In 2010, B’Tselem researchers reported that 42% of the landmass of the West Bank fell under the control of settlers while an additional 18% has been seized by the IDF as “closed military areas” for purposes of “training.”
Palestine resembles an old patient suffering from political sepsis and all the empty words that are supposedly supportive of Palestinian self-determination and legitimacy under International law are merely a way to keep the conflict in its non-temporary state of induced coma!
I have been involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for well nigh three decades. In one sense, I have earned my stripes by engaging the protagonists on both sides of this conflict. I have written extensively about it, spoken about it at conferences and advocacy meetings, read a large number of books on it, have been involved in second-track negotiations during the much-maligned Oslo years and have often see-sawed between optimism and pessimism. On a good day, I have thought of the very starkness and horror of the occupation ever since 1967 and experienced a few waves of optimism that Palestinians will eventually fulfill their self-determination and rid themselves of the yoke of oppression. But such feelings were almost inevitably followed by equally strong waves of pessimism that this breakthrough for peace, justice and security will simply not occur during my lifetime. In one sense, I suppose that my feelings replicated Emile Habibi’s satirical and powerful neologism of a “pessoptimist.”
And then I read Ehrenreich’s book, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. It is not a book that I enjoyed in any literal sense. Rather, it is one that captured me. It moved, angered, frustrated and infuriated me. It also forced me to face the enormity of the odds stacked up against a Palestinian people whose cardinal fault was that they were kicked out of their own lands and turned into refugees. And today — certainly after the Arab uprisings of 2010 — much of the world kicks their cause around like a ball in a football pitch.
Ben Ehrenreich lived in the West Bank, staying for long periods with Palestinian families in its largest cities and smallest villages. His book introduces us to ordinary Palestinians and reminds us not only of a cruel occupation that almost symptomizes the banality of evil and echoes its painful realities. He forces readers to deal with Israeli settlers who admit that they wish to drive Palestinians from their lands and whose actions are often sanctioned by the Israeli government. He crosses checkpoints, observes demonstrations (against Israel and the Palestinian Authority), describes walls and fences that have sundered home from field and goes to court where Palestinians, young or old, often appear before judges simply because they seek their freedom.
But what about 2017? Sadly, the Palestinian conflict that had mobilised much of the world has been reduced to a feeble and unhappy whimper. The Arab uprisings in 2010 — in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere — sucked our attention away from Palestine and its endemic ills. Coupled with the inability of the Palestinian officials — be they in Ramallah or Gaza — to defend their cause in view of their own bombast, self-interest or unending internecine battles, the Palestinian struggle no longer inspires the world. It does not even inspire belief in ordinary Palestinians anymore who hold pretty negative opinions of their leaders, no longer trust the vanishing two-state solution and who in increasing numbers are applying for Israeli citizenship as a way out of human misery. In fact, any serious political observer would tell us today that Palestine is no longer on the international agenda and that Israel is being callously and knowingly allowed to manage the occupation with undisguised impunity and without any moral or international challenge.