What is unfolding in Palestine these days is much more serious, much more important than one can imagine, and it will most certainly have major consequences on our region. It is not just an uprising which will sooner or later be exhausted, will run out of dynamism and come to an end. It is not just a popular demonstration of rejection, anger, bitterness and frustration at an enduring harsh occupation that will eventually be quelled by any form of appeasement or any promise of an “improved” deal at the awaiting negotiations table. And it is definitely not a Palestinian deliberate choice of violence, rather than peace, because violence is something in their “evil” nature, “destructive” culture, and “weird” beliefs, as the Israelis and their supporters in the United States like to believe.
Whatever the form is, the essence of what we are witnessing in Palestine is a manifestation of a century-long history reversing direction as an imperative self-correcting process to undo the injustice which has been methodically and steadily inflicted on Palestine and its people since the beginning of last century.
History did correct its course in recent times in the Soviet world, in eastern Europe and the Balkans, and now it is the turn of the Middle East, where an entirely abnormal state of affairs cannot survive any longer in the face of the laws of the inevitability of history itself.
A change of such scale and magnitude does not normally occur smoothly or peacefully, as it will be strongly resisted and stubbornly obstructed.
What is happening now-a-days in Palestine, which is the main focus of this corrective process, is but a tentative specimen of what will follow. The severe reaction against a genuine and determined Palestinian national liberation quest is also just an indication of how far the Israeli denial and defiance of any attempt to reverse their illicit aggression gains may reach.
The Palestinians who were illegally and brutally uprooted in 1948 to pave the way for the implementation of the Zionist project to establish a Jewish state on their land were written off long time ago. It had been presumed that the 750,000 Palestinians who were terrorised out of their towns and villages into the dreadful wilderness would disappear and disperse in the vast lands of their Arab family. And once they go, they will take with them their history and their memories. Their siblings would emerge in a new world too far from their roots to trace back their origins. Time was expected to dissolve the Palestinian problem and to bury any evidence of an unprecedented international conspiracy, indeed a crime, against an innocent country and its innocent people.
Yet, to the great amazement of the conspirators and the expert planners, it did not work. Time, rather than dissolving, actually amplified the 750,000 to become over five million, who remained patiently in their refugee camps or in remote locations all over the globe, adapting to hardships, sustaining injustice, but resisting integration and absorption while awaiting the moment of their return to where they belong.
The siblings turned out to be more attached to their homeland, more conscious of their history and their past, more aware of the injustice inflicted on themselves and their ancestors, and more determined to fight for their rights and their national existence. No time or space could separate them from their goal or weaken their resolve.
War after war, conspiracy after conspiracy failed to wear out the Palestinian commitment to their inalienable rights. All the major consecutive wars which Israel often won, the massive regular multidirectional attacks on refugee camps and Palestinian concentrations, the massacres and the endless demoralising diplomatic campaigns and conspiracies, with unlimited superpower support and international indifference, if not acquiescence, all this only hardened the Palestinian resolve, strengthened their dedication and sharpened their focus on their ultimate goal of reconstruction and independence.
All along, the Palestinians were ready for peace based on compromise. In spite of the depth of the humiliation scars and the pain of injustice, the physical destruction, the waves of ethnic cleansing, the confiscation of territory, the demolition of houses, detention, torture, oppression, discrimination and denial of all basic human rights, the Palestinians have shown unparalleled genuine willingness towards reconciliation and sharing. They agreed to re-establish themselves on only 22 per cent of historical Palestine and live next to their Israeli neighbours in peace, harmony and cooperation on the basis of mutual recognition and respect.
The notorious Oslo peace process turned to be a ploy though. The Israelis seized every opportunity to use the process as a cover to consolidate their aggression gains, to continue their expansion, and simply to legitimise their occupation. The Palestinians ended up dealing with the burdensome aspects of the occupation and the full responsibility for security.
The Israelis made a fatal mistake when they took the Palestinians recklessly for granted, underestimating their will, and making a mockery of the negotiations which dragged on for years with no meaningful progress. In the meantime, they were racing with time to create more facts on the ground. By building many more settlements and by maintaining the harshest of their oppressive and severely humiliating occupation practices, the Israelis rendered the whole process of peace vain and futile.
The final blow descended on the faltering process while the negotiators in Camp David were dealing with the final status issues last July. On top of all the accumulating disappointments the Palestinians were faced with a new unforeseen demand to surrender sovereignty to Israel of the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, an issue which exhausted all the negotiators’ energy at the costly expense of all the other essential final-status issues. Contrary to what the post-Camp David failure media campaign claimed, it was the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who missed an historic opportunity for a worthy peace. The infamous Barak offer has been adequately dissected and duly discredited, and we should always keep in mind that Israeli offers are never to be taken at face value because they keep changing character at every juncture.
The Israelis lost the peace because they let loose their greed, in total disregard for legality and the rights of the other side. That led to the total breakdown of the peace negotiations and the precipitation of a very serious confrontation with which the region may have to live for a very long time.
Wars have their own rules and games. In this war, the Palestinians will fight to win. That is not going to be easy if ever possible, bearing in mind the inadequacy of the means available to them in comparison with the military superiority. And it would be foolish not to expect that the Israelis will use all the means available to crush the Palestinians with unreserved cruelty and zero attention for international law and world public opinion.
But even if this happens, and it is very likely that it will, it will not be the end. Liberation movements lose battles and stumble, but they don’t die. They always change blood, regroup, and re-emerge, sometimes after years-long pauses. The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation will be a very long war along the course of which Israel will be certain to win battles, annihilate whole generations, destroy more towns and villages, invade neighbours and conquer territory. They can continue to do all this, and more, but the ruthlessness of their military might will never be able to achieve the one thing that the Israelis need most, which is a peaceful, normal, secure life in a friendly environment.
The Israelis have already squandered enormous achievements towards normalising their relations with the neighbours, heading straight back to the fortress. To exit the fortress again may require from Israel a price which, when earned by blood and dignity, will certainly be higher than what a grovelling “partner” would be begging for at the “humiliations table.”
We may never know if history will need the same amount of time to undo an entire century of gross injustice and how big the sacrifices on this rough road are going to be. But there is one thing we sure know. No matter how much time it will take, justice will have to be restored before any true, durable and equitable peace can be reached.
The writer is former Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.