By Sam Bahour
The human body is an amazing creation. It’s not only the most complex system known to mankind, but it embodies within it signals that tell its owner that something has gone wrong. A similar signaling system exists in political bodies. Those tasked with reading the signals–be they individuals, physicians or politicians–can choose to consciously ignore the warning signs. The Middle East peace process between Palestinians and Israelis has been emitting SOS signals for decades, but only recently are those signals being received and analyzed for what they are transmitting–a clear and irreversible message that the entire paradigm of “two states for two peoples” has collapsed.
Like doctors who peddle medications instead of practicing medicine, many politicians are under the influence of their narrow political interests and prefer not to call situations by their name. After so many years of failure–political, legal, diplomatic and economic–those who are paid to diagnose and treat reality are being replaced with voices from all corners of the world, voices convincingly making the case that the entire premise undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization, starting as far back as 1974, is no longer feasible.
Some will say that the PLO was tricked by the West into a path that was never intended to succeed. Others may claim that the PLO had no option but to acquiesce to the pressures placed upon it to enter, more recently, the Oslo peace process, in hopes that the West (mainly the US) would then pull its weight in bringing Israel in line with international law and UN resolutions. Regardless of the analysis of the past, very few people on the ground who are intimately involved in the attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli “conflict” would venture to spend any additional political credit on the notion that two independent states, Israel and Palestine, remain a way out of this man-made tragedy.
The measures were many, each of them a warning signal that sounded over and over again, but largely fell on deaf ears. The ignoring of a refugee population. A prolonged military occupation, unaccountable to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The launching of the illegal Israeli settlement project. The continued use of military force against Palestinians wherever they reside: Jordan, Lebanon, inside Israel, or the occupied territory. Assassinations and mass murder of Palestinians, from Lebanon to Tunis to every Palestinian city, in broad daylight for all to see. Seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinians arrested and detained, many without charge and many tortured. A lopsided peace agreement (Oslo) that merely institutionalized the reality of military occupation. The election of Israeli prime ministers who, one after another, represented political programs that explicitly forbade the emergence of another state between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. The list goes on and on. Each one of these signals emitted a deafening sound that was heard by all, and ignored by all who could change the course of events.
One of Israel’s founding ministers of education and culture, Professor Ben-Zion Dinur, said it most sharply, according to the book “History of the Haganah”: “In our country there is room only for the Jews. We shall say to the Arabs: Get out! If they don’t agree, if they resist, we shall drive them out by force.” With this theme as its explicit backdrop, it is no wonder that newly-established Israel had little chance of being a normal state among the community of nations. These words rang out long before the creation of the PLO and long before the unacceptable phenomenon of suicide bombings entered the scene.
Israel was founded on the infamous fallacy that it was built on a “land with no people, for a people with no land.” Instead of acknowledging that this fallacy is a form of outright racism, Israel is legislating it into its laws. Since its inception, Israel has arrogantly refused to address the most crucial prerequisite of its establishment as a conventional state: accepting the Palestinians, those people that just happened to be living in that “empty” land that Israel was created on.
After over six decades of conflict and dispossession of the Palestinians, and after two decades of Palestinian political recognition of Israel on part of their lands, the Israeli people choose to sustain the conflict. They are bent not only on keeping their boot of occupation on the necks of Palestinians living under it, but on embarking on an accelerated path to disenfranchise, yet again, Palestinians who remained in Israel and assumed Israeli citizenship.
Today, Israel seems determined, more than ever, to forcefully prove the original premise of its statehood–an Israel with moveable borders and a Jewish-only population. Twelve Israeli prime ministers before Binyamin Netanyahu, six of them after the signing of Oslo, have failed at this nonsensical endeavor. He, too, will fail. If Israel cannot produce a leader to move the country from being a pariah to being a member of the Middle East, only Israel’s Jewish population will be to blame.
This should not come as a surprise for Israelis who have studied their own history. Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, understood it well when he said, “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?” The fact of the matter is: Palestinians even accepted “that” and are still being rejected and punished.
It is clear that Israel has no plans to reach any form of lasting peace with Palestinians or concede to a two-state solution. Its spread of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory has created new facts on the ground that make it impossible to form a contiguous Palestinian state, even on the 22 percent of historic Palestine that Palestinians have been reduced to and agreed upon.
In light of this continuing Israeli policy of outright aggression and negation of Palestinian rights, Israelis should prepare themselves for the next generation of Palestinians, a much more savvy generation interlinked with a global world and a region that values rights over an artificial border. Soon, if the current trajectory continues, Palestinians will tell Israelis: “You win! You get it all–the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, the Jordan Valley, the settlements, all the water, and guess what? You get us too! Now, where do we sign up for our health care cards?”
(First published 23/1/2012 in bitterlemons.org)
– Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant from Youngstown, Ohio living in the Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and may be reached at [email protected] He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.