing a worthless but symbolic statement of unity.
Outside of that, almost every single major protest on behalf of Palestinian Arabs has been orchestrated not by their own people but by outsiders, using their cause as an excuse to bash Israel.
The Syrian border incidents on May 15th and June 5th were both orchestrated by Bashir Assad, and did not even involve Palestinian Arabs for the most part but hand-picked Syrian loyalists who were bused in. The Lebanese border protests were similarly organized by Hezbollah, not Palestinian Arabs.
The flotilla and flytilla last week were largely the creations of Western anti-Israel activists, who tried to recruit some symbolic people of Palestinian descent to join in. Palestinian Arabs showed little interest in these events, as they recognized that they were simply publicity stunts that would not help them one bit.
The "air flotilla" leaders even tried to use the Twitter hashtag "#Palspring" to make it appear that this was a manifestation of Palestinian Arab nonviolent resistance, instead of a Western-created and organized event designed to create more heat than light.
The weekly protests in Bil'in and elsewhere are dominated and led by Western and Israeli anti-Israel activists.
The much wished for "Palestinian Spring" has been taken over by outsiders.
Palestinian Arabs, used to being manipulated by corrupt Arab leaders, now find themselves being manipulated and used by Western leftists and anti-Israel activists as well. Just as in the past, people who claim to be acting on behalf of the "Palestinian people" are actually acting in their own self-interest and using the PalArabs as pawns. They are just as politically corrupt as their forebears, and their interest in Palestinian Arab well-being is just as much a mirage as it was when the Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians claimed to be acting in their best interests.
The irony is that this is all happening at the exact same time that we see genuine acts of self-sacrifice by Arabs in Syria, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere. The drama of legitimate struggle for freedom is being lost in the glare of self-righteous Western Israel-haters getting out-sized media attention for their own ineffective and futile stunts. And real Palestinian Arabs are hardly to be found in any of these media events.
There is simply no comparison between Palestinian Arabs, who are already living under self-rule and with a large degree of autonomy, and the citizens of Arab countries who chafe under real oppression and hardship. Their reaction to the Western meddling as been largely one of indifference, or at most, a usual variation of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
This aphorism helps them as little today as it helped them in the past.
The question is, do they even realize that they are being used yet again? That those who express such solidarity with them are pushing a political agenda that will keep them stateless for decades more? Do they understand that Israel isn't going anywhere, and if they want to gain politically they must work with Israel and not against it?
The answer to these questions will help decide whether real peace is achievable.