Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and author of Sesame Street, Palestine.
Hope is important. A lack of hope and an absence of a future are often the main factors that weaken people’s attachment to life.
While this can apply in so many social cases, the situation of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is very relevant. The absence of a political horizon can easily result in an explosion and this is exactly what happened in Gaza as the Trump administration and the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu denied Palestinians even the slightest hint of a fair and just peace process.
By “taking Jerusalem off the table” as U.S. President Trump said he had done and by suspending its support to the United Nations agency serving Palestinian refugees, Washington and Tel Aviv permanently closed down the potential of a compromise deal. That agreement would have given Palestinians a small state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank, while Israel would have been allowed to keep a much larger part of historic Palestinian territory than even what was promised to it in the 1947 UN partition plan.
Over the years, Palestinians have tried the armed struggle, negotiations, and the launching of rockets and bombings all to no avail. Courageous Palestinians in Gaza have decided to try something different by carrying out massive peaceful protests. They organized themselves to carry out a march back to their homes and lands which Israel occupied and from which they were kicked out. Israel tries to dismiss their responsibilities for the 1948 Palestinian refugee problem in which more than 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes and lands. But Israel has rejected in theory and in practice any attempts at recognizing or granting Palestinians the right to return to their homes. When Israel asked to be a member of the UN, its foreign minister at the time, Moshe Sharett, accepted both the partition plan (Resolution 181) which called for Jerusalem to be a corpus seperatum (a separate entity) and the UN resolution for the right of return (Resolution 194).
U.S. and Israeli officials have tried to justify the killings of Palestinians as an act of self-defence. Yet no Israeli soldier or civilian has been injured or killed, while Israeli snipers from a safe position have been shooting to kill unarmed Palestinian protesters. This is not a clash between Israelis or Palestinians and it is not justifiable as an act of defence.
By celebrating the opening of their embassy in Jerusalem, the United States government is in fact saying that violation of UN Security Council resolutions is acceptable. Even Israel’s former prime minister David Ben Gurion had called only for “Jewish Jerusalem” – the western part of the city – to be the capital of Israel. The U.S President didn’t even mention Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. There, 320,000 Palestinian Arabs live, constituting 38 per cent of the population of the entire city, yet their fate and rights were not even discussed by the U.S. and Israel.
Denying a population a political horizon is tantamount to pushing them to suicide.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one that can only be resolved by sharing the land or sharing the power. Palestinians are not willing to surrender to Israel and insist on the need to be able to live in freedom. The great return march is a peaceful popular undertaking that includes no use of arms and shows the world that even after 70 years, the state of Israel continues to lack international legitimacy so long as it is denying to recognize the right of Palestinians to return and to establish their own independent state.
Americans have totally disqualified themselves by taking sides on two of the five areas that Israel and the international community agreed need to be negotiated as part of the permanent status talks: refugees and Jerusalem.
It is time now for the rest of the global community, whether through the UN Security Council or any other mechanism, to make it clear that mass killing of unarmed civilians will not be tolerated. The sooner that the world community fills the gap that was vacated by the U.S ’s own doing, the faster that the region can launch a genuine and serious effort for peace and justice. A relaunch of talks could give people trust in a political horizon and provide them with the badly needed hope for a better future.