For the last 60 years, all those who have sought a genuinely peaceful and fair solution for Israel and Palestine have faced the same obstacle — Israel’s sense of invincibility and military arrogance, abetted by the US and other Western governments’ unwavering support.
Despite recent setbacks on the military front, the Israeli government is yet to awaken to the reality that Israel is simply not invincible. The wheel of history, which has seen the rise and fall of many great powers, won’t grind to a halt. Experiences have also repeatedly shown that neither Israel’s nuclear arms nor Washington’s billions of dollars in annual funds could create ’security’ for the former.
While Israel can celebrate whatever skewed version of history it wishes to, it still cannot defeat a people, ordinary people armed with their will to survive and reclaim what was rightfully theirs. The same problem confronted the US in Vietnam, France in Algeria and Italy in Libya. The Palestinian people will not evaporate. Attempts to undermine Palestinian unity, instigate civil violence, and groom and present shady characters as ’representatives’ of Palestinians have failed in the past and will continue to fail.
Representing, and thus dealing with the conflict as one invented and sustained by Arab greed and Palestinian terrorism helped Israel garner sympathy, while simultaneously convoluting what should have been an urgent example of injustice, predicated on colonialism and ethnic cleansing.
More, depicting the mere existence of Palestinians as a ’threat’, a ’problem’ and a ’demographic bomb’ is inhumane and actually a full-fledged form of racism. Throughout its 60 years of existence, successive Israeli governments have treated Palestinians — the native inhabitants of historic Palestine — as undesired and thus negligible inhabitants of a land that was promised only to Jews by some divine power thousands of years ago.
This archaic concept has managed to define mainstream politics in Israel, and increasingly the US, allowing religious doctrines to discriminate and brutally repress Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and residents of the occupied Territories.
Needless to say, neither a figurative Iron wall, like that proposed by Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1923, nor an actual massive and menacing structure as the one being erected in the West Bank can really separate Israel from its ’problem’, the Palestinians. An area roughly the size of the US state of Vermont cannot sustain such a complex model — a country that is open unconditionally for all Jews who wish to immigrate, and an oppressed population that is caged in between walls, fences, and hundreds of checkpoints — without inviting perpetual conflict.
What Israel has created in Palestine belies its own claim that its ultimate wish is peace with security. While occupied East Jerusalem is entirely annexed by an Israeli government diktat, 40 per cent of the total size of the West Bank is used exclusively for the purposes of the illegal Jewish settlers and the Israeli military. How can Israel’s claim of wanting to live in peace be taken seriously if it continues to invade the lives, confiscate the land and usurp the water of Palestinians?
When Israel invaded East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Jewish citizens of Israel celebrated the ’return’ of biblical Judea and Samaria and the reunification of Jerusalem. Nearly 300,000 more Palestinians were ethnically cleansed, adding to the many more who were evicted from historic Palestine in 1948.
Yet, most Palestinians have remained hostage to the Israeli-invented limbo that suggests they were neither citizens of Israel, nor of their own state, nor deserving of the rights of an occupied civilian population under the Geneva Convention.
Despite this, Israel’s insistence on employing military ’solutions’ in its dealing with Palestinians have constantly backfired. Palestinians naturally rebelled and were repeatedly suppressed, which only worsened the feud and heightened the level of violence.
The PLO’s acceptance of Israel’s existence, and UN Resolution 242 as a first step towards a two state solution was both ridiculed and rejected by the Israeli government, which continued to arrange for its own ineffective and ultimately destructive solutions.
Throughout the years, Israel translated its military strength to erect more settlements and move its population to occupied Palestinian territories. Even after the Oslo Accords of September 1993, the construction of settlements didn’t slow down, but rather accelerated. After the most recent peace talks in Annapolis in November 2007, Israel continues to grant more permits to build more homes in illegal settlements under the guise of ’natural expansion.’
But it may have gone too far, leaving itself and Palestinians with few options now.
In a November 29, 2007 interview with Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that without a two-state agreement, Israel would face "a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights" in which case "Israel (would be) finished." It’s ironic that Israeli leaders are now advocating the same solution that they vehemently rejected in the past. However, the Israeli version of the two-state agreement hardly meets the minimum expectations of Palestinians.
Without Jerusalem, without their refugees’ right of return as enshrined in UN resolution 194 and with a West Bank dotted with over 216 settlements and scarred by a mammoth wall, asking Palestinians to accept an Israeli version of the two-state solution is asking them to agree to their eternal imprisonment, subjugation and defeat — which they have rejected generation after generation.
If Israel is indeed interested in a peaceful resolution to this bloody conflict, one that is based on equal human and legal rights, justice, security and lasting peace, then it must add a new word to its lexicon: coexistence. Jews and Arabs coexisted peacefully prior to the rise of Zionism, and they are capable of doing so in the future. Any other solution would simply institutionalise racism and apartheid, undermine democracy and human rights and thus further perpetuate violence.
It’s time for a secular, democratic state to cease being part of a removed academic discussion, and instead be integrated into mainstream debate, if not dialogue in Palestine and Israel. This is the right, moral and indeed urgent course of action required now.
– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).