How not to build a state

The int'l community cannot morally push the creation of a Palestinian state before Israeli security concerns underlined by recent attacks are addressed.

Palestinian terrorist 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian terrorist 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians are ready for statehood. That is the message conveyed by the International Monetary Fund in a report on the economies of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be presented next week to a donors’ conference in Brussels.
For the first time the IMF said that it viewed the Palestinian Authority as “able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state, given its solid track record in reforms and institution- building in the public finance and financial areas.”
The IMF report, which reached a conclusion similar to that of a World Bank report released last fall, adds ostensible credibility to the PA’s campaign to garner international recognition for a “Palestine” along June 4, 1967, “borders,” even without Israeli agreement. From the point of view of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an economist by training, the professional assessment by the IMF, an institution that once employed him, is a major accomplishment.
But besides its financial and economist readiness, heavily supported by massive international aid, is the PA truly ready for statehood? If a Palestinian were established tomorrow on the West Bank, what sort of place would it be?
THIS WEEK a few indications were given. One was the murder of actor and producer Juliano Mer-Khanis, son of a Christian Palestinian father exiled to Lebanon after the War of Independence and an Israeli Jewish mother whose relatives had perished in Buchenwald concentration camp. Mer-Khanis, co-founder of the Jenin Children’s Theater in 2006, was gunned down on Monday, apparently by Muslim extremist opposed to how he was using drama to encourage artistic freedom and democratic ideals among Palestinians.
An advocate of a binational state, Mer-Khanis was by no means an Israeli patriot. Yet his theater had been firebombed by Muslim extremists and he had been threatened in the past for staging co-ed theatrical productions. Islamists were particularly incensed by the idea that a Muslim played the role of a pig in Mer-Khanis’s production of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Even if the motive behind the murder was “family honor,” it is clear that Mer-Khanis was murdered for being a free man and for encouraging his fellow Palestinians to behave likewise.
FEAR REIGNS on the streets of “Palestine” – and not just in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which is once again functioning as a terrorist base for despicable attacks such as the one Thursday that targeted a school bus with terrible consequences.
The supposedly “moderate” leadership of Fatah in the West Bank is seeking to achieve unity with Hamas, and there are precious few signs that the result would be remotely moderate.
According to a report this week by Human Rights Watch, the PA is guilty of blatant suppression of freedom of press. Journalists who work on the West Bank are detained by the PA for no just reason, they are assaulted and intimidated. In one case HRW detailed how a filmmaker was arrested and held in custody for 24 days, then forced to sign a confession incriminating him for being engaged in anti-government activity. Another journalist, Khalid Amayreh, said he had been forced to sleep in a toilet as part of his punishment for criticizing the PA’s suppression of anti-government protests. The HRW report and the shooting of Mer-Khanis are just two examples of the unbridled extremism and officially sanctioned repression taking place in one part of “Palestine.” Thursday’s cross-border attack from Gaza was another escalation of the diet of unprovoked violence from the other.
ONE OF the central lessons to be learned from the unrest sweeping the Middle East is that millions of Arabs who have lived all their lives under repressive, reactionary regimes want a better life for themselves. They want the freedoms and liberties that are available in the West and in Israel. The upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere also demonstrate how Western leaders have become implicated in perpetuating repression by supporting repressive leaders such as Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Muammar Gaddafi.
The international community cannot morally push the creation of a Palestinian state before the Israeli security concerns underlined by Thursday’s attack are addressed. The international community also cannot back the creation of a Palestinian state before institutions are put in place that not only support an economy but also ensure freedom of the press, fair judicial systems and basic human rights. To act otherwise would be to endorse the establishment of yet another rogue and repressive regime in the region. Creating such a state would be an injustice to the Palestinian people and an acute danger to Israel.