The Roots of the Intifada?
by courtesy & 2001
by Stephen Gowans
Marcus Gee, international affairs
columnist for Canada's newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail,
begins his March 15 column (The
roots of the intifada) by asking
who started the latest intifada, and then proceeds to supply the
answer. Why, the Palestinians, of course. His reasoning: The
intifada, the uprising of Palestinians against the Israeli
military occupation started "because the Palestinians rose
up against the Israeli occupation," a bit of reasoning
which puts him in the company of a former US president who once
pointed out that unemployment happens when people lose their
jobs. His argument is a tautology. It's necessarily true, on par
with pointing out that bachelors are unmarried, but not very
helpful, for it side-steps the question of why Palestinians
launched their intifada in the first place, or, to go further,
why Israel is occupying the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem,
in defiance of international law.
In all of this, the Israeli
military occupation, the settlements, the refusal of the right
of return, the refusal to relinquish East Jerusalem, seems to be
taken as a given. It's up to the Palestinians to bend, he seems
to say, because the Israelis have the upper hand, although only
so, it might be added, insofar as the international community
lets Israel have the upper hand. To that end, columns that pin
the blame on victims, and side step the roots of the violence,
let the injustice live another day, and ensure the military
occupation and the intifada it spawned, with all their bloody
and sorry consequences, continue.
One is reminded of the wartime French
resistance fighters, or of the Yugoslav partisans, who also
initiated violent campaigns tantamount to an intifada against German
military occupation, or of the ANC resistance to South Africa's
apartheid regime. Few would pin blame for the violence of those
campaigns on the resistance, and few would have urged, as Gee does,
that the military occupation, or apartheid, be accommodated in the
interests of bringing the violence of the oppressed against the
oppressors to an end.
The violence is more likely to be
brought to an end if a just solution is implemented that sees Israel
withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, the settlements dismantled,
Palestinian refugees returned to their homes and East Jerusalem
returned to the Palestinians nothing more than what's mandated
by international law.
But what chance has a just solution
if those who perpetrate an injustice are not called to account,
while the victims are blamed for their own oppression?
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.
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