The construction of what is called the first ‘Palestinian settlement’ in the West Bank – Rawabi – is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing more of to build Palestine.
By RAY HANANIA
Qatar is unlike many of the other Arab countries that support the Palestinians.Instead of donating lip-service and writing checks to be used in conflict, it has invested heavily in a project with a Palestinian construction company to build a new city in the West Bank called Rawabi.The Palestinians should be focused on doing more of this; building Palestine, and switching gears from the confrontation-style politics of Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and a lot of other losers who love to exploit Palestinian suffering.Even Turkey might consider putting a cork in its rhetoric.The confrontation politics of the past was a zero-sum game that achieved very little. In terms of Palestinian interests, it’s a step backward, not forward, to keep fighting with Israel. Instead of confronting Israel at every corner, Palestinians should spend at least some of their efforts building their country and strengthening not only its economy but national pride.Building Palestinian cities in the West Bank is just one way to do this.If Hamas had any real leaders instead of the modern-day bombastic Nassers it has now, they’d spend more time trying to lure Arab world development into the Gaza Strip to build rather than spending all their time with their confrontational go-nowhere rhetoric that helped empower Israel’s stranglehold on the Gaza Strip.We really do need to start building more cities in Palestine, mainly for the day when the refugees will be able to walk out of their camps. We need to give them a quality of life alternative to the sad existence sustained by the charity of the outside world.Not that the outside world doesn’t owe Palestinians a lot. It does.Rawabi is a brilliant vision of what Palestinian life can be after confrontation with Israel. Palestine can be a better country. It can be the economic hub of the Middle East.Palestine, in peace, can offer the region far more than as a constant antagonist.Of course, that means the activists need to stop exploiting Palestinian suffering for their own needs, too.But mainly, Palestinians need to stop listening to the no-future activists who promise only confrontation.Rather than flotillas, Palestine needs more Rawabis, places where Palestinian pride can defeat Israeli occupation. Rawabi would be the first modern, planned Palestinian city – a step that officials say will help build an independent state – located about 30 kilometers north of Jerusalem. It’s modeled on the typical US suburb.THE BIGGEST problem is Israel. Israel has been dragging its feet on giving approval for an access road. The Israelis keep saying how much they want peace and how much they want Palestinians to focus on rebuilding Palestine, but while Israel “talks the talk,” it doesn’t “walks the walk.”The $700 million Rawabi project is funded by the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. and the Ramallahbased Massar International.Mortgage loans would be managed by the US Overseas Private Investment Corp., an investment arm of the US government.The company began pouring foundations this year and anticipates that the first families will be able to move in by 2013.But without an access road, residents would have to do the “Palestinian-Israeli shuffle” used to navigate Israel’s checkpoints and road access restrictions, traveling through narrow winding roads, including on two miles of West Bank land controlled by Israel. Rawabi is located in Area A, which is controlled by the Palestinians. The road access it needs is in Area C, controlled by the Israeli military, and on the ground, by settlers who continue to protest, angry that foreign dollars for settlement construction in the West Bank are going to Palestinians.Palestinians will continue to have to put up with the warped views of Israeli writers like Yoaz Hendel, who recently wrote in the op-ed “Anti- Jewish apartheid” for Ynet, rather inaccurately, “We [Israelis] got used to the world referring to the war against Palestinian terrorism as apartheid, we got so used to being guilty, to the point of failing to notice that the construction apartheid is happening to be directed against us. The Arabs are allowed to buy homes anywhere, while the Jews are not. The Arabs are allowed to build, expand and engage in familyreunification.The Jews are forbidden.”No Yoaz, Palestinians are not permitted to live or build anywhere.Take a trip to my land, for example, next to Gilo: 34 dunams that Israel has frozen so non-Jews cannot build there; land located in the West Bank annexed by Israel on the Israeli side of the wall. Yet Yoaz says it is hypocritical for Palestinians to criticize the settlers, who build Jewish-only settlements while the Palestinians build cities like Rawabi, which presumably is for Palestinians only.Well, Yoaz, the fact is that the settlers are not building homes in Israel. They are building them in the West Bank. The true comparison would be if Rawabi were being built next to Haifa, for Palestinians only.Of course, that’s a small detail that right-wing Israelis love to ignore.But if Palestinians are going to move forward, we’ll need to ignore the ranting and self-righteous lamentations from both the Israeli and Arab sides.Build more Rawabis. And in the process of building Palestine, we must find time to negotiate a genuine peace agreement.The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com
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