Almost one year after Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit to Al Aqsa Mosque, the Al Aqsa Intifada and the Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people seems to be over. Neither side can claim victory, as the tragedy in America and the consequent US pressures seems to have relieved either side from saying uncle first. As the Gulf War put an end to the first initfada, the terrorist attack in New York and Washington, and the expected US retaliation within an international coalition, seems to be the key trigger for the end of the Second Intifada.
I have deliberately used the word “seems to” three times in the opening paragraph because this prediction on my part is very iffy. It is possible that I can be wrong, but I pray to God that I am not.
Initially it is crucial to point out that the loss of life, any life is tragic. Humankind is not put on this earth to act like animals. We are created in God’s image and are expected to honor the most basic of the heavenly commands:” thou shall not kill.” But despite this holy command, human life and dignity has proven to be very cheap in what is called the Holy Land.
Obviously I should stop talking like a preacher’s son and start talking in pragmatic terms. What have been the lessons of the past year.
If my prediction proves to be correct, it is natural to inquire what were the lessons of the past year? Was the loss of life worth it? And can we be sure that this kind of violent cycle doesn’t happen again or will we find ourselves writing about yet another intifada.
First, it has been proven beyond anyone’s doubt that the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not be reached by force, siege and violence but through negotiations. But despite this obvious fact, some might argue that the violence was perhaps necessary to convince peoples and leaders the grave necessity of a negotiated peace to this conflict. Having seen the opposite will hopefully be the best argument for peace.
Secondly, it is now more obvious than ever before what the price for peace is. Both sides know what the red lines of the other. Accepting this simple reality and acting on it is best for all sides. Neither negotiations under US pressure nor assassinations and siege have lessened Palestinian resolve, nor has resistance, suicide bombings or political pressure have affected Israeli resolve. One year later there are no winners and plenty of carnage and lost lives.
Thirdly, neither side is going to disappear and there is no way around from our two people finding a way to live side by side peacefully.
Fourthly, it is clear that occupation and all that comes with it can’t be a permanent state of affairs. Colonial settlements have also proven to have been a terrible political calculation. Time has not made them legitimate and their presence has certainly confirmed the American description to them. “An obstacle to peace.”
Fifth, while neither side has been able to impose their will on the other, it is clear that both sides have the ability to act as the spoiler of any deal that is not meeting their people’s minimum needs.
While the above might seem logical to any sensible person, the arrogance of power and the attachment to inflexible positions might not be overcome so easily. Even if Al Aqsa intifada is over, this is no guarantee that politicians will learn all these lessons and put aside their demands. If ever people power is needed it is now. Those of us on both sides who have felt the pains of occupation, resistance, individual and state terror must not allow the violent cycle to return.
If Al Aqsa Intifada does prove to have ended as a result of the terror attacks in America, what is needed is a guarantee that we will not go back to the policies of violence and counter violence. If there ever was a need for a genuine peace based on fairness and justice it is now. Future generations will not forgive both our peoples if we allow this opportunity to slip by.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist who covered both intifadas and Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.