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Palestine: there’s hope amidst the repression

October 23, 2015 at 9:47 am

The growing insecurity in occupied Jerusalem, Israel and the other occupied Palestinian territories are simply the symptoms of a more complex political issue that has been neglected and exploited. The historical context of the Israel-Palestine conflict is routinely muffled; only that all too familiar distorted narrative gets a pass, especially in the American commercial media. Countering any dominant narrative has never been easy and this is no exception. Make no mistake; with this latest violent uprising and draconian policies imposed to crush it, at stake is not only peace in Israel and Palestine or the Middle East, but also peace around the world.

As soon as Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States, a bipartisan group of ten former senior government officials, including Chuck Hagel and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and chaired by Brent Scowcroft, approached him with a document entitled The Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement. Their main concern was this: “Unless the president tackles this problem early it is unlikely to be done at all. Political capital will erode; domestic obstacles will grow; other issues will dominate; and the warring parties will play for time and run the clock.” The old “peace process” model has resulted in nothing more than 22 years of spiralling hopelessness, apartheid repression, brutal violence and systematic oppression. Among other things, the group recommended “Jerusalem as home to both capitals.” That, needless to say fell, on deaf ears.

Today, the Palestinians demand the cancellation of the Oslo Accords that have proved to be nothing more than “an endless process which has delivered neither an end to hostilities nor a coherent framework for peace.” The latter was impossible to achieve since Israel has been and continues to swallow the 1967 occupied territory where the Palestinian state was to be founded, one settlement expansion at a time.

We must ask ourselves if 67 years of systematic oppression — including mass expulsions, arbitrary arrests, brutal military incursions, checkpoints of psychological subjugation, denial of basic human right, and economic strangulation — is long enough to motivate anyone to defend him or herself by any means or snap and transgress beyond self-defence.

How long would it take the average person under similar circumstances to consider the violent option for self-preservation? And when he or she cannot find a suicide belt, a hand grenade, or an automatic weapon, to take up a slingshot or a kitchen knife to stab at random those whom he or she considers the perpetrators of their misery? Think about this in the context of illegal extremist settlers protected by Israeli security forces invading one’s holy site chanting, “The mosque will burn and the temple will be rebuilt.” After all, self-preservation or self-defence is a universally accepted right mandated by the Geneva Conventions.

In an attempt to sustain the old anti-Palestinian narrative and deflect the role of his policies in inciting this latest outburst of violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resorted to dumbing down history by making an outlandish public claim that is on par with Colonel Gaddafi’s “Al-Qaida drugged up the Libyan people’s coffee”.

Speaking to the World Zionist Congress before his trip to Germany, Netanyahu made the bizarre assertion that, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time [1941], he wanted to expel the Jews… And mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’” It got eerily comical when Netanyahu quoted Hitler meekly consulting the mufti: “So what should I do with them?” and the mufti responding promptly with this Holocaust epiphany: “Burn them.”

There was world-wide diplomatic censure, ridicule and condemnation of the Israeli leader’s claim. “All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilisation that was the Holocaust… We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman.

The harshest criticism of Netanyahu’s remarks came from Jewish scholars, historians and politicians in Israel. Dina Porat, chief historian of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, called his wild remarks “completely erroneous, on all counts.”

Could the uprising turn into a religious war? The simple answer is, “Absolutely, yes; if it hasn’t already.” That said, it is time to reassess the Palestine-Israel issue through the faith prism.

Jerusalem and the entire Holy Land is a sacred geographical area for all the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yet, there has never been a single interfaith conference led by high profile clerics from all three religious groups to de-escalate religious tensions and have serious dialogue on how to share the sites in question. Traditionally, round tables aiming for peace were always crowded by secularist politicians from both sides who often use religion for the sake of political expedience.

Now that the two-state solution is out of the question, we are left with just two plausible scenarios: the one-state solution or self-annihilation. Contrary to what the naysayers would have us believe, the one-state solution is a viable alternative for coexistence and sustainable peace.

If such an option could work between the vast majority of Black Africans and White Afrikaners in apartheid South Africa, why would it be impossible between two Semitic peoples with Abrahamic roots? All that is needed is objective political will and broad-minded religious vision. We have no choice but to give it our collective best shot. It is our only hope.

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat and a foreign policy analyst. You may follow him on Twitter.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.