Hopes for a negotiated two-state deal have been crushed. The centre of Palestinian political gravity will shift back to the PLOby Ahmad Samih Khalidi / June 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
After Jenin, it is easy to see why the Palestinians are accused of wallowing in professional victimhood. Palestinians have fought and bloodied their foes for decades; sometimes with uncontrollable zeal, but more often to little, perhaps even pathetic, effect-witness the recent sight of a failed suicide bomber dragged across a street by an Israeli robotic device.
Throughout the history of the conflict, it is Israel that has proven the master of carefully directed fury, from the callous and calculating terrorism of its pre-state underground to the most recent lynching of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
During the 1948-49 war, Israel’s assaults on Palestinian civilians were part of the drive to build a Jewish state upon the debris of Arab Palestine. Deir Yassin in April 1948 was a notorious milestone on the road to Jewish statehood. But it was not the worst of Israeli excesses. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were summarily executed at Safad, Lydda and Ramleh, Al-Dawayima, Safsaf, Sa’sa, Eilaboun, Jish and Majd al-Krum, amongst others between May and November 1948.
From a Zionist perspective, Palestine’s depopulation was the sine qua non for Israel’s existence. But after the trauma of 1948, and as the Palestinian national movement recovered in the diaspora, the purpose of Israel attacks shifted somewhat. Rather than depopulation, “retaliation” against Palestinian population centres now had the purpose of breaking the Palestinian will to pursue the struggle.
Throughout the following four decades, Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians continued: Qibya in the West Bank in 1953, Gaza in 1956, Kfar Qassim in Israel in 1956, As Samu in the West Bank in 1966, Nabatieh refugee camp in Lebanon in 1974, Beirut in 1981, to name an arbitrary few. This exercise finally found its most ambitious expression in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 when thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese civilians were killed and wounded in Sharon’s first stab at geopolitical engineering.
Countless Israeli air raids, commando assaults, naval strikes, assassinations, and one blood-soaked intifada later, the Oslo accords of 1993 were finally meant to set the scene for a historical compromise based on two states along the 1967 borders that would end the existential conflict.
But after 33 years of occupation and seven long and fruitless years of negotiations, neither Israel’s leadership nor its polity at large was ready to take the real steps required to end the conflict. Even the most left-leaning Israelis persisted in the belief…