In the past two weeks, we are witnessing the beginning of a new phase: Israelis and Palestinians are extending a hesitant hand to each other, across the IDF’s barricades and checkpoints.
It happens simultaneously on both sides. On the Palestinian side, more voices were heard of those calling for months already to return to a popular and civil uprising, like in the previous Intifada, when no weapons were used.
International law and norms acknowledge the right of an occupied people to an armed struggle against the occupying army (unlike terror against civilians). But this does not mean that this way can always lead to a true solution. Under the present circumstances, of such unequal forces, the use of arms verges on suicide.
The easy way to exterminate a weak nation has always been dragging it into a hopeless war. A whole generation of Palestinian youth is dying out in a desperate confrontation with the prison walls, while most of the Palestinian society – women, students and ordinary civilians – are drawn out of the struggle and all they can do is wait in their besieged home to the next IDF collective punishment, or to deportation.
Senior IDF-officers are admitting now openly that they have never believed in a compromise with the Palestinians, and that ‘force is the only way’. The Palestinian use of arms gives the Western media and public opinion the excuse to look aside while the IDF is carrying out a slow extermination of the Palestinian people and identity.
The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that its official leadership is still the same corrupt and power-driven leadership that has cooperated with the occupation during the Oslo years. But in the months of the Intifada, the Palestinian identity is reshaping.
Han Yunis, isolated between the fences of Gaza prison, has thus been freed also of the control of the Palestinian Authority and started to form popular committees that lead the communal struggle, like in the previous Intifada.
From the Palestinian Diaspora, Edward Said phrased the clear spirit of this message in an article of two weeks ago. He quotes Mandella’s words: The struggle of the Blacks in South Africa could attract the imagination and dreams of the entire world, because it offered the whole society – even the Whites who apparently benefited from the Apartheid – the only way that enables the preservation of basic human values. The Palestinian struggle, says Said, must be based on the understanding that the Jewish people is here to stay. The struggle must strive towards a settlement that will enable coexistence based on human dignity, a settlement that will capture the imagination of the world.
On the Israeli side, 140 academics have published on the 20th of March an ad in three Palestinian newspapers. “We extend our arms to you in solidarity with your just cause” they open, and express their wish “to cooperate with you in opposing the IDF’s brutal policy of siege, closure and curfews”. In the spirit of Mandella and Said, they too believe that this cooperation “may serve as a precedent-setting example for future relations between the two communities in this country, our shared country”.
And on the ground – new pictures. A group of Israeli demonstrators joined a civil demonstration in Ramallah last Saturday. Last Friday in the village of Rantis near Tul Karem, I watched, bewildered, about 200 Israelis – youth along with old veterans – demolishing with their bare hands the stone-and-ground battery erected by the IDF. They know that as soon as they leave the liberated road, IDF bulldozers will reconstruct the barricade. Still, they look happy. Because they know that they too will be there again.
They know that they will be there for the only future worth living – a future based on basic human values. Because the choice gets clearer every day.
What was until a short while ago the lunatic right-wing of the Rehavam Zeevi school, is now becoming the political center. ‘Ha’aretz’ of March 23 reports a conference of about 300 “prominent personalities from the core of Israel’s political and defense establishment” – the center of the center. The conclusions of the forum were solemnly presented to the president of Israel, and what they suggest there is the transfer-solution: “It will be necessary to find some place for resettlement outside the State of Israel (perhaps to the east of the Jordan) for the Palestinian population of the territories”. Israeli Arabs would be deprived of their citizenship by “transferring them to Palestinian sovereignty.” The state’s resources should be invested in “fostering quality” that is, in the “strong population”, and not in the “non-Zionist population”, which includes “Arabs, ultra-orthodox Jews and foreign workers”, whose natural increase is a source of concern.
This is the other way, and it is not far away. The USA has approved of Israel’s plans, Europe and the Arab League will look the other way. No international protection for the Palestinians will happen of its own. The eyes of the world can be opened and its imagination excited only by the people of the two nations – like in South Africa.
Tanya Reinhart is a professor in Tel Aviv University.