Palestinians have failed to appreciate the inherent power they have once they put away the gun. They are fighting among themselves about how to deal with Israeli oppression: with bullets or with brains? In a Palestinian Fatah-Hamas summit meeting last week in Damascus, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal made some progress on future strategy.
But the pathetic disunity in Palestinian leadership persists, and we can see that from the bitter fighting between Palestinian factions in recent days. With inspiring creativity and sacrifice over the past six decades, the Palestinian people have built a strong case for their independence. They have organized politically, empowered their people, articulated their cause, generated external solidarity and excelled in every human endeavor. They have made every Arab a proud spokesman for Palestine. Yet, in experimenting with questionable tactics of resistance, a minority of Palestinians has played the role of spoiler. This minority has used non-sanctioned methods of resistance out of desperation to rush their case for liberation. In the past, Palestinian hijacking of planes and suicide bombings actually served Israel’s case.
Likewise today, launching rockets from Gaza into Israel is a political “contribution to the colonizer. Israel ingeniously manages and nurses its corrosive occupation. Why do some Palestinians continue to “aid the Israelis through misguided fighting? The chances for the creation of a viable Palestinian state are slimmer today than they were yesterday. Palestinians face an Israeli separation wall that dismembers their communities, continued annexation of land and a widening of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories.
To withdraw from the territories in exchange for peace Israel would have to experience a drastic change in political leadership and face a 180 degree shift in American orientation in the Middle East. That is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. Israel has managed to rationalize its occupation of Palestinian territories as a “security measure. Palestinians have lost land, life, status and friends by fighting against an asymmetrical adversary. Israel continues to escape international sanctions and maintain the upper hand against the Palestinians for at least three reasons: it can deploy superior technology, it has unconditional US support, and it can engage in superb public relations.
Despite a growing international appreciation for their cause, Palestinians have failed to make their best case for independent statehood because they are divided and inconsistent in their strategy of struggle. Palestinians should stop pleading for a state whose perimeters have been strongly compromised. While it is to their advantage to keep open the option of a two-state solution, they should cease to cry for any form of statehood and be prepared for the forced option of a one-state solution. They should unite in civic resistance and coax Israel to do the pleading for a real two-state solution. Palestinians should realize that as long as Israel is in the mode of powerful colonizer, militant resistance actually serves its best interests. When will Palestinian leaders unanimously discover that the threat of organized non-violent resistance would make a formidable match for the occupier’s tyranny? If Palestinians believed in civic resistance, they would eventually occupy the driver’s seat in the conflict. Ironically, Palestinians’ ineffective use of the gun makes Israel’s response look like a quest for security. Palestinians have fallen into a pattern in which they appear to be on the attack while Israel appears to be on the defensive. Extremists on both sides exploit war as a strategy of “problem solving. Israelis who dream of usurping all the land they occupy now need war conditions to do expel the Palestinians. Similarly, extreme Palestinians find war a medium of self-preservation. To create hopeful conditions for their liberation Palestinians should further develop their human capital, their moral cause and their political organization. They should deepen the peace orientation in their struggle and anticipate a two-track solution: either a single binational state or two parallel states for the two rival nations.
If Israel is liquidating the chances for a viable Palestinian state, Palestinians can take the Israelis where they would not wish to be by organizing and by seeking citizenship and full rights in a single state. The single state plan is a nightmare for Israel. It would not take much time for Israel to feel the heat of predictable Palestinian demography. Separation from Palestinians at the earliest opportunity would be a preferable Israeli alternative to living in what would become a binational state where Palestinians would live under the double-standards of Israeli rule. In a single state without war, walls of exclusion would lose their rationale, any thoughts of ethnic cleansing would be imponderable and settlements would become irrelevant. Regardless of the nature of governance, when Palestinians adopt a strategy of building their own economy, organizing civil society, unifying leadership, articulating national aspirations, building international solidarity and investing in human development, they will put Israel on the moral defensive.
When Palestinians find unity around peaceful resistance, international pressure would automatically mount against the occupation. As Palestinian moral empowerment develops, US sponsorship of Israel’s rule would erode in face of international and domestic pressure. As Palestinians stop fighting they will make it clear to Israelis that they are eternally rooted in the land, assimilating and molding the future to their liking. Palestinians have refused to disappear from a land they have owned for centuries. Being the weaker side in military terms, Palestinians cannot afford to mix violence with negotiation. Their strength will flow only through a unified and inspiring strategy of civic resistance.
Ghassan Rubeiz is an Arab American commentator. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary by permission.