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Harry Hagopian

Don’t forget Israel and Palestine

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Sa’ed Dawabsheh, who died after his house was set on fire by Jewish settlers, mourn next to his body lying at a mosque during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma on 31 July. The Palestinian toddler was burned to death and four family members were injured in the arson attack on two homes in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

I woke up last Friday and listened with growing pain and a creeping sense of déjà-vu to the news that a Palestinian toddler no more than 18 months old had been killed in a price-tag attack by Israeli settlers in Duma, in the northern part of the West Bank. The news channels were also showing the sooty carcass of the room where the baby, alongside his mum, dad and brother, were sleeping. There was a half-full bottle of milk lying on the floor next to a charred blanket.

 

Which of my feelings should I express first in the face of such an execrable attack? Should it be sadness? Or perhaps anger at the way some human beings devalue life with ruthless impunity? After all, I spend half my time attacking ISIS and other homicidal groups that indulge in orgies of violence. Why should this be any different? Or maybe a better theme would be one of frustration and resignation that an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is at least 48 years old (and much more if one goes back to 1948) still produces such venom and sadism as well as so many tit-for-tat atrocities.

 

Such price-tag attacks by Israeli settlers — whether against Palestinians in the occupied territories and within Israel itself or else against the Israeli Army when it occasionally dismantles illegal settlers’ outposts — happen with alarming but humming regularity. Just to quote one figure, there have reportedly been 11,000 settler attacks on Arabs or their properties since 2004. In fact, many readers might still recall the attack on the Church of the Multiplication in Nazareth last June or the horrific torching of the young Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014.

 

But why is this happening? After all, I still maintain that the majority (albeit in descending numbers) of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims or Christians want to live in peace next to each other. But we also have a growing number of settlers who not only espouse an ideology of hatred against Palestinians and a fervent desire to seize all their lands, but are willing to commit crimes and even murder to underline their determination. I suppose there are always fringe groups and religious loonies in every society, yet the regrettable fact here is that the perpetrators of these crimes are not in the fringe of the Israeli mainstream. Rather, they are at the very heart of the establishment, whereby some Israeli ministers holding hefty portfolios in government even defend them, and while the prime minister might well disapprove of some of their methods, he does not have the nerve to control them. After all, he needs to keep them sweet in order to maintain his razor-thin majority in government. Power, not justice, is the ultimate aphrodisiac for him.

 

So one sorry result is that we witness those diehard settlers running amok and wreaking havoc whilst the government mumbles one apology after another but is patently unable — indeed unwilling — to rein them in. Such an abdication of responsibility in the rule of law has inevitably resulted in the death of toddler Ali Sa’ed Dawabsheh.

 

My anger, let alone sadness and resignation, at such incidents reinforces in my mind the need for Israelis and Palestinians to speak out together against such atrocities. But it is also an opportunity for the Israeli government to mend its ways and deduce that it cannot cow a whole people into submission whether by commission or omission or even by the exercise of apartheid policies. So where are those silent majorities in both camps who can challenge the lewd political iconoclasm of the current Israeli laissez-faire practices? And more importantly: where is the European Union as it flails helplessly — and flail it does — but is unable to use its huge financial clout to show firmness toward Israeli excesses both in gesture and application?

 

I conclude today with two digressions.

 

The first one is to dispute the naïve allegation that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is redundant and no longer commands the attention of the international community. Just following the coverage of the Dawabsheh murder across the world confirms that Palestine remains a rallying cry for the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is so even when their leaders are often inept and encroach upon other peoples’ lands [such as Jordan and Lebanon in the past] or when the rulers of some Arab countries support Palestinians from both sides of their mouths and end up with a cavalcade of political equivocation. Palestine is not Iraq, Syria, Libya or any of the other prurient MENA conflicts for one awkward reason: its genesis is not an internecine fight amongst Arabs themselves — as are the post-2011 cases — but rather one with a Zionist movement turned coloniser that was grafted into those mandated lands at the beginning of the last century.

 

The second point I would make is that an increasing number of pundits are claiming that the option for a two-state solution has already expired since those very settlements have metastasised in different parts of the occupied Palestinian lands and rendered the contiguity of land vital for a sovereign state almost unachievable. Instead, they advocate resorting for the more radical one-state or unitary solution. Yet, and on the back of what happened to little Ali, does anyone really believe that a one-state entity could work any better than a two-state solution? Do we perhaps need to go back to the drawing board?

 

Ali, you are a young symbol of our collective and lamentable failure. May you rest in peace.

 

Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, political analyst, and ecumenical advisor based in London. He tweets @harryhagopian

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Sa’ed Dawabsheh, who died after his house was set on fire by Jewish settlers, mourn next to his body lying at a mosque during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma on 31 July. The Palestinian toddler was burned to death and four family members were injured in the arson attack on two homes in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Such an abdication of responsibility in the rule of law has inevitably resulted in the death of toddler Ali Sa’ed Dawabsheh."

  • astaris

    Excellent analysis except for "a Zionist movement turned coloniser that was grafted into those mandated lands at the beginning of the last century" which is total rubbish and only serves in incite and ignite the very situation that the article complains about. This kind of antisemitic - yes antisemitic! - historical claptrap is exactly what strengthens the Israeli extreme right, just like every Hamas and Hizbollah missile fired on Israeli civilians. It's exactly the proof of delegimatization of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel which they need to prove their point while millions of other Israelis simply couldn't care anymore what the rest of the region thinks about them. It appears that the dinosaurs in the Middle Eastern Jurassic Park, such as the writer of this otherwise well phrased article, are alive and well.

    August 5, 2015

  • Petrossou

    You say: "...but rather one with a Zionist movement turned colonizer that was grafted into those mandated lands at the beginning of the last century." For as long as people will be pushed to think that way we will have wars and the conflict will not be solved...

    August 4, 2015