A Palestine That Israelis Can't See

How Does an Unsustainable Situation Keep On Going?

Dead End: It’s a truism to say that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is unsustainable. So why does it show no sign of ending anytime soon?
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Dead End: It’s a truism to say that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is unsustainable. So why does it show no sign of ending anytime soon?

By Sam Bahour

Published November 18, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
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The status quo in Palestine and Israel is unsustainable. Anyone involved in the reality on the ground in this part of the world knows this for a fact. As such, one can view the current Palestinian bid to the United Nations General Assembly for non-member state status as a last-ditch effort by the secular Palestinian leadership to save whatever may be remaining of the two-state paradigm as the basis to ending Israel’s 45 years of military occupation.

A significant driver of the current political paralysis is the stereotype, designed and propagated by Israelis, that Palestinians living on the other side of the separation barrier are violent and not deserving of freedom or independence. As such, most Israeli Jews do not see Palestinians as equal human beings, and thus any violent action against them becomes justified, no matter how cruel, illegal or in contradiction of Jewish values.

Nearly all Palestinians on the receiving end of this stereotype miraculously wake up every morning and — beyond doing their utmost to sustain a livelihood under miserable conditions — somehow remain focused on working toward realizing a future free of military occupation.

This stereotype, spread by Israeli authorities to foreign audiences and, sadly, inculcated through Israel’s state education system, is that any substantial relief or complete removal of the 45 years of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, would result in a security risk. A similar fear-mongering strategy is used to dismiss the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. In the meantime, Israel makes matters worse on the ground by, for example, continuing to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements.

Foreign countries, donors and international organizations have come around, albeit belatedly, to noting in their reports that the status quo is unsustainable. The data is there, in dizzying detail, for all to read.

Additionally, newspapers of record in Israel, France and America have started to editorialize with some hard questions, such as “Can Israel really be a Jewish (only) state?” and “Is a two-state solution still possible?” More recently, even The New York Times questioned the future of Israel’s democratic character when it noted in an editorial: “One of Israel’s greatest strengths is its origins as a democratic state committed to liberal values and human rights. Those basic truths are in danger of being lost.” Human rights aside, there is no doubt that Israel is at a foundational crossroads.


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