Sep 7, 2012

In the occupied areas

This week, a Christian monastery near Jerusalem was vandalized by Israeli with one of the graffiti statements saying ‘Jesus is a monkey.’ A Bahrain kangaroo court upheld "convictions" of pro-democracy and human rights defenders including life terms for founder of a human rights center. The US is not acting on its own human rights laws and continues close working relationship with the ruling family which includes having a very big military base in Bahrain.  60 people seeking refuge in Turkey died by drowning, many of them were Palestinians. Independent sources confirm that at least two million Syrians were directly affected by the fighting in Syria, fighting that increasingly reminds us of civil war in Lebanon (done by proxies). Israel continued to engage in extrajudicial executions killing three young men with a missile in Gaza just two days ago. A school and community service center are threatened with demolition in Izbet Tabib (gathering Saturday there at noon for those interested in helping).  And the list goes on. 

As prices of food and basic commodities including gasoline rise, Palestinians under occupation feel the squeeze.  Poverty continues to rise and with it anger.  In every town in the occupied areas there were loud demonstrations closing streets to traffic and demanding change.  In one case more rational young people talked a few extremists to stop vandalizing and even joined hands to clean the street of rubble and put out burning tires.  Like all spontaneous uprisings, young people lead but many times their organization or agenda is not clear or not present.  Like in other situations, there are established political forces which try to co-opt, misdirect or destroy the nascent popular movement.  Some honest and decent people try to protect it. 

It is not clear where all this is heading. The economic misery here is caused by a combination of factors.  First and foremost is the Israeli occupation and colonization that was structured to build a Jewish state in Palestine while simultaneously destroying Palestinian lives.  Thus Palestinian agriculture, tourism, industry, education etc were methodically targeted and systematically dismantled in the past 90 years (started with Herbert Samuels, the Zionist high commissioner of Palestine under British rule).   But this Zionist plan could not have been executed without help: from western powers and from collusionist Arab leaders.  Any serious student of history will realize quickly the extent of the conspiracy to liquidate Palestine and Palestinian identity and replace it with the manufactured, fake, and oxymoronic "Jewish nationalism".  The monstrous product called the state of Israel is directly responsible for the fact that we have today millions of Palestinian refugees and we have had several very destructive wars.  This product is also the instigator of regional conflicts and wars (e.g. on Iraq and now pushing for a war on Iran).  Israel is increasingly identified as a major source of instability, a foreign body implanted in the middle of the Arab world in many ways sustained artificially by Western support. It is increasingly obvious that it is not even "good for the Jews". 

With the PLO's 10 point program in 1974 then the fateful Egypt-Israel peace treaty of the late 1970s, the Zionist movement felt invincible.  This directly resulted in Israeli ventures to crush the resistance by invading Lebanon in 1982.  It also led to the disastrous Oslo accords.  Creating a Palestinian authority (the PA) without an intention to end occupation, colonization, and apartheid was a brilliant Israeli move (initially thought of in 1968 but only implemented in 1993-1995).  The PA's mission was to make occupation even more profitable and less troublesome to the state of Israel.  Instead of 4000 Israeli soldiers in the Bethlehem area, we have 4000 Palestinian security personnel to ensure no friction. The accords also resulted in the illusion of a "peace process" underway to create "two-states" (something that was never and will never be in the cards).  20 years later, 650,000 settlers now live in the West Bank.  Judaization of Jerusalem is accelerating. Israel continues destroying Palestinian lives in the Galilee, in the Negev, in Jerusalem, in Gaza and in the other Bantustans.

Israel offers economic pacification with a twist to its silent partners in these crimes.  The Paris protocols ensured Israel's hegemony over natural resources, that Israel collects taxes from Palestinians, and that the Palestinian economy is merely a captive market for Israeli goods and services.  In return for this, Israel will not hinder but will facilitate "humanitarian assistance" coming from Western and Eastern countries.  The Palestinian economy transformation to a "donor dependent" economy was thus accelerated.  Some Palestinian elites got very wealthy (look at villas and SUVs in the Ramallah area just to see the extent of this).    

An artificial system was created to ensure a segment of the Palestinian population is comfortable enough to suppress any potential uprising against the occupation. This segment to protect the status quo would, as the Israeli argument goes, find it difficult or impossible to abandon privilege for the sake of larger national goals such as restorative justice.  Refugees and Jerusalem and liberation etc become old slogans put on the shelf or dumped in the trash bin so that the mahogany desks can be decorated with medals of "pragmatism", stamped by western donors.   I predicted several years ago that this system was unsustainable.  If nothing else, it is hard to keep enough beneficiaries of the 11.5 million Palestinians around the world to sustain it.  Even Israeli elites have started to question the ability of the PA to keep the lid on the restless, angry, and frustrated disenfranchized Palestinian population.  The Hamas-Fatah "division" is not the cause of the current sad state of affairs in Palestine.  It is a mere (mild) symptom of the deterioration in our political institutions over the past few decades.  

The Palestinian authority called for municipal elections for next month (October).  Municipal elections are already two years behind schedule.  A presidential commission and local branches of national factions policized what otherwise should be a civil service matter.  Here in my town of Beit Sahour, the mayor who is from Fatah decided to run again.  The last time the main challenge was from left-leaning parties. Hamas is hounded here (as are secular forces hounded in Gaza) so is not running.  The left parties are divided and if united could possibly win.  But something interesting is now happening.  The youth gathered to declare that they are neither with Fatah nor the left parties and do not like the way things have been running.   A facebook page gathered thousands and very interesting discussions ensued. Youth questioned why members of the city council from the left were not willing or able to challenge decisions made unilaterally by the mayor. Youth want a municipal council that is truly representative, effective, and transparent.  They reject actions of current political factions and reject tribal/familial patterns of operations.  They believe change for the better can copme from their own actions.  I noticed a shift among many members of our society towards this mode of thinking and working.  I noted even those who are members or supporters of political factions beginning to have internal discussions to reassess.  Sometimes these became heated discussions as I am told by some sympathetic insiders.

I think Palestinian society overall is dynamic, vibrant, educated and flexible.  This makes me optimistic that despite the many obstacles and problems we encountered (especially the "Oslo" disaster), we can regain our footing.  When all is said and done I am not betting on political leaders, I am betting on our people.  Our "history of hope and empowerment"* certainly makes this a sure bet.

*"Popular Resistance in Palestine: a history of hope and empowerment" published in 2010 very briefly goes over 130 years of confronting challenges of Zionism, Western and Arab Collusion.

Interesting article by Ali Abunimah
"Ramming through AIPAC’s desires – despite an apparent no vote – was a neat summary of how US elites make decisions when it comes to Israel. Both parties are in a bidding war to appease Israel’s most extreme supporters at home and abroad. If this means riding roughshod over their own members, the American public, world opinion, international law and the basic rights of the Palestinian people, then so be it."


  1. A video reiterating the Abunimah article: American Democracy -- The Funeral

    We are in this together! Altho you are on the front lines in Palestine.

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