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Die Rettung der Palästinenser:

Wir behaupten, dass das politische Schachspiel herumgedreht werden könnte, wenn die Palästinenser beginnen würden, das demokratische Spiel zu spielen...

The Palestinians' Rescue:

Akram Baker and Gordon Woo

The continuation of the violent status quo in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not inevitable. Nor are the parties so exhausted that they are ready to accept any "solution." Despite what diplomats and pundits may say, next to nothing is being done to end the conflict. And disregarding conventional wisdom, we believe that the power to end the conflict lies with the Palestinians.

Democracy, or the claim of democracy, is what counts these days in Washington and the capitals of Europe. A cornerstone of democracy is the right to non-violent public protest. As vehemently as coercive violence is condemned and punished as terrorism (even when it is legitimate resistance), so peaceful protest is widely recognized and accepted as a legitimate expression of democracy. The use of military force to suppress non-violent protest is universally deplored, not least in the U.S., as a violation of human rights and democratic principles. Mowing down non-violent protesters shames the name of democracy. Yet once protests turn violent, the right to self-defence excuses the worst excesses of military repression.

In chess, the term "Zugzwang" describes a situation where a player has been so out-thought that no good move is left. After suffering years of collective punishment at the hands of the Israeli occupation, Palestinians may feel trapped in this hopeless position. Every move in the Intifada has been countered effectively by the Israeli military, escalating the conflict. We suggest that the political chessboard can be turned around if Palestinians start playing the democracy game. The political vacuum that would arise from any cessation of violence would be inherently unstable, and would have to be filled with democratic protest. Of course, there are numerous alternative protest actions. A successful, non-violent Intifada requires strategic thinking just as much as any military campaign.

There is a coherent strategy - were the Palestinians able to follow it - which would lead to the end game of a just peace as broadly envisaged in the Quartet "road map" and fulfilling the rights of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. This strategy is fully democratic in that it is based on finding a non-violent balance between Israeli and Palestinian public opinion. It is the opposite of surrender.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is stuck at an equilibrium point of tit-for-tat violence. For as long as Israeli civilians are attacked, Israeli public opinion will favour a robust military response. Conversely, for as long as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory persists, Palestinian public opinion will favour a continuation of the armed struggle. However, an alternative equilibrium point exists: one of mutual non-violence, which can be supported strongly by both the Israeli and Palestinian publics. The way to reach this political haven is through a series of gradual steps, each of which is carefully planned and constructed to maximize the consensus for non-violence on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

To illustrate the principle, Israeli public opinion would condone the shooting of armed fighters and even stone-throwing youths, but abhor the murder of wheelchair-bound protesters at a checkpoint. The worldwide democratic backlash against any Israeli military overreaction, as perhaps captured on video, would provide impetus for further non-violent steps toward peace.

Implementation of a strategic campaign of non-violence requires organization. Ideally, a popular Palestinian leader might inspire this. But even without the presence of such leadership, modern communications make mass coordinated action easier to organize than during previous campaigns of non-violence. For example, in 2000, British government policy on a fuel tax was reversed by a leaderless group of truck drivers, armed not with guns or bombs, but with cellular telephones.

The Palestinians need to realize that no government, Western or Israeli, is going to do them any favours. Forget the talk and look at what is happening on the ground. Israel has consolidated its grip on the Occupied Territories and feels no real pressure to relinquish them. Israeli settlement activity has accelerated at a horrific pace, soon to doom the two-state solution to the dustbin of history. The vaunted Quartet has been immobilized and neutralized (mostly by its own lack of resolve). The Palestinian leadership has to accept the fact that while armed resistance (except suicide bombings) is legally sanctioned, it has brought the Palestinian people nothing but misery these past three years, and has done nothing to advance their goals of independence.

The US and Europe also need to recognize that just "stopping the Palestinian violence" is a dead-end street, because the Israeli occupation is in itself an even more severe form of violence, and nature abhors a vacuum of any kind. However, it is the Palestinians who have the capability to take their fate into their own hands and lead us all out of the wilderness.

In the post-Sept. 11, 2001 world, democratic governments are deaf to the voices of violence (and conveniently brand as "terrorism" all forms of non-state sponsored violence), but are obligated to listen to mass popular protest. This is where Palestinian strength resides; not with its inferior military assets, but with its superior democratic assets - the Palestinian people themselves.

Akram Baker is chairman of Brandicate Consultants and co-president of the Arab Western Summit of Skills. He is a frequent commentator on Middle Eastern issues. Gordon Woo is a strategic risk analyst. Since Sept. 11 he has focused on political risk assessment, specifically terrorism issues. The two wrote this commentary for The Daily Star, August 12, 2004, http://www.dailystar.com.lb


The Common Ground News Service (CGNews) provides news, op-eds, features, and analysis by local and international experts on a broad range of Middle East issues. CGNews syndicates articles that are accurate, balanced, and solution-oriented to news outlets throughout the Middle East and worldwide. With support of the European Union, the Arca Foundation, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Finnish Foreign Ministry, and the Danish Foreign Ministry, the service is a non-profit initiative of Search for Common Ground, an international NGO working in the fields of conflict resolution and media production. The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, not of CGNews or its affiliates.

Common Ground News Service promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

hagalil.com 22-08-2004



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