Monday, January 14, 2013

At a temporary tent city, facts on the ground become clear

By Jonathan Cook
The National

"When the Palestinian leadership won their upgrade to non-member observer status at the United Nations in November, plenty of sceptics on both sides of the divide questioned what practical benefits would accrue to the Palestinians. The doubters have not been silenced yet.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has done little to capitalise on his diplomatic success. There have been vague threats to "isolate" Israel, hesitant talk of "not ruling out" a referral to the International Criminal Court, and a low-key declaration by the Palestinian Authority of the new "state of Palestine".
At a time when Palestinians hoped for a watershed moment in their struggle for national liberation, the Fatah and Hamas leaderships look as mutually self-absorbed as ever. Last week they were again directing their energies into a new round of reconciliation talks, this time in Cairo, rather than keeping the spotlight on Israeli intransigence.....

However futile the activists' efforts prove to be on this occasion, the encampment indicates that ordinary Palestinians are better placed to find inventive ways to embarrass Israel than the hidebound Palestinian leadership.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi extolled the activists for their "highly creative and legitimate nonviolent tool" to protect Palestinian land. But the failure of PA officials, including Saeb Erekat, to make it to the site before it was cordoned off by Israel only heightened the impression of a leadership too slow and unimaginative to respond to events.
By establishing Bab Al Shams the activists visibly demonstrated the apartheid nature of Israel's rule in the occupied territories. Although a temporary and dismantled tent camp is unlikely by itself to change the dynamics of the conflict, it does show Palestinians that there are ways they themselves can take the struggle to Israel. That, of course, is also Mr Netanyahu's great fear.
The scenario his officials are reported to be most concerned about is that this kind of popular mode of struggle becomes infectious. If Palestinians see popular nonviolent resistance, unlike endless diplomacy, as helping to awaken the world to their plight, there may be more Bab Al Shamses - and other surprises for Israel - around the corner.
It was precisely such thinking that led Israel's attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, to justify Mr Netanyahu's violation of the injunction on the grounds that the camp would "bring protests and riots with national and international implications".
What Bab Al Shams shows is that ordinary Palestinians can take the fight for the "state of Palestine" to Israel - and even turn Israel's own methods against it."

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