When I first read about the then upcoming March of Return, I knew. I knew this was something that wouldn’t end well. How could it?
The purpose of the march was to drive home that Palestinians would “not give up one inch of Palestine.” In fact, Ismail Haniyah, Hamas’ leader, has declared that the people will return to “all of Palestine.”
To demand that all those who left their homes or were driven out in 1948 – and all their descendants – be able to return to their former homes within Israel proper is an unrealistic demand. As the linked articles point out, “No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile Arab governments became citizens of Israel.”
I saw no news coverage of any statements from Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during this time, although he has since called for a day of mourning. If only he had taken a position of leadership, guiding his people to instead protest for achievable goals, not ones he cannot deliver on, the situation would not have turned so tragic. Protesting about ending their present and untenable economic conditions, for example, would be an understandable purpose – although that is as much a by-product of Hamas-PA infighting as it is of anything else.
Gazans planned to approach the wall separating it from Israel, pitching tents for a six-week protest. Israel threatened that they better not get near the wall. So-called peaceful protest escalated into rock throwing, tire burning, Molotov cocktails, rioting…and live ammunition. The number of Gazans that the IDF and its snipers have injured and killed is, to be honest, more than disheartening; it is disturbing. I hate to sound cynical, but what has so far ensued followed a script anyone could have predicted. This could not end well.
I wish I had heard something in Hamas’ words as it planned this protest that would lead me to believe that a two-state solution was something the Palestinians could actually agree with. I wish I had heard Abbas say something, anything, about what the Gazans were about to do before they did it. But I heard neither.
It is more than understandable that after decades of not being able to determine their own destiny, hope is a scarce commodity, but I also do not see any of the Palestinian leadership leading them anywhere. Of course, years of Israel’s intransigence did not help, but then is then and now is now. And it is time to move forwards, not backwards.
Where is the voice of reasonable people? Where are those who want to think about what it takes to actually achieve a state?
In my eyes, demonstrating an understanding that peaceful coexistence is what is sought is hugely important. So is understanding what is possible and what isn’t. Understanding that some compromises are necessary is realistic. And can move the Palestinians towards their goal…if getting a state within a two-state solution is actually their goal.
Seems to me that it is about time for Palestinians to consider asking for reparations within the framework of establishing their own state and gaining their own sovereignty. It is a much more achievable outcome than anything demonstrating, rock throwing, stockpiling missiles, stabbing, car-ramming and – most importantly – disjointed leadership and no elections, can ever bring about.
With Gaza led by Hamas and West Bank and East Jerusalem by the Palestinian Authority, and neither body understanding that negotiations coupled with proving peaceful intent is really the only way to obtain a state, Palestinians are destined to be caught in an endless cycle of demonstrations gone bad and encouraged terrorism, neither of which will be productive. In the absence of a unified leadership, they cannot be lead to the future they need.
It really is an awful and horrific loop. Palestinians need a home of their own, a future they can themselves determine. But as pawns in a game led by corrupt and angry visionless leaders, I cannot see this ending well.
Israel’s reactions and steps do not help, although I do believe for them to envision being able to negotiate away a final settlement (and to sleep at night), they have to believe that their neighbors will be peaceful and good neighbors. That is impossible now.
Some people daydream about vacations and special occasions. I daydream about a grassroots effort of Palestinians who “get it” rising up, fielding alternative candidates and and forcing elections. I daydream about Israeli Arabs who understand the benefits of peaceful coexistence and democracy reaching over the Green Line and helping their brethren. I also dream of Israel staking a position that says the same: Show us that you are serious about being neighborly neighbors and we will work with you to do the same.
I don’t know how unrealistic and impossible these things are. But I do believe that without them, nothing can change. And no amount of protest will help.
It really is such a shame. To me, unexploited opportunties are more deserving of rage than are unattainable demands. Wouldn’t it be nice if both sides were to demonstrate for leadership to take both peoples towards resolution, towards a shared future and towards hope.