By Tariq Shadid
No one today can deny that the Palestinian cause for liberation, independence and sovereignty is in dire straits. Having survived and stood through many of the most extreme challenges, like expulsion, imprisonment, expropriation, statelessness, military oppression and many other atrocities, since the Zionist invasion of their lands, the Palestinians have rarely been in a more difficult position, than they are now.
Israel is militarily stronger than ever, despite its defeat on Lebanese soil by the Hizbollah resistance, and facts on the ground are overwhelmingly to its advantage. At the same time, its alliance with the US, the world’s strongest superpower, has never been more intensive, more visible, and more outspoken. The situation in terms of Israeli land ‘acquisition’ – stolen Palestinian land puckered with settlements, ‘Jews-only’ roads, and military encampments – is one, where one can safely state, that no viable Palestinian state can physically be brought into existence upon the left-over pieces of walled-in Palestinian land.
For this reason, when Olmert speaks to the cameras of the world’s mass media, and when Abu Mazen declares a cease-fire with Israel, and when talk of a Palestinian state is once again present in the statements, it is wise to be extra cautious, before drawing any quick conclusions.
Under the Oslo agreements, Israel was able to use the ‘peace-talks’ as a smoke-screen to expand land-grabbing activities, and even doubling its settler population from 200.000 to 400.000 in the course of that infamous ten-year period. After ‘Oslo’ was declared a failure, due to the Israeli-provoked Al Aqsa Intifada, its Phoenix, the ‘Road Map’, arose from its ashes, which served as a similar detour, giving Israel the space to grab more lands, construct its Apartheid Wall, and solidify the illegal land acquisitions of the Oslo-period.
In Dutch, there is a saying that goes: “Even a donkey doesn’t hurt its leg against the same rock twice.” The obvious message in this, is that once you have identified the pattern or cause of your problem, you will try to avoid falling into the same trap again. The situation the Palestinian people find themselves faced with now, is one that calls for bearing this in mind at the very least.
Is ‘political realism’, and the fact that military and economical superiority is the overwhelming advantage of their foes, a reason for the Palestinians to settle for a ‘state’ consisting of roughly four patches of land with meagre water resources, encircled by walls, minefields and barbed wire? All this, in economically disastrous conditions, without Jerusalem, and without the right of return for almost 6 million Palestinians in the Diaspora? If this is, what the current Palestinian Authority has in mind, then the present course taken by Mahmoud Abbas is logical. However, if there are any other requirements included in their goals, for example having Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, then there can be no advantage whatsoever to resuming the negotiations under the present conditions.
Another counter-productive form of Palestinian action, that is currently being practiced, is the firing of the Qassam missiles, which in fact are enlarged, metal-forged fireworks, that have rarely caused any casualties. Since Israel has succeeded in creating the image in the minds of the public in the West, that these Qassams are serious missiles, it consistently gets away with the ‘retaliation-formula’, as was the case with the recent bone-chilling Beit Hanoun massacres by the Israeli army.
Reactions of Western leaders to these mass-murders were exceptionally slow and mild, if they reacted at all. Attention was focused on the 18 deaths in one family, while Israel apologized for this and declared it a ‘mistake’, but the fact that it was, by then, already waging a week-long string of massacres, that had claimed the life of over 70 people in total, was almost completely ignored in the media.
It is obvious, that when you have nothing to put up against Israel militarily, it is better to not engage in forms of resistance that only end up to your own disadvantage. Nevertheless, the resistance fighters in Gaza are undeniably exercising their right of resistance against occupation under international law, since Israel continues to subject Gaza and the West-Bank to a suffocating siege, forcing the Palestinians to live through a humanitarian crisis.
Therefore, it is not a question of whether resistance should be waged, but rather a question of how to wage it, which is a matter of strategy. And in the present situation, we can simply rule out success for any military option, since the Palestinians simply do not possess the means to win anything that way. Still, the need for resistance is obvious.
In the legendary second Intifada of 1987 (also counting the Intifada of 1936), the Palestinian people rebelled with stones, against this same heavily armed invading force. Living in the West, I remember not only the enormous symbolic impact it had upon people’s perceptions of the situation in the Middle East, but also its empowering effect upon the Palestinian people themselves. Let us not forget, that the almost 60-year ongoing Nakba has created many ‘brands’ of Palestinians now: Jordanian Palestinians, Lebanese Palestinians, West Bank Palestinians, American Palestinians and so on. It is not only in the interest, but even one of the goals of the Zionist state, to keep those divisions alive, and if possible, consolidate them.
It is, however, in the interest of the Palestinian people to realize that they number 9 million worldwide, and that none of these ‘sub-brands’ have any more, or less, legal claim to a Palestinian homeland than others among them. This is why resistance becomes not only a job for those living ‘inside’, but for all of the 9 million worldwide.
What I am talking about is the Fourth Intifada, an outspokenly and indefinitely non-violent one, where people inside of Palestine would risk their lives throwing only stones at Israeli soldiers, and holding peaceful protest marches, similar to those already regularly organized by grassroots organizations like Stop the Wall (www.stopthewall.org). In the mean time, it is not too much to ask from Palestinians outside of Palestine, to risk their money, their positions, and their friendships, by engaging in writing and public speaking, approaching official and alternative media, engaging parliamentarians if they live in democracies, and setting up monetary funds for filling the humanitarian needs of their people under occupation.
This way, the battle could take up a new dimension, one that is more difficult to abuse by the world’s mass-media, and could bring back to life the wide-spread, but slumbering sentiments of world-wide sympathy towards the Palestinian cause. Voices in the west calling for a boycott of Israeli goods could be empowered, and tipping the scale towards real pressure upon Israel could then become a realizable goal. However, under the current stalemate, hopes for causing public opinion to play a more important role in the decision-making, are repeatedly dashed.
In my view, it is either this or a Third Oslo, which promises to be nothing but a repetition of promises that have become, by now, even physically impossible to realize, because of Israel’s consistent ‘fait accomplit’ strategy on the ground. So if you are Palestinian, and you’re thinking of going that way again, just remember to think about the donkey, and the stone he decided to avoid.
-Tariq Shadid is a Palestinian surgeon and media activist, living in the Netherlands, who writes for the Palestine Chronicle on a regular basis. In 2001, he initiated the still active musical internet project “The Musical Intifadah” (www.docjazz.com). He is also board member and spokesman of the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands, and member of the central action committee of the Dutch Stop the War Coalition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.