The Palestinians will not find peace through bloodshed

by Dan McCurry

Malcolm X once told black Americans, “You didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on you”.

Millions of people from the developing world have risked their lives to get to the West, while the Palestinians had the western world come to them, in the form of Israel. But where this should have been an opportunity, it was more like a great big rock landing on them. They were simply unable to cope.

The photo shows me, in 1986, with one foot in Israel and one foot in Egypt. My anxiety is due to the barbed wire getting caught on my T-shirt. Back then there was no border on the West Bank, never mind a wall. Palestinians were free to come and go across Israel. They worked, they travelled, they engaged in politics. There was violence, but there was also optimism. Then came the suicide bombers.

The word “solution” in the phrase “two-state solution” is misleading. It suggests that the problems will end if property and land rights are settled. It does not promise to create jobs or prosperity for the Palestinians, but it does promise to end any further justification for Palestinian violence.

It was a top-down policy, insisted on by the international community. It created trepidation in the West Bank, with graffiti appearing on walls calling for a one-state solution. The Palestinians want jobs, but the solution seems to promise a permanent partition, with a permanent separation wall. Washington’s policy was never born from reading the writing on the wall.

Wherever I went in Israel, in the 80s, the building sites were full of Arabs. I asked an Israeli if this was somehow racist. He told me that Israelis wanted to get into construction, but the Palestinians wouldn’t let them in. Today, construction workers are imported from Asia. Technology companies adopt restrictive employment policies for “security reasons”. The Israeli economy is being denied to the “ungrateful” Palestinians.There are still some jobs for Palestinians, but there are also checkpoints that stop them getting to work. A low-ranking soldier can order a checkpoint to be erected, but only a high-ranking soldier can have it removed. This is not a conspiracy; it’s just the way that people watch their backs.

Mr Blair understood the need for jobs. As envoy to the Middle East he pushed the Israelis to pass laws to create economic zones between the West Bank and Israel. The laws were passed, but nothing was ever implemented. There simply isn’t the will.

People, who used to be left-wingers, say, “it’s time for us to worry about ourselves now”, and that is the most telling quote. To the Israelis, the suburbs to the east of Jerusalem are not about politics. They’re just about commuters. People want to get home in time to put the kids to bed and watch their favourite show on TV. The peace process missed an opportunity by failing to trade the removal of the barriers in return for the construction of these suburbs.

The settlements that are far more offensive are the ones along the Jordanian border. They were placed there following the 1967 war, as a claim to territory and as a defensive shield, but now need armoured roads across the West Bank to supply them. The fear of invasion by Jordan is now so remote that the justification no longer exists.

There are also ancient Jewish settlements. They have been around as long as the Palestinians. Do they have no right to be there by virtue of their race? This makes a difficult question.

And there are the former residents of Gaza who buy a hilltop and turn up in their caravans claiming to be directed by God. If the army knocks down their settlement, they pop up again the next day.

The Palestinians refer to 1967 as “the disaster”. An economist would say that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. The disaster was Yasser Arafat, and later, Hamas. They are the ones who believed there was a solution to be found through murder, violence and terror. But you cannot win a political argument through violence.

Only through building an economy will the Palestinians find peace and autonomy. The one-state solution is the best way to build an economy. The Palestinians want their jobs back, more than wanting politicians to represent them in their hunger. Politics must follow economics, not the other way around.

The Palestinians have learnt that tribal bloodshed does not deliver happiness. Getting back to 1967, and this time getting it right, is the best way of getting back to peace.

Dan McCurry is a photographer and Labour activist who blogs here.

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2 Responses to “The Palestinians will not find peace through bloodshed”

  1. Idiot Spotter says:

    Wherever I went in Israel, in the 80s, the building sites were full of Arabs. I asked an Israeli if this was somehow racist. He told me that Israelis wanted to get into construction, but the Palestinians wouldn’t let them in.

    That’s funny. I remember visiting South Africa in the 1980s and asking a white person whether he thought putting black people in townships was racist. He told me that he and his friends would love to move to Soweto but the blacks wouldn’t let them in.

    On a more serious note, this is a bit of a confused article.

    1967 is not called ‘the disaster’. 1948 is called ‘the disaster’.

    Getting back to 1967 means ‘returning’ to a two-state solution.

    If you really want a one-state solution it’s not the Palestinians you have to convince, it’s the Israelis.

  2. Dan McCurry says:

    I think you’re right to say that the Israelis have to be convinced of the idea, but you seem confused to believe that I wrote this to convince Palestinians. It’s on LabourUK. That’s the audience I’m speaking to. My point is that foreigners seem to have strong feelings about how to fix the problems of the Middle East, but they don’t listen to the people of that region very much.

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