Turns and twists in Palestine

Daily: The Statesman
Date: 08.04.04

'Claim of association' is one thing while 'claim of ownership' is another, when we talk of
ancestry. In this context, if the latter claim overwhelms the former one it means the very
meaning of the word, claim has to be reviewed. Its application is true nowhere else but in
Palestine, where the latter claim has been thrusted upon the Palestinians to be
acknowledged pertaining to the land—on the sheer basis of ancestry.

If ancestry becomes the basis of ownership—rather than the basis of association, then the
same can ascend further. As we know, human history expands over million of years. If
tomorrow some other race, religion or a group of people comes forward to claim that their
ancestors inhabited the area even before Jews, what would happen then? Will Jews be
ready to vacate the area what is known today as Israel? Certainly not. Nevertheless, one
wonders, in this age of advance genetics, if someone comes out from a genetic laboratory—
recreated from a fossilized DNA—and asserts a claim of ownership of a land on the basis of
one’s ancestry, what would the world be like? One thing is certain: the people will become
more interested in keeping their genetic profile of ancestry preserved than land’s ownership
profile. Another thing is also certain, that is, the Israel’s assertion will be eroded—owing to
having no legitimacy.

Secondly, if nativity is an argument (in the contemporary history of the world) as a right to
live first then what about the Aborigines of Australia and the Red Indians of America? If,
being natives, Jews can get their once lost land back then both Canberra and Washington
D.C ought to be ready to vacate for their respective natives.

Thirdly, for the concept 'the Promised Land’, the conflict of Jews should be with the One
Who promised to do so and not with the Palestinians, as it was not the promise made by
them. Moreover, the Palestinians were neither directed from the Heavens to leave the land,
when the claimant of 'the Promised Land' would approach them nor they gave any such
consent to any one. Further, they were not even a party in the famous Belfour Declaration
of 1917, wherein someone else awarded the ownership of the land of Palestine to someone
else on the basis of someone’s ancestry—in lieu of one’ services.

Palestine is a historical area in the Middle East region, which is in turn in the strategic and
economic center of the world. This point was known less to the Palestinians but more to the
Super Powers of the world. That was why before the World War II, Britain and France eyed
on the region. Subsequently, the famous Suez Canal crisis of 1956 provided an impetus to
exclusion of France and Britain while inclusion of the former USSR and the US in the region,
comparatively. After 1972, the influence of the former USSR declined in the region. Instead,
the US came forward as a ‘peace-promoter’. Further, the European meddlers became pro-
Arab in the wake of the Oil crisis of 1973.

The decade of 1972 to 1982 was a pro-US decade in the region, the major manifestation of
which was the US brokered Israel-Egypt Camp David Accord of 1978. However the years of
1982 to 1991 were the years of mounting influence of the former USSR, once again, in the
region especially among the Arab states. The very reason of this shift was Israel-Lebanon
war of 1982 and the resultant Beirut atrocities. In its wake, when the US vetoed a resolution
in the UN Security Council, her pro-Israel inclination became evident which overshadowed
her role of a peace promoter. Henceforth, whenever the US has used her veto in favour of
Israel, she is considered more a pro-Israel than a peace promoter.

In its essence, the Palestinian demands are four pronged. First, retrieval of the land,
including East Jerusalem, snatched during 1967 war; secondly, consecration of the Al-Aqsa
Mosque; thirdly right of the Palestinian refugees to repatriate to their pre-1948 residences;
and fourthly a Palestinian state. Moreover, one thing is also constant, that is, the US
backing to Israel—loaded with her Veto power inside the UNSC and supply of the war
machinery out side of it. Hence, the US-Israel nexus has dashed all hopes of the
Palestinians by rendering them desperate and dejected.

Since nothing is permanent in human affairs except change, it seemed that the dimension
of the issue got changed since 1987. The issue has come out of ambit of the Arab-Zionist
conflict and entered in realm of the Palestinian-Israel conflict. The main indicator of which
was the insurgence of the first Palestine Intifada in 1987 (after an agitation on a car
accident in Israeli occupied Gaza and the resultant atrocities inflicted by the Israeli troops),
which got a momentum by the second Palestine Intifada (the al-Aqsa Intifada) of September
2000 (after a controversial walk at a site of the Al-Aqsa mosque by the right wing Likud
Party leader Ariel Sharon coupled with a failed peace summit at Camp David). Formerly, the
neighbour Arab states had more decisive role to play and used to have a say on the
Palestinians. With the passage of time, due to certain reasons, the shift has appeared and
the matter has gone into the hands of common Palestinians. Both of the Intifada —
aggressive uprising of the Palestinians for self-determination—have provided an
unconventional and unprecedented challenge to Israel from within, one after another.

The second Intifada is one of the important reasons of augmentation in popularity of
Hamas—a replica of 1970’s PLO—and the comparative decline in popularity of Yasser
Arafat’s PLO in the masses, besides the incapacity of the Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.  The
same compelled Hamas’ former three rival right-wing radical groups like Al-Fatah’s Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah to rally around it. Hence, it is likely
that Hamas will emerge as a new force replacing or standing parallel to even the PLO at
politico-social level. Israel also realizes this reality of indigenous in nature and consequently
has been keen to secure ‘land for peace’ or ‘land for security’ compromises since 1987, as
witnessed in the Israel-PLO Oslo Accord of 1993 and the Wye River Accord of 1998.

The two important events, that is, assassination of Sheikh Yassin and announcement of the
unilateral disengagement plan to withdraw from Gaza strip and West bank (four or six
settlements) by Ariel Sharon, have been coinciding with two other important developments.
First, imposition of corruption charges on Sharon and second is the Greater Middle East
Plan.  

The angles so far have been focused are: engage the Arab players and get settle the
issue. For the constructive engagement, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia are a few
names. While for the destructive engagement names of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are
significant. However, the agenda item for the end product of the both sort of engagements
is the same for all of them: Arab Democratization. Now-a-days, it is called a ‘Greater Middle-
East Plan’.

The very idea behind the plan or initiative is to bring forward the new generation of the
political leaders, in the pretext of political freedom, which could be conformist to the western
democratic ways and means. The idea may not be so objectionable but the way it is being
imposed raises hue and cry. For instance, to exterminate the old leadership like Sheikh
Yassin followed by giving some concessions—unilaterally—to the Palestinians. These acts
can also be seen as providing some room for maneuvering to the PLO leadership and the
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei to deliver the ‘requisite goods’; discredit Hamas; divert
attention of the home and foreign front from the Greek island scam; and satisfy the right
wing Jews in order to avoid the end like that of Yitzhak Rabin, by announcing a referendum
on the pull out.  

Today, a common Palestinian of Gaza and West Bank is not oblivious of tricks of the
installed democracy. That is to create a Palestine government, which is constrained to
make peace on Israeli terms. That is why, perhaps, it seems that the Palestinians are
reluctant to coexist with an Israeli state. For them, Israel was a foreign agenda asserted
without their will and they cannot be subjugated to accept the terms of Israeli peace. To that
matter, if a gallop survey is done under the UN auspices, the situation will become clearer.
This is what a true democracy calls for.

In this context, one of the great misunderstandings is: ‘terror is a choice of the Palestinians’.
To that reference, if the status quo is reversed that is, the Israelis are living in refugee
camps being deprived of their homes while the Palestinians are residing in standard
habitats, then the Israeli youth will be found resorting to the same sorts of stone throwing
and suicide bomb explosions to make the world listen to their voice from the abyss. Hence,
it appears to be less a choice but more a compulsion on part of the Palestinians. If Israel’s
actions for persecution are justified as ‘aggressive self-defence’ then the Palestinians’
measures for sacrifice can also be viewed as ‘aggressive self-determination’.

It solution to the issue. Moreover, both have to share the same land and live as next-door
neighbours—either dependent or independent states—on the basis of equality, sooner or
later. The Palestinians have to decipher that all refugees are not likely to come back to the
pre-1948 Palestine areas. They should be ready for that compromise, as few should
sacrifice for many. The very convincing example is: during the Pakistan movement, the
demand of Pakistan was more in the Muslim minority areas of the then India. However, after
August 14, 1947, they could not join Pakistan. They sacrificed for other Muslims living in
majority Muslim areas—the areas which constitute now Pakistan and even Bangladesh. On
the other hand, Israel has to realize that the wall is the limit when someone is pushed to it.
Beyond that there is nothing but a bounce. If these two simple points are realized, turns and
twists in Palestine will soon be straightened.

Back to columns in 2004