I have always been very optimistic that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will one day be achieved. Yet, I cannot be the optimist I once was about the new round of “peace talks” recently launched by Secretary of State John Kerry. For the sake of peace, however, I, as well as the majority of Palestinians, hope that peace will finally be achieved although we are not holding our breaths. This is the last chance for peace.
On the 20th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords, which I witnessed on the White House Rose Garden, it is fitting to say that we have been talking endlessly to no real end. What many perceived as the final chapter of the long enduring conflict was only a mirage in the desert seen by Palestinians while the Israelis knew that the thirst for peace would not be fulfilled. With each passing unattained deadline; with the quadrupling of colony activity by Israeli right wing fanatics; with each assault on Gaza; and with the building of the Apartheid Wall, as well as many other measures that deflated rather than elevated the prospects for peace, I, along with a great majority of Palestinians, have become pessimistic. Secretary of State Kerry’s attempt to broker a Middle East peace does not alleviate this changed attitude.
Ever since the Madrid Conference in 1991, we have been talking with the Israelis. Except for a limited, very limited, autonomy in the form of an “authority” over only populous Palestinian cities called Area A, the “talks” have led to a massive confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and an increased hawkish mentality within Israel that will not dismantle the occupation’s military apparatus but rather has fermented that hateful feeling that the insidious Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its decadent blockade of Gaza will last forever. All the while, Israel tells the world that Palestinians in Gaza cannot oppose, in any form, the open-air prison that Israel imposes. Palestinians cannot fire rockets into Israel; cannot seek United Nations statehood; and cannot attempt to go to the World Court to bring Israeli leaders before an international tribunal for international war crimes. We cannot even have democratic elections unless the outcome of the elections is what Israel and the US will accept.
Agreements were made but not regarding final status maters—which kept getting put on the back burner that never gets lit. The Oslo Accords called for final status negotiations to begin no later than May 1996. Fast forward seventeen years later on the 20th Anniversary of Oslo. Palestinians and Israelis are now “talking” once more after a three year stall due to Israeli refusal to freeze its expansion of its colonies on Palestinian land and their insistence of no preconditions to talks, while the Palestinians did not want to talk for the sake of talking and wanted to finally discuss a final status agreement. After a concession by Israel to release Palestinian political prisoners (prisoners who should not be prisoners in the first place), the pressure from the United States, a leading donor country, was too great for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to overcome and he finally relented to the “talks”. So we are now talking, yet again.
So here we are 20 years later waiting for the final status talks to conclude. While these “talks” are clouded in secrecy, the general sentiment among Palestinians is that this should be the final “Oslo” approach to attaining peace. Talking for the sake of talking will no longer be acceptable if the outcome of the “talks” does not bring forth a comprehensive peace agreement. The meaning of a comprehensive peace agreement does not mean that it is conditioned upon issues to be agreed upon in the future. It means a final agreement, an end to the conflict, a fully implemented peace treaty that covers all aspect, all issues and all-encompassing matters.
Comprehensive peace agreement also means that the following major issues will be resolved:
· Jerusalem’s status
· Palestinian refugee right to return or be compensated
· Established secure borders of the two states
· Water rights and control
· Removal of colonists in the West Bank or incorporating them into a Palestinian State
If the “talks” do not lead to a comprehensive peace agreement, a different Palestinian strategy needs to emerge. A strategic discussion of that alternative path to be addressed now, less we continue to stagnate for years without any real direction.
I am no supporter of violence and strongly believe that the rockets launched from Gaza into Israel and the use of suicide bombers against civilian targets leads to a negative perception of the Palestinians. Yet, I also strongly believe that those under occupation have a fundamental right to resist that occupation. I equate the Palestinian right to resist to that of the American colonies right to declare independence against a King who amassed troops in the Colonies to control the population, who taxed them without representation and who imposed a series of intolerable acts upon Americans. The grievances that Palestinians have against Israel are not less intolerable. They include:
· Taxation in the Palestinian territories is beholden to the whims of the Israeli government. Israel collects about two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority‘s self-generated revenue which, since the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, has been routinely withheld by Israel. No self-respecting people would tolerate this. The Thirteen American colonies did not and neither should the Palestinians.
· Israel has two sets of laws for two peoples—which clearly show that Israel is practicing apartheid:
o Israelis living illegally in the West Bank are allowed to carry Uzi submachine guns which they use to intimidate Palestinians. Palestinians, on the other hand, are not allowed to carry any form of arms, including rocks.
o These gun-taunting Jews are never prosecuted for their criminal activities including the destruction of Palestinian olive groves.
o License plates on the West Bank are color coded to inform the soldiers whether the occupants are Jews or Palestinians.
o By-pass roads are for the exclusive use of Jews while Palestinians are subjected to dehumanizing military checkpoints.
o Palestinians are brutally subjected to imprisonment under military administrative detention orders that are renewable every six months; no formal charges are ever presented in open court; and no trial is ever forthcoming. Many Palestinians linger in Israeli military jails without ever having been accused of any crime and without being tried in court. Their detention is summarily extended under the guise of the military detention used by the British Mandate law of 1945 entitled Law on Authority in States of Emergency. As many as 200 Palestinian children, some between the ages of 12 to 15, are currently detained in such fashion. In July, 2013, Israeli soldiers even detained a 5 year old child.
o Palestinians are not free to move from one part of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority to another and cannot go from the West Bank to Gaza or vice versa. Abusive military checkpoints dot the landscape, many of which are mobile, leaving the Palestinian population to wonder how long a normal 10 minute trip between Ramallah and Beir Zeit will take—sometimes hours.
· Israel has built an apartheid wall
o That divides and encircles towns into conclaves with controlled military gates that subject the Palestinians to the whims of the Israeli soldiers. This has created many open-air ghetto/enclave prisons;
o That divides landowners from their farms thus depriving the use of the land which benefits Israeli farmers;
o That divide relatives from each other;
o That inhibits the flow of commerce, thus imposing a stranglehold upon the Palestinian economy; and
o That cuts into more than 8.5% of Palestinian land on the West Bank an area that is less than 22% of the original partition by the United Nations in 1948.
No people can tolerate living under such grievances. The human spirit, inherent in all peoples, will not tolerate a permanent status which subjugates their inalienable right to be free. If the current “talks” do not end the Israeli military occupation of Palestine, the Palestinian human spirit needs to find another path to freedom. Looking back at the endless path that the Oslo peace process has taken over the past 20+ years would beget Palestinians to search for a new path to the inevitable desire for the human spirit to be free.
The first Palestinian Intifada which began in December, 1987 paved the road to the Madrid Conference in 1991. Talks ensued thereafter only to be usurped by secret talks in Oslo, Norway which lead to the Oslo Accords signed on September 13, 1993 at the White House Rose Garden. The Palestinian Authority took root in the West Bank and Gaza; hopes for peace were so high that many Palestinians activists became complacent. Then the peace process was derailed when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist and by Palestinian suicide bombers, both bent on scuttling the peace process. Benjamin Netanyahu became the Israeli Prime Minister and changed the Madrid Conference formula from “land for peace” to “land for security” demonstrating that the Israeli use of the English language was superior to that of the Palestinians in that the former knew how to play on the sympathies of the American public. Netanyahu’s self-proclaimed efforts to kill the Oslo Accords, exposed in a 2001 video, were successful.
Nevertheless, the Oslo Accords timeline for final status talks came and went; new agreements were signed (Oslo II, Wye River and Sharm el-Sheik) and the Camp David and Taba Summits (2000-2001) proved that an impasse was evident. The September 11, 1991 attack by Al-Qada terrorists focused the world attention away from the Palestinian/Israeli conflict throughout President George W. Bush’s administration. While President Bush stated that the downfall of Saddam Hussein will lead to the democratization of the Middle East, paradoxically he and, not so surprisingly the Israelis, rejected the outcome of the Palestinian elections in 2006.
President Barrack Obama, although sincere in his efforts to achieve Middle East peace, could not budge the Israelis to stop the building of colonies on the West Bank, although succeeding American administrations called them “obstacles to peace.” Consumed with domestic economic woes brought about by the Great Recession, President Obama let the conflict in status quo doldrums. Israelis, happy to keep the status quo, insisted on the Palestinians returning peace talks without any preconditions—interpretation: Israelis wanted to continuously talk without talking about final status talks.
In the middle of the two decades of talks, a second Intifada took root. This time Israel crushed the uprising with its use of tanks and helicopter gunships; such military might was not seen in the First Intifada. The fact that the Palestinian police force was given guns through the Oslo Accords to maintain civil order gave the Israelis the perceived justification for its precipitous use of its full military force to put suppress the Second Intifada—youths throwing stones. Images of helicopter gunships attacking Ramallah in 2002 remain vivid memories. Israel also attacked Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus. Goliath was attacking David, yet the true story was not exposed as Israel prevented the media from entering the West Bank.
The perception of David vs. Goliath needs to be retold. Palestinians are the new David. But before Palestinians can take on the role of David, they need to reconcile amongst themselves. Fatah and Hamas need to reconcile at all costs. Read my article entitled “Demand Palestinian Reconcilation” on this subject at http://fadizanayed.blogspot.com/2013/04/demand-palestinian-reconcilation.html. Additionally, the Palestinians must not fall into the Israeli trap of a three state solution: Israel and Area C and most of Area B; Palestinian Authority controlling Area A and some parts of Area B; and Gaza controlled by Hamas. Read my article entitled Oppose the Israeli Three State Solution at http://fadizanayed.blogspot.com/2013/03/oppose-israeli-three-state-solution.html.
The new path the Palestinian Revolution needs to take needs to be unorthodox. Palestinians should endorse the following actions:
- · Palestinian unification. Palestinians should demand that Fatah and Hamas reconcile.
- · The Palestinian police should be ordered to take their guns and give them to the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints. We need to be David using a rock against the military might of the Big Israeli Army. We do not need the guns that are not effective against the Mighty Israel Army. We should confront Israel with our stones from Mother Earth against the tanks and helicopter gunships.
- · The Palestinian Authority should no longer accept money from donor nations. We cannot afford to be bribed into complacency and to accept the status quo of a continued brutal military occupation.
- · Palestinians should use their cameras, camcorders and cell phones to inundate Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all forms of social media with images of the atrocities of the Israeli army.
- · Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel
- · Palestinians need to organize a coherent message of non-violence that needs to be shared by thousands on these social media outlets. Throwing stones against the military occupier is within the international right of Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
- · Palestinian youth need to understand the power of the land and use it against the military occupation forces. This is not a call to arms but a call to repel the occupation.
I can hear the arguments stating that these actions will cause an increase of Palestinian suffering and that people will die. My answer: Palestinians are suffering and dying regardless, albeit these policies may increase the rate. I believe that Palestinians would rather die with their dignity rather than live in disgrace. The Palestinian youth understand that by allowing the status quo to linger, as did their fathers and grandfathers before, will only lead to the continued suppression of their inherent right to be free. Thus, the choice to rebel is easy. Either allow the status quo to linger and forever be occupied or rebel and free your human spirit.
The Palestinian human spirit to be free is no different than the human spirit inherent in all human beings desiring to be free. It is no different than the human spirit that inspired the American Colonies to declare themselves independent from a brutal King; that ignited Black South Africans to break the chains of apartheid; that encouraged African-Americans to March on Washington for equal rights; and that empowered the people of India to break the bonds of colonization. Read more about my thoughts on the human spirit to be free at http://fadizanayed.blogspot.com/2012/01/human-spirit-will-overthrow-apartheid.html
What alternative do the Palestinians have should the “talks” collapse? Should they accept the status quo and continue to be subjugated to the brutal Israeli occupation with the inherent bribery and forced complacency all the while seeing their land usurped dunnem by dunnem? Should the Palestinians give up, as the Israelis would love for them to do?
The human spirit inherent in all poeople will guide the Palestinians to a new revolutionary path should the “talks” collapse. That path should be guided by the moral cause against occupation and with the vision that the oppressed, the weak, the underdog will triumph over oppression, over colonization, over a contemptuous military occupation of Palestine..
It is a new revolution of Rocks vs. Tanks. Boy vs. Soldier. Right vs. Might.
It is the story of David vs. Goliath retold.