The Palestinians’ time is running out

By Bradley Burston *

For my Palestinian friends, with sadness:

I understand why you long ago came to believe that time was on your side. I understand the many factors, demographic, cultural, historic, geo-political, which have served to reinforce that belief, the strong conviction that Palestinian statehood was inevitable, inalienable – in every sense, a matter of time.

I understand why you have come to believe that the state of Israel is merely the latest in a long series of fleeting colonial episodes, that its roots are elsewhere, its strength is illusory, its endurance eroded, its spirit broken, its future dim. I understand that you believe you can wait these people out, wear them down, outfight them and out-believe them and out-populate them and, in the end, take them over.

I understand that you believe that rockets and mortars from the north, south, east, and, eventually, west, can depopulate and peel back and obliterate the borders of pre-1967 Israel until there will be no need to agree to a Jewish state on those borders, no need to compromise on refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, no need to talk, no need for self-scrutiny and reconsideration, no need to bend.

I understand that you believe that this is your right, religiously, morally, politically. I understand why you believe that you can wait.

But this month, three generations since 1948, since your Nakba, this is what I ask you to consider:

Your time is running out

If you do not begin to act with all of your wisdom in moving toward statehood, you run the risk of becoming the Kurds of the Mediterranean basin, the Native Americans of the Middle East, permanently stateless, eternally denied.

If you do not begin to rethink the course which the Palestinian national movement has taken, you must begin to consider the idea of a world without a Palestine. The world is beginning to feel more and more comfortable with that possibility, and it is time for you to think hard about the reasons why.

We in the post-modern West have spent years educating ourselves to believe that all cultures are equally valid – with the possible exception, of course, of our own. We have taken it on faith that to criticize the culture of an indigenous people is obscenely imperialist, paternalist.

In short, we gave you a pass. And we encouraged you to give yourselves one. In respecting you for your steadfastness, we refrained from calling you on your passivity. In accepting and amplifying your contentions as to Israel’s acts of wrongdoing, we chose not to hold you accountable for your own, or to explain them away as a function of occupation.

You learned, over time, to hold Israel responsible for the whole of your plight. You learned, over time, to ignore, explain away, blame entirely on Israel, or otherwise deny the ways in which your actions and, in particular, your passivity, have deepened and fostered your misery. You learned to excuse your leaders their corruption, and their policy of foiling Israeli and foreign attempts to improve your conditions. You learned to excuse your Arab brothers their duplicity and their lip service and their exploitation and their cold shoulder and their contempt and their consummate failure to come to your aid.

In the process, you may have grown accustomed to a definition of time, and of indigenous peoples, that bears re-examination. There is, first of all, this:

The Jews are an indigenous people here, no less than you.

The Jews have every right to have a nation here, no less than you.

The Jews are stubborn and proud and fundamentally fierce as hell, no less than you.

You have dismissed the Jews as a foreign influence. You have dismissed their history, waved away their blood and sinew tie to Jerusalem, acted as though they have no business here but evil.

But in the decades you have spent misleading yourself about the true nature of the culture and the origins of the Jews, generation upon generation of Jews has been born here. They are natives. They are not going anywhere. And even the leftists among them are willing to die in defense of staying on this soil.

Worse, perhaps, is the way in which you took deadly aim at the concept of land for peace, and destroyed it, perhaps for all time. Your artful justifications of using Gaza settlement ruins for Qassam launchers wash with no one. You have justified every last claim and prediction of the Israeli right. You have lost immeasurable international support. You are looked upon abroad as polarized to the heart, paralyzed by internal strife, and unable to arrive at, abide by, or implement decisions.

Your unfortunate ally Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rising to your defense, marked the anniversary by telling you that Israel “has reached the end like a dead rat after being slapped by the Lebanese” and tha “Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken.”

Your unfortunate ally Osama Bin Laden told you last week that Israel’s 60th anniversary was “evidence that Palestine is our land, and the Israelis are invaders and occupiers who should be fought.”

“We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth.”

What your unfortunate allies are saying is that it is more important to eliminate the Jewish state than it is to create a Palestinian one.

For this entire decade, the Palestinian national movement has acted accordingly. At the same time, it has effectively done the bidding of the Israeli right, doing everything in its power to raise the status of the settlers from an unruly, unfocused, marginalized, declining entity to that of a prophetic force.

Thanks in no small part to you, the settlement movement is flourishing as never before, confident that your rockets and your rhetoric will see to it that, as the years and generations pass, the settlers will come to be seen as, yes, indigenous.

The settlers will never be able to repay their debt to you

You may have noted that in the wake of the second intifada, hundreds of suicide bombings in Israel’s main cities, and thousands of Qassams, mortar shells and Katyushas, the Israeli left is furious with you, the Israeli center wants never to hear from you again, and only the Israeli right is delighted with the decisions you have made and the actions you have undertaken.

You may conclude from this that the left were untrustworthy to begin with, and all Israelis are the same.

Or you might think twice.

True, Israel was once isolated, stigmatized, universally condemned, boycotted. But your actions, and those of Bin Laden and Iran, have effectively welcomed Israel into the good graces of a range of countries which have begun to think twice about you. And have ceased to care about you. No country in the world – Israel included – has cried wolf more often in the past than you have. Now, when your distress is truly worse than ever, the cry has fallen on deaf – or hostile – ears.

We in the media coddled you, supported you, cast you as the noble underdog. In response, you decided that the Jews control the media, take Israel’s side, slander the cause of Palestine.

Look again

Your celebration of terror has alienated many of your closest friends.

You did this. You. No one else. You have convinced exactly those Israelis who were willing to trade the West Bank for peace, that this would be a literally fatal error.

Last month, as if to remove the remainder of doubt, the veteran Palestinian Authority Representative in Lebanon, Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki, told a Lebanese television station, “Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.”

You owe your children more than this. You owe your children more than pipedreams, nightmares, threats and delusions. You owe them more than victim status. You owe your children, and theirs, more than a culture of failure and passivity and graft and violence and loss. You owe your children and theirs – and ours – an honest search for peace.

Or would you rather that I simply shut up? Just the rantings of another untrustworthy Jew? Still want to believe you did everything right? Still want to believe that your few friends remaining in the Western left are more than just powerless cranks? Still want to believe that if you hold out long enough, everything will come your

As you wish.

Perhaps regrettably for both sides, we can wait.

* Bradley Burston, journalist correspondent for Haaretz and editor of the English Internet edition of news paper.


1. Haaretz – 06/17/2008

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