Out of the appalling destruction and death in this latest bout of violence, what kind of future can be salvaged for Palestinians whether in Gaza or in the rest of the occupied territories? Wars, militarisation, and feelings of moral superiority do not bring security or solutions. On the contrary, the current war, and the ones before prove that overwhelming military force, and all other forms of violence, will never solve political problems.
The violence was as inevitable as it is unbelievable
What has been going on in the occupied territories (Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem) was unsustainable. The Israelis had it easy and comfortable, and were generally more concerned with social issues than with peace. Even the Palestinians had on the whole become so used to the 47 year occupation, that the focus of the dreams of many was more towards improving the economy than addressing the appalling human security situation.
But nevertheless you cannot continue to deny all rights and humanity to a people and expect that the anger and frustration won’t burst out
The need for a new vision for the future
One thing that is, or at least should be, clear to all, is that the future of the region will only be a peaceful one if it is a based on reciprocal respect that acknowledges that the region has to be shared.
Maybe it will be in separate states, or maybe in some other form. Whatever the case, the alternatives remain unthinkable, such as the total transfer or total annihilation of all the Palestinians or all of the Israelis.
Any viable future therefore needs new a vision to be built by both sides. Somehow, together, we have to work towards something that is based on inclusivity and awareness of the need for a shared future.
There needs to be a shift in mindsets away from the self-righteousness and the many misperceptions surrounding this conflict. At present each side focuses only on their own separate and exclusive needs and fears. We need change, not more of the same and worse. We need to move towards humanisation instead of away from it.
The time is now to learn lessons
One of the lessons, that have been very apparent to Palestinians at least, is that it is impossible, even with state-of-the-art barriers and concrete walls, and even with projects of “fragmentation” to undermine Palestinian social cohesion, to keep an entire population without basic human rights, without human security and without dignity.
Another is that as we move into August 2014, this current war needs to be the war that ends not only all wars between Israelis and Palestinians but also the long festering occupation.
Correcting some common misperceptions
- The conflict is between Israel and Hamas. No – it is between Israelis and Palestinians. The bombs that are being dropped on Gaza are an attack on all Palestinians. The anger in the face of the continuing denial not only of human rights, but apparently even of humanity, is being expressed by Palestinians everywhere – whether by peaceful demonstrations/marches, So, as Amira Hess has said in a recent article “let them breathe…”
- It is an equal conflict. No – Israel is one of the most powerful military states in the world, with military service, and a well-trained standing army in addition to an air force, a navy, missiles, nuclear weapons etc. Israel has been in control of Palestinian lives throughout the occupied territories since 1967. The Palestinians have nothing to defend themselves with; there is no state, no army, no weapons.
- Wars nowadays can be won. No – Wars today involve civilians at least as much as official “combatants”, and part of their aim is to undermine human rights and to disrupt and traumatise the lives of civilians, creating fears and divisions that will continue beyond our lifetime. This form of total war is typified not only by the assault on Gaza, but also by the prolonged occupation.
- That victimhood is the property of one group only. No – the discourse of victimhood, whereby one side claims all the moral high ground, and thereby pushes all the evil onto the other side, making them into monsters, not only cannot hold up, but allows for polarisation and dehumanisation.
As the numbers of Palestinians killed have reached nearly two thousand, with many of the casualties being women and children, and with the relentless destruction of shelters, schools, hospitals and the only power plant in Gaza, stopping the violence is urgent. But this latest ceasefire, must not be just a ceasefire that allows for more of the same and worse in another couple of years, it must be linked with an inclusive, realistic and creative approach towards establishing human security and justice, and thereby a lasting peace.
Lucy Nusseibeh implemented a participatory video project for the Participate Initiative (which is based at the Institute of Development Studies) with Palestinian women in two villages (Jib and Nebi Samuel) severed from Jerusalem by the Israeli separation barrier. She is also the founder and executive chair of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND) and director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University.