They don't just live under one occupation. They live under layers of occupations.
We all know about the Israeli military occupation, which began when big-mouthed, loser Arab leaders played to the emotions of their people by rattling cardboard sabers and threatening to "drive the Jews into the sea."
The Israelis are no dummies. When they faced off with the triumvirate of "impotentates" who led Egypt, Syria and Jordan back in 1967, they knew exactly how to respond. They exploited the Arab World bombast and overran everything in a few hours.
That the war actually lasted six days is a miracle.
The Israeli military occupation will mark 40 years next year.
But the real occupation that holds back Palestinians is not the Israeli military. It is the occupation they impose on themselves.
It's a societal occupation driven by rising extremism, religious fanaticism, and living in a dream world of self-pity and failed leadership.
When your leaders fail as leaders for so long, you begin to blame yourself and feel hopeless and pathetic, too. That helps the leaders to avoid accountability because the public starts to blame itself and others for its problems.
That societal occupation took a major step forward with the election of Hamas terrorists and religious fanatics. These fatalists hide
Their answer to a problem is to create a bigger problem. It's like an older brother's prank on a younger brother who complains that he bumped his hand and it hurts. The older brother hits the younger brother on top of his head hard, and says, "I bet you don't feel the hurt hand any more."
The other occupation is the self-imposed occupation. This is the most dangerous. Here, instead of thinking for themselves, Palestinians simply accept whatever they are told.
"We have to use suicide bombings because we don't have jet airplanes," one popular but ignorant rationalization goes. They find excuses for failure instead of developing answers or real solutions.
Let's blame the Israelis for our own problems. That's not reasoned.
The reasoned person recognizes the truth of a problem, even when that truth hurts. Even when the truth points to yourself as being as much a part of the problem as the people (Israelis) whom you blame for everything.
Instead of addressing the problem, we then address the emotion. Because it is so much easier to hate someone than it is to accept blame and then correct the problem.
So how do we get an entire people out of their occupation with the occupation?
Individuals who recognize that the world changes and has changed in 58 years since Israel was established and Arab arrogance blocked the creation of a Palestinian State.
I personally think that the Israelis are lucky that the Arabs did not form their own "mini-state" in 1967 because today, Israel would have been swallowed up by an Arab World that made all the right decisions.
Fortunately for the Israelis, their cunning is matched by Arab stupidity when it comes to strategy, communications and choosing between principles and PhDs.
The recent election in Israel represents different things for Israelis and Palestinians. For Israelis, it marks a broadening of the issues from merely security and peace with the Palestinians, to other Israeli issues like improving their economy and building themselves as a society.
Olmert offers real hope
For Palestinians, the election just represents the same old failed Palestinian strategy. Most Palestinian Israelis didn't vote in the elections, leaving the extremists to control all of what is left.
No matter who the Israelis elect, and no matter which party is in power, the Palestinians will always find a reason not to like them.
Yet, Ehud Olmert offers some real hope.
Olmert's position is naturally not one most Palestinians might embrace. Olmert says he wants to dismantle some of the illegal settlements in the West Bank and draw Israel's new borders unilaterally, without negotiating.
If Palestinian leaders were smart, they would step up to the plate and take responsibility for leadership. They would embrace Olmert's strategy and press to broaden the concessions to include a sharing of Jerusalem, and dunum-for-dunum land swaps that would have Palestinians surrender the major Israeli settlements in exchange for land elsewhere on a balance better than Ehud Barak had offered in his failed peace bid.
What the Arabs and the Israelis need now is not a public referendum on what should or should not be done. You can't do that in an atmosphere poisoned by hatred, extremism and emotion.
They need a strong, forceful leader who is fair, knows what is right and imposes justice on both sides.
Olmert seems like he might be that person.
It's called the stern-father syndrome. When immature, uncontrollable kids start fighting, you don't sit them down and negotiate a resolution. A tough father smacks them both down and enforces a harsh justice that is also fair. That's why when you look at Arab World history, sectarian societies under tyrants have been better off than sectarian societies under "Democracy."
Angry kids are allowed to walk away from the fight without having to surrender their pride, believing they were both forced to compromise equally.
This conflict has much to do with hurt pride as injustice.
Olmert needs to be like a tough father, since there is no partner for negotiated peace. But he also needs to be fair.
And if he imposes new borders that achieve Israel's goals while also giving Palestinians a state that is viable, that includes a part of Jerusalem and that Palestinians might embrace as fair, Israelis and Palestinians might have a peaceful future to look forward to.
If not, then Olmert just becomes another in a long line of Israeli leaders who have failed to deliver on peace, and the Palestinians will continue to blame that failure on everyone else but themselves.
It's the occupation of occupation.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com .)