By Stuart Reigeluth
The Israelis are anything but stupid. However their cleverness and innovation in perfecting the technological, logistical and financial dimensions of the military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land make the situation nearly impossible to reverse — but not impossible, if it weren’t for European endorsement.
While the United States continues with its carte blanche foreign policy of supporting Israel blindly in all forms of security and military material, Europe — that has much more to gain from changing its policies towards the Palestinians — is still essentially paying for the continuation of the Israeli occupation by covering costs to maintain the Palestinian National Authority.
Besides around €500 million per year to sustain the Palestinian institutional apparatus in Ramallah and the West Bank. European countries also contribute over €500 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, which provides education and jobs to thousands of disenfranchised Palestinians in Gaza, as well as to refugee camps in the West Bank and in neighbouring camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. While Israel continues to colonise and annex occupied Jerusalem, the question must be asked: is Europe not encouraging the status quo?
The problem with the Palestinian disaster is that there is no closure. Prior to and during Second World War, the population of Silesia experienced deportations and transfers. After the war, most of Silesia went to Poland; a smaller part went to Czechoslovakia. There was no Silesia any longer. Prussia also disappeared, as have other states.
Whatever remains now of British mandate Palestine is evidence of more spoils of war. With the creation of modern Israel in 1947-49, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled by force or fled from marauding Jewish militias that blew up and razed over 400 villages. This is all well known, and yet the Palestinian disaster persists.
These formative years of the Palestinian national consciousness became known as the Nakba (catastrophe). This catastrophe continues to be present in the hearts and minds of Arabs because the same humiliation, the same intention to expel the Palestinians and to colonise Palestinian territory is still ongoing today. Nasserism, Baathism and other attempts to unify the Arabs and rectify Palestinian loss all flopped. The rise of Jamal Abdul Nasser in the 1950s and his hero stature in the 1960s culminated in massive pre-emptive strikes by Israel in 1967 that decimated neighbouring Arab armies, expanding the territorial control of ‘Greater Israel’ to biblical dimensions.
With the 1967 Naksa (set-back), it’s been a series of defeats for the Arabs, until the stand-off between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 and between Hamas and Israel in 2008-09. Whether these were ‘divine’ victories is debatable, but one thing is for sure: neither Islamist groups lost as the national armies previously had — on the contrary they resisted.
Now we have this face-off between Islamist groups and an increasingly strong far-right bloc in Israeli politics — not a particularly conducive scenario for negotiations to take hold. Caught in this vicious cycle now of accusing the other of having no partner with whom to negotiate, each side will resort to violence until the stronger wins or the weaker surrenders.
Since the Islamists are on the rise and have justice and truth on their side — everyone agrees that the Israeli occupation is illegal and morally repugnant (even Israelis) — then Hamas and their allies are not about to surrender.
But neither is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who has been dubbed ‘King of Israel’), and his newly consolidated control of Israeli politics — with the entry of the more centrist opposition of Kadima into his coalition — about to end the occupation and colonisation of Palestine. It’s simply too lucrative for Israel: there is a big business to the military occupation, which has become so fine-tuned that it has become normal.
Of course the argument in favour of European financial support is that without the euros coming in the PNA would crumble. The problem is not so much in European financial support but rather in the fact that there is no political strength to enforce that support. Israel is not held accountable for destroying EU-funded projects for example.
The European Commission announced that nearly ¤50 million worth of Palestinian projects were destroyed over the past 10 years by Israel. Meanwhile, Israel enjoys tremendous trade relations with the European Union. These economic ties are subject to next to no conditionality from Brussels. Conditionality and accountability need to be implemented to change the status quo.
This is a status quo ‘plus colonies’ that depicts Israeli intentions to keep colonising Palestine while only being slapped on the wrist by political denunciations made by Europe and Washington. Then there is the diversion of potential war with Iran that most of Netanyahu’s cabinet seems rather excited to promote to avoid nuclear parity in the region.
Above all there is no interest from any Israeli leader to change this status quo because they benefit in every way. And there is no Israeli leader with enough courage to see that the long-term benefits of reconciling with the Arab world outweigh by far the current gains. With no closure from Israel, the Palestinian disaster continues.
– Stuart Reigeluth is editor of Revolve Magazine and works at the Council for European Palestinian Relations in Brussels. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was originally published in Gulf News – www.gulfnews.com)