Samah Jabr: Stop another Nakba against Palestinians

By Dr. Samah Jabr

Finally, a Palestinian National Unity Government has been realized, but aid and international goodwill have not been showered over the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians are still starved, haunted, isolated and abandoned by the world.

Not even the latest Arab League adoption of the "pan-Arab initiative" of “A Land for Peace” peace plan could relieve Palestinians from their collective suffering due to the imposed economic blockade and the withholding of tax money, in addition to daily Israeli military strikes against Palestinian civilians.

To any Palestinian gesture, the Israeli response is always ready: “Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called on the international community to ensure that Israel’s right to exist is respected by any Palestinian government.”

In response to the summit, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres demanded free-of-charge normalization: "We propose that we meet without setting pre-conditions and negotiate," he said.

Israel and its American friends demand that the Saudis drop from their peace plan any mention of the refugee problem, a major issue in the conflict that has a mental and emotional significance that is affecting all Palestinians in the Diaspora as well as in the occupied land; and that the Palestinians respond to the Quartet’s demands, “recognizing Israel” on the top of the list.

The Arab peace plan, as it is, is already problematic in the eyes of the Palestinians; it says that there must be an "agreed upon" solution for the refugees. Agreed by whom? Why not, instead, enforce the already agreed upon United Nations resolution 194, which involves “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible?”

The language used in this plan tends to treat the Palestinian refugee situation as a mere humanitarian problem rather that a major political issue.

We should have no more illusions about peace through mere negotiations. Both Israel and the United States are not interested in peace; the peace plan is a bargain for them; they are only interested in crushing Palestinians to pieces so that they will have both the land and the peace only for themselves.

In response to the proposition of the one-State solution, Israel sighs in horror: “That will be the extermination of Jews.” In response to the two-State solution, Israel offered the answer pre-emptively by creating the wall inside the Palestinian territories and tearing the West Bank and Gaza into cantons, while always holding its grip on Jerusalem. Facts on the ground leave no possibility for a viable Palestinian State to ever emerge.

What the Arab peace plan suggests fails to restore justice or fairness to Palestinians in the vision of the majority of the people; and if it will ever be accomplished, then it should be a cold peace running counter to what politicians and ruling leaders have been advocating. Until then, civil society’s organizational, intellectual and cultural means and abilities available to them should campaign against normalization with Israel in all its political, social and economic dimensions and raise public awareness to the adverse effects that it will have on the Palestinian national and cultural interests.

But it seems that Arab leaders are willing to accept less than the lousy Arab summit’s peace plan. In April, King Abdullah II, while meeting with Israeli members of Parliament, spoke of the rights of compensation instead of the right to return. He said that the plan offers points for negotiation and Israel has the right to veto any point (this means that Israel can accept normalization with Arab countries and at the same time veto the withdrawal from the lands of 1967, for example). In response to Mr. Amr Mousa’s comment on the plan that this is a one package deal, and Israel should take it or leave it as a whole, King Abdullah told Israel’s MP’s, “Leave Amr Mousa to me!” We’ll see what the King will bring with him to Israel when he speaks at the Knesset end-April; he also believes the Palestinians should recognize Israel.

In a recent poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), some 66 per cent of Palestinians think that the government should not accept international demands to “recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

This seemingly little concession that the world is asking of Palestinians entails the complete and eternal execution of the Palestinian national rights. Israel defines itself as a Jewish State and, yet, knows no borders for itself. Remember the famous "borders are determined by where Jews live, not where there is a line on a map?" Thus, the Palestinians’ recognition of the right of such a State to exist entails approving the expanding nature of this colonial State, accepting all racist measures that favour Jews over the Palestinian natives (like the 2003 law on marriage and citizenship and the latest systematic expulsion of Palestinians holding foreign passports from the land). It also brings about giving up our right to return once we already agreed on the Jewish characteristics of the State and abandoning our right and duty to struggling to create a Palestinian State. In brief, this recognition is as stupid as signing a blank check!

Not only for political and pragmatic reasons Palestinians should never recognize ‘Israel’s right to exist,’ but for moral and psychological reasons as well. Recognizing that right for Israel while all our national and human rights are being violated every day is, simply put, incompatible with Palestinian well-being and mental health. The world is asking of us to surrender at the most profound levels: the mental and spiritual ones. We are asked to accept, reconcile ourselves with and bless the Israeli violations of our life. The fact that our homeland is occupied does not, by itself, mean that we are not free people as far as we reject the occupation in our minds, as far as we learn how to live in spite of the occupation, rather than accepting it and getting adjusted to it. But, if we recognize Israel, we are mentally occupied. Resistance to the occupation, however, is very important for our psychological health at the individual as well as the communal levels. Its practice can be a protective exercise against depression and despair.

With the awful facts put by Israel on the ground, what remains for us of Palestine is a thought, an idea that becomes a conviction of our right to a free life and a homeland. When Palestinians are asked to ‘recognize’ Israel, we are asked to give up that thought, and to renounce everything we have and are. This will only sink us deeper into an eternal collective depression.

In order to stop this upcoming Nakba, Palestinians should never recognize Israel; those who suppose themselves to be anti-war advocates should support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination and push for an immediate lifting of all sanctions, embargoes and financial restrictions on the Palestinian society under occupation. This includes releasing the Palestinian tax money illegally held by Israel, that, in addition to supporting the Palestinian Civil Society’s call to action, which includes boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel until it complies with human rights and international law. For those who insist on putting conditions on Palestinians under occupation, Palestinians call upon you to demand at least the same conditions from the occupiers: renouncing State-sponsored violence against Palestinian civilians, accepting previous agreements which Israel signed but did not implement, and recognizing Palestine as a people and a nation; until this happens, there will be no peace, for anyone, in this land.

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