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News ::
Save Palestinians From Themselves (english)
04 Jun 2003
...a national struggle is not a free-for-all street rumble. It is supposed to be a movement led by astute leaders...
Save Palestinians From Themselves
Fawaz Turki, Arab News senior columnist

Where I grew up till my mid-teens, in the mean streets of the Basta, the Palestinian ghetto in Beirut, when someone did you wrong, say, by robbing you, dissing your sister, or encroaching on your property, you made him kiss first and then you talked later. That is, he kissed the ground first, face down, as the result of a left hook, a right to the midsection, an upper cut to the chin and then a head-butt.

Not a civilized way of resolving disputes, to be sure, but ghettos have a way about enacting their own laws. Mess with us, fellow, and you pay the price here and now, because we ain't going to no cops to right the wrong committed against us. We don't trust the men in blue to begin with, for we know they will side with the bully anyhow.

You grow up with street justice as you grow up with your skin because the objective realities in the painful world you inhabit dictate, albeit unconsciously, your mindset - who you are, what you think, and how you meditate on the actualities of your past and the potentialities of your future.

For the last 35 years, Israeli occupation has turned the two remnants left after 1948 of the Palestinian people's patrimony, the West Bank and Gaza, into a vast ghetto, a breeding ground for extremist ideologues, mindless fantasists and suicide bombers. Clearly, these folks were not born that way. They were molded by a life imbued with endless occupation, unspeakable desperation and constant humiliation.

A given. But a national struggle is not a free-for-all street rumble. It is supposed to be a movement led by astute leaders with a strategy, and a grasp of their people’s place in the balance of power, a necessary function of the success of any national struggle.

Let me say this upfront and let the chips fall where they may: The Palestinian leadership has traditionally failed - and continues to this day to fail - in finding a way to the clearing for their people, that is, statehood, independence and freedom.

From the British sponsored Peel Commission in 1936 to the White Paper in 1939, and from the UN-sponsored Partition Plan in 1939, and from the UN-sponsored partition Plan in 1947 to the American-sponsored Clinton Proposals, issued in the wake of the Camp David conference, in January 2001, these leaders rejected outright, or at best prevaricated at accepting, these offers. And in each case, each subsequent offer would be progressively downsized, which they would reject, asking to go back to the status quo ante. No go.

When history presents a people with a turning point, they either turn with it, or they languish.

This current uprising lacks rhyme or reason. Suicide bombings - the desperation of those committing them notwithstanding - are not only morally wrong, but have had a way about them of both besmirching the Palestinian people's incontestable claims to independence in their own homeland and giving an excuse to Zionist expansionists, as those running the Israeli government today, to retard, impede and finally block any chance for a half-way decent settlement of the conflict from succeeding.

"Revolutionary violence," Jean Paul Sartre suggested in his introduction to Franz Fanon's seminal work on the psychology of the colonized as he confronts his colonizer, brings with it the "cleansing" impulse of freeing the colonized subject from his feelings of impotence, inferiority, and helplessness. But with all due respect to the late French philosopher, I say suicide bombings should stop at once in Palestine. Apart from being morally repugnant, their usefulness to the cause of Palestinian freedom is nil.

Israeli violence in the West Bank and Gaza - the killing of civilians, the demolition of homes and uprooting of centuries-old trees, the imposition of checkpoints and curfews, and the expropriation of land - is not called terrorism. Palestinian violence is. But, heck, who said there's justice in the world.

Palestinians must make up their minds. Their national liberation will come about through a political settlement or through armed struggle. The former may take years, but it will come with an understanding by Palestinian leaders of their movement's place in the balance of power, which alone will define the rights they get - no more but no less either. With the latter, they have Buckley's chance of going anywhere beyond sitting under that tree waiting for Godot, living a life of increasing destitution in their pauperized land with every suicide bombing they mount.

They can't have both.
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