By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The failure to achieve a two-state solution is a forgone conclusion because Israel has been allowed to flout the international laws with impunity. The Palestinians missed the last opportunity to establish their state on the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, which constitute only twenty-two percent of historical Palestine when the leaders of the PLO signed the 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP) in Oslo. The DOP denied the UN any role in the so called peace process. Oslo gave the Israelis time to create facts on the ground, tighten their grip on the territories and sustain the illusion that the Palestinian Authority (PA) rules the Palestinians. The Oslo agreements set the stage for the end of the two-state solution until President Bush declared its death when he gave in writing US support of Israel’s refusal to withdraw to the pre-June 1967 borders and its insistence on annexing Jewish settlements and denying the refugees’ right of return.
There is no progress toward a peace agreement, no removal of hundreds of checkpoints and no halt in settlements expansion or the construction of the separation wall or the raids and assassinations. The only positive development is the recent cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel that may lead to occasional open border crossing gates without lifting the siege on Gaza and the West Bank, but the cease-fire cannot be an alternative to having a Palestinian state. With the failure of the so called peace talks, the Palestinians have to consider their options.
One option is to use the American Indian reservation model designated as “Palestinians’ territory” or pre-1994 South African Apartheid government established Bantustans in three disconnected Palestinian enclaves as proposed by Israel and the US today.
Like the indigenous Palestinians before the invasion of their country by the Zionists, the Indians populated the Americas prior to its discovery by the Europeans. The Americans have a long shameful history of dealing with the Native Americans since they colonized the New World. Ironically, the early Puritan European settlers (the Pilgrims) compared themselves to the ancient Israelites. They likened New England to the land of Palestine and the Native Americans to the Amalekites and Canaanites. The Amalekites is the ancient Biblical name of Canaan tribes who populated the land of historic Palestine and Sinai Peninsula as told in the Old Testament. For centuries, the American Indians had been displaced by the settlers or annihilated whenever they resisted the occupation or the exploitation of their land until they were defeated. They were enslaved laboring in mines, plantations, and fur enterprises. They worked as agricultural labors for the White man long and hard hours in land that once was theirs.
The American Indian nation has been forced to live in concentrated and marginal lands in enclaves under direct control by the US government. The US federal government followed policy of acquiring Indian lands through treaties under the threat of military actions by which Indians ceded parts of their national land to the US. They have been deprived of their land and the underground mineral and energy resources in their reservations in the name of US national interests. Their economic conditions are similar to those in under-developed countries.
The pre-1994 South African white minority settlers’ Apartheid government established Bantustans in several disconnected enclaves similar to the American Indian reservations for the purpose of concentrating the South African indigenous black population and making their autonomous nation states ethnically homogeneous with no real power. Like Israel-US offer to the Palestinians, some Bantustans were granted independence by the Apartheid government. Bophuthatswana under Lucas Mangope as head of state was given independence in 1977 with no control over its borders and resources; and not coincidently, only Israel among all world nations besides South Africa recognized Bophuthatswana as an independent state.
Israel and the US plan to force the Palestinians to live in their population centers “territory” enclaves or “Bantustans” that has the façade of a state with a president, ministers, legislative council, Judiciary, ambassadors and even several military forces that guarantee Israel’s security but no freedom of movement, no control over taxation, the borders, water resources, shore and airspace. They are offering the Palestinians some sandy terrain in the Negev along Gaza border in exchange for annexing forty percent of the occupied land. Tony Blair recommends, on behalf of the Quartet group of Middle East peacemakers, the construction of new housing projects in the West Bank for repatriating hundreds of thousands of refugees as a solution to their issue, ignoring the UN resolutions and without holding Israel responsible for their suffering. The national homeland of the Palestinians as envisioned by President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be the same as Bophuthatswana under Lucas Mangope. This is the offered two-state solution, but it is not what the Palestinians fought and died for!
With the failure of the two-state solution, the Palestinians have to look for other options. They may choose the Algerians’ liberation war against France model or the South African National Congress (ANC) example after its military wing was defeated and most of its leaders including Nelson Mandela were jailed.
The Algerians National Liberation Front (NLF) defeated the superior French military in a war that lasted from 1954 to 1962 and forced France to recognize Algeria’s independence. It was at the cost of more than one million killed, victims of fighting and collective punishment, and hundreds of thousands deported or confined into besieged refugee camps. The NLF had strong logistic support from neighboring Tunisia and Morocco and Egypt under President Nasser provided arms and financial aid. And more important, the Algerian leaders were uncompromising on freeing every inch of their country from the French colonialists. The Palestinian people have already matched the Algerians in their sacrifices, but the PLO leadership compromised too much in Oslo agreements with the Israelis. They only got “municipal responsibilities in Bantustans controlled from the outside by Israel” according to the late Edward Said.
During the liberation war, the NFL divided Algeria into six sectors each with its own fighting unit cooperating in the military and political war against the French colonialists; but the Palestinian leadership has divided the occupied land into two territories and the Palestinians into two competing groups fighting each other. The PLO leaders who control the West Bank today have transformed themselves from leading a liberation movement into a Palestinian Authority (PA) bureaucrats and part time business people running their consumers monopolies for personal profit. They transformed their liberation militias into the image of Antoine Lahad South Lebanese Army supporting the Israelis in the fight against the occupation resistance. They traded the national cause for handouts from donors who do not conceal their hostility toward the Palestinians.
The Palestinians under the present conditions are too weak militarily and politically to follow the Algerian example. None of the Arab countries would risk angering Israel and the US and support militarily or politically an armed revolt against Israel. The Palestinian resistance against occupation has been stamped as terrorism. The US and the EU governments boycotted the democratically elected Hamas led government in 2007 and suspended the foreign aid that had kept the Palestinian Authority afloat since it was created in 1994.
Another option to consider is the South African ANC non-violent struggle after the defeat of its military wing.
When the South African Apartheid regime defeated the military wing of the ANC, most of ANC leaders had been killed, imprisoned or exiled; then its surviving members shifted their focus only on the morality of their case. They organized missions to explain the situation in South Africa and delegitimize the apartheid regime. World public opinion and human rights organizations pressured the European governments and their public to withdraw recognition of the Apartheid government and boycotted South African products and foreign businesses investing in South Africa. The American people supported the boycott but the US government was the last country to join; and when the Apartheid regime capitulated it was recognized only by one country, Israel!
The Palestinians can only follow the ANC example, by ending the armed struggle and turning to a peaceful moral offensive campaign directed at the public opinion in the West, Asia, Africa and Israel. Under this initiative, the goal of the Palestinians should be to isolate and delegitimize the Israeli occupation and highlight the Palestinians’ human rights through a well organized campaign in all countries of the world. They should advocate the “one-state solution” where Palestinians and Israelis can live together peacefully in a one liberal democratic state and it does not matter what it will be called.
This initiative should be undertaken by Palestinian intellectuals from the occupied land, Israeli Palestinians, the refugee camps, the worldwide Palestinian communities, international human rights organizations and Jewish and Israeli peace activists. They should hold their own international conference and invite human rights organizations and likeminded Jews and Israelis to participate and support the moral initiative. To depoliticize the conference, individuals affiliated with the PA and Hamas governments may attend but not as sponsors. The initiative should create an environment where Israeli leaders from the “peace camp”, such as the former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg, not to be ostracized by the Israeli right wing leaders for asking Israel to cease being a Jewish state. The initiative should encourage more Israeli leaders to join Avraham Burg by emphasizing that the initiative is for the benefits of the two peoples and against the destruction of Israel or the dispossession of Israelis. The Palestinians have no recourse but to transform this peace initiative into a movement with one goal in mind, one liberal democratic state for two peoples.
The Palestinians can win over the world opinion including the Israeli public because they have a strong moral and human rights case. They won the sympathy of World public opinion in the first intifada when they did not resort to acts of violence inside Israel or used firearms in the uprising and the Israeli government failed to justify killing and injuring the unarmed civilians, mostly children. And many in the international community recognized the right of the Palestinians to be free, until the PLO stepped in and squandered the gains of the Intifada by signing the Oslo agreements that brought us to this point.
It is time for the Palestinian people to stop the ongoing negotiations over their legitimate human rights as rewards for “good behavior” and start insisting that their God-given rights are nonnegotiable.
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D, is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.