A Plea for Realism*
The time has come for the Palestinian public to acknowledge the reality in which they live. A century of national struggle and 34 years spent resisting the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem has not yet brought us peace, and the right of Palestinian self-determination has yet to be actualized. The largely ineffectual “peace process” has been characterized by the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied territories, numerous closures, and the constant humiliation of a frustrated Palestinian public. The al-Aqsa intifada grew from decades of injustice and discontent and did not erupt in a vacuum.
reality in which we now live is that of an uneven struggle where Palestinian
fighters, despite all their bravery, do not stand a chance against Israel’s
military might. It is a reality of fruitless appeals to the international
community and the Arab world, whom the Palestinians still rely upon to defend
their cause. The international community does show some sympathy for the
Palestinian struggle, but in the realm of international politics and diplomacy,
sympathy holds little weight in the face of the economic, political and military
power of Israel and its allies.
believe that the violent path chosen by Palestinians in the al-Aqsa intifada has
failed. This violence achieved little beyond an overwhelming Israeli military
response, and the Palestinians, who have no means to win a military victory, pay
a very high price in the confrontation. The use of firearms by Palestinians
clouds the issue and provides the Israelis and their foreign sympathizers with a
means of justifying the disproportionate “response” of the Israeli military.
Moreover, violence diverts the attention of the world from the real issue—
injustice endured by the Palestinian people—and Palestinians are consequently
portrayed as a fundamentally violent and irresponsible people, a people with
whom it is not possible to make peace.
violence characterizing the al-Aqsa Intifada prompted the demise of the Israeli
liberal left, and a concurrent swing to the right of the Israeli political
spectrum, empowering the current government under Ariel Sharon to reject any
concessions or compromises.
is time for the Palestinian people to accept this reality and to direct their
struggle into a more pragmatic strategy. This does not mean that the struggle
has to end. On the contrary, while a violent struggle seems unlikely to achieve
the liberation of the Palestinian territories and the establishment of a
Palestinian state, a sudden halt of the intifada would be perceived as a victory
for Sharon’s government, thereby seemingly confirming that the brutal
suppression of the intifada was well founded.
my opinion, non-violent resistance is the best possible means of ending the
current deadlock. Non-violence does not imply passivity in the face of the
occupation. On the contrary, it can be a very powerful means of resistance, one
that requires as much bravery and heroism as any armed operation.
non-violent actions have been successfully orchestrated recently, most notably
those at Birzeit University, demonstrating that the Israeli army is helpless in
confronting this kind of resistance. Non-violent resistance can include all
segments of the Palestinian people, with a very important role to be played by
women and children.
will also enable the Palestinian people to communicate their message much more
effectively in clearly articulated demands. Take the old city of Hebron, for
example, where 40,000 Palestinians have lived under a strict curfew for a large
part of the al-Aqsa intifada. What if every day at 4 pm, Palestinians sat
outside their doorstep for an hour, drinking tea or smoking narguilah, without
the use of stones or slogans. They would be in blatant disregard of the curfew
imposed upon them, and there is no guarantee that the response of the Israeli
army would be non-violent, but the message would be clear and powerful: it is
unacceptable to lock 40,000 people indoors for the security of 400 Israeli
would be a more pragmatic way of resisting the occupation. However, just as the
Palestinians have to display pragmatism in how they resist the occupation, they
have to be equally realistic in the goals they seek to achieve through
resistance. Even though the PLO recognized the existence of Israel in 1988, many
Palestinians still cannot bring it upon themselves to openly acknowledge
Israel’s right to exist. I believe that a future with Israel is better than no
future at all. Palestinians need to state very clearly and unequivocally that
they do not question the existence of the State of Israel in its pre-1967
borders, and that the singular goal of the al-Aqsa intifada is the liberation of
the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Future negotiations on
questions such as the right to return will have to take Israel’s concerns into
consideration. Embracing such an attitude is obviously painful for us
Palestinians, who have already conceded so much, but the time has come to face
Originally published in CGNews, December 25,