Mish Mash- Maintaining a peaceful stand in a violent environment- Palestinian contrast between hopelessness and hope

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Dear All,
I’ve wanted to post for some time but other involvements I have prevented this. I think the long article below from the Guardian is bleak and shows the numerous threats of violence in Palestine. What’s important is a sense that the violence isn’t a sign of strength by Palestinians but deep despair that the prospects for peace with Israel are low. This is with a backdrop of violent responses to random attacks by Israeli Palestinians in Israel which have created deep fear amongst Israelis and attacks on the West bank. I think what Raja Shehadin has written in his most recent book on which I’ve included a commentary and Riad Arar’s latest news about his younger son Amro’s son show that while they are strongly opposed to the occupation they retain the dream of a free Palestine despite the lack of clear leadership at present.

West Bank risks being plunged into chaos in 2016, warn Palestinian officials Peter Beaumont in Ramallah
Rising support among Palestinians for wave of attacks on Israelis comes amid growing vacuum of political leadership. Friday 25 December 2015

Palestinian officials are warning that the occupied West Bank risks being plunged into chaos in 2016, with no sign of three months of violence coming to an end and support growing among Palestinians for the current wave of attacks on Israelis. The warnings that the status quo is untenable follow recent comments by both senior US figures and the Israeli military that the risk of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is in danger of increasing in the coming months. A growing vacuum of political leadership on both sides is prompting renewed discussion of a series of troubling scenarios, including a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and a sudden or more gradual escalation of violence.
The PA’s potential collapse has been raised by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, and was discussed recently at a special Israeli cabinet meeting. “The risk is total chaos,” said one Palestinian official in a bleak assessment, suggesting that the path to further escalation appeared more obvious than international engagement to mediate an end to the recent bloodshed. “It won’t happen tomorrow but it is also not so very far away.” The renewed concern over the trajectory of present tensions has emerged as attacks by Palestinians on Israelis have settled into an almost daily routine, prompting Israel to announce this week that it is to deploy two new army battalions on the West Bank.

Since 1 October 2015, a combination of almost daily attacks by Palestinians and clashes with Israeli soldiers have killed 117 on the Palestinian side, 21 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean, while thousands more have been injured. Many of the Palestinians killed have been attackers, while others have been shot dead by Israeli security forces during clashes. With no hint of a respite, Palestinian leaders now appear trapped in a catch-22 situation over the continuing violence, which they neither lead nor feel able to fully condone or disavow.
With the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s strategy to internationalise the Palestinian issue at the UN apparently at an impasse, senior leaders seem to have been caught out by the changing context in the region – now dominated by concern over the rise of Islamic State – paired with the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw from mediation efforts. And while attempts by the Palestinian security forces to prevent violence worsening have so far been largely successful, some fear privately that in the longer term members of the security forces might themselves become disaffected. Speaking recently to an audience of journalists and diplomats in Bethlehem, Mohammed Shtayyeh, head of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction and a former negotiator close to Abbas, articulated an official formulation increasingly under threat from events.
“The Fatah political programme adopted in 2009 called for massive popular resistance. We are fully engaged in this popular resistance. But we are not asking people to carry knives because we don’t want our children to die.” Referring to the tensions between wider Palestinian society and the Palestinian leadership, he added: “The question for our leadership and for President Abbas is: how long can we maintain the situation on the ground?” It is a question that has been asked increasingly in recent months. At the heart of the problem for Abbas is the growing tension between the wider Palestinian society and the Palestinian leadership.
That dynamic was starkly underlined by the latest opinion survey released in late December 2015 by the leading Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki. It showed that less than a third of Palestinians believed the current situation would stay at the present level or diminish. Instead, the researchers observed “a growing majority supporting return to an armed intifada; and a growing majority continues to reject the two-state solution”. While support for Abbas himself has not worsened, according to the latest polling 65% would still like him to resign. An increasing number back Hamas, which the polls suggest would win if elections were held today, with only the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti posing a potential challenge to the Islamist group. “There is no doubt the whole Abbas decade is coming to an end,” Shikaki told the Guardian last week. “The Palestinian public is questioning not just the strategy vis-a-vis Israel and the peace process, but questioning Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.
“There is no doubt what we are seeing is a president who single handedly created the status quo after the second intifada and who is now not only at a loss over what to do but also has nothing to show for his strategy. His threat to dismantle Oslo 1993 peace agreements is a reflection of his own disillusionment and the fact he lost legitimacy in ability to lead.
“Today it’s not clear whether he will be able do anything to stem the tide or if he will have to follow the public, particularly the most important sector – the youth behind most of the instability.” A sense of the disconnect was given by Abbas himself in December 2015 “We cannot ask the youth: ‘Why did you start it?’ They aren’t stupid, the youth gave up hope for a two-state solution. They’ve checked and understood that it’s not logically possible, that our state doesn’t exist because of settlements and checkpoints, and so despair began to take hold of them. ”Abbas’s strategy, however, has been to articulate once again demands already rejected by Israel, including the release of prisoners and a freeze on settlement building.
Rajoub, a former Palestinian security head and now leader of the Palestinian Football Association is another figure who remains close to Abbas. Like Shtayyeh, he insists that Palestinian society should pursue a policy of non-violent resistance but cannot disavow those behind the current wave of attacks, instead arguing that Palestinians need to be patient. “For me those people behind the attacks are victims, victims,” he said. Rajoub encapsulates the Palestinian leadership’s difficulty in insisting on a strategy of non-violence while also seeking to explain the attacks. “Non-violence cannot come from one side. It needs to come from both sides not one. It’s a reaction. “I think the situation is very complicated,” he added. “The feeling of losing hope has started to infiltrate the political spectrum, from left to right, from the grassroots to the old men.”
That picture is confirmed by Shikaki’s research, which since September has shown a sharp convergence of support for violence between the so-called Oslo generation aged 18-25 and Palestinians over 50. Both groups are now polling in favour at over 60%. If Rajoub is not alone in voicing his frustration, what is clear too is that the febrile mood is multiplying divisions inside the PLO and Fatah at a critical time and at all levels, between senior figures advocating different approaches and between the old guard and a younger generation.
“There is an ongoing debate and there is a lot of internal criticism,” said one official familiar with the internal conversations that have been taking place in recent weeks and months, seeing some kind of crisis as inevitable regardless of what the Palestinian leadership decides. “I think you are going to have a big crisis if PLO central council decisions aren’t implemented,” he said referring to long-threatened moves including ending security cooperation with Israel. “And you may also have a crisis if they are implemented. People reject Oslo. But they also have to live. They want hospitals working and schools and the jobs provided by the Palestinian Authority even if they are bad jobs. Most people I know say they don’t like Oslo but they can’t describe an alternative.”

From the negative perspective provided above I want to move onwards to Raja Shehadin, a well-known Palestinian author and lawyer who strongly opposes the occupation. I’ve read his most recent book, ‘Language of war, Language of peace, Palestine, Israel and the search for Justice’. I agree with the description of the book on the cover that ‘he explores the language of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reflecting on the walls they create-they create-legal and cultural-that confines today’s Palestinians, just like the borders, checkpoints and the so called ‘Separation barrier.’ He shows how the peace process on the ground has been ground to a halt by twists of language and linguistic chicanery that have degraded the word peace itself. The situation at the world’s greatest political fault-line has never looked bleaker, but still Shehadin finds reason to hope and explains why’.

I’d also like to include Riad Arar’s latest news about his younger son Amro, sent on 18 January 2016. On 14 January Amro appeared in the Military Court which refused to release him even with an admission of guilt and payment of a fine and the Hearing was adjourned to 8 February. Riad saw him in the cage with 4 other children who were in military clothing. To Riad Amro seemed too young, like a small child. When he saw Riad he started to smile but when he tried to leave after 5 minutes he cried hard. Riad spoke with his lawyer who plans to meet with the Prosecution to discuss Amro’s case who pleaded guilty after torture and threats because he wants the file to be closed to protect his family. Riad understands from Amro that during the investigation that Shaback, Israel’s internal security service told Amro if he didn’t talk and confess they’ll say he’s a spy of theirs.
I think that Riad and Raja Shehadin are similar in the way that they extract hope from a very bleak situation. What distinguishes Riad however is that even with his personal experience of detention by the Israeli army he works with DCA Palestine delivering a project which focuses on non-violent opposition to Israeli occupation and for young people to engage with creating Palestine as a civil society. His view hasn’t changed despite of the arrests of his sons Noor and Amro even though these events have been traumatic on Riad and his family. It takes a strong character to maintain that viewpoint in a society where hope is under real pressure and the current leaders lose credibility as shown in the Guardian article with this post. I greatly admire Riad for his stand, Palestine and Israel need more peacemakers like him possibly with similar attitudes like Nelson Mandela who can see beyond the continuing oppression and violence the prospects of peace and justice.

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2 thoughts on “Mish Mash- Maintaining a peaceful stand in a violent environment- Palestinian contrast between hopelessness and hope

  1. C

    Thank you again Steve for the communication. It’s so hard to see any way forward, let alone a peaceful settlement. Reading through your Travel Notes obviously there is a rising trend of violence, which is an understandable reaction, but will not help the situation at all. Riad is amazing in stating his peaceful intentions. I went to a talk by Prof Colin Green who suggests Palestine is currently akin to a large prison site due to Israeli oppression. That, alongside the fact that Hamas and other parties are not being given any recognition or leeway. I think the Israeli Govt is intractable and pursuing fairly relentlessly new settlements and individuals. I think Netanyahu will cook his own goose but hopefully it will be soon and some other action can be taken. Meanwhile my son mentioned the other day that France have said that they will recognize Palestine as a state if the next peace talks fail… Did you hear anything about this? Best wishes, Carol.

    ======================================== Message Received: Jan 29 2016, 05:55 PM

    • Dear Caroline,

      Agree with all you’ve written above. A distant relative of mine sent me a text after he’d read the post that its not easy to imagine good outcome short of the messiah pitching up and reading the riot act! I’ve read that France is wanting to restart peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, with a threat to recognise Palestine if Israelis are unwilling to attend.

      Regards,

      Steve.

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