|Palestine is Dead|
April 22, 2003
While the current round of Middle East diplomacy under the rubric of the Bush administration’s “Road Map” to Israeli-Palestinian peace is attracting a great deal of attention, almost all observers of this tragic conflict have missed the real story. The story is the blunt truth that everybody, Israeli and Palestinian, fears but which nobody wants to admit has finally become fact: that there can no longer be a Palestinian state.
The Israeli infrastructure in the Occupied Territories has advanced even more than previously feared. Settler roads which were already bad before the outbreak of the Intifada have expanded to such a degree that there is now no such thing as a Palestinian area that is not completely cut off from the rest of the territories by them. The cantonization of the territories is complete.
The level of destruction of Palestinian land complements the building of settler infrastructure. The entire area around Bethlehem (and Beit Sahour and Beit Jala) has been denuded of agricultural vegetation in addition to massive roads and walls being built. There is no more room for the city to expand. This story holds throughout the territories. The destruction is so complete that after a mere couple of years a visitor to the area would no longer recognize the landscape.
It is no longer even about settlements, but about the settler infrastructure and the destruction of land. In the process of going through the diplomatic maneuvers surrounding the “Road Map”, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon could dangle the carrot of a "settlement freeze" now and it would not make any practical difference. The roads and walls are there and Israel will continue building them. In many ways these are more important since they allow more land to be stolen and more Palestinian property to be destroyed more quickly.
Every single village, and even every single neighborhood in East Jerusalem is completely cut off from the other. People cannot move except with great difficulty. On a recent visit, an American reported that in several days of touring the West Bank where over a million people live she saw only five service taxis (3 of which were pulled over and being checked by Israeli soldiers). In Hebron, 30,000 people have now lived under house arrest for three years straight. Besides for not being able to carry on normal lives, they have completely disappeared from the world's view. Who would have thought that 30,000 people could be put into a giant prison for this long and nobody in the world would even notice or care? Yet it's happened and continues this very moment.
The Palestinians are completely broken as a political force. Their existing leadership is a miserable failure having tried to collude with the Israelis and now find themselves living as presidents and prime ministers of piles of rubble. They have no leverage to stop the destruction of the territories. They can play games with the "Road Map" or try to please the US, but they have no ability to reclaim any Palestinian rights with Israel holding the upper hand militarily and politically as the folks in Washington give Israel a green light for any human rights violations they choose under the rubric of "fighting terror". The militants are angry but utterly spent as a force capable of making the Israelis hurt enough even through the despicable suicide bombings to bring them to the table. Ordinary Palestinians sit in their homes seething and angry, but if they go out to shoot or throw rocks at Israeli soldiers and settlers they are killed or arrested. In their anger and isolation they are utterly unable to organize the kind of sustained, peaceful resistance that might have been their one hope of achieving their goals.
If they were wise and could organize the Palestinians would see the best way out now is to demand equal rights in a single state since two states have become a physical impossibility thanks to Israeli settlement and infrastructure policies. The 30,000 people under lockdown in Hebron should organize and all simply walk out without any rocks or guns. They might be gunned down at first, but if they are going to die anyways, it would be impossible for the Israelis to keep on gunning them down in cold blood more than a few times before there would be a world outcry. The inhabitants of Qalqilya, surrounded on all sides except one narrow checkpoint by Israel's so-called "security fence" should organize a mass peaceful walkout.
It is, however, a measure of the effectiveness of Israel's brutality and the fecklessness of the current Palestinian political leadership that they are unable to organize. Instead they sit at home fuming, unable to do anything. While Israel, the US, and the Palestinians' own horrendous leaders (Arafat, Abu Mazen, Dahlan, Yassin—they are all equally unable to accomplish anything) are ultimately responsible for the mess, the people organized under new leaders willing to stand up to all of the above through mass peaceful protests are the only way they are going to get anywhere now.
But make no mistake, the hope of a two-state solution is dead, the Israeli bulldozers have now officially made it an impossibility while the international community has effectively taken over the funding of the occupation (the Saudis pay the Palestinian Authority payrolls, charities keep people alive on minimum rations, and the US funds the Israeli military and settlements). The settlement infrastructure, regardless of the number of settlers (who continue to increase) is too far along now to be reversed. The "Road Map" is a deliberate distraction. Frustrated sources at the State Department say they have worked with it back and forth so many times they don’t even bother to take it as a serious document despite all the false hype out of the White House, and everyone inside the bureaucracy knows it. It is useful for only one thing: pretending there is movement so that Sharon can dangle some meaningless concession and claim to be moving forward for peace when really he is simply further cementing the occupation.
There is only one long-term difficulty for Sharon: he thinks he can get sufficient Jewish immigration into Israel to make Jews outnumber Arabs in this new, larger Israel. That is the one thing he can not accomplish. All the major potential pools of immigrants have been tapped (Russia, Ethiopia, and before that the Arab countries and post-WWII Europe), and immigrants will no longer come in the large numbers needed to numerically overwhelm the Palestinians. The Palestinians likewise will not leave in large numbers. Eventually this Israeli policy leads inexorably to one state completely mixed with Palestinians and Israelis living side-by-side throughout. And in that game, the Palestinians have the long-run numerical advantage. The Israelis will not be able to permanently keep the Palestinians as abused non-citizens, and even if no one arises now to demand equal rights in a single state, eventually there will clearly be no other way.
But that is the long-run. In the short-run, violent repression of the Palestinians and destruction of their lands is the norm and will remain, subsidized by the US and international community who have been effectively co-opted to support this, whether directly or indirectly. The Palestinian refugees will all die in foreign lands, not even able to be buried in their homeland. A permanent injustice has been accomplished by the state of Israel. They win, they have potentially a couple of decades to continue ignoring and abusing the Palestinians before reality hits them in the face. Eventually the day of reckoning where equality between Jew and Arab is unavoidable will come, but until that day violent occupation has won for probably many years to come. Game over...for now at least.
Send mail to
questions or comments about this web site.