Lamis Andoni at PostGlobal

Lamis Andoni

Doha, Qatar

Lamis Andoni is a Middle East consultant for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news station. She has been covering the Middle East for 20 years. She has reported for the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times and the main newspapers in Jordan. She was a professor at the Graduate School in UC Berkeley. Close.

Lamis Andoni

Doha, Qatar

Lamis Andoni is a Middle East consultant for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news station. more »

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Israeli Threat Sustains Palestinian Identity

The Current Discussion:Israel celebrated its 60th birthday last week. Will it survive to celebrate its 100th?

Israel is not sustainable as an exclusivist Jewish state that thrives on the continued dispossession of Palestinians and on territorial colonization – except, that is, through perpetual American aid and military wars.

The history of the conflict has not been solely defined by Israeli military supremacy, but also by all forms of Palestinian resistance. From the outset, Palestinians did not submit to a fate of forced exile, displacement and occupation: The establishment of the state of Israel was also the beginning of a Palestinian movement to reclaim a collective people’s identity.

srael tried to obliterate traces of that identity by literally wiping out more than 600 villages, altering names of towns and places, and imposing a set of racist laws that aim to create and sustain an exclusionary Jewish state. But sixty years later, Israel has failed in suppressing, yet alone eliminating, the Palestinian Arab identity. Its actions have only acted as a catalyst to cement that identity. Policies of ethnic cleansing and colonization inside the declared state of Israel, and later in the lands occupied after the 1967 war, have not made the Palestinians forget their roots or disappear.

In 1993, after denying the existence of a Palestinian people, Israel faced a choice brought into focus by the 1987 Palestinian Intifada: to wipe out Palestinians in the occupied territories, or to deal with that segment of the Palestinian people. The Oslo Accord was born partly out of Israel’s realization that it could not afford to wipe out the Palestinians. The hailed agreement was never a real breakthrough, as it was no more than a distorted creature. As such, it had no chance of bringing about real peace because it provided no vision for a coexistence based on human equality.

The Oslo process, as a reflection of a skewed balance of power, did not embody a true Israeli recognition of the Palestinian people as a collective nation. Instead, it was an attempt to fragment and control the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel was hoping that the PLO leadership would act as a policeman to enforce security while it continued to retain ultimate control of the territories and resumed its expansionist policies of expropriating Palestinian land and building Jewish colonies.

When Israel realized it could no longer deny the Palestinian national identity, it decided to confine it to residents of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. By doing so, the residents of these areas were no longer part of a bigger national collective, but part a population that had to be controlled.

But Israeli attempts at control have failed. If anything, the initial apparent Israeli success backfired, especially when Israeli leaders revealed the true intent of the negotiations in Camp David in 2000. The so-called generous offer by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yehud Barak was a pivotal point that mobilized new generations of Palestinians to rediscover and reclaim a collective national identity.

By suggesting that Palestinians accept a fragmented entity devoid of sovereignty, Israel inadvertently helped forge a renewed Palestinian consciousness that revolved around reclaiming collective national Palestinian rights. The Nakba, as Palestinians call their year of dispossession, gained new meaning: Over the last ten years or so, the Palestinian struggle has revolved around asserting refugees’ right of return to their homes and lands. The Palestinian Right of Return has become the most important rallying point, and it has succeeded in mobilizing new generations for a new form of resistance heartily endorsed by Palestinians around the world. Resistance through asserting and spreading the Palestinian narrative of the Nakba – not as an act of self-pity, but as an act of reclaiming memory.

The act of reclaiming memory is not about the past but about the future. It is form of resistance that Israeli military prowess cannot defeat.

Israel has survived sixty years by denying rights to Palestinians through successive wars and by transforming itself into a fortress. Israel may choose to do so for sixty more years. But the price will be high, and it will be the Israelis who pay most of it.

A humane and exclusive vision has to replace the current structure. I am confident that this is possible, but only through continued Palestinian resistance to Israeli oppression and through the struggle of courageous Israeli forces to free themselves from the burden of oppression.

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