The correct way to understand the current confrontations between the Palestinian people and the Israeli army is within the context of a typical case of de-colonization. Not only because it has to do with legitimate Palestinian resistance to an illegal and belligerent Israeli occupation, but also because this Intifada is a popular movement in the sense that the entire Palestinian public are either participating in or supporting the Intifada activities of resistance and are subject to many of Israel’s oppressive measures.
This is very relevant in light of the way many foreign diplomats and media deal with the ongoing confrontations. Efforts are largely being directed towards asking why the Palestinian Authority is not stopping “those bunch of terrorists.” Also diplomatic efforts that attempt to help calm the situation are in the form of putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to be more efficient and active in preventing “acts of terror” or arresting certain violent individuals from among the Palestinian people. Of course this is all a result of the method in which Israel and its propaganda machine try to explain the situation. A typical comment from someone like Israeli government spokesperson Dori Gold after any escalation would be that the way out is by the international community pressuring Arafat to stop those “terrorists” and acts of violence.
Of course, the inconsistent rhetoric of some Palestinian officials and diplomats is contributing to this misunderstanding. They seem to have already forgotten their political beginnings as activists and leaders in national liberation movements and after a few years of negotiations started to believe that they were diplomats and should speak a more diplomatic language. For example, we hear a prominent Palestinian diplomat speaking to a prominent television channel saying that in order for the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence or to succeed in a cease-fire, the United States should enforce a schedule for the implementation of the Mitchell report.
Such statements miss the point, which is that whether there is a schedule for the implementation of the Mitchell report or not, as long as there is an occupation that is continuing to consolidate itself by force and as long as there is complete absence of a political prospect for ending this occupation peacefully, there is going to be resistance. And the forms of this resistance are mostly determined by the forms the occupation uses to consolidate itself.
Therefore, it might be high time for the leaders in the region and mediators from outside to get to the heart of the matter, which is the way in which the Palestinians can achieve an end to the Israeli occupation and the Israelis can envision the prospect of security, peace and regional integration. These two sets of rights are not only legitimate but are also not incompatible. Such a direct approach would put the real intentions of the two sides to the test. If Israel is truly interested in security and peace, then the negotiations should be about arrangements and guarantees that would convince Israel of this. The outside world should give it the necessary guarantees. And if the Palestinians are only interested in ending the occupation and a just solution to the refugee problem according to international legality, then they must be guaranteed this, also by the support of the international community.
What has been preventing such an approach so far is that the Israeli concept of security requires maintaining Israeli occupation at least over part of the occupied territories. In other words, Israeli security according to the Israeli concept is only possible at the expense of the rights, including security, of the other side, i.e. the Palestinians. As long as Israel maintains this concept of peace, there is no chance é neither for them nor for the Palestinians é of attaining it.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.