Palestine: the Logical Locus of Les Onzards
You are a Palestinian.
You are forced to tolerate foreign troops, armed with machine guns and grenades, patrolling the shopping district of the city you live in, claiming the right, uncontestable because of their weaponry, to survey, harass, frisk and detain any civilian for any reason or none at all.
You live with the knowledge firstly that those troops represent the most impressive military in the region, the only one with nuclear weaponry at its disposal, and secondly that you and your family and all your friends are not represented by a government with sovereignty, jurisdiction or statutory legitimacy. To the extent that the occupying Israeli army grants your people any administration at all, it is an interim provisional government, the Palestinian Authority, whose “authority” lapsed thirteen years ago.
The Foreign Minister of the occupying army’s government, Avigdor Lieberman, is the head of the second most powerful party in the Knesset, a party that is overtly racist against your people (Arabs) and constitutionally hostile to your uplift. The last twenty years of what commentators glibly misrepresent as the “peace process” have only led to peace in the Pax Romana sense, maximizing not freedom, justice and equality but settlement, occupation and colonialism, the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories having more than doubled in that time.
The land your people are allowed to inhabit is non-contiguous, and each part is overseen by an unsavory party that lacks public support, even in the territory each ostensibly leads. Fatah, which represents the West Bank, is a corrupt client party of Egypt, the United States and Israel, which has compromised too snivelingly with the latter to have achieved anything like gains in the movement for Palestinian liberation (all the while soaking up Palestinian money to enrich apparatchiks) and has therefore remained complicit in occupation. Hamas, democratically elected to represent Gaza, is a radical Islamist sect that maintains a website complete with the discredited fascist propaganda piece “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and so heavily prioritizes its narrow ideological program over national interests that it will later publicly celebrate “Arab holy warrior” Osama bin Laden.
You are a Palestinian, and the outlook is not brilliant.
But then March of 2011 rolls around and Hosni Mubarak is deposed by protesters in Egyptian streets. The greatest strategic pillar in the region of Israel’s siege of your brothers and sisters in Gaza and the primary neighboring patron of Fatah has fallen. Then, by two months later, Syria finds itself engaged in sanguinary strife, Bashar Assad (for whom Israel is lobbying) striking back viciously at protestors there, the death toll rising toward a thousand, which jeopardizes Hamas’ chief regional source of support. Forced by the collapse of their outside benefactors to make a change, the two parties agree to a reconciliation deal, temporarily ending the inter-Palestinian feud, which the former Egyptian government has refused to mediate for the last four years. As a term of this deal to create a unity government of Fatah and Hamas forces, Egypt agrees to open the Gaza border crossing. All of a sudden, everything is different.
Israel becomes increasingly isolated, facing the prospect of democratic regional rivals who are unfriendly to its occupation, nations with legitimate claims to all the moral high ground that comes with casting off despots, operating under pressure by their populations, who cannot be bribed to surrender their cause célèbre, Palestinian liberation. This means that Israel feels increased pressure either to make concessions to Palestine, by way of dismantling the settlement and occupation apparatus, or to rely solely on the United States for military support.
In the United States, $3 billion in direct military aid to Israel is proposed despite a “fiscal crisis” that right wing lawmakers maintain necessitates cutting home heating assistance to impoverished Americans. The backlash against this sort of malfeasance in national fiscal prioritizing is changing the narrative in American media and public opinion. Even as neo-conservative American commentators publish their doubts that democracy will take hold in Egypt (because they envision democracy landing in the area in the form of American torture, prisons, bombs and tanks), America’s stomach for funneling money to Israel erodes as its esteem for the Arab world – which is demonstrating its yearning for freedom, justice and equality – rises.
You are a Palestinian, and you have a lot of work to do.
There are 11 million Palestinians, about half living inside the territory prescribed by former mandatory Palestine (including not just denizens of the occupied territories, but Arabs living as citizens of Israel proper) and the other half living elsewhere, chiefly Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. You have to mobilize all those people around a liberation strategy that appeals to the widest possible base. You have to forswear armed struggle, not because a stateless people isn’t justified in taking up arms against its occupying military (it is), but because such struggle against so heavily armed an enemy is asinine, not to mention damaging from a public relations perspective.
The public relations perspective is of crucial significance, especially in the United States. Nothing like a consensus exists among Americans that Palestinians are worthy of statehood, and the fact of Hamas’ shared representation of the national position does not help to reverse that inclination. Luckily, precedent is springing up all over the region for youth-led democratic movements, in opposition both to Islamism and client parties of American imperial power, deposing regimes and attempting to replace them with much more attractive governments. Palestine, centrally significant to the Arab world, stands every chance of being the most important location for that movement, the movement of les onzards, to take root.
You are a Palestinian, and the whole world is watching.
J.A. Myerson, Executive Editor of the Busy Signal, is the Artistic Director of Full of Noises and a teaching artist with Urban Arts Partnership. He writes primarily on American Politics and Human Rights. Follow him on Twitter.