Tear it all up

A small group of people stand next to a fire holding a Palestinian flag in the dark

Protestors burn tires near Gaza’s boundary with Israel in early May in solidarity with families in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, threatened with eviction.

Ashraf Amra APA images


Whatever they do, Palestinians are damned.

They are damned if they exercise their internationally sanctioned right to resist – including the right to armed resistance – against an illegal, colonial and belligerent military occupation that is constantly consolidating in search of permanence.

And they are damned if they don’t, if they choose to put their faith in the empty promises of an “international community” that is too divided and cowardly to respect and enforce its own rules.

We’ve been here before. We’ve been here in 2014, in 2012, in 2008-09 and countless other times, after which nothing changed.

If anything, this time, as families in Gaza yet again had to huddle together at night to make fateful choices about whether to stay together and die together or separate and hope at least some survive, the world has been even more criminally negligent than usual.

From Washington to Budapest, western powers – the so-called guarantors of the international order – effectively endorsed Israel’s strategy-less slaughter in the name of “self-defense.”

(Self-defense against its own occupation? A bizarre idea.)

Root causes remain unaddressed as ever.


We’ve been here before, but maybe there is a difference this time.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank protested in solidarity with Gaza, as they always do. There were global demonstrations too as there always is.

But this time Palestinians inside the 1948 boundaries took to the streets in numbers not seen in decades, provoking an ugly backlash from racist Israeli mobs that will not quickly be forgotten.

And it was resistance to forced displacement in Jerusalem that sparked this escalation in the first place.

That resistance has so far proven successful, not least thanks to the concerted efforts of Sheikh Jarrah residents themselves and Palestinian Jerusalemites generally, who seem to have found new voice and new inspiration.

Terminology is changing. The terms “apartheid” or “ethnic cleansing” – once the purview of Palestinian human rights organizations and a few outspoken outliers like this publication – are now almost common currency, aided by human rights groups like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

The still-pending evictions in Sheikh Jarrah were also hugely instructive. There were some wild-eyed attempts to paint the forcible displacement of Palestinian families in occupied territory as a trumped-up controversy inspired by anti-Jewish bigotry.

But the fact that laws can be invoked by one set of people and not another – Jews and not Palestinians, and thus the very opposite here of anti-Jewish bigotry – was the standout lesson.

It was one picked up by mainstream media.

All this normalizes a new vocabulary necessary for substantial change.

A petition in the UK has forced parliament to debate whether the country should sanction Israel – note, not settlements, not just an arms embargo, but all trade.

In the US, legislators are bringing opposition to arms sales to Israel, once unheard of, to the congressional floor for debate.

Both will fail.

But narratives, like ships at sea, turn only with time and effort.

(Some are skeptical about the battle over narrative. But while it is true that narratives change slowly and do not save lives, when they do change, they can change history.)

Tear it all up

Grassroots solidarity with Palestinians seems to have hit the mainstream and gone global just as governments have gone the other way and doubled down on their defense of Israel.

But the battle for Palestine will ultimately be decided there, not at Wembley stadium.

And it is up to Palestinians and their leaders to show that there can be no return to business as usual.

It is up to Palestinians to drive home the point that, between river and sea, there is unity among Palestinians – all of whom are denied rights and treated unequally – as well as population parity with Israeli Jews.

It is no longer tenable for any Palestinian leadership to go, hat in hand, and plead with the international community for help, a divided polity not behind them. No real help is forthcoming.

And right of resistance or none, playing the rocket game is playing a game Israel excels at. Israel loves nothing more than to pound Gaza with the latest in its armory. It does so regularly. It does so without restraint. And it does so as long as it wants.

Israel needs to feel real political consequences that its military superiority cannot address and for which its endless support among Western countries cannot mitigate.

To start with, Palestinian leaders need to take steps to dislodge a status quo that suits only Israel while irrevocably serving notice to the “international community” that times have changed.

They could start by disbanding all Palestinian Authority departments and security services not engaged in civil administrative work like education and health and the civil police, to assert that the PA will no longer serve any function to aid Israel’s occupation.

Elections to the PA were always a bit of a panacea, but the popular will needs to be expressed as comprehensively as possible. Hold a vote for the Palestine National Council, the Legislative Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization, expanded to include all factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others currently excluded, as well as representatives of Palestinians in the diaspora.

The PNC will in turn decide the make-up of the next Palestinian leadership. All Palestinians everywhere should be offered a chance to vote. Practical obstacles can be overcome with technological solutions.

Finally, formally reject and repudiate the Oslo accords, all agreements with Israel subsequent to them, and make it clear that an emerging Palestinian leadership will not negotiate basic rights.

These may seem like drastic measures.

But it’s hard to see any other way out of the current paradigm of endless settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing, accompanied by the brutalization, impoverishment and de-development of generations of Palestinians, punctuated by brief and intense periods of criminal violence.

Certainly no exit from this misery is offered by the sometimes-apologetic-sometimes-not hand-wringing of an international community footing the bill but not paying the price.




Palestinian leaders are IN THE BUSINESS of working with the US and Israel...they're profiting too much and they don't have the guts to change course. Palestinians MUST....MUST...find a way to run these quislings out of town: Abbas, Dahlan....all of them. My biggest fear is that Marwan Barghouti MIGHT eventually rise to the leadership, and then be forced by Israel and the US to do the same thing.


Meaning that the ones paying the price are the Palestinians not just, that is correct
If one insists on including certain elements of the Palestine liberation movement in a general election after a deliberate and calibrated military campaign wouldn't that open the floodgates of hell again like it did after the 2006 elections where Hamas won?
I mean, what if Bibi and the Zionist occupation regime actually had in mind the idea of almost forcing Palestinians to vote for a religious movement instead of -Marwan Barguti- via the instigation of an altercation where only one faction of the Palestinian movements was visibly fighting ???
I deeply disagree with the premiss that all factions are eligible to run for elections because one has to be SMART and not only just. Brut force i.e "Total justice" is just not going to work here, you need to be clever.
With Marwan Barguti at the helm NO one will be ever able to criticise Palestinians and credibly claim they are religious zealots and unreasonable fanatics and public opinion and perception DOES MATTER.
What Israel has done is select for the Palestinians their leaders via assassinations and incarceration and the instigation of deliberate altercations. It is about time Palestinians understood brute force total justice is just not going to cut it.


It seems to me the PLO needs to be reconstituted along democratic lines (not the old Fatah model) and having the PLO run elections. Yes, renounce the Oslo Accords and that entire logic of a Palestinian government.


Netanyahu has bought himself time but he's not off the hook. A Middle-East war is possible because he will do anything to avoid prison and Biden lacks the courage to force him to stop the provocations in East Jerusalem. The entire problem resolves itself into the fact of US power. The US will do nothing to face down Israeli racism and oppression. The Palestinian resistance in the WB is encouraging; but it brings the Israeli fascists out of the woodwork and the security services and courts will side against the Palestinians. Oslo was a disaster for the Palestinians. Nothing is workable but an autonomous Palestinian society. Israel behind the 4th June 1967 borders. A link established between the WB and Gaza. That's impossible until the US shifts its position. That where the effort needs to be. Bringing change in US policy is the essential. Young US Jews are turning away from unconditional allegiance to Israel. Majority opinion in the Democratic Party is critical of Israel, in contradistinction to the racist apologists in the leadership. There is real leeway for a significant shift in US policy over the coming decades. Without that, nothing happens. Unless, of course, there is an ME war and then who knows where the world will end up.


You're definitely not wrong. Washington has, for many decades, been disgraceful on this issue. As have all countries which have followed the US lead.

Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.