Today in Israel, a policy that gives aid and comfort to the status quo is being dictated by fear and a concern for security. But Israel will never find security, or true democracy, under this occupation. You can only lull yourself into a false sense of security when you keep another group of people captive in your backyard and try to rationalize it. Any violence associated with that unnatural condition is not a valid justification for the occupation, but rather is a consequence of it, as the dehumanization, deprivation and hate engendered by the occupation proceed to suck all of the air out of civil society.
As for Palestinians, who can exercise only limited democracy under an occupation, there is an opportunity to foster democracy and institution building. Nadia Hijab, American Palestinian author and human rights advocate, believes the Arab Spring has strengthened the Palestinian people’s hand, and has helped the decades-long nonviolent Palestinian movement. “Many of the Palestinian leadership have been stuck, they’ve been vested in a U.S.-led peace process that led nowhere,” Hijab recently said in a conversation with Jewish Fast for Gaza, a peace group founded by Rabbis Brant Rosen and Brian Walt. “It has now freed them to play a more authentic leadership role, and has given a very big boost to Palestinians who have been undertaking nonviolent resistance through the popular struggle against the wall, which has been going on for six years as villagers organize village by village to try and stop their land from being swallowed up, as well as they Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement.”
Hijab – who is the director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies – believes that the main concern coming from Palestinian youth and civil society is not necessarily elections in the territories, but the reconstituting of the Palestinian National Council on the lines of the old PLO so that it represents all Palestinians. “So now the rulers of the West Bank and in Gaza know that they too will be held accountable and that they need to listen to peop le’s aspirations, and one of the very first aspirations was we don’t want this division of leadership,” she said. “And then with the changes in Egypt, we began to see official statements that Egypt will no longer participate in maintaining Israel’s siege in Gaza, that they will start to open the Rafah border. It has begun to give hope to the Palestinians in Gaza that the changes will have a direct impact on their lives, freedom of movement , their ability to deal with the rest of the world, their ability to develop, to rebuild after the horrible destruction that happened after Israel’s December 2008 and January 2009 assault.”
Peace and security will come to both Israelis and Palestinians only if it is based on a commitment to universal human rights. For Palestinians, this means self-determination – whether as an independent state or with full democratic rights in Israel or wherever they find themselves. Right now, the Palestinians believe that taking the statehood issue to the UN is the way to make that happen.
David A. Love
The Black Commentator
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