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Darkness at the end of the tunnel

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NakbaOn the 64th Nakba anniversary, Palestinians lose hope of statehood
by Khalid Amayreh

As a clear extreme right trend continues to shape Israeli politics and society, and as the international community proves powerless to prevent Israel from killing the last vestiges of hope for a workable and dignified settlement to the Arab- Israeli conflict, many Palestinians are losing hope for the creation of a true, viable state, one that would have East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian officials, while continuing to invoke the mantra of the two-state solution in public, privately acknowledge that the creation of a genuine Palestinian state in the West Bank is becoming workable with each passing day.

A few weeks ago, Ahmed Qurei, who occupied several important portfolios in the Palestinian Authority (PA) during Yasser Arafat's era, recognised that "it is probably no longer possible to create the kind of state that we want."

He continued: "Now we have to choose between two stark choices: Either we settle for a worthless state made of hapless ghettoes and miserable slums, and surrounded by Jewish settlements on all directions; or struggle for one unitary and democratic state where Jews and Arabs can live equally in all of Mandate Palestine from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan."

The problem, however, is that Israel, which the veteran Fatah leader says has effectively killed the two-state solution strategy, insists on an exclusively or predominantly Jewish state with as few non-Jewish citizens as possible.

"You see, they don't want to give us mercy, and they don't want to allow God's mercy to reach us," he said, quoting a popular Palestinian saying.

So what is the solution? Qurei doesn't claim to have one, if even there is one. However, he insists that the Palestinians must remain steadfast in their land. "You see, 64 years or even 100 years are nothing in the annals of history. Invaders come and go and if they stay for a few decades, this doesn't mean they will stay forever."

Meanwhile, the PA leadership in Ramallah continues to hold on to the two-state solution as the only realistic strategy for peace and stability in the region. PA President Mahmoud Abbas argues that, "In this world, we can't have all we want." He argues that the two-state strategy is the only option acceptable to the international community.

Abdel-Sattar Qassem is a senior professor of political science at An-Najah National University in Nablus and a frequent critic of the PA regime. He believes that the "overdependence" of the PA on the international community to free the Palestinians from the clutches of the Israeli occupation is an expression of political naivety.

"What is the international community other than the US and its allies? Do you really think these powers would pressure Israel to give up the stolen Palestinian rights? These powers can't even force Israel to stop demolishing a Palestinian home, let alone give up occupied territory. These powers are part of the problem; they can't be part of the solution."

Qassem's prescription for the "right salvation strategy" includes, among other things, economic empowerment of the Palestinian people and putting an end to their dependence on Israel, and forging alliances with regional and international powers that are supportive of the Palestinian cause.

He affirms that he knows the road is long and difficult, but adds: "This is the only way that gets us to the shore of safety."

Then there is the Islamist camp, which is guided by the supposed Quranic prophecy about the creation and ultimate destruction of Israel.

According to one prominent Quranic sura or chapter, Surat Al-Israa, or Children of Israel, Jews would be gathered into Palestine and allowed to build a mighty state and would have many strong supporters. However, eventually, and because of Jewish decadence, arrogance and evil behaviour, the state (Israel) would be utterly destroyed at the hands of Muslims who would "enter the mosque as they had entered it before".

The relevant verses read: "And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture, that indeed you would do mischief on the earth twice and you will become tyrants and extremely arrogant!

"So, when the promise came for the first of the two, We sent against you slaves of Ours given to terrible warfare. They entered the very innermost parts of your homes. And it was a promise (completely) fulfilled.

"Then We gave you once again, a return of victory over them. And We helped you with wealth and children and made you more numerous in man power.

"(And We said): 'If you do good, you do good for your own selves, and if you do evil (you do it) against yourselves.' Then, when the second promise came to pass, (We permitted your enemies) to savage your faces and to enter the mosque (of Jerusalem) as they had entered it before, and to destroy with utter destruction all that fell in their hands." (Israa, Verses 4-8)

At the end of the sura, there is a striking but mysterious connection made between the very credibility of the Quran itself and the gathering of Jews into Palestine:

"We shall bring you altogether as mixed crowd (gathered out of various nations) And with truth We have sent it down (the Quran), and with truth it has descended.

And We have sent you (O Mohamed) as nothing but a bearer of glad tidings (of Paradise, for those who follow your Message of Islamic Monotheism), and a warner (of Hell-fire for those who refuse to follow your Message of Islamic Monotheism)." (Israa, Verses 104-105)

Muslims believe the Quran is the literal, eternal, unadulterated and uncorrupted word of God. And as many Muslims are resigned to the fact that Israel is an established and preordained reality for the time being, they also are convinced that this reality is transient in nature and will disappear sooner or later.

Practically, this aspect makes many Muslims opposed to the notion of recognising Israel. Some Islamist preachers are already teaching that Muslims, including Palestinians, must only content themselves with managing the conflict with Israel but ought to refrain from trying to find a lasting resolution, simply because there is no such a thing as a lasting solution for this conflict.

A few weeks ago, a prominent Islamist leader in the Hebron region told thousands of worshipers that, "We must believe the Quran, not the pernicious lies we hear on satellite televisions. There is simply no solution to this existential conflict except the disappearance of Israel."

He told them that the Quran was revealed to Mohamed when Palestine was under Roman rule and Jewish political power was negligible. "Yet the Quran predicted the creation of Israel and asserted its ultimate destruction."

This is not to say that Islamists advocate doing nothing until the fulfilment of Quranic prophecy. But the prophecy gives them a certain conviction that all efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the region will avail to nothing.


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