Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tom Friedman’s ‘Lessons from the Tahrir Square’

Since publication of Friedman's book 'The World is Flat' I have developed a habit of browsing his articles in the NYT. Tom is an unabashed supporter and promoter of the Israeli cause, which does not help find a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Thanks to the protesters in the Tahrir Square, it is good to see that he is having some second thoughts these days about the zero-sum diplomatic activities to resolve the issue.

In his latest op/ed column in the New York Times, Tom proposes that Palestinians hold non-violent processions to force Netanyahu to come to the negotiation table. This statement belies truth. The Palestinian people have tried such options in the past, but to no avail. Gandhian marches simply don't work with regimes that are racists and bigots, who put no value to the lives of the 'other' people. When such actions are supported by scripture, it becomes kosher to kill and maim the 'other' people without any moral bites. Peaceful protests, therefore, didn't and don't work in places like in the Occupied Palestine and Occupied Kashmir. If Tom were to objectively look at his suggestions, he would find that these simply won't work.

Israel is a settler, colonial enterprise, which came about by displacing the indigenous Palestinians. Force was used to curb the newer frontiers, and build the settlements in occupied territories. It is difficult for expansionist leaders of Israel to stop that process, which they found so useful to push their agenda. Thus, the methods suggested by Tom would not work, and it never did. As I wrote elsewhere the Hamas kind of activities did not happen overnight. It evolved out of the fact that non-violent means simply did not bear fruit. As it is also obvious, their tactics of firing homemade rockets or missiles won't work either. That is where a new strategy is needed which can find an honorable solution. It is obvious that Israelis will not choose all on a sudden to depart from their illegal occupation of the land. The Palestinians have to share their territories with the Israelis. So, both the parties must compromise.

The best option therefore lies in either a single state that is democratic with equal rights for both the Israelis and Palestinians, or two-state formula based on the pre-1967 borders, which allow for return of the evicted Palestinians from their homes in the wars since 1948. The current status cannot allow for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic in character. As Tom has stated elsewhere Israel cannot afford to be both at the same time. The tactics of the Israeli leaders since 1967 has been that of an ostrich, or Mubarak, who tried to ignore the writings on the walls. Only a fool can afford to be so oblivious or unconcerned about the future.

The problem I see is Israeli leaders have some of the most powerful supporters within the western capitals, who reward them for their illegal settlements and murderous activities. This allows Israeli leaders to ignore the pleas for a negotiated settlement of the problem in an equitable way. When our western governments stop their support of the expansionist agenda of the Israel by denying it all material and other forms of support, Israel would be forced to compromise and a peaceful solution would emerge. Everything else is only hypocritical and deceitful means to buy time.

I, therefore, am not so hopeful about the prospect of a peaceful resolution in either Tom's or my time. Blaming Hamas won't solve the problem. By stating that it is okay with pre-1967 border, in essence, it has recognized Israel within the pre-1967 border. That should be enough to stop this charade against it that it doesn’t recognize Israel. Deplorable and insane as their tactics may be, they feel like a cat which has been cornered. When a cat is corned with no way out, it knows that the only way for it to get out of that corner and run away is to attack. Otherwise, it would be harmed. As the Israeli leader Yehud Barak once said had he been a Palestinian he would have chosen terrorism. That is the reality faced 24/7/365 by every Palestinian.
Those who truly care about human rights ought to look outside the box to seriously analyze and find measures to stop this great curse of our time.

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