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What Beinart does not get about Palestinians
The underdog is not always fair or innocent
To most Palestinians I know, Israel is an obsession. Every issue in the world — no matter how grave or deserving of attention and solidarity more than the Palestinian problem — never wins precedence over the urge to continuously bash Israel. Peter Beinart has now become as obsessed with Israel as Palestinians. He looks at the Russian war on Ukraine and all he sees is Palestinians. He draws similarities and parallels, and equates Ukrainians with Palestinians and evil Russians with Israelis, a conclusion that he shares with most anti-Israel activists.
In an article, Beinart imagines that Russia creates zones in Ukraine: One zone has Ukrainians living under Russian military rule, another has Ukrainians given Russian passports and their territory treated as part of Russia proper, but still suffering of being treated as second degree citizens. Under such imagined scheme, if Ukrainians start killing Russian civilians in the streets, or throwing rockets on Russia, their action will be justified. Bottomline is: Palestinians are justified in their violence against Israelis because Palestinians cannot get what they want through non violence.
Beinart quotes a Palestinian-American as saying that “there is currently a debate between Palestinians ‘who emphasize the need to bring international pressure to bear on Israel’ non-violently and those who believe that ‘Israel only understands the language of force’.” Beinart and his Palestinian friend say the Palestinians are divided over the means, but do not specify the Palestinian end.
Beinart hints that Palestinians agree to a two-state solution, but that it is Israel that has yet to play along. He dismisses Hamas’s charter that pledges to destroy Israel and quotes NBC, from 2008, reporting that Hamas accepts a truce along the 1967 line. The link is an outdated second-hand source.
In May 2017, under pressure from Qatar that wants to depict Hamas as moderate and reasonable, Hamas issued an updated “document of principles and policies,” in which it said that it agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, but that it does not recognize the Oslo Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority recognized Israel. Hamas document argues that Palestinian refugees should go back to the 1948 territory (Israel), and that Hamas will always work to liberate the 1948 territory. In other words, Hamas is saying that it will take a Palestinian state on 1967 territory while simultaneously fighting to destroy Israel and winning back the 1948 territory. In February, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the globally recognized representative of the Palestinians, “suspended” its recognition of Israel.
During the heyday of Oslo peace in the early 1990s, PLO leader later Yasser Arafat never let go of the “Palestinian right of return.” This means that Palestinians imagine peace as having an only Arab state of Palestine on 1967 land next to an Israel that is already 20 percent Arab and that has to take back a couple of million Palestinian refugees from around the world. This will result in two states: A Palestine that is Arab, where Jews are not allowed to enter, let alone buy land (as per the current Palestinian law in Area A of the West Bank). The other state, Israel, will be half Jewish half Arab, and judging by Arabs that Beinart and his network usually promote — the likes of MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi — these Arab Israelis believe that Israel should become Palestine.
Beinart seems to be a good man with a kind heart who identifies with the underdog, in this case the Palestinians. What Beinart is not aware of is that the reason behind Palestinian misery is not Israel but Palestinian unwillingness to articulate a clear idea of how they think they can live peacefully in their Arab state next to a Jewish one.
Palestinians have to show how, when they ask for their sovereign Arab state, they are also offering Israelis a way to maintain Jewish sovereignty over their own state. And Palestinians should prove their ability to deliver on what they promise, something that Arafat never managed to do. Instead of offering a solution (that does not include destroying Israel), Palestinians complain of Israeli injustice.
Such Palestinian failure is not an oversight. It is rather planned. Most Palestinians I know are like Hamas: They want a Palestinian state on 1967 territory, while at the same time want an Israel whose Jewish demographics is weakened to an extent that Jewish sovereignty can be undermined. Beinart’s Palestinian friend is right. Palestinians are divided over how to destroy Israel, whether peacefully like the “Israel is apartheid” crowd, or violently like Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. Palestinians are not divided over what they think justice is: Reversal of 1948, which entails the destruction of Israel and its replacement with Palestine.
Such Palestinian thinking kept the ever populist Arafat from conceding on the “right of return,” and therefore never signed “a document to end the conflict,” even after Ehud Barak had offered him 98 percent of the 1967 land, including parts of Jerusalem, during the Clinton administration. During the Obama administration, Ehud Olmert extended Mahmoud Abbas a similar offer. Abbas tried to test the Palestinian mood. He said in an interview that a final solution would not include his return to his birthplace of Safad, in Israel (1948 territory). The next day, Abbas was pounded so hard that he reneged on his statement.
The next time Beinart wants to analyze the reasons behind the absence of peace and the failure of non-violent means, he better understand what the Palestinians are saying, and not saying, and how such position forces Israel to keep policing Palestinian territory, a job that Israelis — Right and Left — seem to have been keen on giving up for a long time now.
It is true that on the more powerful falls more responsibility. But the weaker is not always innocent. Until the weaker realizes that Israel is here to stay and that the only way out is genuine peace, not half-peace that will create Palestine alongside half-conflict that will destroy Israel, Palestinians will keep suffering, a sorry situation of their own doing.