The Palestinian Question

The Palestinian Question


Leonard Zwelling

This piece from Megan K. Stack in The New York Times on May 18 is very disturbing but resonates as true.

In summary it says that most Jewish Israelis didn’t think about Palestinians before October 7 (precisely my experience in my five trips to Israel). After October 7, they just want them gone—from Israel, from the West Bank, from Gaza.

Remember, there are two million or so Palestinian Arab Israeli citizens and another five million or so in the surrounding territory. Where are they to go?

It is critical here to look at the history. Both Arabs and Jews have been living in land “between the river and the sea” for thousands of years. The Jewish claim to Israel stems from three events. The entry into the Promised Land 3500 years ago, the partition of Palestine and the subsequent victory in the war of 1948, and the surprise Israeli victory in the Six Day War in 1967 which expanded Israel four-fold with the addition of Gaza, the Sinai, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights to 1948 Israel. When Israel conquered all this land it was not people-free. Arabs lived there, too.

In 1948 many Arabs left early Israel at the birth of the modern state driven away in the war. This is the Nakba—The Catastrophe.  Where did they go? Gaza (then Egypt) and the West Bank (then Jordan). This land now fell under Jewish control in 1967. It is this combination of Israeli conquest and Arab second-class citizenship that leads to the cry of apartheid.

What is making this worse now is the creeping expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the violence of settlers against Arab neighbors, and these same settlers attacking convoys of supplies heading for Gaza. This is all blessed by the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist group of ministers.

The article outlines this well. What it does not outline is how to fix this.

If you view Israel from the point of view of the land conquered in 1967, there are as many as five million Arabs in Israeli-occupied territory. What is worse is that the territory that is disputed—the West Bank and Gaza–is almost unfixable. It will take decades to rebuild Gaza after the Israeli onslaught and the settlers in the West Bank are gradually squeezing the Arabs into smaller and smaller enclaves and doing so violently.

It is time for some reality and some leadership.

I fear the only way this ever gets resolved is for:

Israel to eliminate Hamas from Gaza with the clear understanding that Hamas is alive and well in the West Bank as we saw during our visit to the refugee camp in Ramallah last July.

Then Israel needs new elections. The world had better understand the mood of the Israeli populace after October 7 has shifted from ignoring the Palestinian issue to wanting revenge. There is no guarantee another right-wing government might not be re-elected in Israel. There can only be hope that somehow, the next Israeli government will see the Palestinians as neither to be ignored nor eliminated, but as indigenous people who need a home. I really fear this will never happen.

Somehow, a Palestinian leader needs to arise who does not resort to violence but instead is an insistent reformist and a champion for the Arabs of the British Mandate of Palestine.

For now, this is all a dream, but reading this article leaves one very sad. There seems to be no way out.

2 thoughts on “The Palestinian Question”

  1. Thanks for such a good historical and contemporary synopsis.
    It is sad to hear you say that an amicable solution is unlikely. The Northern Ireland situation years ago looked unsolvable, took; and yet, Senator George Mitchel and others brokered a deal that is better than the previous violence.
    When all else fails, take a look at other options and DO SOMETHING. The ordinary Israeli and Palestinian want to live safe lives, raising and enjoying their families. Their leaders have been problematic, and a new view of leadership and coexistence needs to be addressed as painful as change may be.

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      Both sides need new leaders and a real neutral outside broker would help. It cannot be the US. The Jordanians could step up. But remember, Iran likes it this way.

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