Opinion

A gleam of hope as we recall the Nakba

A gleam of hope as we recall the Nakba

Author

Palestinians today mark the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, the “Day of Catastrophe” when displacement, occupation and injustice befell the people of Palestine as a result of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Since that day in 1948, all attempts to restore Palestinian lands, whether by peaceful or military means, have failed. In truth, the cards have been stacked against the Palestinians since the seeds of the state of Israel were sown by Britain’s Balfour Declaration in 1917. Israel enjoys support from France and the UK, the two colonial powers that inherited and carved up parts of the old Ottoman Empire, and it has enormous political, military and financial backing from the US. The Palestinians, meanwhile, rely on Arab help. They lost even more land as a result of the wars Arabs tried to wage on Israel, and many opportunities for peace were missed because of internal Palestinian rifts, Arab rejection or Israeli intransigence.

When Arab News marked last year’s 70th anniversary of the Nakba with a special issue, I wrote that peace was “remote but still possible.” The more that time passes, I argued, the more it becomes difficult to make peace as Israel builds more illegal settlements, Hamas fires more missiles and the hatred grows deeper.

However, an interesting development has been brewing for the past few months that may, just may, reverse the situation and make peace more possible and less remote — the Jared Kushner peace plan. Many people have been skeptical of the efforts led by President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. In addition, Kushner has kept a tight lid on his proposals, thus encouraging much speculation, including the theory that no peace plan actually exists.

It is all very well for veteran politicians and diplomats to carp about Kushner’s lack of experience in such matters, but what exactly have they achieved in more than 70 years of trying to resolve this conflict? Too much “process” and not enough “peace,” I would suggest.

That is why there is a strong counter argument that it is time to think outside the box; and how “Trumpian” would it be of Jared Kushner if he proved to be a master of the “art of the deal,” and pulled this off?

The Kushner initiative is expected in early June, after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. So what will it contain? Contrary to some of the wilder speculation, Saudi sources have told Arab News it will be a two-state solution, in which Palestinians will have their own nation state. Moreover, reports that Saudi Arabia will attempt to force the deal on the Palestinians are untrue. “Any proposal will still be subject to both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, agreeing and adhering to it,” the Saudi source said. “This has been the Saudi position on every peace offer, including the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.” While the Kushner peace plan will include some aspects of that initiative, it will not be a replica of it.

Cynics have already rejected the Kushner peace plan despite knowing nothing about it, but it may be the Palestinians’ last, best chance of their own state

Faisal J. Abbas

Arab News understands that Kushner’s plan will require painful sacrifices by both sides. For sure, it will end illegal Israeli occupation, but it may include an exchange of disputed territories. It will also guarantee Israeli security by finding agreed ways to secure the border, and control weapons coming into the Palestinian state.

Both sources Arab News spoke to — one Saudi, one American — denied conspiracy theories about an alternative state for the Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere. “Americans also understand the sensitivity of Jerusalem for both sides and the importance of Al-Aqsa mosque for Muslims,” the US source said, and any deal will ensure that this issue is agreed upon.

How can Saudi Arabia help? As our Saudi source says, only the Kingdom, home of the two holy shrines, can persuade Arab and Muslim countries to back the bid once the Palestinians have agreed to it. Also, Riyadh will work closely with donor countries to ensure a sustainable and prosperous life for Palestinians, so that they can finally focus on education, jobs and a better economy.

“Other countries have an important role; Jordan has historically had one that is vital, so does Egypt. Donors and development partners such as the EU, Japan and others also can help,” the source said.

Should the Palestinians accept? It would clearly be wrong to reach a final judgment without seeing the whole plan. However, it is also the definition of insanity to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result; for 70 years, every time the Arabs have said ‘no’ the Palestinians have lost more land, more rights and more opportunities.

This may be the last chance to secure a two-state solution. The Palestinians should negotiate hard, and then take what they can to secure a nation state for future generations; everyone would salute their courage and sacrifice if they did, while there is nothing to be gained from a refusal to come to the negotiating table.

That, of course, is what Israel is counting on; another Palestinian ‘no’ would allow the Israelis to claim that they had done everything possible to secure a deal and been rejected, and it would encourage the already generous Trump administration to cut them yet more slack.

Bottom line: Let us give peace a chance.

 

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate to mark ‘Nakba’

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Israeli forces send tear gas on Palestinian men observing clashes along the Israeli fence during clashes with Israeli forces following a protest marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba in El-Burej in the central Gaza Strip on May 15, 2019. (AFP)
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A wounded Palestinian woman is carried away from the border fence during a protest with Israeli forces east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2019, during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba. (AFP)
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Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of the 'Nakba' near the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City May 15, 2019. (Reuters)
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A Palestinian man rides a camel during clashes with Israeli forces following a protest marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba in El-Burej in the central Gaza Strip on May 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Palestinian protesters throw back Israeli tear gas canisters during clashes with Israeli forces following a protest marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba in El-Burej in the central Gaza Strip on May 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019
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Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate to mark ‘Nakba’

  • In the West Bank city of Ramallah, protesters held up giant paper keys to symbolize their will to return to the lands and homes they were expelled from or were forced to abandon, now located inside Israel
  • More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their land during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel

GAZA CITY: Palestinians protested Wednesday for the annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were expelled or fled during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.
Thousands gathered at various locations along the volatile border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, while crowds also demonstrated in the occupied West Bank.
Protests and clashes in Gaza a year earlier, which coincided with the controversial move of the US embassy to Israel to Jerusalem, had seen more than 60 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire but Wednesday’s were far smaller.
The clashes on Wednesday erupted along parts of the border fence, with the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reporting 65 people injured, including 16 with gunshot wounds.
Protesters largely avoided approaching the fence, an AFP journalist said.
The AFP journalist on the border saw a number of kites being floated across the border and a fire breaking out inside Israeli territory.

Palestinians in Gaza have regularly used kites with firebombs attached to them to set fires on the Israeli side of the fence.
Israel’s military said around 10,000 “rioters and demonstrators” were along the Gaza fence.
“The rioters are setting tires on fire and hurling rocks,” it said in a statement.
“A number of explosive devices have been hurled within the Gaza Strip as well, and a number of attempts have been made to approach the security fence.”
It said “troops are responding with riot dispersal means.”
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, protesters held up giant paper keys to symbolize their will to return to the lands and homes they were expelled from or were forced to abandon, now located inside Israel.
Palestinians commemorate the Nakba every year.

Opinion

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More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their land during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.
This year’s protests came two weeks after a deadly flare-up between Gaza militants and Israel which threatened to spill into a new war.
After two days a truce was reached under which Israel is meant to ease its blockade of the strip in exchange for calm, according to Hamas officials. Israel has not commented on the truce.
Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas figure, told AFP at a protest site east of Gaza City the “truce understandings played a role in controlling the demonstrations” on Wednesday.
Separately, there have also been regular protests and clashes along the Gaza border for more than a year.
At least 293 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began in March 2018.
The majority died during the often-violent weekly protests, though others were killed in Israeli air strikes or by tank fire in response to violence from Gaza.
Six Israelis have been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same time period.
Violence peaked on May 14, 2018 when 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as tens of thousands approached the border, with many seeking to breach the fence.


Sudan's top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

Updated 26 May 2019
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Sudan's top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition group and supporter of the protest movement on Sunday rejected its call to stage a two-day general strike, in the first sign of a rift within the movement negotiating the launch of civilian rule.
Talks between leaders of the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and army generals who seized power after ousting autocrat Omar Al-Bashir last month are deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body - a civilian or soldier.
In a bid to step up pressure on the generals, the protest movement has called for a general strike starting Tuesday, but the National Umma Party, a key backer of the movement, rejected the measure.
"We reject the general strike announced by some opposition groups" in the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the National Umma Party said in a statement.
"A general strike is a weapon that should be used after it is agreed upon by everybody," Umma said.
"We have to avoid such escalated measures that are not fully agreed."
The National Umma Party led by former premier Sadiq Al-Mahdi said any such decision should be taken by a council of leaders of the protest movement.
Such a council was still not in place and "will be composed in a meeting on Monday", it said.
It was Mahdi's elected government that Bashir, who himself was deposed on April 11, toppled in a coup in 1989.
In a recent interview with AFP, Mahdi warned protesters not to "provoke" the army's rulers as they had been instrumental in ousting Bashir.