The forgotten struggle in Palestine

On March 12, Israeli media reported that five Israeli settlers were murdered in the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli authority immediately arrested 20 Palestinians and, as if in revenge, the Israeli cabinet approved the building of hundreds of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank the following day.

The expansion of Israeli settlements into occupied territories clearly defies International law and the Geneva Convention of 1949. However, this flagrant violation is lost in the hubris currently sweeping across the Middle East.

Jewish scholar and Palestinian solidarity activist Norman Finkelstein noted the lack of substantial reaction from Palestinians in light of the recent political upheaval in the Arab world.

Speaking in London, Ontario as part of his Northern Ontario lecture tour, Finkelstein admitted that there was little jubilation in Gaza when Egypt’s Mubarak regime was overthrown on February 11, 2011. This is despite the fact that the Mubarak regime has been complicit in facilitating Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

Speaking at Laurier Brantford’s Israeli Apartheid Week event, Alan Sears, Ryerson University’s Professor of Sociology and founder of Faculty for Palestine, said that the political upheaval of the Arab world makes Palestine’s struggle for freedom a timely topic for discussion.

This is because Middle Eastern governments such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have largely ignored and thus facilitated Israel’s arbitrary clamp down on Palestine. Palestinians suffering under oppression are in turn left to choose between living as second-class citizens in neighbouring countries or living as non-entities in their homeland.

As pro-democracy protesters advance in Libya, Yemen and Morocco, Israel’s list of allies in the region grows short. Israel might soon have to reconsider the dynamics of its relationship to Palestine and its neighbouring countries.

Al Jazeera English’s Ali Abunimah writes, “… if Arab countries which host large Palestinian refugee populations undergo democratic transformations, new possibilities for Palestinian politics will open up.”

Potentially fuelling the combustible situation is Wikileaks’ release of the Palestine Papers – a record of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli. The leaked documents revealed the PA to be a mere puppet – a front to give the impression that Israel is seriously engaging in peace talks and working towards a two-state settlement.

Borne of the agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel under the Oslo Accords in 1994, the PA was a temporary legislative body with limited authority over urban populated areas in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestine Papers, however, proved that the PA has been acquiescing to Israeli demands, relinquishing substantial Palestinian territories to Israel. The PA’s former leader, Saeb Erekat was recorded to go so far as to offer Israel “the biggest Yerushalaim (Jerusalem) in Jewish history.”

According to Abunimah, the PA should dissolve itself and return its powers to Israel, who will then be compelled by the Geneva Convention of 1949 to treat Palestinians with justice.

At the moment, the PA is merely acting as a buffer between Palestine and its oppressors. Now that the PA has been revealed to be Israel’s lackey, the logical next step would be for Palestinians to demand for the dissolution of the PA.

“It would be a recognition of reality and an act of resistance on the part of Palestinians who would collectively refuse to continue to assist the occupier in occupying them,” Abunimah wrote.

Israel has been fidgeting nervously behind the curtains as Egypt’s pro-democracy demonstrators began gaining momentum. When it was evident that Hosni Mubarak was on an irreversible downward trajectory, Israel’s media began inflaming the Jewish citizenry’s existing fear of getting an Islamic state for a neighbour.

What Israel really fears is the possibility of a new Egyptian government that isn’t willing to ignore the oppression going on next door to them.

In fact, within days of Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, the Rafah boarder was opened, allowing Palestinians to return home after living in exile just a stone’s throw away from their homeland. According to Ken O’Keefe, a Gulf War veteran and activist who calls himself a “world citizen,” Israel’s blockade on Gaza is showing positive signs of collapse with the election of Egypt’s new Foreign Minister, Nabil Elaraby.

As the former judge of the International Court of Justice that ruled against Israel’s separation wall in 2005, Elaraby has recently reaffirmed his stand that Israel’s blockade on Gaza is a clear violation of international law.

Early this month, O’Keefe carried the first sack of cement into Gaza. He is now finalizing plans to send another 30 tons of it to help Gazans rebuild their homes, schools, hospitals and factories. Could this be a signal that the tide is turning in the Israel-Palestine conflict? For the sake of the four million Palestinians living under Israel’s military control, let us hope so.

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