Thursday, November 10, 2011

Finally, A Palestinian 'Peace Now?'


What if a group of youthful Palestinian activists fed up with Hamas and Fatah for leading the Palestinian Arabs -- over and over again -- down bloody, self-defeating dead ends was to emerge as a new political and social force? We might think of them as a sort of Palestinian "Peace Now."

Imagine a Palestinian movement revolted by militarism, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and bloodlust; exasperated with Ramallah-based Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas for placing a wreath on Yasir Arafat`s grave – of all places -- to mark the sacrifice festival of Eid al-Adha and challenging his decision to spend lavishly on violent Palestinian inmates released from Israeli prisons in the Gilad Schalit exchange. Imagine their necessarily more cautious compatriots in Gaza feeling put-off by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for telling Eid al-Adha worshippers that "sacrifices are sometimes not only [for] sheep [but as] a way in which we praise God."

Could not a Palestinian "Peace Now" emerge out of recognition that neither depraved violence nor automatic UN majorities has brought the Palestinians what they want? If anything, the Palestinians' effortless victories at UNESCO with more predicted in the General Assembly seem only to stoke Palestinian frustrations. Now, Palestinian expectations for obtaining Security Council recognition for a state -- without recognizing the rights of the Jewish people to a national homeland of their own -- are set to fizzle.

Sure enough, The Washington Post recently ran a feature about an avant-garde generation of activists on the West Bank and Gaza, men and women in the 20s, not Islamists, who are disillusioned with both Fatah and Hamas and uninspired by symbolic victories at the UN. These youth were born around the time of the first intifada and entered their teens during the second intifada. The newspaper's Joel Greenberg, a veteran Israel-based advocacy journalist, came upon this "still-undefined, embryonic group of a few hundred" which Post headline writers billed as a potential "new political and social force."

Had Greenberg come upon a group of radical future Palestinian leaders ready for painful concessions to achieve reconciliation, mutual recognition and coexistence with the Jewish state? For his narrative hook, he focuses on an attractive 22-year old university student named Hurriyah Ziada who has been "active in protesting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank." We are rapidly disabused of any notion that Ziada merely wants to push Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines. In fact, creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel is for her "inadequate." She is not interested in exchanging territory for peace and certainly not in pursuing a two-state solution. Instead, her activism is directed at creating a single Muslim-majority country from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea that would be demographically boosted by the "return" of some 750,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War plus millions of their descendants now living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq. As for the six million Jewish Israelis, Ziada would munificently grant this new minority in Greater Palestine "equal rights."

Instead of rolling his eyes at such warmed over Arab rejectionism, Greenberg presents Ziada's vision for the disappearance of Israel as a "human and civil rights" breakthrough something like the "American civil rights movement" and the "struggle to end apartheid in South Africa."

Why would the Washington Post attempt to sanitize the old Palestinian Arab agenda and present it as something practically progressive? Perhaps because their man in Israel so opposes a Jewish presence over the Green Line that he once served as a spokesman for Hamoked, yet another EU-funded NGO devoted to promoting Palestinian interests in the "Occupied Territories." While he served in the Israeli army (though reportedly refusing reserve duty in Lebanon), Greenberg's soft-spot for the Palestinian narrative has long permeated his reporting. He'd like to think that Arab opposition to the occupation "generally refers to bombing and shooting attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza." He adhered to this blinkered view even in 2004 when Israelis within the Green Line were daily being targeted. While no one denies that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria feel themselves "occupied," the possibility that the land itself is "disputed" has seldom been integral to Greenberg's reporting.

As for Ziada, Greenberg tells us that her father is a member of a "militant leftist faction" and her brother is a "member of Fatah's armed wing. Militant? Armed? The apple does not fall far from the tree for Ziada rules out -- albeit disingenuously – any compromise with the Zionist enterprise: “When I have kids, I don’t want them stuck in the West Bank,” Ziada declares. “I want the right to move freely. I want to go to Jerusalem, the city where I was born and to the village my family was kicked out from in 1948.”

What the 22 year-old may not recollect is that before the suicide bombers of the second intifada West Bank and Gaza motorists could drive unimpeded throughout Israel. If, as she claims, she was born within the Jerusalem municipality to parents who were legal residents chances are she would have a blue Israeli ID cards and could move freely about the country. She told Greenberg that her family had been "kicked out" of the subsequently "destroyed" village of al-Falauja (not far from the Gaza Strip). But her family might be living there still had an earlier Palestinian leadership not rejected the UN's 1947 Partition Plan for a two-state solution and, more to the point, had gunmen from al-Falauja not laid siege to neighboring Jewish communities and attacked Haganah food and water convoys delivering them aid.

Greenberg's spotlights the "wall of apathy" Ziada and her comrades in this imagined new political and social force need to overcome in agitating against Israel. The older generation is "exhausted" while her other cohorts are "alienated from established political movements." Ziada, though, is committed to "creative nonviolent action" doublespeak for violent confrontation with the IDF. "The cost of getting rid of the occupation" -- by which she means the Jewish state in its entirety -- "is far less than the cost of living under it for a long time to come.” For now Ziada appears content to build "mud houses for people whose homes" were capriciously razed by the Zionist authorities.

Truth be told, Ziada's supposedly new ideas meld perfectly with the standard Palestinian mindset. An October 2011 poll conducted by Nabil Kukali's Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that a staggering 89.8 percent of respondents said they would rather have "no peace deal" and no "independent state" if it meant giving up "the Right of Return."

Far from uncovering a new political and social force among the Palestinians, Greenberg's story demonstrates that across the generational divide the Palestinians remain appallingly unrealistic and intransigent. The reason is all too plain: The moderates have been assassinated leaving Fatah and Hamas in-charge. Sadly, in opposing the "limited political horizons of the Palestinian leadership" Ziada and her comrades are not pushing Abbas and Haniyeh to reconcile with the Jews but toward war without end.

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