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Hope vs. reality - Sam Bahour

Sept. 25, 2010 1:37 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 26, 2010 9:05 P.M.)
As a Palestinian-American father of two daughters living in Al-Bireh, the twin city of Ramallah, no one on this earth wishes for Palestinians and Israelis to reach a lasting peace agreement more than I do.

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of Israeli parents feel the same; I know my Israeli friends do. I would even expect that many of those Israeli settler parents who live on the military garrisons of confiscated lands that pepper West Bank hilltops feel the same too. But wishing in a vacuum artificially raises expectations that hurt even harder every time they come crashing to the ground to meet reality.

The facts on the ground are bitter, very bitter. To extract the region from never-ending turmoil to that of permanent stability and normalcy, much more self-reflection will need to be made by all the parties involved.

I’ll start with my own side, the Palestinians. Since 1948, Palestinians have been dispossessed from 78 percent of our homeland. Today, 60 percent of Palestinians are internally displaced or dwell in refugee camps just hours from their homes and properties, 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza survive under siege conditions, hundreds of thousands have been illegally detained or assassinated by Israel, and the economy is micro-managed by a foreign military that is underwritten by donor countries.

The Palestinian negotiating team claims to be a legitimate leadership but there is not one functioning institutional body that can genuinely claim to be the source of their self-defined legitimacy.

For its part, Israel is not in a much better position. Its government is comprised of a toxic coalition that mixes neo-conservatism with Jewish fundamentalism and lives on the verge of daily collapse. Israeli society is using the word fascism more and more to depict the direction of Israeli politics. During the last few years, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and current Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak both spoke of “Apartheid” as being the direction in which Israel is heading.

Israel's four-decade military occupation has corrupted Israeli society to the bone; the military itself was one of its first victims but the society at large has not been spared. The settler enterprise has Israel in a bear hug that has the power to bring serious chaos to all walks of Israeli life. The ultra-orthodox community is hugging Israel from the other side with the same vengeance. To save Israel from itself Israel needs a lasting agreement more than ever.

Finally, and most damaging to the prospects of peace is the United States. Never being a neutral mediator and always using Israel for its own geostrategic plans the US refuses to release its monopoly on the Palestinian-Israel issue. While it arms, funds and diplomatically covers for one side, it murmurs words of peace out of half of its mouth to the other.

The US has tremendous leverage that could be used if it was truly serious about bringing the region closer to peace, but ultimately, it will be the Palestinians and Israelis that must come to bear the consequences of an end to the conflict. That quest for an end to the conflict will be served on a platter of international law or on a battlefield of the law of the jungle.

Illusionary peace negotiations can only lead to a hallucinated peace.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and may be reached at [email protected]

This article was first published in The Jewish Post & News, Winnipeg, Canada and is republished here with permission
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