Palestinian despair for peace

Dr. Hussein IbishSenior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine It is almost impossible to adequately convey the present degree of … Continued

Dr. Hussein Ibish
Senior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine

It is almost impossible to adequately convey the present degree of Palestinian despair, but the recent announcement that President Mahmoud Abbas might resign and that the rest of the Palestinian Authority leadership may follow — in effect dissolving the PA — should provide some indication.

This seems to many to be the only real weapon the Palestinian leadership has left, albeit something of a doomsday scenario. President Abbas and the others clearly feel all their other options have been systematically foreclosed. They embraced the roadmap and — at considerable political cost — fulfilled their responsibilities on security to the best of their abilities, as acknowledged by both the United States and Israel. When the Obama administration began its peace initiative, Palestinians were given every reason to expect that Israel would be compelled to fulfill its own roadmap responsibilities and end settlement activity.

From the Palestinian perspective, all of their substantive efforts have been met with stonewalling and disingenuous rhetoric from Israel’s new prime minister, and deeply damaging ineffectiveness on the part of the Obama administration.

All of this was compounded by the PLO’s own mishandling of the Goldstone report, as it was unable to balance demands from international powers to back off with domestic political sentiments to push forward. The Palestinian leadership was therefore always going to pay either a domestic political or international dramatic price over the Goldstone question, but managed to end up paying both, almost in full.

It would appear that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments in Israel that appeared to imply a certain American satisfaction with the Israeli position were the final straw.

The Palestinian leadership is ready to give up because it feels it has done everything possible to accommodate the peace process established by the international community, and has gotten nowhere. Denied the slightest political accomplishment to which it can point as a measure of the success of its policies, it clearly came to feel that only the most drastic measures might communicate its political desperation to the outside world.

The attitude among many ordinary Palestinians is, if anything, even more grim.

For them, the 16-year era of peace talks has meant 16 years of further occupation, settlement building and land confiscation, bitter disappointment and denial of basic human and national rights. In addition to Israel and the international community, ordinary Palestinians also blame their own leaderships — both Fatah and Hamas — for not reuniting after the violent split in 2007, and blame all parties for the ongoing human catastrophe caused by the siege of Gaza.

Under such circumstances, it should be readily understandable that the concept of a viable peace process now seems like a sick joke to so many Palestinians.

This is the political context in which the Palestinian leadership has to operate: an exceedingly skeptical public and international actors that don’t seem to comprehend the limitations of Palestinian patience.

At last, it seems, even the most die-hard adherents of negotiations have concluded that either the dynamic must be changed or abandoned.

From the point of view of the Palestinian national project, the most serious threat posed by the present crisis is obviously to the Palestinian state and institution building program proposed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The plan could enact a dynamic, unilateral, nonviolent and constructive resistance to the occupation, creating the necessary framework for Palestinian independence, and constituting a dramatic transformation of the strategic environment in favor of both Palestinian interests and the prospects for peace.

Obviously, for this plan to succeed, it would require not only the financial and technical support of the international community, and most especially the United States, but also direct and vigorous political protection as well. It would be very difficult for Israel to block the project were it under international political protection, and almost impossible to interfere with specific projects that were being jointly pursued with American and European cooperation and involvement.

However the present crisis plays itself out, it is essential that this state building enterprise continue. It is the only thing on the horizon that offers a serious path forward towards ending both the occupation and the conflict, and can create hope in the midst of despair.

Hussein Ibish is a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

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  • annieannab

    Thank you for publishing this informative article on Palestine by Dr. Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine. We need to be noticing Palestine- and the very real plight of the Palestinians.Today I saw an inspiring new campaign led by Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a worldwide campaign “Charter for Compassion” urging all people to live by the golden rule. Applying “the golden rule” would result in a world of kindness and understanding: I think it is clear that the very real plight of the Palestinians needs our compassion and all our best efforts to help bring about a just and lasting peace. “The Golden Rule requires that we use empathy — moral imagination — to put ourselves in others’ shoes. We should act toward them as we would want them to act toward us.” We need a Golden Rule Peace for Israel and Palestine, a Golden Rule Peace firmly grounded in full respect for international law and basic human rights- and a golden rule guide to calming down the conversation rather than inflaming bigotry, extremism and despair. I very much agree that supporting the institution building program proposed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “could enact a dynamic, unilateral, nonviolent and constructive resistance to the occupation, creating the necessary framework for Palestinian independence, and constituting a dramatic transformation of the strategic environment in favor of both Palestinian interests and the prospects for peace.”… and I am glad that there is An American Task Force on Palestine, with scholars busy trying to be a bridge between ‘us’ and ‘them’.Thanks again for publishing Ibish’s thoughtful article.

  • ripvanwinkleincollege

    The Palestinians could have, and should have, engaged in non-violent confrontations with Israel for these many years. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you can use any method that you want to fight injustice, including the deliberate murder of innocent women and children as opposed to casualties in a military conflict. That does not let Israel off the hook, either. Israel could have removed civilians from Gaza before its campaign, and did not, unlike the US operation in Fallujah, Iraq.

  • francinelast

    I agree with Annieannab. Under the neocons and the Bush Administration, the world totally lost its moral compass. Here in America, so many Americans have become hateful towards their fellow human beings, and there’s so much anger now. Under Clinton, the world felt as though it was moving towards a more just community. But endless war, injustice and violence have left a bad, bad feeling. With the celebrations of the significance of the fall of the Berlin wall, perhaps Israel and America can reflect a little on what it means to be human and compassionate.

  • lufrank1

    If my land land and its people were being bulldozed to make more space for Neo-Nazi Jews – – – – I would also be in despair . . . and in desperation, wearing bombs.

  • LeeH1

    Now that the Palestinians are in despair, perhaps they will try peace for once!Naw. not a chance. The Palestinians are still shooting missiles at Israel while demanding a humanitarian handoout for electricity, food and gasoline from them.

  • ccnl1

    A good start to the road for peace would be realize that Muslims are not allah/god’s chosen people and that the koran is mostly fiction and that Islam has no historic claims on the land. (ditto for the Jewish claims for the same land).

  • i_go_pogo

    LUFRANK1, thanks for your eloquent demonstration of why the Palestinian cause has neither credibility nor legitimacy. You don’t want to build anything – you just want to blow stuff up.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    With the celebrations of the significance of the fall of the Berlin wall, perhaps Israel and America can reflect a little on what it means to be human and compassionate.Posted by: francinelastI ask because England has had so much more time than America, let alone Israel, yet has exhibited far less progress toward the lofty goals you have for Israel and America, in which you are currently a guest, I might add.

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    70% of Jordan’s residents are Palestinians, so the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria must return to their homeland whichi is Jordan . Egypt should take over Gaza and take responsibility for the terrorists and barbarians there, as it was before the Six Day War. I’m sure within a few days there will not be a singel terrorist, because when the Arabs slaughter Arabs, there is no any human rights organization to interfere and write reports. Thise is the best solution for the Middle East.

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    The terrorists and criminals’s Palestinian do not want a two-state solution, they want all Israel for themselves. But their dream will never come true.The Palestinians fell in love with the word we’re victims, because they continue to get handouts from the world, and on the way, taking some million for their pockets.

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    On the second anniversary of the Hamas military takeover of Gaza, PA (Fatah) TV broadcast a public Fatah event held in the presence of senior Fatah leaders, which focused on intense vilification of Hamas,Warning – the video contains graphic material. Whoever has a weak heart it is not recommended to see this video,This included the showing of a graphic video of Hamas members brutally beating a Fatah member in Gaza. The screams of the victim can be heard in the video, along with others calling “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great). The Fatah moderator introduced the video with the following words:

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    As part of its promotion of suicide terrorism, the PA has repeatedly taught its population the Islamic tradition that shahids (people who dies for Allah) will receive numerous heavenly rewards, including 72 (or 70 according to other sources) “Dark Eyed” Maidens of Paradise.These teachings have been seen in numerous televised religious sermons, as well as in a music video broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV during the last three years, which shows a shahid arriving in Paradise and being greeted by the MaidensThere is even evidence that Palestinian men have seen this goal of marrying the 72 Maidens as reason to aspire death as a shahid. In a TV broadcast, a Palestinian mother of a man named Abdallah, who died in clashes with Israel, explains her personal acceptance of her son’s death as a shahid, because it was his wish to marry the “Dark Eyed” Maidens of Paradise rather than an earthly woman.One of the early sources for this Islamic tradition of the 72 Maidens, according to the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, is cited in an a literary analysis of Muhammad’s language. A Hadith [prophetic tradition] describes the rewards of the “prophets, the righteous and the Sshahids”: “[Muhammad said in the Hadith explaining the words of the Koran promising ‘comfortable dwellings in the Garden of Eden,’ There is] a palace of pearls in the Garden of Eden and in it seventy courts of ruby… And in each court [there are] seventy houses of green emerald stone. In every house, seventy beds. On every bed, seventy mattresses of every color and on every mattress a woman.””The style of the Prophet [in this Hadith] … is intended to fill Muslims with desire for the Garden of Eden … to be worthy of it, because… only three dwell there: prophets, righteous and shahids.”

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    When the shahid meets his Maker, all his sins are forgiven from the first gush of blood. He is exempted from the torments of the grave; he sees his place in Paradise, he is shielded from the great shock, and marries 72 Dark Eyed. He is a heavenly advocate for 70 members of his family, on his head is placed a crown of honor, one stone of which is worth more than all there is in this world.”Palestinian Authority leaders and media have repeatedly encouraged young Palestinians to seek shahada – death for Allah, using a variety of persuasive tactics. In sermons, discussions and music videos still broadcast on PA TV, young people are indoctrinated to pursue ‘martyrdom’ for its “sweetness” and the rewards it brings. This latest example is another reinforcement of the repeated message; romantic and utopic portrayals of the heavenly rewards of martyrdom.It is an indication of how the PA uses these traditions to promote its war against Israel.It does so by reinforcing the lesson for Palestinian youth that death is not to be feared; rather, they should actively seek shahada as a duty and for its many rewards.

  • crmla2fromIsrael

    95% of contemporary Muslims are exposed to anti-Semitic teachings. every Muslim learns chapters from the Quran that those who have incurred divine wrath are the Jews, and those who are astray are Christians. What is more problematic is that the average person learns this chapter and its interpretation between the ages of 5-8. And we know that things learned at this stage of life become ingrained, almost to the point of being in one’s DNA.

  • Nymous

    There would not be any despair if they were not shooting people & blowing things up.The problems they have at this point are caused by violence more than anything else.I don’t think there are enough people who want peace for there ever to be peace there. I have pretty much given up on the idea.There’s nothing holy about any of this land, there is nothing that really entitles any of the people fighting over it to fight over it, and the entire thing is an absurd cultural conflict that will never be solved.People were fighting and dying over that mud pile long before I was born, and they’ll be doing it long after I’m dead. That anyone would expect any different of the area is just silly.The thing to do if you don’t like what’s happening there is to leave and go someplace that is not filled with fools who want to blow each other up more than they do anything else. Don’t go to Somalia, Sudan, and a pile of other places where idiots rule the land, and you’ll probably be happier.Why anyone ever expects to be happy when they live in a blood trodden mud pit I do not know. That is not a lifestyle that will result in much happy for anyone who does it.

  • Nymous

    Christians and Jews and Muslims want to all make some big deal over what supposedly happened there thousands of years ago.All the while they want to ignore one of the central facts that everyone can agree did happen. The Romans had managed to get wound up in the regional mess to their regret. That whole adventure did not turn out for them any more well than it has for any country that’s involved itself in the area since then.The place has a 2000 year old track record of failure to govern itself reasonably. There’s about as much odds as Jesus showing up tomorrow as there are that peace will suddenly break out there. Neither thing will ever happen again.

  • coloradodog

    As long as Arabs hate Jews and vice versa, this is all mandible masturbation. One can only hope, through education and vacating the uncompromising nature of their fore-bearers, future generations will overcome their Abrahamic religious agenda to exterminate the other.

  • coloradodog

    crmla2fromIsrael wrote:The war against Israel is not a war against Israel. It is a war against the West_____________________________________Only because the West, in their proper guilt over what white Northern Europeans did to the Jews in the 30’s and 40’s have chosen to side with Israel in this eternal religious war. Aided by a strong AIPAC lobby in the US, the West finds itself deeply mired down in this eternal religious war that only the second coming of Abraham and his denouncement of and repentance for his hateful teachings of intolerance and exclusion could ever correct.Both Palestine and Israel are at fault even though speaking this truth will get one branded in the US as “anti-semetic” by uncompromising and narrow-minded Jews who want to bully the rest of us like their Christian Huckabee counterparts who exacerbate this situation with dreams of the rapture prophesied by more conflict in the Middle East.

  • coloradodog

    “Under such circumstances, it should be readily understandable that the concept of a viable peace process now seems like a sick joke to so many Palestinians.”Under such circumstances as Palistine continuing to lob missiles and suicide bombers into Israel, it should be readily understandable that the concept of a viable peace process now seems like a sick joke to so many Israelis.My enemy’s friend is my enemy. This is why the US will remain an enemy of Islam with their irrational hatred of Jews and visa versa.

  • patrick3

    How in God’s name can any nation which purports to be just and democratic keep three million stateless men, women and children trapped like dogs behind walls and fences without the basic human rights its citizens demand for themselves?

  • Minka

    Everyone who is interested in this horrific situation must read and start from the beginning.

  • glacon

    The Palestinians getting their own house in order, vis a vis Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza, would be a good first step. There is currently no ONE AUTHORITY that speaks for and represents ALL Palestinians. With whom is Israel supposed to negotiate? Will Hamas agree to terms agreed upon between Israel and Fatah? Is Israel supposed to negotiate separately with Fatah and Hamas? WHO REPRESENTS ALL PALESTINIANS? Why is this basic premise being ignored?Lets stipulate for the moment that Fatah and Hamas can come together to form a unified Authority to govern and represent ALL palestinians, then what. Is it unreasonable to demand that this Authority recognize Israel’s RIGHT TO EXIST as a first step to negotiations? Is it unreasonable to demand that ALL ARAB NATIONS recognize isreal’s right to exist as part of the first step to negotiations, particularly in light of them making the PALESTINIAN ISSUE central to any discussion of MIDEAST PEACE? Doesn’t this basic issue, propounded by ALL Arab nations, make them part of the process by default?Now let’s stipulate that the Arab World recognize Israel’s right to exist, then what. Can we rid both peoples of the poison that exists between them? Can we talk about why this poison exists? Is it unreasonable to demand that this basic premise, the poison that exists between the peoples, be the first order of business?Doesn’t the situation demand that they get to this point before they actually negotiate peace? I suggest that it does, otherwise, the animosity between the two cultures will continue as it has for thousands of years. Full disclosure demands that I identify myself as a Jew. I can only pray that both sides acknowledge the points I have made as preconditions to peace, ackowledging therein that continuing on the current path leads nowhere.

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, US aid to Israel is basically equivalent to that of Egypt i.e. $4 billion/yr). You might also say the Muslim lobby in Congress is much stronger than any Israeli influence based on our expenditures to defend and care for the Moslems in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. And one blogger noted: “American Muslims agree to leave the United States in a one-for-one exchange for Jews from Israel. Dismantle Israel. Problem solved!”Sounds reasonable!!!!And then there is this recommendation:Israel- Its formation was approved by the UN in 1948. It should honor the original UN agreement and live within the described borders. Considering the hate generated by passages in the koran and OT, erecting dividing walls between Muslims and Jews is was a great first move and it should continue. UN forces, however, should control these walls. And Jerusalem should be made into an international city under the control and protection of the UN.

  • rick22407

    Bibi will not freeze settlements and Abu Mazen will not enter peace talks until settlements are frozen. The most important thing to discuss in any Israeli/Palestinian peace talks is the rate at which Israelis will dismantle all existing settlements outside the Green Line and return to inside its pre-1967 Green Line borders. This is absolutely impossible as long as settlements continue to expand. The most important thing to discuss in any proposed international peace talks is the sanctions to impose on the Israelis until they are 100% back inside the Green Line. An airtight oil and natural gas embargo being the most effective.