One could say the Palestinian question has become a symbol of the brutal denial of all basic human rights, including the right to life, identity, land and freedom. The uprooting of the Palestinians in the 1948 "war of independence" was and still is the most traumatic human experience that continues to haunt them, since the Israeli military occupation and its systematic policy of confiscating Palestinian land, building Jewish settlements and destroying Palestinian homes serves as a continuous reminder of the original Nakba (Catastrophe).
Palestinians are fully entitled to defend their rights and resist the Israeli occupation and its terrorist military regime. There can be no argument against the right of Palestinians to resist the occupation, in their quest for freedom. Resistance in all forms against armed colonial settlers and an occupying army is considered a legitimate form of the struggle for freedom worldwide. However, the just cause of the Palestinians does not justify killing Israeli civilians, especially women and children. Such acts against humanity serve only to equate the victim with the aggressor, and undermine the Palestinians' higher moral grounds. Islam and all religions are about protecting life. Human dignity is one and undivided. Killing one child on either side is equivalent to murder of all human beings.
Nevertheless, the Palestinians have been driven to a state of hopelessness and despair, the kind of despair that comes from a situation that keeps getting worse, a despair where living becomes no different from dying. Desperation is a very powerful force - it is not only negative, but it can propel people to actions or solutions that would have previously been unthinkable. Who would have imagined suicide bombings in Palestine 10 years ago? There is no precedent in our society. So, one can only assume that if the conflict continues there will be new methods of escalation of the violence on both sides too horrific to even imagine today.
The past two years have only proved that Palestinian violence was used as a justification for further Israeli terror and destruction of life and house. Violence has terrorized both communities, deepened the hatred, and radicalized both nations in fear and paranoia. Violence has thrown the two societies into a vicious tribal revenge. People have thus become hostage to politicians and their terror and manipulations.

Sharon's Infamous Visit Ignites the Intifada

The initial outbreak of the current Intifada was in direct response to Ariel Sharon's infamous visit to al-Aqsa mosque. The rapid Israeli military deployment and its immediate shoot-to-kill policy has deepened the sense of victimization, helplessness and exposure of the Palestinian masses. Tragically but expectedly, Palestinian militant groups responded with bullets and suicide bombings. Suicide bombing is an act of ultimate despair, a horrific reaction to extremely inhuman conditions in a seriously damaged environment of hopelessness. Suicide bombing is the ultimate cry for help. One of Sharon's great victories is the way he has increased the level of hatred on both sides. If the strategy was to destroy any possibility of peace, he scored a huge success! Still, if there is a fair solution - the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within June 4, 1967 borders, a shared Jerusalem, a fair deal for the refugees, dismantled settlements - I believe the Palestinians will accept it, as will the Israelis. If that happens, it will dramatically change the psychology of the people on both sides. But if the Palestinians come out feeling they have been defeated, the solution won't last. There will be more and even greater violence, each cycle more violent than the last.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learned from the past two years. One is that violence can only breed violence. The suicide bombers of this Intifada are the children of the first Intifada - people who witnessed a great deal of trauma as children. As they grew up, their own identity merged with the national identity of humiliation and defeat, so they are avenging that defeat at both the personal and national levels. The escalation of the level of violence will increase. In the first Intifada it was stones at best. In this Intifada it is machine guns, homemade mortars and explosives and, especially, suicide bombings. So the next Intifada, which, if there is no peaceful solution, will certainly happen in another four to seven years, will be worse than what we have witnessed in the past two years.
Indeed, if and when a peace agreement is reached, the violent energy will be directed inwardly. In the absence of leadership, vision, guidance and a national process of reconciliation, we should brace ourselves for a future of internal violence in both societies. It is a proven fact that abused people will turn to abuse others, mainly their children.
The second lesson is that violence, particularly against civilians, can only serve to deepen the fear and insecurity of any given population, thus making it hostage to militaristic propensity, and dependent on, if not identifying with, extremist ideals. In the case of Palestine and Israel, the picture today is very disturbing. Sharon was brought to power by a frightened Israel and by the Palestinian bullet. His reign thrives on Palestinian terror and violence. By the same token, Palestinian militant, Islamic and secular groups compete for popular support by becoming more and more violent. The Israeli and Palestinian peace camps are thus driven into silence and marginality.
The third and most important lesson is that it is only Palestinians and Israelis who can make peace. Jewish and Palestinian populations in the Diaspora can play an important role in this respect.

Non-Violent Resistance is the Best Form of Struggle

Since Palestinians believe that the best form of resistance is the non violent form of struggle, both the Palestinian and Israeli masses should rise together against the evils and terrors of war. The ultimate political solution would have to be just, fair and viable. In the core of any settlement lies the wise vision of peace, but only courageous leaders can fulfill the promise. Israel's military occupation of Palestinian land is the root of all evil. The US's unconditional support of Israel, regardless of its violations of UN Security Council resolutions and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, is hypocritical and evil, and will continue to be a source of conflict with Arabs and Muslims. The West should know the Jewish problem is not yet solved and that it will not be solved until the Palestinian's legitimate rights are restored and protected.
The war in Iraq will be seized upon by the racist military regime in Israel, headed by the trio of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Shaul Mofaz, as an opportunity to finalize the goals of the 1948 "war of independence," namely to steal more land by driving Palestinians out and forcing the rest into living in apartheid Bantustans. This is not fiction. This is what the Israeli army chief of staff declared. He is the same man who said Palestinians are a cancer, which needs a more radical treatment than the mere chemotherapy of bombing!
Enlightened Jews, Palestinians and friends of peace and justice every- where should rise above the ocean of hatred and division and be united in their struggle to achieve their noble goals.

Other Resistance Movements Should Serve as a Guide

The experience of other resistance movements should guide us. Most notably, the South African revolt against apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) was a democratic movement that had among its leaders some courageous and visionary whites. The inclusion of white activists was fundamentally due to the fact that they believed in the principle of the movement, which had noble goals. This served to elevate the struggle to a level of popularity worldwide. The same applied to the Algerian revolution, which was decisively supported by French activists and intellectuals.
Unfortunately, Palestinians and Arabs have not fully understood the nature of Zionism and are thus unable to isolate the extremist and racist elements in order to expose them. They have also failed to build alliances with Jews, many of whom are anti-Zionist and object to the immoral, expansionist, colonial and military occupation of Palestinian land. Instead, Arabs have grouped all Jews into one category of enemies, which fits the tactics of the Zionist establishment precisely, as they seek to secure control and manipulation of the Jews worldwide through making them think the whole Arab and Islamic world is against them. Jews, thus, were driven out of or fled from - Baghdad, Cairo, Casablanca and Aden. It is important to mention that in some cases Jewish synagogues were bombed by extremist Zionists.
There was little attempt by Arab politicians and intellectuals to understand the Israeli "enemy." Furthermore, any attempt at the extension of understanding and reconciliation was targeted as the work of a fifth column. In the meantime, Israel has engulfed itself in a shell of paranoia and fear.

Israelis Deny Palestinian Existence

The Israelis have overindulged in a process of total denial of the Palestinians' existence. This process further developed into blaming and demonizing the victim. There is no doubt such a situation was exacerbated by the surrounding hostile Arab environment, which was only a normal reaction to the Arabs' humiliating defeat and their desire for revenge. In the final analysis, both people are defeated by this situation. Israel, which was supposed to be the safe haven for the Jews of the world, turned out to be a slaughterhouse for both Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, the Palestinians have been defeated on more than one front; they have lost their land, and have been unable to launch a successful resistance movement. Instead they have been encumbered by inefficiency and poor vision.
We do not have the luxury, however, to cry over spilled milk. We should rise again, together against racism, paranoia, hatred and revenge. People who believe in peace across the divide should never tire. The way I see hope is only when a Palestinian-Israeli peace movement is capable of inspiring the beleaguered masses into joining ranks and working together against the tyranny of militants and military dictatorship, in order to instill hope and stretch it to the borders of life.