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Palestinians in Need of Their Own Awakening

Ramzy Baroud

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There is an awakening in Israel, and less conspicuously among Jewish intellectuals elsewhere, coupled with a dramatic shift in terminology that conveys a different breed of apprehension: suicide bombings, militants, and Molotov cocktails are conceding to a much greater distress: demography, Jewish identity, democracy vs. apartheid. Opposite to Israel?s rude awakening however, the Palestinian leadership swarms with confusion, unable to unify its ranks behind a single idea. In an attempt to reflect political shrewdness they are only yielding further ideological disintegration.

Tired of the conflict, many descendants of Jewish immigrants are returning to their countries of origin. Palestinians, of course, have nowhere else to go.

Tired of the conflict, many descendants of Jewish immigrants are returning to their countries of origin. Palestinians, of course, have nowhere else to go.

Fifty-five years after its compulsory creation on the ruins of hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages, Israel never appeared so uncertain. In the New York Review of Books, Tony Judt, a scholar and essayist described Israel?s current status as an anachronism. “The very idea of a ?Jewish state??a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded? is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.”

Such audacity, not surprisingly, classified Judt as a “Nazi Left” whose contemplation of a bi-national, democratic state was “pandering to genocide.” Harvard?s Alan Dershowitz equated the idea with Adolf Hitler’s “one-state solution for all of Europe.”

Such intellectual scuffling could be discounted as temporary, harsh yet needed self-examination. Perhaps. But in Israel, the debate is much more accentuated and painfully real. Such characters as Ehud Olmert, former Mayor of Jerusalem and today?s deputy-prime-minister, known for his far-right vision of the Land of Greater Israel, is calling for unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, to preserve as much land as possible with as few Palestinians as possible. The status quo was “destroying Zionism” he said in an interview with a Hebrew daily. Jews must make “hard and fateful decisions sooner than later because later could be too late.”

Olmert?s “political bomb” inflamed emotions; a right-wing group dotted Jerusalem?s walls with graffiti where the devout Zionist was caricatured as a “self-hating Jew” wearing a Nazi insignia. “For the first time in the history of the Likud (of which Olmert is a central figure), one of our ministers is proposing we flee our very soul, the western land of Israel,” a Likud minister Tzhai Hanegbi reacted.

But considering the long-lasting consensus in Israel over a Jewish entitlement to the Occupied Territory, as a common denominator between Zionist ideologues and religious zealots, one must concur that the calls for unilateral withdrawal by rightwing politicians constitute an awakening of reasonable magnitude. This intensely emerging realization in Israel must eventually force itself upon the government?s policies. The likelihood is that demographics would eventually win over the desire to maintain futile military dominion over bombed out and destitute Palestinian population centres.

On the other hand, there is a widening rift between the Palestinian leadership and society, at home and in Diaspora.
More and more Palestinians are giving their backing to groups such as Hamas, who ? unlike the Palestinian Authority ? remain firm in their opposition to Israel?s aggression.
Palestinians in the Occupied Territory have spawned and nourished a genuine uprising, which reflected their enduring commitment to realize an end to the military occupation of their land. And yet, the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly expressed its willingness to return to the “negotiation table”, without conditions and based on Israeli and American terms.

Ordinary Palestinians remain the ultimate victims of this conflict, whether living at home or dwelling in poverty-stricken refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere, yet they are the last to be consulted on the most imperative matters. The signing of the unofficial Geneva Accords, which was endorsed by PA President Yasser Arafat, is a case in point.

The Palestinian leadership is suffering from a chronic case of double-talk. On one hand, Palestinians are assured that the right of return is a prime objective and a cause that can never be forgotten, while on the other hand, top officials are assuring Israel that discarding the right of return can also be forfeited for the sake of the ever misrepresented “comprehensive solution” to the conflict.

“Does it ever dawn on Palestinian leaders that they might have an easier time winning the hearts and trust of their own people if they would just be upfront about what they plan to do instead of making empty promises they do not intend to keep?” writes Palestinian-American Sherri Muzher, a question that candidly reflects a mounting sense of betrayal that once again overshadows the ranks of Palestinian intellectuals everywhere.

While the ongoing Israeli debate emphasizes the decaying principals of Zionism and racial superiority of a state that stands at odds with history, recklessly trying to integrate a “late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on,” the Palestinian leadership and its ever-shrinking intellectual circle, stands at odds with its own people.

The old guards of Zionism are in urgent need of a “Palestinian side” that validates their exclusivist vision of a Jewish state; the Geneva Accords and cornering a powerful segment within the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as a “state for the Jewish people”, are all an attempt to achieve a speedy reconciliation of a fading Zionist dream with a qualified two-state solution that has become, according to Labour leader Shimon Peres, the “paramount Zionist interest”.

The Palestinian leadership must redefine its priority and cease its playing into the hands of Israel?s Apartheid-like solutions, merely designed to herd the bulk of Palestinians in isolated cantons so that Israel can remain predominantly Jewish.

Palestinians need their own awakening as well, before the small crack turns into a rift that cannot be mended. While outside the official circle, Palestinians appear to be coherent on much of their aspirations, some influential elements within their leadership seem to be oblivious to much of their rightful aspirations, which were never intended to be bargaining chips and certainly do not deserve to be classified under the ever-generous category of “compromise”.


Published Wednesday, December 24th, 2003 - 04:29pm GMT

Ramzy Baroud is the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle.

Article courtesy of Palestine Chronicle

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