mai abdul rahman
The Israeli-Palestinian contentious violent spells have become an acceptable and predictable derivative of Israel’s long-term Palestinian occupation. The absence of an honest and candid analysis of the causes of the Palestinian-Israeli violent episodes, or consideration of the ideas, principles, and beliefs that contribute to cyclical violence is tragically costing precious Palestinian and Israeli lives.
President Obama’s forgotten ginger public support for a two state solution, and call for the Palestinians to pursue non-violence peaceful means to achieve their independence have proved counter productive and harmful to Palestinians and Israelis. Obama’s unwillingness to challenge Israel’s abusive occupation policies has emboldened Israel, and damaged Israel’s national and moral character. US reluctance to use any political pressure to change Israel’s expansionist policies, or show any commitment to protect Palestinians from Israel’s abuses, requires Palestinians to seek the help of the international community to place independent monitors across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to protect innocent Palestinians and Israelis from cyclical violence.
Israel’s military policies subjects Palestinians to an uninterrupted pattern of recurring military violence and abuse. The Israeli occupation and the Gaza Siege directly impacts every aspect of a Palestinian life, economic well being, health, education, environment, socialization, access to immediate family, community, markets, and the list goes on. Accordingly Palestinians invoke their right to self-defense to resist Israel’s occupation policies by choosing several options including non-violent resistance, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), international and regional diplomacy, and some also choose violent action. Israel views every political, peaceful and violent Palestinian expression as a direct challenge to its political agenda and the status quo. This has lead Palestinians to conclude that any form of Palestinian protest peaceful or otherwise threatens Israel’s terminal occupation plans and Gaza Siege.
Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation regardless of their ideological framework ire Israeli leaders. Israel in fact evokes its right to self-defense by using all political and military means to counter any form of Palestinian resistance (non-violent, diplomatic, and violent). Israel’s right to self-defense includes the use of “pre emptive” assassinations, aerial and naval bombings, invasions, incursion, and drone strikes, which have resulted in heavy Palestinian civilian causalities. Israel defends its occupation activities and military actions that have killed countless of innocent Palestinians including entire families by suggesting that collateral damage is an unavoidable price that Palestinians must pay to ensure the safety and security of the state of Israel.
As a matter of fact, the right to self-defense is not limited to states, but includes individuals, groups and nations whose human rights are violated. Palestinians rationalize and justify their actions (peaceful or violent) based on their universal right to self-defense, which is recognized as the inherently natural, legal, and international right enjoyed by every human being, group, society and state. And therein lies the conundrum—the Israeli government claims it has the right to self-defense, and Palestinians living under Israel’s siege and occupation also claim their right to self defense from abuse, oppression, and an endless Israeli occupation. Furthermore, international law affirms the fundamental rights of Palestinians whether living in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem, or those Palestinians living under any form of tyranny, the right to self-determination and to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” Palestinians argue that their rights including the right to resist the Israeli occupation are enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
The right to self-defense is a long established conventional and legal right that can be traced back to Roman law. The Roman lawyer and statesman Cicero stated: “There does exist therefore gentlemen, a law which is not a law of the statute-book, but of the nature….” So the Israeli government, its IDF, and the Palestinians who employ violent or non-violent tools to end the Israeli occupation assume their actions are legitimate. Israeli leaders invoke Israel’s right to self-defense against any form of Palestinian dissent (non-violent, diplomatic or military), and likewise Palestinians invoke their protected universal right to self-defense to resist the Israeli occupation and military.
Israel’s military tactics including the “pre emptive right to self-defense” are expansive and broad military strategies that have resulted in the death of thousands of innocent young Palestinians (toddlers, minors, and underage youth). It is important to note that Israel’s right to self-defense is not without conditions. Although article 51 of the UN Charter affirms the right of states to self-defense, it also outlines a set of conditions that states must follow beforehand. According to the UN Charter a state’s right to self-defense is “an inherent right of self-defense if an armed attack occurs…” but it is limited to period of time until “the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security”.
President Obama has consistently supported Israel’s military actions and he maintains that Israel “has the right to self-defense.” In spite of the staggering power imbalance between the two parties Obama has demanded that the Palestinians must not have an army or the means to protect their children and community from Israel’s occupying forces or its IDF military actions. No people, past nation, or any sovereign nation in history has accepted such a demand. Nonetheless, despite the protections Palestinians are granted by natural, legal and international law, the Palestinian non-violent advocates and the PA have accepted President Obama’s exceptional proposition.
For seven decades the Israelis have maintained that that the Palestinians are the aggressors, and Israel is a victim of its own militant actions and policy of occupation. As a result, Israel bears all the hazards and menace of their own occupation policies; and the Palestinians—Israel’s victims—are the sole party responsible for every act of harm inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel’s illegal settlers, and IDF soldiers. This logic implies that the only threat that the Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, and the world should solely be concerned with is the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians that Israel occupies. This confusing notion absolves the Israeli government, and its illegal settlers who daily rob Palestinians of their properties, and pollute and poison their environment from any legal and political responsibility towards the Palestinian people they dominate and control.
Israel’s peculiar political convictions are best illustrated within the framework of the battered syndrome that follows a standard pattern: First, Israel, the occupying dominant force consistently implies that the fault of every IDF violent action lies squarely on the occupied abused Palestinians. Second, repeated cycles of violence induce among Palestinians fears for their lives and the lives of the children, which leads to considerable frustration with Israel’s abusive policies. Third, Israel’s occupation and the growth of Israel’s illegal settlements leads some Palestinians to act in ways that Israel deems objectionable. Fourth, any form of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation—violent, non-violent or diplomatic—prompts Israel to retaliate until the Palestinians submit to Israel’s dictates. Fifth, the international community and the US ignore Palestinian call for intervention; and as a consequence of ignoring Palestinian pleas, Israeli leaders and illegal settlers have an irrational belief that Israel’s military occupation policies, and IDF soldiers are omnipresent and omniscient. Interestingly, this recurring pattern has been the operating framework for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. In fact, the Israeli and Palestinian political and military experience has followed the same trajectory where cyclical violence is repeated until Palestinians submit to Israel’s dictates—but for so long-and violent eruptions repeat along the same predictable pattern.
Israel possesses one of the strongest armies, specifically designed to combat and subdue the Palestinians. The IDF administers the Israeli occupation. Israel’s IDF is in complete control of the Palestinian population, their lands, resources, institutions, and monitors or restricts their access and movement within and outside their villages, towns, farms, orchards and neighboring countries. The primary role of the IDF is to manage the Palestinians that Israel controls. As a result the IDF is Israel’s watchdog that responds, surveils, and confronts individual Palestinians, groups and communities that may object to Israel’ occupation or call for an end to Israel’s policies. In short Israel’s military controls every aspect of the Palestinians’ political, economic, cultural and social life.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian social and political adoption of non-violence has received harsh retributions from the Israeli government and its military. Without any political leverage the Palestinian non-violent movement has left Palestinians unable to effectively curb Israel’s illegal settlements or mitigate Israel’s military occupation or its Gaza Siege. The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) strategy to use diplomatic means and abandon force to resist Israel’s military occupation has yet to show any meaningful progress. Also the PA security agreement with Israel has lead Palestinians to view the PA as a police force intent on ensuring the control of the Palestinian population. Most unhelpful was a recent Netanyahu description of the PA as Israel’s subcontractors who will take over Israel’s job of squashing any dissent or form of resistance to Israel’s occupation policies. Intentionally or unintentionally Netanyahu has compromised the PA’s role, national credibility, legitimacy, and image.
Many argue without any protection or political coverage from the international community the PA is left to deal with Israel’s abusive policies on their own. Some argue that the Palestinian non-violent movement has subjected Palestinians to the whims of every individual IDF soldier, hyper militant nationalist, and illegal settler. Meanwhile the Palestinian non-violent movement has endured tremendous political pressure. The Netanyahu government labels all forms of Palestinian peaceful diplomatic and non-violent movements as an existential threat. Israel employs the IDF to pressure, arrest, and taunt peaceful Palestinian protesters, and applies Israel’s political capital to tarnish the Palestinian non-violent movement.
Consecutive US administrations have wholly accepted Israel’s claims that the “Palestinians are the aggressors; we’re the victims forced to defend ourselves.” This position assumes that the massively stronger Israel is the only one suffering from insecurity, and its IDF who control every aspect of Palestinian life, and movement are not responsible for any violence perpetrated on the Palestinians. This logic dismisses the fact that Palestinians are most vulnerable to Israel’s violence and abuses. Notwithstanding, the US has categorically accepted the Israeli government’s claim that Israel is the victim of its own occupation policies and its illegal settlement enterprises; and the Palestinians, who are subjected to Israel’s colonial military occupation, are the aggressors, who need to be domiciled, neutralized, and tamed.
Israeli politicians justify Israel’s occupation policies and military actions by claiming that Israel wants peace and that the Palestinians have no interest in peace. Zeeve Strenhell an Israeli scholar thinks otherwise, he suggests that “Israel’s right needs perpetual war”. Case in point Netanyahu has built his career on acting tough and brutal when it comes to the Palestinians. So far he has shown no interest in ending the occupation as evident by Israel’s continued settlement funding and building program. Palestinians view the continued growth of the illegal Israeli settlements as clear concrete evidence that Israel intends to continue occupying their people and lands. Palestinians argue that this political mindset is not limited to Israel’s right wing politicians, and Israel’s illegal settlers. The Palestinians draw from their historical experience where consecutive Israeli governments have used the Palestinians and the occupation to politically, militarily, and ideologically unite. Since inception the framing of the Palestinians as Israel’s enemy has unified every Israeli generation. In fact, Theodor Herzl famously said, “Our enemies have made us one, and, thus united, we suddenly discover our strength.” According to Haaretz Israelis are obsessed with their need to believe that Palestinians are their nemesis, “ that we are constantly under attack.”
In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections, which triggered the Israeli’s blockade of the Gaza strip. Palestinians argue that Israel has denied them the right to self-determination by rejecting to honor their right to freely choose their own representatives, robbing them of their lawful right to individual dignity and worth. Palestinians claim that Israel’s actions are in violation of international law, which affirms every human individual, and society the right to participate in political elections and protects their inherent right of self-determination. Since 2007 Palestinians living in Gaza have lived under a cruel Israeli siege. For seven years and counting, 1.8 million Palestinians, most of whom are under age children, have been confined to 141 square miles of an open prison. They are completely isolated and under an Israeli siege that prevents them from fishing in their waters, restricting their right to movement and travel. They have consistently endured an Israeli military onslaught. Confined and besieged they are unable to leave, escape or to seek refuge from Israel’s military planes, tanks, bombs, and soldiers.
Some Palestinians under Israel’s siege choose to resist Israel by invoking their individual and collective right to self-defense, which is an internationally recognized right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following, “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” In fact, the first article of the Declaration of Human Rights confirms the inherent right and expectation that all “human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The recent Hamas-Fateh reconciliation has predictably brought about a stream of angry protests by Israeli leaders unleashing a flood of Israeli warnings. Israeli leaders, Knesset members, and politicians have urged their government to do whatever it takes to dismantle the Palestinian Unity Government, attack and weaken Hamas. Some Israeli leaders even suggested the IDF retake Gaza and dismantle the PA. The Palestinian Unity Government has placed the Netanyahu government on the defensive. As a result the Israeli government committed the use of every available measure—political, diplomatic, and military—to thwart the Palestinian Unity Government.
Israel is a UN member, and is a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human rights as well as several international human rights covenants. International law grants Palestinians countless rights that have never been honored by Israel or the international community. And even when Palestinians rightfully invoke their international, legal and natural laws to self-defense, it is well established and clear that they are without the means to protect their young, families and community from Israel’s military occupation or it’s IDF. Palestinians are powerless and live under daily threat of losing life, limb and land. They are without any means to protect their innocent. Likewise innocent, young and elderly Israelis are also innocent victims of cyclical violence and are in need of protection.
Clearly Palestinians need protection from Israel. On average Israel has killed hundreds of Palestinians for every one Israeli killed, and on average Israel imprisons one Palestinian child every three days—yet not one single American leader has been compelled to pay lip service to the security needs of the Palestinian population.
So how can the international community help protect the Palestinians and Israelis from the grip of cyclical violence? Palestinians and Israelis can be afforded protection through the employment of international monitors such as the UN, EU forces across the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Such deployment will protect the Palestinian population from harm, and will assuage Israel’s fears and insecurities. The deployment of international monitors in occupied Palestine will help control and limit the occasional Palestinian violence against Israelis, and ensure the PA continues it’s non-violent strategy, and the growth of the Palestinian non-violent movement. Otherwise the legitimacy of the PA and its ability to maintain security in Palestine, which is fundamental to the growth of the Palestinians economy; will be seriously challenged and undermined. In addition, the deployment of independent monitors will protect the Palestinian non-violent movement that has seen tremendous growth among Palestinians, Israeli peace advocates, and international Jewish groups interested in ending Israel’s occupation.
Without the prospect of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the international community should consider the deployment of independent monitors. If not to protect the Palestinians from Israel’s harm, then for Israel’s sake. This will also end the recurrence of cyclical violence and provide the Palestinians the needed protection. The lack of incentive among Israelis and their supporters to commit to ending Israel’s occupation, and the absence of serious solutions and concrete measures to protect the innocent population of the two peoples from harm can be mitigated with the deployment of independent monitors. As it stands it is the only feasible option. In short deploying international independent monitors may be the best means of showing sincerity and friendship to both Israelis and Palestinians, otherwise the current stalemate will continue to fuel violence for the foreseeable future.