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IF Palestine has no power and no land, then no state solution is possible — one, two or none.
As Dr Mustafa Barghouti — leader of the Palestine National Initiative and a key player in any negotiated settlement, who is neither Fatah nor Hamas — said, without a fundamental shift in the balance of power, there is no possibility of a fair or just solution.
Sending Palestine leaders into an imagined negotiating chamber with Israel is not just sending them in naked, it’s with their arms and legs bound on the rack while the screws are applied to make them sign the proffered “agreement.”
With the armed forces of the occupier sitting on top of them, backed by the might of the Western world — the unholy trinity of the US, EU and Britain — what chance do the Palestinian people have of emerging with their self-determination, rights and freedom intact?
Polls tell us that Palestine has the sympathy of the world community. We also know that most Palestinians see the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign as one of their few remaining non-violent means of mobilising global opinion on their side to try to redress the balance of power.
There are signs, amidst the carnage in Gaza, that the global population is being moved.
The UN unilaterally created a nation-state, a safe haven for Jews, by bringing Israel into existence to assuage Western guilt for the Holocaust.
From then on, and before, through the occupation in 1967, to Oslo and beyond, the world has continually failed to deliver on its promises of a Palestinian state.
To achieve this will require a volte-face by all parties. On universal and uncritical support of Israel’s war on Palestine, we must be clear. This is not just a war on Gaza — it is a war on the whole Palestinian people and the notion of a Palestinian state. The West must use all of its considerable powers to drag Israel kicking to negotiation, rather than an Israeli-imposed “settlement.”
The West can do this — it has the money and military arms. But it lacks the willpower to use them to bring pressure to bear on Israel, to climb the mountains to a solution, despite the many UN resolutions since 1967 about the illegality of Israel’s occupation.
It is perhaps because the modern US and Britain have never been occupied or invaded that we have no conception of living under a military regime.
No freedom of movement or speech, no rights, no democracy — all power lies in the hand of the military occupier. Israel’s military commander writes, lays down and implements the law in occupied Palestine.
Whatever the outcome, self-determination is the only solution for the Palestinian people.
But how can Palestinians be expected to negotiate any form of peaceful solution that does not have the ending of the occupation as a prerequisite?
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) tried. It accepted a “historic compromise” in 1994 by establishing a Palestinian state on what was just over 20 per cent of historic Palestine — the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Land that — according to Netanyahu — Israel wants to settle completely and so to eliminate any possibility of a Palestinian state.
This brings us to land — the second mountain that has to be climbed before any solution is possible. Before WWII Palestinians owned over 90 per cent of what was historic Palestine. Now, within the 1948 borders, that same percentage is, according to Israeli law, owned and occupied by Jewish Israeli citizens, a process initiated by the 1948 Nakba, driving three-quarters of the Palestinian population off their land, out of their homes and villages.
Having militarily taken possession and legally banned them from returning to their homes, Palestinian properties were declared vacant and taken possession of by Israeli settlers. Even within Israel, there are 300,000 displaced Palestinians, notionally Israeli citizens, unable to return to their homes. This process of colonial settlement is the plan, it is Israel’s core strategy.
The argument over settlements is not about “nasty” Israelis building a few buildings on Palestinian land. It is about the continual and systematic theft, occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. This is happening in East Jerusalem — Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan — but also across the whole of the West Bank. Numbers and estimates vary, but there are now well over 700,000 settlers in that 20 per cent of land on which Palestine was meant to be established.
This is why they, the settlements, are illegal under international law. An occupier moving their population onto occupied land makes it harder, if not impossible, to ever end the occupation. It transforms an occupation as a consequence of war, into a permanent takeover.
The settlements are not “little houses on the prairie” — they are towns and villages that have seized the water and the best land and have built their own transport infrastructure systems. They are armed and heavily defended, militarily located for panopticon control of the Palestinian population.
To achieve peace decolonisation must take place — at the very least in those parts of Palestinian land under military occupation. Palestinians must be given back their land and the settlers must be recalled.
Many would leave anyway if the Israeli military were not on hand to support their violent tactics against the indigenous Palestinians, and economic settlers would be less keen without financial aid and faced with the choice of becoming citizens of a free Palestine.
Palestinians have been made aliens in their own land. To even describe the problem, brings the realisation of how huge a shift is needed in global politics, in the attitude of Western leaders. Platitudes about a two-state solution are meaningless without putting the means necessary in place to bring it about.
There are many other issues to resolve to redress the wrongs that have been done to the Palestinian people, including the prisoners, refugees and Jerusalem.
Within Palestine, and even by a few within Israel, there is a recognition that the status quo is untenable for the long term. Military occupation, with a subjugated, walled-in population discriminated against within an apartheid regime will not survive history.
A recognition that any solution will have to be based on equality — that every person living between the river and the sea has the same rights whatever the nation-state configuration.
While the drive towards genocide continues, these issues seem distant. The killing has to stop, there must be a permanent ceasefire.
There are more voices saying there will need to be a negotiated outcome — but this will mean nothing if it is not based on a determination to end the military occupation and give Palestinians back their land. Only in this way can a free Palestine be brought about. In the meantime, the world must keep on marching.
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