I do not know how to measure pain or how to quantify suffering, but one of the ironies of history is that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the oppressor seems to hate its victim much more than the victim hates its oppressor. I never liked to indulge in comparative martyrology, but Israelis will be well advised to bear in mind that a society that shows insensitivity to the suffering it inflicts should expect an erosion of the expression of sympathy for the suffering it has endured.
How can one describe the prevailing situation seen through Palestinian eyes?
The Nakba — "catastrophe" — is not a frozen moment in history that happened sometime in 1948. It is undeniably an ongoing process today.
What we have witnessed during the years of theoretical peacemaking between 1991 and 2014 was not an Israeli withdrawal, but an expansion of its occupation through the accelerated growth of illegal settlements. The consistent policies of successive Israeli governments — left, right and center — have been how to acquire as much of Palestinian geography as possible with as little Palestinian demography as possible.
With the Arab Peace Initiative on offer since 2002 — one could argue since the adoption by the Fez summit of the Fahd Plan in 1982 — the diplomatic impasse is not due to an Arab rejection of Israeli existence, but by an Israeli rejection of Arab acceptance because of the territorial prerequisite.
Deterrence is a legitimate policy. It is a valid aim to dissuade a neighbor from undertaking policies that might be detrimental to one’s own interests. Compellence, this little used concept, better describes the Israeli doctrine and policies. Compellence aims to coerce a neighbor, rearranging and reordering the physical environment into something believed to best suit one’s own interests. Perpetuating the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in spite of the Oslo Accords, which recognize the Palestinians' right to territorial integrity, the erection of the Wall of Shame deep into Palestinian territories and the work to amputate the Jordan Valley are all components in this strategy of compellence. Security comes as a result of regional acceptance, not from territorial aggrandizement, and the Palestinians are the key to the regional acceptance of Israel.
We applauded the birth of the Quartet, but it turned out to be a one-tête operation, with the Americans monopolizing the decision-making and immobilizing the diplomatic machinery that was supposed to work for an international consensus. Each time, the Americans promised us pressure on Israel only to offer the political weight of Liechtenstein.
The United States has repeatedly stated that the birth of a Palestinian state was an American national interest, that the unresolved Palestinian problem put American interests, regionally and globally, at risk. The United States says is committed to Israel’s existence, but not to its expansion. During his first mandate, President Barack Obama was publicly humiliated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and in Washington itself — on several occasions. The tragicomic 29 standing ovations Netanyahu enjoyed on Capitol Hill in 2011 after uttering every possible platitude made longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery write that it reminded him of a Stalinist parliament. The only difference was that the undignified and shameful behavior of the US legislators was not subjugation to a local dictator, but to a visiting foreign dignitary. Netanyahu has tamed and domesticated the US administration, and American diplomacy on Israel/Palestine is a coerced diplomacy. The appearance of collusion between Israel and the United States aims to keep America on a collision course with the Arab and Muslim worlds.
In the Middle East today, the moral dilemma and political challenge concern two possibilities: There is either one people too many — in other words, we, the Palestinians — or we are missing a state. I have always believed that a state was a right of the Palestinian people. For Israelis and Jewish communities around the world, a Palestinian state is also a moral obligation and political duty, because they, more than anyone else, know the price, individually and collectively, paid by Palestinians for the creation of Israel.
History is still undecided. Who will help it down the right path? In world politics, Palestine has always been a test of moral courage, exposing political cowardice. Let us hope that the region finds the strength to achieve justice in the not too distant future.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly