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The Israel-Palestine conflict: does the inevitable loom ahead?
Four months ago, I published my book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entitled “Keeping Faith with Hope”. At the first book launch hosted by the vicar of the Catholic church in my neighbourhood, I said that this book addressed the twin themes of hope and despair as it explored the dynamics of a two-state solution.

30 Septenber   |   2019   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

However, I also cautioned the guests that the book might also become redundant quite soon if the idea of a two-state solution staggers into oblivion. Admittedly not a very clever marketing ploy on my part, but a realisation that we are slowly but surely approaching the impossibility of a just resolution of this conflict on the basis of two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side in mutual recognition.

This conclusion is neither a sudden epiphany on my part nor a mind-boggling one. After all, commentators have been predicting for years the demise of an avenue that the Declaration of Principles (1993) ploughed through in the form of the Oslo Accords. However, a closer reading of the geography of this small parcel of land shows how the numerous settlements mushrooming in the occupied (not disputed) Palestinian territories make such an outcome impossible.

In fact, in a Critical Policy Brief #5/2019 dated 10 September 2019 that was published by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), the Jerusalem-born and Rome-educated Hamada Jaber advocated that Palestinians should take the initiative for the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the adoption of the one-state strategy. His paper predicated three key assumptions, namely, the death of achieving the two-state solution, the imminent collapse of the PA and the impossibility of perpetuating the current status quo in the area between the sea and the river. His paper also highlighted that 20% of Israelis and 31% of Palestinians supported the binational option. Moreover, and quite tellingly I would add, Jaber argued that two-thirds of the Palestinian citizens of Israel support a one-state solution whether in the form of a single democratic state or in a confederated framework.

It is not only that the settlements have multiplied in Jerusalem and the West Bank or that Israeli politicians are wantonly threatening to annex large swathes of Palestinian lands. The USA under the present Administration has visibly also given up the pretence of its impartiality. Whereas the European Union has only helped to manage the occupation by paying for it, and in so doing consolidating an outcome that does not augur well for Palestinians. As for the Arab and Muslim countries, most of them are even less interested in the Palestinian dream. They use the emotional appeal of ‘Palestine’ simply in order to brandish their pan-Arab credentials or else keep their grassroots quiescent. Maybe they can be shamed into some political and financial largesse, but both those only enable the environment for a Palestinian state and do not midwife it. That struggle is strictly Palestinian, and Oslo, alas, took our collective eyes off the ball for 25 tough years.

Palestinians, whether Muslim or Christian, have withstood the nefarious consequences of an occupation for a long time - depending on the starting date you opt to choose for this festering conflict. They have been anaesthetised on a forlorn hope that Israel will agree to a Palestinian state adjacent to it that is secure and contiguous at the same time. This will not happen easily, whilst Ramallah and Gaza fight each other tooth and nail, nor when Palestinians are made so weary that they surrender their legitimate rights for self-determination. But if we go back to the 1940’s, prior to the creation of the State of Israel, it surely is not unimaginable that Arabs and Jews can live together again - and in one co-equal state?

Over many years, the mantra has been that Israel seizes the geography whilst Palestinians are left to deal with the demography. But could it be that this unhelpful equation is reversed, whereby the principles of freedom and equality would pit themselves against racism, discrimination and oppression?

Anyone who reads my new book cannot fail to perceive that I started my political odyssey over three decades ago with an optimistic frame of mind. I too was one of the many Palestinians who accepted the possibility that we might construct an independent Palestinian state. Otherwise put, I started with a sense of hope. After all, if South Africans could do it, then why not Palestinians too? But as readers turn the pages of my book, they note that I slowly substituted optimism for pessoptimism, a term that I borrowed from the Palestinian novelist Emile Habibi whose neologism combines hope and despair. And at that stage, I was someone who saw the glass as both half empty and half full, enjoying the fullness as much as spurning the emptiness. However, my feelings finally veered toward despair, or pragmatism to be more finicky, and I concluded that the only hope ahead spelt a binational state despite the consequences or challenges ahead.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king of Corinth who ultimately got his comeuppance when Zeus dealt him the punishment of forever rolling a boulder up a hill in the depths of Hades. But did he ever lose hope, and how soon? What about his faith? Did he have it, and did he also keep it? Palestine is surely not a modern-day Sisyphus destined to roll the boulder of sovereignty up the hill forever. Bluntly put, Palestinians deserve better. And just as my book combines the elements of hope and faith, I would argue that Palestinians also richly deserve to keep faith in hope - and to become free.

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2019   |   30 Septenber


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