The Palestinian Conundrum

Protests War

Pearl River      As the Gaza conflict extends past nine months, people of good will continue to knit their brows and pull their hair, imagining what it might take to end the conflict and stop the bloodletting both now and in the future.  The largest Israeli protests in months occurred recently demanding a cease fire, release of prisoners, and, importantly, a new governmental election.  There were encouraging signs that there might be new movement towards peace, as Hamas indicated it was coming back to the table, and Israel indicated that at least the conflict was in a “new phase.”

Ironically, one glimmer of hope may be the news of an increasingly serious divergence between the Israeli military and the existing government under Netanyahu and his far-right coalition and ministers.  Some top spokespeople for the military have publicly called for a cease fire, indicating that the military was not ready or able to fight on two fronts, both with Hamas and Hezbollah on the border.  Some generals have now publicly complained about the lack of a viable post-conflict plan and the government’s unachievable objectives for the war, especially the total elimination of Hamas.  Military units of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have repeatedly been sent back into areas of Gaza, previously cleared and bombed to smithereens, to deal with new outbreaks.  A retiring general has now taken a slap at the ultra-right defense minister, a settler himself, issuing “a harsh rebuke of the government’s policies there [in the West Bank] and condemned rising ‘nationalist crime’ by Jewish settlers.”  The mounting alienation of the military has to be putting pressure on the political structure, given its support from the Israeli public and mass military conscription, including perhaps soon tens of thousands who the highest court has now ruled can no longer be exempted from service.  “Since the Hamas attack last October, Israel has killed over 500 Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli checkpoints …around Palestinian cities.”

Is the two-state solution totally dead?  A piece in The Economist makes the case that it might be more viable now, than it has been in the past, even though fraught with obstacles:

Since Oslo the Palestinian territories have changed a great deal, even before the destruction of Gaza. In some respects, these changes make it a more credible state than it was in the 1990s. For example, Palestinians spend 2.4 more years in education than they did two decades ago, making them one of the most literate populations in the Middle East. In the early 1990s Gaza and the West Bank scored 0.53 on the UN’s Human Development Index (one is the highest), based on health, wealth and education. By 2022 it had climbed to 0.716, ahead of Morocco.  The share of imports that come from Israel has fallen from 79% in 1995-99 to 57% in 2022, making the West Bank less dependent on Israeli inputs. On the ground and at international forums like the World Economic Forum in Davos, the PA has acquired institutional heft. In May it marked 30 years in existence. Its tenacity in the face of adversity has heightened its aspirations.

The list of obstacles at this point, starts and ends with Israel, although the list is long and difficult.  God knows what it might take to achieve a permanent peace, but it’s clear that it is something totally different than what we see on the ground now.

I’m following events in Palestine, especially the West Bank, way too closely these days.  The ACORN board received and accepted an affiliation request from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, a 15-year-old organization that supports community organization in a half dozen different communities in the West Bank and seeks to replicate the ACORN model in their organizing and campaigns there.  We welcome their participation in ACORN just as we have welcomed and supported similar initiatives to organize tenant unions in Israeli cities.  Dealing with settler-colonialism is outside our scope, but PSCC cannot ignore the threats to many of its community members.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but it will take peace to make progress and create a place for grassroots power to grow.