Finally, a Palestinian "Peace Now"?

By Elliot Jager
Monday, November 14, 2011

What if a group of youthful Palestinian activists, fed up with Hamas and Fatah for leading the Palestinian Arabs over and over down bloody, self-defeating dead ends, were to emerge as a new political and social force—something like a Palestinian "Peace Now"?  The Washington Post thinks it has found them.

Palestinians are once again experiencing the futility of the rejectionist strategy.  Their effortless victories in UNESCO, with more predicted in the General Assembly, seem only to stoke their frustration.  Their expectation of Security Council recognition for a Palestinian state is about to be dashed.  Imagine the possibilities, then, in a Palestinian movement revolted by the old militarism, religious fanaticism, and bloodlust; exasperated with Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas for placing a wreath on Yasir Arafat's grave—of all places—to mark the festival of Eid al-Adha; and challenging Abbas's decision to spend lavishly on violent Palestinian inmates released from Israeli prisons in the Gilad Shalit exchange.  Imagine their compatriots in Gaza, though necessarily more cautious, offended by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for telling Eid al-Adha worshippers that "sacrifices—not only [of] sheep"—are "a way in which we praise God."  Couldn't a Palestinian "Peace Now" emerge from recognizing, finally, that neither depraved violence nor an automatic UN majority has brought the Palestinians what they want?

Sure enough, the Washington Post recently ran a feature about an avant-garde group of activists on the West Bank and Gaza—non-Islamist men and women in their 20's, born in the first intifada and teenagers during the second, who are disillusioned with both Fatah and Hamas and uninspired by symbolic victories at the UN.  Post reporter Joel Greenberg, a veteran Israel-based advocacy journalist, came upon this "still-undefined, embryonic group of a few hundred."  The paper's headline writers billed them as a "new political and social force."  Has Greenberg found the future Palestinian leaders who are ready for painful concessions in order to achieve coexistence with the Jewish state?  

As a narrative hook, Greenberg focuses on attractive 22-year-old university student Hurriyah Ziada, who is "active in protesting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank."  Does this mean that Ziada wants to push Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines?  No, she thinks this is "inadequate."  What she wants is a single Muslim-majority country from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, its population swelled by the "return" of some 750,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War plus millions of their descendants living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.  And the six million Jews who are presently Israelis?  Ziada would munificently grant the new minority "equal rights" in Greater Palestine.

Instead of rolling his eyes at this warmed-over rejectionism, Greenberg deems Ziada's vision of the disappearance of Israel a "human and civil rights" breakthrough, resembling the "American civil rights movement" and the "struggle to end apartheid in South Africa."  Why would he attempt to sanitize the old Palestinian Arab agenda and present it as something progressive?  

Greenberg's attitude is less mystifying in light of his record.  He so opposes a Jewish presence beyond the Green Line that he once served as a spokesman for Hamoked, yet another EU-funded NGO promoting Palestinian interests in the "occupied territories."  He served in the IDF (though he reportedly refused reserve duty in Lebanon), but his soft spot for the Palestinian narrative has long permeated his reporting.  He describes Arab opposition to the "occupation" as "bombing and shooting attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza."  He expressed this blinkered view of who was under attack even when Israelis within the Green Line were targeted daily in 2004.  And while no one denies that the Arabs in Judea and Samaria feel "occupied," the possibility that the land is disputed seldom appears in Greenberg's stories.

As for Ziada, Greenberg tells us that her father belongs to a "militant leftist faction"; her brother is a "member of Fatah's armed wing."  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  Ziada rules out any compromise with Israel: "When I have kids, I don't want them stuck in the West Bank.  I want the right to move freely. I want to go to Jerusalem, the city where I was born, and to the village my family was kicked out from in 1948."  Perhaps Ziada is disingenuous—or perhaps the 22-year-old does not recollect that West Bank and Gaza motorists could drive unimpeded throughout Israel before the suicide bombings of the second intifada.  Moreover, if, as she claims, she was born within the Jerusalem municipality to parents who were legal residents, it is puzzling that she lacks the blue Israeli ID card that would permit her to move freely about the country.  She tells Greenberg her family was "kicked out" of the subsequently "destroyed" village of al-Falauja.  But they might be living there still had an earlier Palestinian leadership not rejected the UN's 1947 Partition Plan—and had gunmen from al-Falauja not laid siege to neighboring Jewish communities and attacked Haganah convoys delivering food and water to them.

In undertaking their "creative nonviolent action" (i.e., violent confrontation with the IDF), Greenberg says Ziada and her activist comrades must overcome a "wall of apathy": The older generation is "exhausted," while most of her peers are "alienated from established political movements."  In fact, however, Ziada's "new" ideas meld perfectly with the standard Palestinian mindset.  In an October 2011 poll by Nabil Kukali's Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, a staggering 89.8 percent of respondents said they would rather have "no peace deal" and no "independent state" if it meant giving up the "right of return."  Far from uncovering a new political and social force among the Palestinians, Greenberg's story demonstrates that across the generational divide, Palestinians remain appallingly unrealistic and intransigent.  The reason is stark: The moderates have been assassinated, leaving Fatah and Hamas in charge.  Sadly, in opposing the "limited political horizons of the Palestinian leadership," Ziada and her comrades are pushing Abbas and Haniyeh not toward reconciliation with the Jews but in the direction of war without end.

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