Tue, Aug 21, 2018 - Page 9 News List

The Palestinians cannot keep living under Israeli apartheid

By Hussein Ibish  /  Bloomberg

In a tiny West Bank village not long ago, a teenage girl, Ahed Tamimi, slapped a heavily armed soldier outside her home. The prevailing sense among 7 million Jews was that she was a violent renegade, a kind of apprentice terrorist, but almost 7 million Palestinians saw her act as effectively, or at least relatively, nonviolent. They viewed her as fully justified and, indeed, heroic.

This clash of completely irreconcilable perceptions reveals the fundamental realities between Israel and the Palestinians. This week, Israel released the 17-year-old Palestinian after she had served eight months for “assaulting” an Israeli soldier. Her 15-year-old cousin was allegedly shot in the head with a rubber bullet by Israeli occupation forces during a demonstration, after which there was a confrontation with the soldiers outside her home. That is when the slap occurred.

Why would a teenager slap a soldier? Why would she be lionized and vilified internationally for doing so? Because her people and the Jewish population of Israel do not operate on equal ground. One side has every reason to try to change that, but many on the other side are content to ignore the disparity.

If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that people cannot long abide living in a condition in which they have no power, no agency and no self-determination. This is why the European colonial project broke down so completely. It is why segregation in the US’ South could not survive. It is why apartheid in South Africa simply collapsed.

In the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, variously known as Eretz Yisrael, historical Palestine or mandatory Palestine, two peoples live in equal numbers, but one group in it has all the power.

A small group of Palestinians are Israeli citizens, making up a manageable minority of about 20 percent. They face lots of official and unofficial discrimination, but they have many of the basic rights of citizens.

However, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians are not citizens of Israel or any other country. They do not have any say in the government that effectively rules them, or any influence on the laws, regulations, bureaucracy or courts that determine their fate. They cannot travel more than a few miles in any direction without the permission of a hostile occupying army.

They have no vote. They have no passport. They have, simply, no meaningful rights.

In a world of citizens, Palestinians are the only remaining large group of stateless people. This is striking, because most of them are not refugees and are living in their own towns and villages.

Young Palestinians such as Tamimi have never known another reality. They have grown up in an environment in which they know that another people control their lives completely and that they are utterly powerless. Their parents have no real authority. Their fathers are routinely subject to all manner of arbitrary humiliations in front of them.

Some try to rationalize these realities. They blame the Palestinians themselves, the Arabs or others. Yet, this fundamental reality of basic empowerment for Jews versus near-total disempowerment for Palestinians is still the essence of lived reality. This is the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. No one can deny it.

No people disempowered to this extent will ever be able to accept that status. Nor should they be expected to.

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