From Nakba to Gaza: Palestine at the friction point

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What is the state of affairs of Palestine and Palestinians today? How did we arrive at a situation where Palestinian blood is spilled by other Palestinians and where the Gaza strip (a desert strip that is less than 2% of Palestine) with 1.5 million human beings (most refugees) is now completely cut off from the rest of the world which if not fixed soon will result in a calamity beyond description. And will Israel use the media focus on Gaza to carry out its planned ethnic cleansing of the Negev (42,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel slated to lose their homes? [1]

In the US there has been countless shallow commentaries and as many simply defamatory ones that are devoid from any connection to reality. Neocons, Zionist pundits like Thomas Friedman, stooges and collaborators like Fouad Ajami etc are given ample space on pages of major newspapers while we, Palestinians as Edward Said rightly pointed out are even prevented from telling our own narrative. In this assay I try to survey the political landscape and examine the various players (Israel, US, other countries, Palestinians in and out of factions, and finally the peace movement) and their roles and interests. I also wanted to ensure that our own responsibility as peace activists is examined in light of monumental changes that impact not only the lives of people in Western Asia but people everywhere.

Israel

Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated in May 2004 just before putting in motion his plans for Gaza: “I believe we must change the current situation, a situation which necessarily leads to a political vacuum. It is clear to me that … dozens of political initiatives will be drawn up often, from all over the world. Today, we are already forced to repel such initiatives, which share the idea that Israel must reach an agreement while terror is still going on.” His right hand man at the time, Dov Weisglass, clarified it in October 2004: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process … Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda”. Sharon also noted once: “You don’t simply bundle people Palestinians onto trucks and drive them away. I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.” The Gaza strip was the first test site for these strategies (which some Israeli leaders openly stated will finish the job started in 1948).

Uri Avnery stated "What happens when one and a half million human beings are imprisoned in a tiny, arid territory, cut off from their compatriots and from any contact with the outside world, starved by an economic blockade and unable to feed their families? Some months ago, I described this situation as a sociological experiment set up by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The population of the Gaza Strip as guinea pigs." [2]

Akiva Elder more bluntly explained in Haaretz last week that the outcome of this experiment was precisely what Sharon and Dov Weissglass planned for with their misnamed "disengagement" from Gaza. [3]

A famous Israeli general once said, "Once we have settled the land, all the Palestinian Arabs will be able to do is run around like drugged roaches in a bottle." Presumably the trapped "roaches" are now turning on each other as planned in the one bottle. The few other bottles in the West Bank are next. The Amnesty International Report published recently summarizes these conditions in very mild and neutral language (the title for example reads "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank" when what is happening in the West Bank is worse than the worst days of Apartheid in South Africa). [4]

The United States of America

A confidential report to the UN by its envoy for the Middle East peace process, Alvaro De Soto, was leaked last week and published in the Guardian Newspaper. In it De Soto states candidly: "The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy declared twice in an envoys meeting in Washington how much ‘I like this violence’, referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured." [5]

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was planned by neocon Zionists well before they got power in the White house. [6] A similar attack on Iran by the same cabal using American blood as canon fodder is in the works now. [7] As the original lies about Iraq were exposed one after another (WMD, terror connections etc), a new one was instigated: advancing democracy in the Middle East. Bush himself in 2005 cited upcoming elections in Lebanon and Palestine as prove of this. Problem was that both had elections many times before and had a history of democratic participation before the war on Iraq. A more serious problem for the administration besides being exposed as liars was that people elected those that the Israelis did not want (and hence the US had to oppose). Hizballah in Lebanon was by 2006 a powerful political party with members in key government positions. The early 2006 elections for the Palestinian Authority (that has no authority) was supported by all parties concerned including the US neocon administration. But the election produced a clear but undesirable winner: Hamas. Within the US administration, mobilization was done quickly (and not even secretly) to foster dissent and mayhem. The clearest form of this is the program instituted by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams (a neocon Jewish Zionist). The program involved propping up elements within Fatah who were accommodating to Israeli needs and fixations (e.g. Mohammed Dahlan, an ambitious war lord who liked to dress well and surround himself with US trained mercenaries). [8]

Of course like in other US plans to reshape the world to suit the lobby in Washington, things do not work out as planned. This is as true in Gaza today as it is in Iraq. Part of this follows from the fact that those who fight for foreign interests do not fight with strong or fanatic convictions and tend to abandon their posts quickly. Those who believe they are resisting colonial occupation tend to be more emotionally committed. Zionism occupied the executive and legislative branches of the US government also succeed in winning many battles against secular Arab democrats, leftists, and pan Arab nationalists. The decisive battle/turning point was the 1967 war when US supported Israel tripled the lands it occupied. These losses by progressive voices were compounded by US hegemony on the United Nations that prevented application of International law let alone UN Resolutions (the US also vetoed over 40 UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine since 1967). These combinations of factors let to the perhaps unintended consequence of growing the only remaining ideological alternative: that of a resurgent political Islamic movement. In a sense the winners of the battles were not Israel and the US but instead the battles laid the seeds for Hizballah (established 1982) and Hamas (established 1987).

Robert Fisk sums up US policy sarcastically: "Palestinians wanted an end to corruption – the cancer of the Arab world – and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote….So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticize Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say – as we are already saying of the Iraqis – that they don’t deserve our sacrifice and our love. How do we deal with a coup d’état by an elected government?." [9]

President Carter confirmed what De Soto, Fisk, and others knew: the US and Israel are working hand in glove to divide Palestinians in a classic divide and conquer strategy of other colonial powers. [10]

Other Regional and International Players

Neo-con Zionists in the US articulated why Iraq, Syria, and Iran were on their target list even before they came to power. Their reason was to strengthen Israel’s regional power. Syria and more so Iran got wind of this game early on in the Bush administration. Syria tried to straddle the fence and played game with the US (e.g. taking "rendered" suspects from the CIA to do torture and provide intelligence). Iran was in a stronger position that seemed to get only stronger as US forces were stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran’s position got stronger also with each mistake, blunder, atrocity and disaster that the US (influenced by the Zionist lobby) did in Iraq and beyond (from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamou to Bagram to Somalia and Dusseldorf). And since the US funds Israel to the tune of billions every year to continue occupying and attacking Palestinians and Lebanese people, Iran felt emboldened to send in meager supplies for those groups being shot at. This was true at least for Hizballah (it is not clear that Iran gave any weapons or money to Hamas, both deny it).

Then there is the European Union, a collection of states that helped establish Israel. Most of their leadership refuses to push for implementation of international law because of many reasons including:

1). the persistent Zionist propaganda that links guilt over the Jewish holocaust with support for Israel (a state whose founders not only profited from but collaborated with Nazi Germany).

2). US pressure and the presence of the looming NATO (elephant in the room)

3). Desire to keep Israeli Jews from returning to Europe (essentially anti-Semitism)

4). In the case of some leaders like Tony Blair desire to keep conflict going to market weapons.

Russia and China both look at the situation with fear and disdain for US imperial power in this critical part of the world but both have internal and other more pressing issues to tend to than worry about the fate of a few million Palestinians and a few million Israelis. Israel got lots of points with China by transferring to it US military technology in the process making billions of dollars and undermining US security. Many elite Russians are probably privately happy that Israel took in 1 million Russians in the 1990s (most moving for economic reasons, 40% were not even Jewish). But then also many Russians (likely including Putin) were furious at the Russian Zionist tycoons who took control of significant financial resources of Russia (including some natural resources) and then moved the money (and jobs) elsewhere. Thus, we note Russia’s more balanced language vis a vis Palestine and Lebanon.

Palestinians :: factions and those unaffiliated with factions ::

It is hard for the written word to express what people in Gaza (and Palestinians in general) have endured in the past 75 years. If one looks at agriculture, geography (mix Mediterranean and desert habitats), language, culture, mix of religions and other aspects of Palestine, the closest country would be Tunisia. If there was no colonial intervention, Palestine would be like Tunisia today and Gaza would be like the attractive oasis tourist attractions in the South.

But our fate as Palestinians was different. No other population has endured so much for so long. The mayhem is not new to this desert strip at the Southwestern corner of Palestine. It started in the strip with the terrorism by the Hagannah, Stern, and Lehi gangs in the 1930. Between 1947 to 1949, the population of Gaza tripled due to the influx of Palestinian refugees from the coastal strip of Palestine that was unilaterally declared a Jewish state. Some were pushed out to walk for miles in the desert and many sick, old, and young perished in the journey. Some tried to infiltrate back to their villages and were summarily shot on site by orders of Ben Gurion’s government. Some started to resist and thus their sprawling refugee camps were attacked viciously. In that era (early 1950s), Israel set up the notorious unit 101 of its army (a unit headed by a young ambitious and ruthless officer by the name of Ariel Sharon whose mandate was to make sure more "Arabs" are killed than "Jews". The era of collective punishment was in full fledge operation.

Israeli commandoes would demolish many homes and kill many civilians in any area near the border that "infiltrators" or fighters would be deemed to have come from. In 1956, Israel occupied Gaza until the US President ordered them to get out and they did. In 1967, Israel occupied the Gaza strip with its 2/3rd population being Palestinian refugees and 1/3rd native Gazans. This occupation has impoverished the strip in a deliberate policy of economic de-development. [11] Sharon came back to Gaza and intensified his strategy of the iron fist. In the early 1970s, he succeeded in keeping the lid on rebellion by massive assaults on neighborhoods were any resistance sprung. This was the classic colonial strategy of mass destruction to "pacify" the population. But further uprisings would come about every decade of the 4 decades Gaza suffered under the occupation. Thus, three generations of Gaza residents (2/3rd of whom are refugees) suffered 75 years of colonial war making.

Mahmoud Abbas was pushing Arafat into accepting a two state solution and renouncing armed resistance from the 1970s. Other Fatah leaders had different opinions. That strand was led by people like Abu Jihad who was assassinated by Israel (Israel never attempted assassination of Abbas). Abu Jihad argued that Fatah needs to stick to its original mandate and bylaws. Fatah (Fth) is the reverse of the acronym of the name of that group: Harakat Ta7rir Falastini (Palestine Liberation Movement). After the death of so many leading Fatah fighters and the relocation of those remaining to Tunisia (where those who were resistant were assassinated by the Israeli Mossad), Arafat agreed to try the program advocated by Abbas: engagement and negotiations with the US and Israel. Contacts with both were done in the mid 1980s and culminated in Arafat cajoling and pushing other Palestinians to relent. In 1988, the gutted PLO (now slimmed of many leading groups and factions) agreed to accept UN resolutions like 242 and 338 and essentially abandon the other UN resolutions and the UN Charter (e.g. on rights of self determination). This process accelerated after the US showed its might in the first Gulf war and bullied other countries in the region and beyond to succumb to its dictates (i.e. to Israeli occupied foreign policy). Arafat and Abbas were rewarded by Oslo accords that gave them authority over municipal affairs of the occupied areas but no real authority or sovereignty. Yet, this came with lots of privileges and I myself remember vividly that in the early and mid 1990s, while most of us Palestinians got further and further restrictions, there were thousands of "VIP passes" issued by Israel to Fatah officials. To be fair there were also independents and members of other factions who decided to join this trend and so it was not just Fatah members. More importantly, many Fatah members including leading ones and original founders of the movement refused the perks (and some outside of Palestine who refused to go back in under the Oslo arrangements). Indeed much reflection is needed here. The power acquired while limited also corrupted many. Meanwhile, Israeli colonization accelerated. In the seven years of what some Israelis considered hopeful years (1993-2000), the population of colonial settlers living on Palestinian lands doubled. It was also these years that stripped Palestinians of sustainable economy (agriculture, industry etc) and replaced it with an economy dependent on Israel (including Israeli building projects such as Settlements, barriers etc).

Everything changed when Arafat distanced himself from Abbas and rejected the so-called generous offer made at Camp David (an offer of making the occupation permanent and relegating Palestinians to Bantustans while rejecting basic human rights like the right of refugees to return). Yet Arafat’s administration continued to negotiate after words and the parties came close until Barak withdrew his negotiation team in Taba and called for new Israeli elections. With Sharon in power, Israel dropped the pretenses of negotiations. Arafat was isolated and pressured. He appointed Abbas a Prime Minister and was pushed constantly to give the Prime Minister the authorities especially on security matters (an "empowered prime minister" was the phrase used) and keep the presidency a ceremonial post analogous to that of Israel’s president. Ironically, now the US claims the Palestinian Authority President (now Abbas) is the one with the power. But such shifts in US interpretation of Palestinian law is not unusual, it merely emphasizes the hypocrisy of the US’s foreign policy (i.e. Israel’s policies).

On some things, the law is very clear. The sacking of the "Prime Minister" by Abbas creates a new set of problems and issues that have to be dealt with. According to the Palestinian Basic laws (amended 2003), [12] the President cannot appoint a new Prime Minister who is not from the majority party and such an emergency prime minister can govern for three weeks and then it must be approved by the legislative council (extended to a maximum of five weeks in exceptional circumstances, article 66). The president can issue decrees in exceptional circumstances but only while he legislative council is not in session and the President must go to the council for authorizing this at the next meeting (article 43). But such decrees do not apply to creating cabinet, in either case, the cabinet and the Prime Minister cannot operate without Council approval (articles 68 and 69). Hamas has a majority in the legislative council so none of this is possible without Hamas approval! The law does state that the president has the "right to refer the Prime Minister to investigation as a result of crimes committed by him during, or due to his performance of his duties, in accordance with the provision of law (article 76). Abbas did not choose to do that. The law also stipulates (article 110) that "The President of the National Authority may declare a state of emergency by a decree when there is a threat to national security caused by war, invasion, armed insurrection, or at a time of natural disaster for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days (and) The emergency state may be extended for another period of thirty (30) days after the approval of two thirds of the Legislative Council Members." So under the best of circumstances, Abbas can continue what he is doing for 30 days since again he has no majority in the Legislative Council.

Alternatively one can take the earlier provisions of the basic laws and thus conclude as Virginia Tilley did that "It does not help that the United States, an obedient Europe, and legless Arab states have trotted up to anoint it as the sole legitimate authority. Nor does it help to pretend that Hamas — a broad movement with popular legitimacy — will simply disappear through decrees from Abbas and some nice political theatre. It is not clear how long this flimsy diplomatic pretense can hold up to scrutiny by a skeptical world. Nor is it clear what political costs foreign governments will have to absorb if they try to play along with it — especially when the now-traumatized Palestinian people, in the territories and in Diaspora, begin protesting their government’s being hijacked by anti-democratic figureheads for Israeli and US agendas." [13]

In either case, what happens to a unity government (Fatah-Hamas Mecca agreement) approved by the Legislative Council when both sides to the agreement violate it and have two governments neither approved by the Council? This is what we now have: Hamas in the Gaza canton, Fatah in the West Bank cantons, both operating outside of the basic laws. Their "authority" is mostly in the eyes of their die-hard older supporters who are themselves prisoners in the cantons administered and controlled on all fronts (including borders, air, water, fuel, and electricity) by Israeli occupation forces.

Does it really matter whether the Palestinian "authority" without authority is in the hand of its "President" or "Prime Minister"? These terms are used in sovereign nations and Palestine is certainly not sovereign! Everyone needs to be reminded of this rather inconvenient truth especially those Palestinians who seem to like titles ("president", "cabinet minister", "Prime Minister" etc). Can it get more absurd than a "Minister of Transportation" having to get permission from Israeli occupation authorities to move from one Palestinian town to another. Can it get more absurd than a Palestinian "President" seeking permission from Israeli authorities for every bulletproof vest worn by his guards? What besides egos and semblance of authority would let the prisoners in a concentration camp continue the charade of electing their representatives to deal with the prison guards?

Many Palestinians who are not with titles or positions have called for ending this charade of authority with out authority, a government that does not govern, a president who only can preside over submission or "Ministers" who can minister nothing other than a few employees acting as intermediaries between the occupied people and the occupation authorities.

Neither Fatah nor Hamas are monolithic movements. Both have bad elements in them including thugs and clean and nationalistic elements. Both have leadership figures who may disagree with each other and even fight for control within the movement. Both operate within the prison and prism of the occupation and thus have no freedoms. The same can be said for smaller factions like PFLP and DFLP. My own observations is that the younger generations (in their 20s and 30s) are far more pragmatic and practical (and yet even more principled) than my or older generations. Many in the older generations are wed to sloganism of their past, reluctant to admit their failures, reluctant to learn lessons based on the facts of history, and generally less amenable to sitting down with those whose views are different to come to common ground. Understandably, with life so difficult inside historic Palestine and in refugee camps, most Palestinians focus on their own lives, their own needs, etc. The fragmentation of Palestinian polity was actually an intentional Zionist program going back for decades (classic colonial attitude of divide and conquer). But we must take responsibility for countering that program and creating unity in the Palestinian body politic. Further, have been excluded from decision making over the past two decades. There are Palestinian inside and outside the occupied areas who are beginning to get together for positive and proactive actions and thus refusing factionalism. A good example from inside Palestine is the Palestinian civil society call to action that include boycotts, divestment and sanctions [14] and from outside of Palestine, the US Palestine popular national conference. [15]

Other Segments of Humanity and Final Thoughts

There are countless groups that identify themselves as peace and justice movements. Some are real and informed, some real and misinformed, and some fake ones. Distinguishing between them is not always easy. Sometimes there are leaders of those movements who make such distinctions easier by their positions or statements. Most of the time, it is their actions or lack thereof that distinguish them. Tikkun for example rejects outright the basic human right of refugees to return to their homes and lands. And occasionally its editor, Rabbi Lerner slips into outright racism. For example: "There is something in the culture of the Palestinians, or of the Arab world, or of the Muslim world (you tell me which, I’m not sure) that is too tolerant of violence, and too willing to excuse it, whether it be in the disgusting violence of Sunnis vs. Shias that took place in the Iraq/Iran war and in the current civil war in Iraq, in Lebanon, and now the struggle in Palestine." [16]

There are others who are real but misinformed/misguided. These are usually identifiable by their ineffectiveness (or if effective it is effective in a counterproductive manner). You find them both on the fringe left and fringe right. I am sure many readers would recognize ultra left groups that issue grandiose rhetorical statements about US and Israeli imperialism, about the failure of others in the peace movement, and about a thousand other things. Yet, any objective consultant can review their record of practical productivity and be very disappointed. Statements do not liberate people, direct actions do. Even if one sticks with educational projects only, one should ask the question that are the targets of our educational projects and are we succeeding in reaching out to them? One group may issue red lines and points of unity and then stagnate and do nothing to advance knowledge of the masses of what is going on. Another may develop principles but then follow-up with practical and specific programs to achieve results. There are several examples of the latter category:

1). The Wheels of Justice bus tour that spoke at hundreds of colleges and universities and over 200 Middle and High Schools (see http://justicewheels.org)

2). http://IfAmericansKnew.org

3). Somerville Divestment Project (http://www.divestmentproject.org/) which used city ballots for boycotts and for the right of return to advance education (imagine if we had hundreds of cities doing this)

4). Stop the Wall Campaign http://www.stopthewall.org/

5). International Solidarity Movement http://www.palsolidarity.org/

6). and many, many more.

These and hundreds of other examples illustrate that to succeed we only need to use our deductive reasoning to build proactive and creative programs to arrive at freedom and democracy by collective action. It is not just Palestinians but Israelis and Americans who need to reclaim the narrative of reason rather than blind ideology. For many Palestinians, it was their loyalty to one faction or another that blinded them from seeing the faults in these actions. The majority of Palestinians do not belong to any factions. Yet, most of us were willing to be far too passive and wait for the leadership of various factions to give us some direction or to give us diagnosis of the failure of other factions. We seemed to forget the history of humanity where all major positive changes occur by the people. This in fact is the only rational and desired definition of democracy (Latin meaning "people power" not people elections). As the Arabic saying goes "God does not change what is in a people (i.e. their destiny) unless they change what is within themselves." And what is within ourselves that we need to change? I think each of us knows with intuition but tends to project onto others what we fear exists within us: power. Ironically outwardly inflated egos mask personal insecurity and a lack of belief in ourselves. Those with real power are those who are with power over themselves: openly recognizing our human frailties/limitations and honestly and openly sharing humanity with others.

Many take the religious texts of the Islamic-Judeo-Christian traditions as commanding us to have dominion over the earth and its inhabitants instead of feeling a (small) part of the universe. These notions of human superiority are even worse when they are limited to a subset of humanity by developing notions of "chosenness" (God’s chosen people) and "manifest destiny" for a particular religious or other community. Another aspect of our psychology is a sense of tribalism (stronger in some communities than others especially those who lived as minorities or in exile). This tribalism tends to exaggerate a group’s own historical contributions to humanity but also (and perhaps more psychologically meaningful) exaggerate episodes of suffering by the community. One could state that the competition to claim superior background/history and "group" victim hood blinds one to the victim hood of others and to their contribution to humanity. But I would say it is even more problematical than that: it avoids connecting with the rest of humanity. That is taking on the suffering of all humans as one’s own and the accomplishments of all humans as one’s own. From a biological perspective (my background in Zoology and medical genetics), it would seem that emotion and not logic would prevent a Jew from recognizing the Nakba (ethnic cleansing of Palestine) or a Palestinian from recognizing the Nazi horrors for what these things are truly: a blot on all humanity. There is equally no reason why I as a Palestinian American should have more pride in Edward Said or other Palestinian geniuses than I do for Albert Einstein. I should also feel the same shame for what fellow human beings do whether that human being happens to be a Palestinian, Israeli, German or American. Genetically, we are all one pool. Logically this can be argued successfully. But emotionally this is hard for most humans. Most humans base their actions on perceptions or imaginations rather than on facts, figures, and logic. Further, as Socrates recognized (and he was executed for it), most people live an unexamined life (which is no life at all). Doing little inquiries and accepting the dogmas of the past. The famed rational Philosopher Baruch (renamed himself Benedictine) Spinoza argued similar points and he was excommunicated by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Those who stand against traditional mythology suffer ridicule, exile, banishment or death. That was the fate of most prophets of old. Their teachings were then taken and modified/corrupted to serve the mediocre worldly powers rather than the divine (which is in all of us). The teachings of Jesus of "love your enemies" thus became forgotten when the Roman empire adopted their version of Christianity slaughtering so many people in the process. This Constantinian Christianity also led to the Crusades and to the colonization that decimated so many native people around the world. Jewish Theologian Marc Ellis points out that a similarly destructive (psychologically and physically) Constantinian Judaism evolved and is now known as political Zionism. [17]

Philosophers argued that laws are moral if they are universal (apply everywhere). By definition, there is no morality in rules that are claimed to apply to a subset of humanity. And when laws are there like the right of people to live on their lands freely are trampled simply because they are not Jews (e.g. right of refugees to return), then clearly these are immoral rules. On a practical level, when rules and human rights are selectively applied, then the only thing left is “might makes right.” Israel and the US have been operating with that latter principle for 60 years now in Western Asia. The fruits of it do not look promising. The alternative for justice and peace is not an Israeli “win” but perpetual conflict. We may yet get the neocon self-fulfilling prophesy of a birth of Constantinian Islam in response to a revived Constantinian Christianity (a new US imperial hegemony in Western Asia) and Constantinian Judaism (Zionism).

We could argue that actions of individuals do not reflect on the religious doctrine. We could also argue that individuals whether living in dictatorships or so called democracies (but ruled by money and corporations) are not responsible for what their political leaders do. But individuals hold a huge responsibility not only by virtue of paying taxes but also by the fact that silence is complicity. Individuals are the ones who make history. We should not shy away from looking into the motivations of those who perpetuate such heinous acts as killing a civilian whether by dropping bombs from F-16s, suicide bombings, or execution. But we should not shy away from looking in the mirror more. We will then begin to dissolve the biggest obstacles to having what we all claim we want. Those obstacles are within us. Examples of such obstacles are our persistent failure to really love fellow human beings (hating bad deeds but not hating the evil doers), developing teamwork that is positive and mobilizing. Sure, we can work together easily with family members or with people from the same village when there is a project or an issue that directly impacts us. But how many of us work to develop the needed skills for effective teamwork?

The road forward has been very clear. I think Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe had it right in his recent commentary on the situation. It is worth quoting at length from his article:

"Standing idle while the American-Israeli vision of strangling the Strip to death, cleansing half of the West bank from its indigenous population and threatening the rest of the Palestinians — inside Israel and in the other parts of the West Bank — with transfer, is not an option. It is tantamount to "decent" people’s silence during the Holocaust. We should not tire from mentioning the alternative in the 21st century: BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — as an emergency measure — far more effective and far less violent — in opposing the present destruction of Palestine. And at the same time talk openly, convincingly and efficiently, of creating the geography of peace. A geography in which abnormal phenomena such as the imprisonment of small portion of the land would disappear. There will be no more, in the vision we should push forward, a human prison camp called the Gaza strip where some armed inmates are easily pitted against each other by a callous warden. Instead that area would return to be an organic part of an Eastern Mediterranean country that has always offered the best as a meeting point between East and West. Never before, in the light of the Gaza tragedy, has the twofold strategy of BDS and a one state solution, shined so clearly as the only alternative forward. If any of us are members in Palestine solidarity groups, Arab-Jewish dialogue circles or part of civil society’s effort to bring peace and reconciliation to Palestine — this is a time to put aside all the false strategies of coexistence, road maps and two states solutions. They have been and still are sweet music to the ears of the Israeli demolition team that threatens to destroy what is left of Palestine. Beware especially of Diet Zionists or Cloest Zionists, who recently joined the campaign, in Britain and elsewhere against the BDS effort. Like those enlightened pundits who used liberal organs in the United Kingdom, such as The Guardian, to explain to us at length how dangerous is the proposed academic boycott on Israel. They have never expended so much time, energy or words on the occupation itself as they did in the service of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine." [18]

Karma Nabulsi also stated succinctly the route to solving the conundrum "The people of Palestine must finally be allowed to determine their own fate. The drivers of violence in Gaza are clearly external. When all Palestinians can vote for sovereign rule, peace will be within reach." [19]

But having a road/direction is not sufficient unless each and every one of us takes on responsibility to move towards that purpose (i.e. methods of locomotion). Blessed are those who not only discover the correct road (a moral life) but know they can propel themselves along it without waiting for "leaders". They are the ones who connect with their humanity, a purpose driven life, rather than a life of reactions to base animal instincts of seeking food, sex, and shelter and avoiding immediate dangers. This purpose driven life is what Philosophers and Prophets have always tried to show us.

Footnotes:

[1]. 42 thousand Arab homes in Negev threatened with destruction
http://www.imemc.org/article/49025

[2]. Uri Avnery, "Crocodile Tears," Gush Shalom, June 16, 2007

[3]. Sharon’s dream By Akiva Eldar http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/
871983.html

[4]. Amnesty International Report: "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank" http://www.amnesty.org/resources/
Israel_Report0706/

[5]. Confidential UN envoy report leaked to the Guardian (PDF File)
http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/
DeSotoReport.pdf

[6]. http://www.qumsiyeh.org/connectingthedotsiraqpalestine/

[7]. Lying Us Into War, Again by Charley Reese. The drumbeat for war against Iran has begun again, led by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, and the usual pro-Israel crowd. Lieberman seems to be under the impression that the U.S. can bomb Iran and not get into a full-fledged war.
http://www.antiwar.com/reese/?articleid=11144

[8]. For details on US involvement, see http://conflictsforum.org/2007/
elliot-abrams-uncivil-war/ and http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7030.shtml

[9]. Robert Fisk
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/
world-news/article2663743.ece

[10]. Carter blasts US policy on Palestinians By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer, Tue Jun 19, 7:41 PM ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070619/
ap_on_re_eu/carter_us_palestinians

[11]. see Dr. Sara Roy’s book "The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development"

[12]. Palestinian Basic Laws
http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/misc/ Amended_Basic_Law_2003_English.pdf

[13]. Whose Coup, Exactly? by Virginia Tilley, The Electronic Intifada, 18 June 2007
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7038.shtml

[14]. see http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.
php?id=66_0_1_10_M11

[15]. see e.g. http://www.palestineconference.org

[16]. http://files.tikkun.org/current/article.php?
story=20070616224228533

[17]. Marc Ellis "Out of the Ashes"

[18]. Ilan Pappe: Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7036.shtml

[19]. Karma Nabulsi http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2105288,00.html

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