Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Palestine and Israel: The Constraints of Security

Many things yet to formulate in my head and add to the dear blog. As is de rigeur for a grad student though, I'm just going to jot this down here and hopefully expand on it in the future.

Just went to a meeting of the Pittsburgh Socialists (the ISO). Today's topic was Palestine.

My thoughts, in brief, on Palestine. It is, like all problems, not insoluble, however difficult it may seem. However, the polar opposite of what has been said must be done.

Fact: There is no authority in Palestine that can effectively control the entire populace, through persuasion or coercion.

Fact: Even Hamas has become willing to accept the idea of negotiations.

Fact: One cannot, as lampooned here, hope to just kill all the "bad people", and none of the "good people", and also simultaneously expect not to convert some of the "good people" into "bad ones" as the result of having killed some of their countrypeople.

Considering the current state of things now, this seems implausible and out of place, but I've thought to myself for a while: The only way for this messy situation to be turned into a peaceful two-state direction is if Israel determines that it can accept some level of aggressive action from Palestine without retaliation.

This is an immensely unpopular viewpoint, to the point that I haven't heard anyone say it before. But the fact is, even if they wanted to, there is no authority in Palestine who COULD control all of its members -- it's called "the Palestinian Terrority" and not the "Palestinian Efficient Constitutional Democracy with Great Government Infrastructure" for a reason. There is the debatable point about whether the negotiating parties on the Palestinian side have actually wanted or tried to stop all the violence they could; but to a point, that's irrelevant. They condone some level of violence because they feel they must in order to keep support (this has another reasonable side: groups like Hamas are also one of the very few groups able to provide *any* social services in the region, and have popularity for that and not necessarily for their violent actions). It's reasonable to think that once a negotiation got past a theoretical stage, violence would peak (as truly anti-Israeli forces got desperate), and then subside as the average Palestinian "on the street" (or "in the horribly crowded, woefully underequipped and underserviced 'settlement camp'") began to feel progress was actually being made and begin to see violence as truly counterproductive. It's counterproductive even now, but when there are very few choices left to you, violence becomes, sadly, a rational act.

Of course, beyond the difficulties I've already mentioned, it seems doubtful Sharon wants to negotiate now, even if the news that Hamas does is true... (the discussion leader today pointed out that after Hamas offered an olive branch, "targeted killings" (read: assasinations) were stepped up by the Israelis... if true, "partners in peace" rings more hollow than usual).



Anonymous said...

So are you saying that you think that there is no peaceful way for things to be resloved. Is peace hopeless?

Anonymous said...

the above comment is from maya bee. Ooops!

J said...

No, I definitely think a peaceful solution is possible. And many (Jef) think I'm crazy, but I think we'll see it in our lifetime; 50/50 within the next 20 years.

A self-defeating tactic can last for a while... but not forever. In 20 years, will the Israelis still feel that striking out and killing "the bad ones" is working? Will they still be ignoring all calls for peace and blocking resolutions against them in the UN (or rather, having the US block them). I guess similar questions may have been asked 20 years ago... but that's just the point. Both sides have tried a variety of tactics, and the tactics now seem to be producing results that are as bad as ever. Plus, a major breakthrough is that Hamas is (or was) willing to hold talks.

There will not be peace will Sharon's PM, that's for damned sure -- he's an accused war criminal! (From actions 30 years ago or so.) But with some Palestinian groups changing stance, and with the eventual death of Arafat (hopefully of natural causes, lest the Israelis destroy everything with an assasination!), I think the landscape will change. But sooner, or later, the landscape must change such that Israelis (and US backers) realize, or perhaps more to the point, acknowledge that Palestine cannot meet the demand of total control over its population until real progress is made moving their people from what one Israeli judge called "worse than the concentration camps my grandparents were in". There will be a time of violence as peace looks feasible; if we have people who will stay the course, it can be done. (As I was reminded of recently, Mandela and the ANC and sister groups were considered terrorists... if the Afrikaaners had insisted that all violence cease before negotiations started and that no violence take place at any point during the process, and that people who had committed acts of "terrorism" could not take part, Mandela wouldn't've been able to talk to them at all, and perhaps there would still be apartheid today.)