Osama Al-Sharif
Arab News (Opinion)
June 7, 2011 - 12:00am

This year’s marking of the anniversaries of Al-Nakba, the birth of Israel on usurped Palestinian land, and Al-Naksa, the Six-Day War which resulted in the occupation of the remainder of historical Palestine by Israel, have underlined one clear fact; that 63 years since the creation of Israel and 44 years after the fall of Jerusalem and other territories, the Palestinians have not given up on their rights. It’s an important element in the ever-evolving conflict which remains unresolved to this day.

And it brings into focus the two concrete rights of the Palestinian people; the right to return to their ancestral homeland and the right to live in a free and independent state. Israel would like to dismantle these rights and force a humiliating conclusion to the struggle. It denies the right of return, even though it is enshrined in international law, UN resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. And it is moving to abort Palestinian attempts to declare an independent state based on the pre-1967 war lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In light of Israeli rejection and refusal to honor its commitments under international law and previous agreements with the Palestinians it is difficult to imagine a just and lasting settlement of the decades old conflict happening any time soon. Israel has the upper hand because it controls the occupied territories, rules over millions of Palestinians and is indifferent to regional and international pressure.

The Israeli position has been made amply clear by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his speech before a joint session of Congress last month. He has rejected President Barack Obama’s declaration that the future Palestinian state will be negotiated along the 1967 lines. He has reiterated that Jerusalem shall never again be divided, that the Israel Defense Forces will remain in the Jordan Valley to secure Israel’s borders. He has tossed away the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, insisted that settlements in the West Bank are part of Israel and asked President Mahmoud Abbas to break his accord with Hamas before negotiations can resume.

Netanyahu's position, which is being challenged by political leaders in his own country, was embraced with overwhelming enthusiasm by US lawmakers. They cheered him when he denied the right of return and vowed not to withdraw to the 1967 lines, even when the latter was the official policy of their own government. Even if Netanyahu had rejected the creation of an independent Palestinian state, which he did in so many words, the US Congress would have also applauded him.

Nearly two decades of US sponsored grueling, frustrating and shaky peace negotiations have finally come to naught. The Palestinians, who have recognized Israel and accepted UN resolutions, have emerged empty handed. Peace negotiations had failed to deliver the Palestinian national dream of independence and freedom. Today they have neither. During the past 20 years or so, Israel has confiscated more West Bank territory than any time before and separated Arab towns and villages by running an illegal concrete barrier, separation wall, through them.

It has encircled East Jerusalem by Jewish settlements and prevented Palestinians from traveling to the holy city. On the ground Israel is preparing for a final solution, a scheme to keep the Palestinians prisoners of Bantustan-like areas; the largest prison camp of its kind.

This is the most sinister state-sponsored aggression against the Palestinian people since the end of the British mandate over Palestine more than 60 years ago. It is a final solution because its clear objective is to end all realistic chances for the creation of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. In reality Netanyahu’s Congress speech was a declaration of war on the Palestinian national struggle; and he was lauded for it! Other than the mooted reaction of the Palestinian leadership, the rest of the world, including Arab governments, remained largely silent or ambivalent. Arab foreign ministers threw their symbolic support behind President Mahmoud Abbas, but stopped short of killing the Arab Peace Initiative or escalating the confrontation.

Netanyahu has belittled Palestinian determination to go to the UN seeking recognition of their state. He knows that he cannot stop it, although he wants the US exert pressure on Abbas, but according to him a victory at the UN will not change the facts on the ground. He may be right. But the Palestinians, united in their action, are the only real impediment to Israel’s evil scheme. They have tried negotiating with their occupier for years and failed. The Palestinian National Authority has renounced violence and cooperated with Israel in security matters. It has proved that it is capable to honoring its commitments and build the foundations of a civic and democratic state.

But now the Palestinians have their backs against the wall. They cannot afford to waste time and allow Israel to continue with this comfortable and cost-free occupation. Before they go to the UN, Abbas should call for an all-Palestine convention bringing representatives of Palestinians from across the board; from the occupied territories and in the Diaspora, to agree on one course of action: nonviolent resistance to occupation, a peaceful Palestinian protest that does not end until the occupation ends!

The spirit of the Arab Spring must now move to Palestine; a just and honorable cause which Israel has tried to distort and bury. Israel will not succeed in carrying out a final solution if Palestinians rise, peacefully, to demand their right to live free of occupation on their ancestral land. The world will not blame them and their sacrifice will change the current course.


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