Palestine Heart

The primary shortcoming of the resistance groups is their lack of unity: analyst

Until the various political and religious factions can work together to end the occupation, it will continue. This is true for resistance and protest movements across the world. Differing outlooks, different methods and the refusal to compromise harms everyone. The primary focus of all factions now must be to end the occupation.

Jennifer Loewenstein is an activist on human rights the Palestinian cause. She is a faculty associate in Middle East Studies at Penn State University. Her academic background is in modern Western European, Jewish, and Middle Eastern History with an emphasis on the latter.  Ms. Loewenstein has taught Business English, English as a Second Language, basic Composition and Rhetoric, and grammar since the mid-1980's at Indiana University, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin English Second Language Institute and Penn State University. She has also taught in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian Refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon and in Gaza City, Gaza. As a freelance journalist, she has covered Middle East issues from 1996-present and have had numerous articles and essays published on line and in academic journals. She is politically active in Madison, Wisconsin. In an exclusive interview with khamenei.ir, Ms. Jennifer Lowewenstein answers questions on the Palestinian plight and its role in the region: 

 

Have compromises with Israeli occupation authorities benefited the Palestinian people?

There haven’t been any genuine compromises on Israel’s side, so anything the Palestinians have given up has caused them to lose more than they have already lost. Israel is an expansionist state and has been so since its inception. Its settlement projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are the most obvious manifestations of this. Another indication, too often ignored, is Israel’s massive appropriation of the natural resources of the West Bank for itself, and its concomitant deprivation of these resources for Palestinian use. Even when Israel makes concessions — for example when it agrees not to build a settlement in one area — such concessions are almost always temporary. As soon as the Israeli regime finds another pretext to clamp down on the occupation (e.g., an alleged ‘terrorist attack’, the ‘need’ to build Jewish roads only, construct military outposts, or expand its internal occupation forces) the ongoing oppression of Palestinians and the theft of their land continues. Today there need not be no pretext at all. Because the US, EU and UN have done next to nothing to stop the brutal assault on Palestine, the Zionist regime will continue to act with impunity. 

 

The gradual encirclement and encroachment into what is left of Palestinian land is another blatant indication of this. This is invariably done in the name of ‘security’ - a euphemism synonymous with maintaining the occupation, grabbing even more Palestinian territory (as it has done, and is doing, with its ‘buffer zone’ in the Gaza Strip), or justifying the detention, imprisonment, or murder of anyone it deems a ‘threat.’

To digress a bit, it is important to mention that when the Israeli regime accuses Palestinians of ‘terror attacks’ this accusation usually has no merit. People living under occupation have a legal right to resist occupation by any means possible. Attacking Israeli forces, violently or non-violently, is legitimate resistance according to a number of UN resolutions such as UNGA Resolution 42/159 of December 7, 1987. It is, of course, criminal to attack civilians. To do so constitutes a genuine form of terrorism - and applies equally to the Zionist regime . Looking at the historical record, Israeli state terrorism far outweighs the genuine terror attacks committed by Palestinian political factions or by single individuals. This is not to excuse such acts. It should be emphasized, however, that it is not criminal to attack the military infrastructure or personnel of an occupying state.  

 

Israel has no intention of giving back the West Bank or of allowing Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. This is in part because Israel has no intention of allowing the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the first place. If it did, there would be one already. We wouldn’t have areas A, B, and C in the West Bank (a result of the 1993 Oslo Accords) giving Israel complete control over area C, partial control over area B, and de facto control of area A. Mahmoud Abbas is essentially a sub-contractor of the IDF. The police working under his authority are there to police Palestinians - to keep them in order according to Israeli rules - not to protect them from occupation. Abbas must recognize this and yet he continues to collaborate with the Netanyahu government. It may be that he hopes his willingness to ‘work’ with Israel will give his party some leverage. The opposite is true, however; it allows Israel to proceed with its own plans while keeping Abbas on a leash. It is astonishing that Abbas has been allowed to stay in power.

 

What we have seen particularly over the past three decades is the gradual division of the West Bank into a northern and southern region; the continued fragmentation of Palestinian villages and land within these areas, and the near complete isolation of illegally occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. This process shows no signs of stopping or even of slowing down.

 

 

How can the West Bank play a more active role in addressing the plight of the Palestinian people?

 

This is a very difficult question to answer. Personally I believe the only effective method would be mass non-violent resistance. Violence only advances Israeli propaganda that its ‘security’ is endangered and that Palestinians, like other Arabs, are terrorists born to kill Jews and Israelis. Far too few people understand that Israel’s military power is unparalleled across the Middle East. An average American who pays attention to events in the region, above all by trusting the US mainstream media, continues to believe the myth that Israel is ‘surrounded by enemies’ who want its destruction. Anyone who bothers to do even the slightest bit of research would find out very quickly how absurd, even obscene, these claims are. Additionally, however, the US public education system mostly reinforces, if not embellishes, Israeli and American propaganda. It is understandable, if inexcusable, to see how easily people in the US are indoctrinated. Still, it doesn’t take that much effort or curiosity to get past these external barriers. With the spread of social media and the number of alternative news sources so readily available, anyone seriously seeking to understand the history of Israel’s occupation of Palestine can do so.

 

This is important to point out. Ignorance can be forgiven when one is raised in circumstances that encourage it. What is unforgivable, especially in a society as open as ours claims to be, is indifference to the world outside one’s immediate surroundings. The persistence and cultivation of widespread personal and societal indifference is one of the many paths to national (if not international) self-destruction.

 

In a conversation I once had with a Palestinian doctor in the Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, he said to me in anger, “I can forgive people for ignorance, for not knowing more about the world in which they live; what I cannot forgive is that they don’t care that they don’t know.” I agreed. It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of Americans simply do not care that they know so little of the world around them.

 

To return to the primary focus of this question, however, while I believe collective non-violent resistance is the most reasonable response to the occupation, I am aware how difficult it would be to carry out. Israel’s military strategy for acquiring, and eventually annexing, the West Bank has made it harder and harder for Palestinians within the territory to unite (physically and geographically). It is already next to impossible for Palestinians to travel to Jerusalem from either the northern or southern West Bank. The roadblocks and checkpoints make the journey so long, wearying, and inconvenient that many people will no longer even attempt it. With each passing day it becomes more and more difficult for Palestinians in neighboring villages to travel back and forth to get to them. Such fragmentation of Palestinian land is a deliberate Israeli tactic to undermine unity and with it, collective resistance. It’s initial intention was, I believe, a conscious attempt to destroy the Palestinian National Movement. 

 

As we watch the West Bank and the Gaza Strip becoming their own cultural and political entities, drifting away from one another, the same process is taking place among people and villages of the northern and southern West Bank.

 

Resistance to this process often seems impossible. For this reason, I believe it is essential for the US and European public to influence the policymaking of their governments through activism, education, civil disobedience and by linking their actions with those of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement is not enough. A stronger understanding of Israeli-Palestinian history and contemporary politics is necessary if activists within and outside of Palestine are to engage with each other effectively to bring about real change.

 

 

What are the possible pitfalls for resistance groups in Palestine?

 

The primary shortcoming of the resistance groups is their lack of unity. Until the various political and religious factions can work together to end the occupation, it will continue. This is true for resistance and protest movements across the world. Differing outlooks, different methods and the refusal to compromise harms everyone. The primary focus of all factions now must be to end the occupation. Once that is done, serious and committed negotiations regarding the nature of a new Palestine can begin.

 

Does Palestine receive enough support from Arab governments?

 

No. In fact this may be the most disturbing regional development of the past two decades. Not only are the governments of other Arab nations increasingly less likely to use the injustice of Palestine to unite their people (usually for self-serving reasons), public activism around the issue of Palestine seems to have tapered off considerably. It is well known that people across the Middle East and around the world overwhelmingly oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestine as well as the support given to Israel by its number one backer, the United States. The abysmal failure, up to now, of the so-called ‘international community’ to address the Palestinian cause is appalling and makes it complicit in US-Israeli crimes. It is unfortunate that more cannot be done to harness popular solidarity with Palestine, thereby transforming it into action and change. 

 

There is ample evidence that nations such as Saudi Arabia  and the United Arab Emirates are actively colluding with Israel to maintain the balance of power (or terror) within the region. This alliance is hardly a secret. It is manifesting itself in the devastating civil wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. There are many parties involved other than national governments, each with its proxy supporters. This complicates the situation considerably and could very well lead to even greater disasters in the Middle East and beyond. The silence and inaction of neighboring Arab countries toward the brutal, unending violence and terror wrought by Israel on the Palestinians is shameful.

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