Linda S. Heard
Gulf News (Opinion)
July 12, 2011 - 12:00am

If I were a Palestinian living on the West Bank or Gaza I would wake up every morning wondering why the international community champions the self-determination of Arabs in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria while actively abetting Israel in its oppression of my own people when they have international law on their side.

On occasion, I try to imagine what it must be like to be Palestinian. I think, what if some lofty international body signed up to a document converting my own country of birth Wales into a new homeland for the adherents of a single faith insisting they have an ancient territorial claim to Cardiff?

Say that my cousins and aunts were forced out of their houses at the point of a gun into squalid refugee camps abroad or chose to take up arms and were designated ‘terrorists' — or stayed on as third class citizens. The idea is so fantastical that no Hollywood director would entertain such a far-fetched script.

Palestinians are not asking for much. All they want is a land they can legally call home on 22 per cent of their stolen historic homeland. This simple redrawing of borders, which the UN Security Council could do in a jiffy if its members were so minded, has been blown up into an intractable problem even greater than finding a cure for cancer.

It didn't take long for Sir Mark Sykes and Francois-Georges Picot to divide up the Arab world into British and French spheres of influence and it took just a few months for Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill to divvy up post Second World War Europe. The partition of India, on the basis of religious demographics, was carried out within less than a year. Yet when it comes to a Palestinian state, the US and the UN have been huffing and puffing for decades.

With Israel's powerful allies lined up against them and their Arab brethren behaving like ostriches what are the Palestinians supposed to do?

They've tried armed struggle — an occupied people's lawful right under the Geneva Conventions — which failed because the occupier is militarily strong and ruthless — and does not hesitate to bomb, shoot or imprison women and children.

They've taken their grievances to the UN Security Council and even when members offer a sympathetic ear, resolutions in their favour are invariably vetoed by the United States. Their leaders and negotiators have spent months, perhaps even years, in talks with their Israeli counterparts brokered by a succession of US presidents, but whenever a new Israeli prime minister is voted in, they are back to square one. This year, they took a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi's book and organised peaceful protests only to be shot at or arrested.

In September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, frustrated at the lack of progress since he succeeded the late Yasser Arafat, proposes to seek UN recognition of a unilaterally-declared Palestinian state. Until recently, Abbas has been playing by Washington's rules and, according to the Palestinian Papers exposed by Al Jazeera, has been prepared to make every concession demanded by Israel.

Unfortunately, his cooperation and readiness to acquiesce on core issues haven't borne fruit and have undermined his standing. With little to lose, he's decided to go for broke which isn't going down very well with Congress or the Obama White House. President Barack Obama has been urging the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) not to proceed while the US House of Representatives have threatened the PNA that any such attempt will result in the cutting of US aid.

Over the past months, Abbas has successfully lobbied for support but with the Quartet and the EU as yet undecided where they stand on the issue and the probability of a US veto, UN recognition appears unlikely. Netanyahu, flush from the success of his arm-twisting and propaganda to persuade Athens against allowing Freedom Flotilla II from sailing from Greek shores to Gaza, is working the phones to block Palestinian ambitions within the UN.

It isn't that the Palestinians are entirely friendless; ordinary people from all over the world, including many prominent Jews, are prepared to take a concrete stand like the thousands who have taken part in convoys and flotillas to Gaza and the hundreds currently flying in to Tel Aviv knowing they face almost certain arrest and deportation. If there were more, people's power could make a difference by forcing governments out of their lethargy.

It seems to me that Palestinians will have to be patient for a little while longer. Even Goliaths have an Achilles heel as we witnessed when the Soviet Union and South Africa's apartheid regime collapsed. It may be that the US will realise Israel is more of a liability than an asset or that a militarised, united and determined Arab world will emerge to lay down the law.

Or, it's possible that a Jewish state will no longer be viable when Palestinians of the 1948 areas greatly outnumber Jews. Whatever the outcome, the clock is ticking for Israel's longevity in its present form. When will Israelis understand that there's only one antidote to their security concerns — peaceful coexistence with a country called Palestine and neighbourly relations with the region as a whole. Anything else is just a bandage.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017