Palestinians are darlings of the world, receiving disproportionate amounts of financial aid and supportive resolutions in the UN General Assembly and other international forums.

 
Yet progress is dismal toward the avowed goal of a Palestinian State.

Israeli intransigence is the favorite explanation, but Palestinian disinterest does a better job.


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Notions of a united people with a clear goal of their nation's presence on the world stage do not stand up against a lack of unity to the degree of chronic internal violence.


Who are the Palestinians has an obvious answer, but it falls short of the truth. They haven't been on the land for ever. Many of them (there is no clear number for how many, or what percentage) trace their heritage to a few generations ago when individuals moved into the area from all directions. Taking advantage of the economic opportunities associated with Jewish developments was prominent among the causes of their migration.


To be sure, all nations, including Israelis and the larger community of Jews, are artifacts of people moving, coming together, intermingling, creating new families and identities. 


However, the Palestinians haven't made it to a united peoplehood.


Currently the major division is geographic, religious, and political. It pits Palestinians of the West Bank against those of Gaza.


Within each of those sectors are further divisions, principally by extended families, but also by locality, degree of religious fervor, and association of family members to one or another political or religious movement.


If there is anything that unites Palestinians, it is animosity to Israelis.


Yet this goes only so far in getting the nation what it says it wants. It is more prominent in creating opposition to everything. What certain Palestinians may be willing to accept, other Palestinians reject. Why? They may want more. Or they may simply want to demonstrate that they are more demanding and more "Palestinian" than their Palestinian adversaries.


What the fractured Palestinian polity has done since coming into creation sometime after 1967 is to reject several opportunities to settle its dispute with Israel.


They have lacked an "Altelena moment," when leaders of a significant splinter agreed to submerge their demands and prestige for common advantage.


Anti-Israeli incitement by Palestinian political activists, media, and school teachers is chronic, along with violence against Israelis that is organized or individual,. The incidence of violence has peaked several times, and it has never been absent for long.


Individual Palestinians and their movements/parties/gangs have worked against opportunities for compromise and  cooperation with Israel that promised benefits in terms of services or recognition.


Those living in Jerusalem have pressured one another to avoid participating in municipal elections.


Residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods have destroyed at least one post office, have rejected opportunities to create parks, and have destroyed facilities at nearby parks that Arab kids have used along with Jews. The wall of a French Hill schoolyard used by Arabs as well as Jews has been marked with "Fuck the Jews," and stones thrown toward the windows of our nearby apartment.


Israeli Arabs have not been far behind in their rejectionism. Their most prominent sign is the consistent election of Arab-dominated parties that position themselves as permanent outsiders and shrill critics of whatever government the Jews create.


Arabs can claim to have received a disproportionately low share of benefits from the national government or the Jerusalem municipality. For this, however, they have at least partial responsibility for insisting on the political role as antagonistic outsiders, refusing to use their electoral weight to get proportional goodies.


It's not all dismal in the Arab sector of Israel. A report by the Ministry of Education finds that two Arab communities, one of Muslims and one of Druze, scored at the top of the country's localities in terms of their high school pupils passing the matriculation exams that provide for entry into the country's universities. Media inquiries found highly professional school principals who insist on discipline and commitment, and produce optimum results.


The more prominent choice of an outsider's role has recently come to the fore in connection with commentary about the threat of earthquakes, triggered by the destruction of a picturesque old village in Italy. A major part of the Syrian-South African fault line is the Jordan Valley-Dead Sea, which over the years has been associated with destructive earthquakes along the nearby mountain chain extending from Safed, through the West Bank and Jerusalem to Hebron.


Arabs in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza, have generally built their housing in a helter skelter fashion, without paying attention to established building codes. Much of it is built by family members piecemeal, in their spare time from jobs with more orderly and law-abiding Israeli contractors.


The assertion of Arabs and Jewish leftists is that Israeli authorities have not provided the basic planning framework that would allow the orderly application of builders for approval of their plans, and the inspection of building in progress.


The response is that such planning would be opposed within the Arab sector as yet another expression of illegitimate Israeli conquest, and would be unlikely to bring forth the cooperation necessary for orderly planning.


One example of the crowding and poor infrastructure appears in this view of a steep dirt road and crowded housing in Isaweea.




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Another is the closely spaced high rises built along the wall that divides the "refugee camp" of Shuafat from French Hill. 







Reports are that much of the money for the construction come from Qatar and elsewhere in the Middle East, sent for the purpose of helping Palestinians stake a physical claim to part of what they say is their land.


A number of the buildings remain partially constructed and occupied, as well as being good candidates for turning into rubble when the earth begins to shake. Whenever it is that the projected earthquake comes, there will be nothing picturesque about Palestinian neighborhoods and villages.


And when it happens, we can count on Palestinians blaming the Jews.


Bring your shovels, and your comments



-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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