Middle East Roundtable /
Edition 4 Volume 1
A PALESTINIAN VIEW:
Don't let history repeat itself
by Ghassan Khatib
There have been several calls over the
past few years to end the armed Palestinian resistance in favor of a
nonviolent approach. But, as with so many aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict, nonviolence only stands a chance if respected by the other side.
Israeli propaganda has been very successful in some circles, particularly in
the United States, at portraying armed Palestinian activity as acts of
terrorism that are illegitimate and must be stopped at any cost.
Consequently, these circles have come to accept the Israeli version that
Israeli violence is simply a legitimate response to defend Israelis against
Needless to say, there is a great deal of mixing cause and effect in this
version of reality since it completely ignores the fact that all the
violence is a direct result of the Israeli occupation. This occupation, in
fact, has been violent from the very outset and in different ways. The
appropriation of Palestinian land upon which, in the early years of the
occupation, Palestinians relied for the bulk of their livelihoods, was a
form of violence and was backed up by force. Ditto the establishment of
settlements and the illegal introduction of Jewish civilians on land and
using resources belonging to the Palestinian people. The persistent and ever
expanding measures to these ends pursued by successive Israeli governments,
unhindered by any outside pressures, led many to draw the conclusion that
the occupation was the expression of an ultimate violent process that must
inevitably invite a violent reaction.
Add to this decades-old land grab the Israeli policies of assassinations,
mass arrests, house demolitions and closures, and it's no surprise that the
internal Palestinian debate and balance of power has swung in favor of those
that advocate violence as the only means of getting rid of the occupation.
Violence from either side, however, only serves to reinforce and harden
attitudes. On the Palestinian side, some analysts have argued that not only
does Palestinian violence invite ever more extreme Israeli measures, it only
serves the interests of the right wing extremists currently in power in
Israel. Indeed, this Israeli government has never given the Palestinian
peace camp pause to prove to people that the absence of violence could be
the best way to achieve Palestinian aspirations.
The best example of this, of course, was during Mahmoud Abbas' short tenure
as prime minister last year, when Mohammad Dahlan served as minister for
public security. That government, which successfully forged a commitment
from the Palestinian factions to enter into a ceasefire, was actively and
intentionally undermined by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who, by
continuing his assassinations policy, soon saw to it that Abu Mazen's
efforts came to nothing.
Now efforts are underway to repeat the experiment. In spite of the full
agreement as regards the political and negotiating positions between the
late President Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen, it's no secret that there were
differences between the two on what approach would be the more effective.
Abu Mazen seems to be taking another stab at a political approach and is
trying to prepare the ground. This confronts us with two possible scenarios.
A ceasefire could be encouraged by Israel, if it felt that the international
community and especially Washington was prepared to pressure and even
isolate it, should it fail to do so. Abu Mazen's success in this endeavor
stands and falls with Israel's readiness to cease its own acts of violence
in all its forms. The assassinations and house demolitions are but the most
obvious measures that must end at once. A wall is being built upon
Palestinian land and its construction must stop. Settlement expansions must
If Israel fails to reciprocate, and there is insufficient international
pressure to force it to do so, history will repeat itself, and the
Palestinian people will draw the conclusion that a nonviolent, negotiated
and legal tactic has little chance of success. This could bring us another
round of vicious and violent confrontations even fiercer than anything we
have witnessed so far.
The international community's role is essential in all this, because the
natural posture of this Israeli government is negative and only with
sufficient international pressure might this posture be arrested.-
Published 6/12/2004 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and
bitterlemons-international.org. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of
labor, acting minister of planning and has been a political analyst and
media contact for many years.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its
specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about
the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers
and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the
region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at