Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Palestinians ‘have become unreasonably reasonable’

As Israel and US wrongly claim “incitement” to justify their actions against Palestinians, the oppressed may resort to new forms of struggle, writes Sam Bahour in the occupied West Bank

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry declared in a speech at the Virginia Convention in 1775. Fast-forward 240 years and if Israel and the US were able to pin those words to a Palestinian, they would decry incitement in a heartbeat.

Like the word “terrorism,” “incitement” works well in conflict zones because it means everything and nothing all at the same time. But its misuse as a justification to perpetrate blatant human rights violations and maintain an illegal state of affairs contributes to conflict being fanned, not diffused.

Both Israel and the US are guilty of misusing the claim of incitement in an attempt to justify their punishment of Palestinians. For Israel to point to Palestinian incitement, which does exist, as the source of the present violence across Israel and Palestine is, at best, pathetic.

Israel has dispossessed the Palestinians, numerous times, and left more than half the population locked out of their homeland and scattered across the region, reduced to a life of misery as refugees. It has installed a system of institutionalised and structural discrimination inside Israel against the Palestinian Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel who remained in the country after Israel’s establishment.

Israel has placed the boot of military occupation on the necks of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for the past 48 years. It has expanded an illegal settlement enterprise from 100,000 settlers to 580,000 settlers, all the while pretending to be engaged in bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflict.

Israeli prime ministers and ministers constantly claim that no Palestinian state will ever be allowed to emerge, and also claim that Palestinians are everything from snakes to subhuman.

Because of all the above, Israel has no right whatsoever to even hint at incitement as being a factor in this outbreak of violence.

For the US, be it Congress or the administration, to ignore history and the facts on the ground and point to Palestinian incitement in a knee-jerk reaction to the current violence is criminal.

Secretary of State John Kerry, addressing the current deterioration of security in the region, told NPR News: “There’s no excuse for the violence. No amount of frustration is appropriate to licence any violence anywhere at any time. No violence should occur. And the Palestinians need to understand that.”

Really? Palestinians need to “understand” when they are at the receiving end of all the violence mentioned above? And this coming from a country that underwrites Israel to the tune of $10.2 million in military aid every day, that has just completed the total destruction of two sovereign states in the region (Iraq and Afghanistan), and has been addicted to war since its founding.

Indeed, “no violence should occur,” but, regrettably, Palestinians will not make world history by being the first people that falls under military occupation and wakes up one morning and accepts it by throwing roses and chocolates at their occupier. The longest military occupation in modern history will be resisted until it ends.

The challenge for everyone is how nonviolently to face the horrendous violence of the occupation, much of which is bloodless violence — violence that does not make the headline news but rather simmers on a slow burner, like the never-ending settlement enterprise or the suffocation of the Palestinian economy.

All of this is not to say that targeting civilians is justified. It is not. But all the stakeholders in this conflict know very well that there are two dynamics at play in this most recent outbreak of Palestinian frustration.

One dynamic is the loss of hope that has pushed a very small number of Palestinians to carry out violent and horrendous acts against Israeli civilians, many targeting illegal Israeli settlers. This was totally predictable and I, for one, have been speaking in public about the threat of individual, lone wolf acts of violence for years.

The second dynamic is that an entirely new generation of Palestinians has reached a boiling point. Some have taken to the streets in an uncoordinated and disparate fashion to express their outrage at being locked into open-air cages, suffocated economically and humiliated on a daily basis.

Some claim this second dynamic is a new intifada, or uprising. Regardless of what it is called or whether or not it is sustainable, its message is crystal clear: there is no status quo under Israeli occupation, only the facade of calm while Israel continues literally and figuratively to cement new facts on the ground that are in total violation of international law.

The US State Department claims that Palestinians are engaged in almighty and indefensible incitement and has cut aid to Palestinians by $80 million as a “message” to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This funding cut will bring the US’s annual economic assistance to Palestinians from $370 million to $290 million. This is peanuts in the larger picture and, for many Palestinians, considered part of efforts to prop up, or artificially maintain, an expired Palestinian Authority.

By blindly adopting Israel’s well-crafted incitement mantra, the US is making itself more and more irrelevant to the reality on the ground. The Israeli government’s intransigence and determination to “forever live by the sword” continues, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was recently reported telling a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

Israel’s use of the “incitement” claim to cover up its blatant and systematic violations of international law is not surprising; however, the US’s jumping on this bandwagon to lay blame on the Palestinian leadership for the current violence is more troubling than the violence itself.

Indeed, former Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh puts it most succinctly when he says: “Palestinians have become unreasonably reasonable.”

I would add that if the US does not finally act, instead of paying only lip service to a two-state solution, no one in Congress should be surprised when Palestinians drop their bid for statehood and convert this struggle for freedom into a civil rights struggle.

The writer is a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy.

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