Dr. Nassif Hitti

The Scene in Occupied Palestinian Territories on the 74th Anniversary of Nakba

The attacks and incursions by settlers protected by the occupation’s authorities on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Al Ibrahimi Mosque, settlers holding religious rituals in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and escalating violence by the occupation forces against the Palestinian population. The deliberate murder of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is a glaring example of the occupation’s repression.

As all of this is happening, violent attacks against the Arab civilians of Israel have been increasing. Some now believe that the inflammation of tensions could lead to a new Palestinian intifada in Israel. In an attempt to reduce this tension, the Finance Minister in the government headed by Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, proposed an amendment to the nation-state law that enshrines discrimination against Arab citizens and the supremacy of Jewish citizens into law. When the issue was raised earlier in 2020, the Arab members of the Knesset stressed that the law must be repealed altogether, not slightly amended. It is such amendments that are on the table today: if they are adopted, the main objective would be to quell tensions, not end racial discrimination and repercussions for Arab citizens.

As part of the same strategy of erasure and gradual annexation aimed at perpetuating the occupation, the Israel Supreme Court issued a ruling that lays the legal groundwork for the demolition of eight small Palestinian villages near Hebron. The Israeli administration then approved the construction of 4,500 settlements in the West Bank- in Area C, which constitutes about 60% of the territory of the West Bank and is under Israeli civil and military control in line with the transitional division of control over the area outlined by the Declaration of Principles on Self Government (Oslo Agreement) split the West Bank. Israel is working hard to make these divisions permanent. We should remember, that the number of Palestinians has increased tenfold since the Nakba. Palestinians constitute about half the population in historical Palestine despite the increasing number of Jews living abroad choosing to move to settlements in Israel.

To put it briefly, Israel is striving to radically change the geography and demography of the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the international community has failed to address the situation. The best it has done is to document Israel’s flagrant violations of international law and United Nations Resolutions, issuing statements of condemnation and threats, while the situation that the Arab and Palestinians find themselves in renders deterring the perpetuation of the occupation impossible.

Moreover, the dominance of the extremist religious right and the strategic hawks over in Israeli politics has turned the conflict into a religious war for the former, as is obvious from its actions in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories. Meanwhile, it has led the latter in particular to adopt the formula of peace for economic rewards (improving the living conditions of the people under occupation). In both cases, the policy is based on erasing national identity and all that this implies for the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state.

The bottom line is that the Israeli position is built on erasing the other and has created a system similar to the apartheid system that existed in South Africa. The Palestinian and Arab position is built on a two-state solution; two peoples living side by side, a workable political resolution.

The following formula is in place today: Israel can refuse to agree to a comprehensive, just, and sustainable peace, but it cannot impose its peace on the other. The Arabs and Palestinians can refuse the Israeli peace of erasure, but they cannot impose their peace, which is built on relevant United Resolutions. On the other hand, “mediators,” states, and relevant international organizations, are content with adopting policies that contain the situation and provide remedies that do not treat the worsening “disease” that has infected the “body” of peace, which is a necessity for the region. The requisites and foundations of this peace are well known. No Quarter will emerge in the foreseeable future, and its mediation was not very effective in the first place due to the sharp divergences among its members (the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United Nations) over Ukraine. Some are betting on the US President’s visit to the region in late June, during which he will meet with the parties directly involved in this conflict.

Are we going to stick to the policies of preemptive containment or to preemptive policies to reduce tensions, or will the historical conflict with its various and regional dimensions de-escalate? The former allows foreign parties to exploit it to boost their position vis a vis the other parties competing for influence in the region, a contest that has nothing to do with the actual conflict. The latter allows the development of the roadmap for a comprehensive peace based on already recognized principles and for this initiative to receive support from the concerned international parties. Which option will be taken, we don’t know when we will find out?