The explosion of anger that has rocked the cities of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories was predictable and inevitable. The latest “cease-fire” agreement–as if this has been a conflict between two armies–is unlikely to produce anything more than a temporary lull in the protests. The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is the violent context that makes such protests inevitable. There is, in the final analysis, only one way to “stop the violence,” and that is to end the occupation.
The desire for liberation will, eventually, always bring an occupied people out into the streets, stones in hand, ready to face the might of powerful armies, preferring to risk death than live in bondage. This is not extreme nationalism or racism or religious fervor. It is the need to be free.
Americans seem stunned by the uprising, but few have any real grasp of what living under Israeli military occupation since 1967 has meant for Palestinians.
It means a reality of unending violence. It means being surrounded by an abusive foreign army that enforces a social system indistinguishable from apartheid; confiscations of land that is then given to hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in Jewish-only communities linked by Jewish-only roads; home demolitions; torture; cities cut off from each other, closed down, besieged on a regular basis. It means living in a massive prison, bereft of all normal civil, human and national rights.
The seeds that produced the new uprising were sown seven years ago at the White House Rose Garden. If American foreign policy lies in ruins, it is because it was based on a fundamentally false premise: that the Palestinians would accept something less than their own freedom. At Camp David this summer, the Palestinians were told bluntly they could expect nothing of the kind. Israel, they were told, would keep large chunks of the occupied territories, including the Old City of Jerusalem; would continue to control all the borders and the water; and would have a veto on many policies of their “state,” the territories of which would be a patchwork lacking any geographical coherence. This, they were told, was “generous” and the best they could ever get from any Israeli. In other words, forget about liberation.
The predictable result was the massive uprising of recent days.
Since 1967, there has been only one workable solution to the conflict. The plan is articulated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which sets up a two-part “land for peace” solution. Part one holds that Israel must withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967 (land). Part two calls for all states in the region to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries (peace).
Every “peace process” document, from the Madrid Summit to the final Camp David communique, reiterates that the aim of the negotiations is the implementation of 242. The Palestinian obligations under 242 were fulfilled years ago. The Palestinian Authority recognized Israel in its 1967 borders and its right to live in peace and security in those borders.
The Israeli obligation, withdrawal from the occupied territories, is utterly unfulfilled. Any doubts that the occupation continues in all its grim brutality were irrefutably demonstrated in recent days. Israel simply refuses to end its occupation, especially of Jerusalem, as Ariel Sharon’s invasion of the Muslim holy site was intended to show. The original sin of the U.S.-dominated Oslo process is that it pushed aside international law and the U.N. in an attempt to provide cover for Israel to avoid complying with 242. We have witnessed the results of this shortsightedness over the past weeks. The latest agreement in Egypt continues this fatal error by allowing the United States to monopolize the international investigation into recent events.
But 242 is a solemn commitment by the international community to the Palestinian people. It is the key to security for Israel, liberation for the Palestinians and peace for the Middle East. Until the international community, including the United States, seriously commits itself to ensuring the complete implementation of 242 by all parties, and ending the occupation, the “peace process” is going to keep producing results that look a lot more like war.