A 13 year old Palestinian girl was murdered in cold blood by an Israeli guard. The official version is that the girl wanted to stab the guard and the guard shot her in self defense. Apparently, the girl, after an argument with her family had left home and the family came to know of the incident later. Ruqqayah Eid Abu Eid died on the scene, becoming one of at least 29 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the last four months, according to Defence for Children International (DCI) – Palestine. Since October 1, Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 162 Palestinians, including bystanders, unarmed demonstrators and attackers. At least 25 Israelis have been killed in stabbing or shooting incidents carried out by Palestinians.
The gory and sad incident is one reflection of the dynamic that defines the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians: mutual hatred. A guard- probably defending one of the illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine- could not see the child in the 13 year old Ruqqayah Eid Abu Eid; he saw a Palestinian and he duly murdered her when she lunged at him- if the official version is correct. Israel is one of the very few states in the world which has a conscription policy: at a certain age , all Israelis have to undergo a vigorous and intensive military training. The guard in contention must have undergone the same grueling process. What, the question is, does Israel teach these conscripts? What is or could be the motivating factor for these conscripts while they undergo training? If the reflexive killing of Ruqayyah is held to be as an example, the answer is obvious: intense hatred that dehumanizes Palestinians, so much so a 13 year old girl is seen as a dehumanized attacker or terrorist.
This is one, albeit major aspect of the story- the one that sustains and even fuels the conflict: the negative, visceral emotion of hatred that makes both Israelis and Palestinians view each other as demons. I recollect a conversation with an Israeli woman in Delhi; I asked her what she thought about Palestinians? Her response, immediate and visceral was: they are all animals. Once this kind of hate filled demonization sets in, the the conflict acquires extra territorial dimensions and it becomes up close and personal. The consequences are obvious: the guard in contention here does not see a child, who can be defused and disarmed immediately but a much hated demonized enemy. The time to the trigger of the gun is then instant and the murder remorseless.
The other aspect is the intense pressure that is building within Palestinian society since October. Israels harsh and repressive policies appear to be engendering psychological pressure on Palestinians. If I may speculate, the pressure reaches a tipping point amongst the most vulnerable (emotionally) segment of the Palestinian population and they vent out or lash out. Yes: a pattern can be identified since October: most of the attacks have been knifing attacks and there could be a design behind this but the question or the issue is not that or method and its dissection thereof but why and what is the predicate of these attacks? The answer, to repeat, appears to be the pressure that Israel is putting on Palestinians. And this pressure- psychological, military, emotional and economic- is happening at a time when the so called Peace Process is dead and when the international communitys attention is on other issues: the ISIS in the Middle East , for instance.
It is also happening at a time when the United States is in relative decline and appears to be reviewing its traditional security, defense and foreign policies in favor of a retrenchment from the world. Not that the United States was of any great help to the Palestinians: the country is an ally of Israel and its benefactor. And within the United States, it banks upon the support and encouragement of an influential Jewish lobby-the AIPAC whose influence on the United States foreign policy is well known. Palestinians, to the contrary , have no friends. They have been deserted by their fellow Arabs a while ago and the dispute has been transformed into an Israel-Palestinian dispute than an Arab Israeli one. This owing to the diplomatic and political ingenuity of the Israelis- has left the Palestinians isolated and on their own with Israel almost free to anything, including disproportionate use of force that merely, and sometimes, elicits a mild censure from the United States.
The bottom line is that Palestinians are alone. It is a tribute to the resistance, alacrity, persistence of the Palestinians that they have survived till now-despite great odds , facing bravely, the military might and the power which includes the countrys notorious intelligence agencies- Mossad and the Shin Bet- and the Gradual disappearing and waning of support for the Palestinians. Verily, few people or nations in the world can claim the pedestal of bravery and great sacrifice as Palestinians. But, having said this, the sufferings should end. The question is: Can they?
In the late nineties, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, wrote a path breaking book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree in which Friedman asserted that primary axis of the conflict in a globalized or globalizing world was between the forces of modernity( which the Lexus symbolized) and the Olive Tree-representing tradition and forces of nationalism. This prescient assertion holds true for the Palestinian- Israeli dispute to some extent.
The nation state is a modern construct and it is the apogee of self determination; Israelis got their nation state in 1948 (we will not debate the controversies thereof here) but Palestinians olive trees were not only disrupted but uprooted and their struggle is to reclaim their olive trees. If I may make a qualifier or even something in the nature of an addendum to this, Israels approach or premise is Instrumental Rationality wherein, the calculus that informs the countrys thinking is all about means , ends and the relationship between these but Palestinians approach is emotional and historical. In world, where global or world conscience is almost non existent and where emotions or their expression can backfire, Israelis win and Palestinians lose. To reclaim their olive trees, Palestinians must adopt the strategies and techniques of their adversary. Or, in other words, be instrumentally rational for the sake of a historical and deep emotion and genuine emotional attachment to reclaim their olive trees.
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