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.
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
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.