Thursday, July 07, 2011

Just as the broader Arab world is in the midst of an extraordinary time of transition, Palestinians living under occupation sense that the techtonic plates of history are moving. Adam Shatz offers thoughtful essay about the shifts in strategy and practice that he encountered in a recent visit to the West Bank.

Shatz discovers pockets of creative thinking, and quite a lot of skepticism about the two-state mantra even as the PA aims to gain United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state (the quest for which may be more valuable before the fact rather than afterwards).  A few excerpts follow, but the essay (which runs 19 pp.) deserves a full reading:
"[On the security apparatus established by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with lots of help from the U.S. and to the satisfaction of Israel:]  It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land. This is, not surprisingly, a source of considerable anger and shame in the West Bank. The question is whether Palestinians will grow exasperated enough to confront the Sulta."
"[On the al-Nakba demonstrations of May 15, 2011:]  The PA had no part at all in the main event of the day: an unprecedented march to the border by thousands of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Occupied Territories, co-ordinated by activists on Facebook and Twitter. At least a dozen people were killed by Israeli soldiers, but more than a hundred succeeded in crossing into the Druze town of Majdal Shams in the Golan, including a 28-year-old man called Hassan Hijazi, who made it all the way to Jaffa, his ancestral city, travelling there on a bus with Israeli soldiers who had no idea they were sitting next to a ‘security threat’; he turned himself in to the Israeli police after visiting his grandparents’ house. A spectacular enactment of the drama of return, shown live on TV news broadcasts, the crossings electrified people in the West Bank. ‘For 63 years, Israel has tried to un-nation us, to turn us into West Bankers, Gazans, East Jerusalem residents, “Israeli Arabs” and refugees, but on Nakba day we were united,’ Husam Zomlot said."
"Palestinians inside Israel, like Palestinians in the West Bank, are learning the effectiveness of mass, non-violent mobilisation; young people in particular are starting to communicate with people in the Occupied Territories and in neighbouring Arab countries, using Facebook and Twitter to organise themselves. People who a few years ago were admirers of Sheikh Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, are now saying that they ‘don’t need his rhetoric of resistance because they have discovered their own power and their own voice’."
The plates of U.S. policy in the Middle East are beginning to shift as well.  Zvi Ba'rel ruminates on the possibility that the U.S. may soon be talking to Hamas.  Recall that since the Hamas electoral victory of 2006 the U.S. has devoted considerable diplomatic, financial and military energy to marginalizing Hamas.  The effort has failed profoundly, as demonstrated by the steps toward PA-Hamas reunification, steps made possible by the toppling of Husni Mubarak.

Also of note: a report by the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams that reportedly addresses the violent Israeli response to the May 15, 2011, al-Nakba demonstrations.  The report was distributed early this week by Ban K. Moon, the Secretary-General, to the members of the Security Council.  Williams notes that on the Israel-Lebanon border 7 unarmed demonstrators were killed by the Israeli army and 111 were wounded.  The demonstrators were attempting to cross the border.  Israeli soldiers shot the demonstators on Lebanese soil, it should be added. Special Coordinator Williams is appropriately critical of Israel's excessive use of violence.  I have not yet been able to get a complete copy of the report.  When I have a copy, I will post it here.  Israeli officials are in a tizzy about the chutzpah of the U.N. official that he would use the most "the moral army in the world" of using unnecessary deadly violence as opposed to non-lethal crowd control measures.

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