From Across the Line: The hard questions

By NIDA TUMA
March 29, 2012 16:44

I hope I don’t sound too pessimistic when I say I don’t think we are heading toward a state, even coexistence, but rather an uncertain future.




Palestinian flags waving in West Bank

Palestinian flags waving in West Bank 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

Wouldn’t you rather live under occupation than with your “non-democratic” people, an Israeli journalist asks.

Meaning what would I prefer, a future state or the status quo?

Of course, being asked this question by an Israeli is necessarily different from being asked by a Palestinian. Being asked by a Palestinian would be acceptable in the same way it would be acceptable for an African-American to raise issues about his own community.

Living amid what is one of the most complex conflicts in the world often means coping with difficult questions. Much like the most important question of all: should Palestinians and Israelis be talking with each other in the first place?

In addition, arguments and words that might have seemed normal in the past can now be very offensive to some or might even be labeled racist.

When the time comes for a talk with the opponent, one often feels the need to represent one’s own people: their hopes, their dreams and ambitions. Even if you disagree, you are faced with the feeling that a nation’s reputation and future lie on your shoulders.

Knowing that you don’t want to fail them, you think twice about what you would like to say and what your people demand you say. And Palestinians vary a lot in their opinions, from those who consider talking to Israelis or accepting their permits to visit east Jerusalem a disloyalty to those who consider the dialogue as something akin to a national duty.

Given that we live under occupation, I believe it’s my duty to participate in advancing the peace process even if some of my people don’t think it’s the answer to our struggle. After all, I can have and express my own personal opinion without “betraying” the public.

“WITH THE Islamic movement’s rise in the Arab world, isn’t occupation better?” my journalist colleague asks again, with a tone implying what my answer should be.

The question might come from a place of concern over the challenges I face in my own community. However, it assumes that we are, and always will be, non-democratic. So the occupation is as much of a punishment as it is a solution.

Eliminating any ill will behind the question and excluding the views that say Palestinians don’t deserve any state at all, where we are heading after 20 years of failed negotiations is an important question.

While I agree with a part of the analysis behind the question, I strongly disagree with some parts.

Having lived all my life in the Palestinian territories, I know that life here is not a piece of cake. My people, particularly women, have many challenges to deal with from both sides, the Palestinian and the Israeli.

The checkpoints, the siege, the economic and political situation and the vague view of the future on the horizon add complication to a very thorny conflict.

I can’t ignore that our system has corruption and that we have faults, but looking back at our experiences, there are many successful stories as well. For example, we have had mayors who have been elected democratically in their local communities, proving the success of local governance among Palestinians.

So where do we go from here?

This unclear vision of the future allows for a large variety of ideas for alternative solutions to the conflict.

Due to the current political situation and the fact that settlements prevent the geographical contiguity of a future Palestinian state, the two-state solution is not one many people would bet their money on.

The difficulties of the status quo, as well as the Palestinian initiative to obtain international recognition of a Palestinian state in the form of Mahmoud Abbas’s UN bid, have prompted people to begin discussions ranging from the one-state solution (only Palestinian), to a single (Israeli-Palestinian) state to the twostate solution.

The Palestinian campaigns for a one-state solution recently fired up a heated debate. Do we declare the death of the two-state solution?

Some Palestinians, enraged by the idea of Israelis and Palestinians living together in a single state, removed the Takamul initiative posters that advocate this cause.

Maybe it was too cynical for them that anyone would even consider Muammar Gaddafi’s idea of “Isratine” – a combination of Israel and Palestine.

Neither Palestinians nor Israelis are open to the idea of a single-state solution, for different reasons. In my opinion, the Israelis are less likely to want a “burden” like us, let alone the possible ramifications of such a decision on their state’s identity.

It is important for Palestinians to have their identity recognized by the world as well. They are afraid of being second-class citizens in Israel. Palestinian Israelis often voice these concerns. Especially those who are against normalization – defined as interacting closely with their occupier – feeling that this solution will mean sucking what’s left of the territories into a broader “occupation.”

I don’t stand anywhere in this debate, simply because I don’t believe either of the proposed solutions, one-state or two-state, is likely to be implemented in the near future. Things don’t seem to be going in that direction, anyway.

I hope I don’t sound too pessimistic when I say that I don’t think we are heading toward a state, or even coexistence, but rather an uncertain future.

GOING BACK to the journalist’s original question, I have a question myself. Why do I have to choose between two negatives? Either a corrupt, non-democratic system or occupation? Especially when fighting for a liberal, democratic state is the dream of many who have never had the chance to live in one, as they they don’t have a state of their own.

Bearing in mind that every society has its own struggles, the fact that we have difficulties should not mean we that don’t deserve to be a member of the world community.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to find my state on the map. When I first signed up for a Hotmail account, I had to list the United States as my country, as I couldn’t find any link to my existence on the website’s list of the world’s countries.

Among the many transformations the Arab revolutions have shown, they prove that change is possible. But not always for the better: it also includes the rise of extremists, which forms a threat to our identity.

Should that be a reason to keep oppressing people under tyrannical regimes under the false claim that they won’t know any better?

I will never say that I don’t face issues within my society, and I am not claiming that we are perfect, but our challenges should only serve as motivation for my fellow citizens and for me to fight for a just, professional and liberal system. We don’t have the ability to do that as the situation stands right now.

I’m not saying that the glass is half full or that it’s half empty. We don’t even have a glass.

The writer is a Palestinian freelance journalist and producer working in the West Bank.

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