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.
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.
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
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.