Ghassan Khatib
The Guardian (Opinion)
February 25, 2010 - 1:00am

To live under occupation is to face many indignities and dilemmas. How to deal with the occupier? By violence or by peaceful means?

History has examples of both. But parallels are never exact. The dilemma facing Palestinians is whether to go on working with the international consensus that supports our independence, or to wage war against the overwhelmingly superior forces of the occupier, Israel.

The question is the choice of weapons. In the view of the Palestinian Authority and of the majority of Palestinians, the weapon of choice is to build the institutions of our state while using all legal and peaceful means to end the occupation.

We recognise the difficulties of achieving this while Israel continues to defy international opinion, violate international law and act as if it is determined to show that it prefers occupation to lasting peace.

But it is our firm belief that this difficult route is the only one likely to lead us to freedom. It is not as if the path of violence has not been tried here. We prefer peaceful resistance, which the government has been strongly advocating. The prime minister, Dr Salam Fayyad, has regularly joined the protesters against the Israeli wall.

Jesse Rosenfeld's analysis for Cif is seriously flawed. He alludes to "suspected links" between the PA and the murder of a Hamas commander in Dubai, without quoting the Dubai police chief who has asked Hamas to investigate whether the guilt lies with a Hamas informer.

Rosenfeld repeats old allegations of torture by PA forces, without acknowledging the progress made by the PA towards ending human rights abuses – as reported by the Guardian among others. Since our prime minister declared zero tolerance for human rights abuse, members of the security forces found guilty of abuse have been disciplined, to show this is not acceptable.

But more serious than Rosenfeld's one-sided reporting is his underlying assumption that the lives and prospects of Palestinians would be improved by pretending the occupation does not exist. If our security forces were to cease policing our streets, providing our own people with improved law and order, the result would be the re-imposition of total Israeli control – the opposite of ending the occupation.

Rosenfeld is right to point to the seriousness of Israeli violations in recent weeks. We welcome any effort to draw the world's attention to the facts. The world should judge Israel not by what it says but by what it does. While claiming to want negotiations, the actions of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, show he has no interest in Palestinian independence.

But it is not enough to point out the wrongs done by Israel. What is the strategy for ending them?

If we ceased to build the institutions of our state, we would lose international support and be further than ever from statehood – again, the opposite of ending occupation.

Rosenfeld fails to understand that the approach he advocates is exactly what the Israeli government wants. It understands that the biggest threat to its occupation of our territory is the universal international support for a Palestinian state. And we understand that this is our strongest weapon.


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