Dozens of Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured as the United States shifted and inaugurated its embassy to and at Jerusalem. The move, clearly aimed at according legitimacy to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is an in your face smack in the face of the hapless Palestinians, in particular, and Muslims, in general. But, as team Trump toasts and celebrates this move, there is no one to mourn Palestinians, no voice to speak for their humiliation and no one to decry this vile and ungainly step by the United States. The question is why?
The answer is as complex and complicated as the Israeli Palestinian conflict, once a conflict between Arabs and Israel, but effectively rendered infructuous by powers that be over the years. However, tentative answers can be posited, in terms of the general thrust of the question. In essence, the issue boils and whittles down to power and powerlessness. That is, Muslims, in general, and Palestinians, in particular, are powerless but their detractors and enemies are powerful. This is the stark reality that emboldened Trump and his cohort to do what they did; and this is why there are celebrations somewhere and no one to even mourn Palestinians. The problem or the issue is not even contemporary even though Palestinians pay a price for someone else’s perfidy and deception but harks back to the foundational times of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.
Israel and its founding ideologues during the incubatory phase of the entity read and understood world politics and international relations very cleverly. The technique they adapted was, to hitch their wagon, so to speak, with world powers of the day. The reference here is to then hegemonic Empire of the day, Britain. The machinations and manipulations within the then British Empire, or more accurately within the Imperial metropolis, ensured that Israel won the day there and the dice was loaded against Palestine since then. (The reference here is to the Balfour Declaration which slanted the “playing field” decisively in favor of Israel and against Palestinians, who have been fighting a rear guard action since then).
After the eclipse of the British Empire, Israel and its protagonists, again the read the international context and power politics astutely and this time hitched their wagon with the United States, which allied with the country and held it to be a “Western outpost” in an “Orientalist sea”. United States’ partisanship, clear support for Israel, its obstructionism, especially at the United Nations, and its flip flops towards Palestinians are too well known to document or delineate here. But, the prosaic and paradoxically sad fact remains that Palestinians not only remain denuded and dispossessed but also are cast as “villains in the story”.
To make a digression here, I have a theory to posit here.
Israel, in its attempts, to cast Palestinians as the villains, appears to actually deliberately create conditions in Palestine for Palestinians to react in desperation. This reaction, cast as an “existential threat” to Israel is then presented by the country as terrorism which is a loaded term, defined and securitized by the United States, thereby setting the discourse of international relations. The discursive technique sets back the Palestinians who are then vilified and demonized, not only as villains but also the West’s “Other”; in the process, Israeli state violence against the Palestinians becomes kosher, so to speak. All this is not to justify violence by any side but to put matters into perspective.
Given that Israel has put Palestinians onto the back foot and in a reactive mode, both historically and contemporarily, through its various techniques, how can Palestinians mount a resistance complemented by the extant one?
Palestinians, need to understand the game of international politics and relations, where presentation is key, among other things. They need to understand the nature and locus of power in international relations in the 21st century and work around it. This might mean actually taking a leaf from the enemy and present the Palestinian plight and struggle in terms of justice versus injustice, and playing the power game simultaneously. The former would entail pitching to international public opinion and the latter a deft understanding and practice of real politik. The irony of the Palestinian Israeli conflict is that the perpetrator plays the victim and blames the victim for being a victim. It is here that Palestinians need to turn the tables.
All this is easier said than done. But, there might not be feasible alternatives. The journey, if undertaken will be long, arduous, and fraught, but might be well worth it. However, amidst all this, Palestinians must realize and understand that they are alone. There is unfortunately no one for them out there except God Almighty. In Him, they must repose their faith and re energize their legitimate quest!
(Post Script: The foregoing analysis is not to underplay Palestinian’s great and heroic resistance; it has been and will always be valiant and noble)
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]