Friday, 7 October 2011


The attempt by Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to open another, diplomatic front at the UN in the tense and often violent stand-off with the state of Israel has come and gone.

Outsiders predicted mass upheaval, great cataclysms and castigated the move as dangerous and futile. It came of desperation as the occupation and the repression by the state of Israel intensifies.  

A further 1100 new settler housing units were announced in the illegally occupied East Jerusalem (31 degrees North, 35 degrees East) simultaneously with the debates in the UN.

The initiative at the UN has been parked and the major players, notably the US, have advised that face-to-face bi-partisan talks should get under-way again and be framed by targets and deadlines. 

There is a cogency to the analysis that without such direct negotiations no peaceful outcomes can be achieved. Evidence from Ireland and elsewhere points to that. 

There is also evidence that direct, singular action by entities can lead to new outcomes. Kosovo is a case in point. Unilateral action, supported by the US and NATO, led to a new state and, currently, stable if fragile, relations with other states in the region, notably Serbia and Montenegro. 

That the US and other western powers did not support the non-violent unilateral diplomatic action by Palestine points to dangers in the bi-lateral approach being advocated. In terms of both Palestine and the state of Israel, the bi-lateral approach, proven to be unsuccessful for years, is based on the assumption that the conflict is symmetrical, a conflict between equals. 

It blatantly is not, as evidenced by many measures, including range and degree of military capacity, degree of violence delivered, material wealth, and power of strategic alliances. All are heavily weighted on the side of the state of Israel. There is also a mass of UN resolutions pointing to the illegality of the actions of the state.

Whither Palestine then?

In Orna Akad's play Clouds on a Mountain Road, a Palestinian poet and a suicide bomber debate the way forward.

Fadwa: We mustn't give up! Mustn't destroy the paths towards 
                dialogue, even if this dialogue leads to nothing…
Inshirah: That's what you say. That's not what you write in your      
'We've left our sticks and stones far behind. Our honor      
                 has been trampled, our spirit dispossessed, our lands 
                stolen long ago, and the roof over our heads demolished. 
               So what have we left? What have we besides this heap of 
               flesh and bone?'
Fadwa: God forbid! God forbid! It's forbidden, it's a violation of 
               any religion.
Inshirah: The world is deaf to our trouble. We don't exist for 
On the ground within Israel, Zochrot, an NGO whose goal is to introduce the Palestinian Nakba to the Israeli-Jewish public in Hebrew, cites The Nakba as the disaster of the Palestinian people: the destruction of the villages and cities, the killing, the expulsion, the erasure of Palestinian culture. And further cites the Nakba as the story of the Jews who live in Israel, who enjoy the privileges of being the ‘winners.’

On Saturday, July 2nd, 2011, Zochrot held an open tour in the Galilee village of al-Birwa (32 degrees North, 35 degrees East), attacked and destroyed in 1948.

Initiatives such as these underpin moves to peaceful outcomes. Unilateral and bi-lateral moves will happen at macro levels but it will be in the fields and towns, among the peoples, the 'losers' and the 'winners', in artistic and community dialogues, that peace is built, determining future paths taken by Palestine.

Clouds on a Mountain Road; stage-play; Orna Akad; 2004זוכרות/מי-אנחנו

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