A historical moment for Palestine
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
The Hamas – Israel ceasefire is good news, but ambiguously framed agreements do not set conditions for conflict resolution. Both sides claimed victory on May 20. Prime Minister Netanyahu bragged about Israel’s military might; Palestinians, on the other hand, celebrated the “beginning of the end of the occupation”.
Regardless of who won this round of bloody confrontation, the Palestinians today must feel somewhat better about their future. That said, one cannot ignore the immense suffering of hundreds of families who have experienced loss of life, injury or dislocation from their homes over the past few weeks. In fact, the entire Arab world is bound to pay more attention to their cause in the future.
Netanyahu is short sighted. In trying to bury the Palestine cause alive he has revived it. Many of Israel’s leaders have assumed that Palestinian patience is unlimited, their determination is soft and their collective memory is short.
Only a narrow mindset can ignore the accumulated suffering of the oppressed: A 1967 occupation morphed incrementally into apartheid over the past 53 years; in the past twelve months land annexation accelerated, ethnic cleansing heated up, and a spat of manipulative peace accords (falsely labeled after Abraham) emerged. Finally, an assault on the highly revered Jerusalem (Aqsa) Mosque precipitated a new intifada – a third uprising within a span of 43 years. Palestine is back at the center of regional and world attention.
Israel has counted too much on its military superiority, enormous privilege in Washington and clever international diplomacy. But might-without-right is unsustainable.
Despite the ambiguity of this ceasefire, Palestinians now have the opportunity to take advantage of a historical moment which this crisis has created: the international community has finally grasped the fact that Israel is sliding into a system of apartheid.
While the end of this apartheid is in not in sight, Israel expects to be incrementally pressured to offer new opportunities for Palestinians, either through a two-state solution, or a one-democratic state in which Arabs and Jews share power on equal terms.
What are the specific signs which give this emerging third uprising new prospects for eventual liberation?
One sign appears in the Arab Gulf. Over the past two weeks the Abraham Accords momentum has been slowed down considerably. Watching televised and online news of the tragic suffering in Gaza and Jerusalem, the four Arab leaders who have signed the Abraham agreements are embarrassed to look their people in the eye. In contrast, Israel’s defenders of overkill responding to Hamas’ launching of rockets on Israeli civilians wondered why: Protests against Israel have recently taken place in Morocco, Bahrain, and Sudan. And why A sign at a protest in Bahrain stated “Jerusalem is ours, liberating Palestine is our duty,” while the hashtag “Jerusalem_is_my_cause” trended on Moroccan social media. Click here for more info
And Arab leaders who thought of joining the Abraham alliance at a future “convenient” moment, must now be thankful that they still have the chance to stay distant from Tel Aviv, at least on the surface. Whereas regional leaders who have warned against falling into the trap of Abraham’s peace are proudly saying “we told you so”. To be clear, the Abraham Accords are not about ready to collapse. Click here for more info
Also serving the Palestine uprising is the sudden shift of Saudi rhetoric toward Iran and the progress being made in the international nuclear negotiations with Tehran. Is the region coming together to save itself from fratricidal politics? Click here for more info
There are other important moves of reconciliation across the Middle East: Qatar’s return to the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq’s close cooperation with the Saudis, the speculation of returning Syria to the Arab League, ending the Yemen war and rescuing Lebanon from the brink. In all such moves Palestine could be a regional uniting factor.
New Palestinian leadership is on the horizon. The May Israel/Palestine eruption has weakened the position of an ageing, exhausted, patriarchal leader: Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas. To stay in power, he cancelled last month a long overdue Palestinian national election. Palestinians had hoped that Abbas would be replaced through the ballot box by Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic figure who Israel keeps in prison to deprive Palestinians of promising leadership. The situation had been so desperate for Palestinians, to make them bet that a good leader in jail would be better than a bad leader out of jail. Abbas is unwittingly serving the occupier with his compromised and Israel- controlled Palestinian Authority security force.
Women and the youth have played an important role in mobilizing street demonstrations and social media campaigns against the Israeli occupation. The solidarity-for-Palestine demonstrations, witnessed in every corner of the globe over the past two weeks, indicate that the future of resistance will be in the hands of a new, post – Oslo generation. “Oslo” was the 1993 peace “breakthrough agreement” which Israel cleverly manipulated to increase settlements in the West Bank, continue land annexation in Jerusalem and to reduce the chances for a viable two-state solution. The youth will not tolerate the presidency of Abbas any longer. Will the Palestinians grab this historic moment to elect a strong leader, a figure capable of unifying his people and negotiating peace on proper terms?
Opportunities for creative resistance are on the rise. Palestinians are now able to resist the occupation, in person and online, inside Israel and throughout the globe. They are connected internationally through diverse solidarity movements. Of special significance for the Palestine cause are the Jewish movements which are dedicated for peace and justice.
Of equal relevance to building international solidarity with Palestinians is the US- based Black Lives Matter movement. Progressive groups are slowly making their impact on a new US administration which is saddled with global and domestic priorities. True, the Biden-Harris administration is not yet willing to spend serious political capital on pressuring Israel to face reality. That said, perhaps there is no better source of influence on the White House than the Jewish political community. Click here for more info
Israel’s foundations of national security are beginning to shift due to new demographics and to changing regional and global balance of power. The first agents to sober Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East might be the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community. It may not take long for the progressive elements of American Jews to take radical steps to save Israel from itself.
It is a historical moment for Israelis and Palestinians to work together. In finding peace these two adversarial nations can save their future and, indeed, help to protect the entire region from deepening abuse of human rights, growing nuclear threats and rising disparity in economic opportunity.
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