The 50th anniversary of the Six Day War has elicited widely differing responses. Some have celebrated the young Jewish state’s decisive victory over its enemies, while others have deplored the commencement of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, captured from Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Given the aims and ideology of her organisation, it was hardly surprising to see the Media Review Network’s Suraya Dadoo adopting the latter approach (Colonial arrogance cages all of Palestine, June 22).
It was not surprising to find her piece to be selective, emotive and unconvincing. At the core of Dadoo’s flawed analysis is her depiction of the Palestinians as being essentially passive, a subject population continually at the mercy of superior forces ruthlessly controlling their destiny. Palestinians come across as people wholly lacking in agency, fated forever to be acted upon by external forces rather than being allowed to become actors in their own story. It follows that Palestinians can never be held accountable for their own actions; rather, they are to be regarded as blameless victims whose dire situation must always be attributed to unprovoked acts of oppression by Israel.
All this is an egregious sleight of hand. Palestinians have always had choices, and there is a direct correlation between the manner in which their leaders have chosen to exercise those choices and the unhappy situation in which they now find themselves.
This is true of the blockade being maintained, by Israel and Egypt, against Gaza. When Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces from the enclave in 2005, the Palestinians were presented with a choice. They could follow the path of peaceful coexistence with Israel combined with building up a functional, democratic and economically viable society in the area or they could persist in pursuing Israel’s violent destruction. They chose the latter option.
Hamas swept to power in the 2006 elections, the comparatively more moderate Fatah opposition was routed in a civil war and a continual rain of missiles began descending on Israeli border towns. Later, Hamas set about building infiltration tunnels stretching deep into Israeli territory to carry out terrorist raids and kidnappings. Is it therefore logical or honest to deplore the hardships caused by the blockade without mentioning Hamas’s continuing commitment to terrorist violence that makes the blockade a necessity?
It is nonsensical to denounce Israel for the various restrictions, including on freedom of movement, that many Palestinians are subjected to in the West Bank without examining the reasons for them. There was a time when there were no such constraints. Palestinians found it comparatively easy to travel not only within the West Bank but also to cross the border into Israel for work or other purposes. What radically changed the situation was the jettisoning of the Oslo peace process and instigation of the so-called Second Intifada, a sustained campaign of all-out terrorism by the Palestinians under the then leadership of Yasser Arafat.
Once again, Palestinians were presented with a choice. They could have accepted independence in a territory largely comprising the areas captured by Israel in 1967 in return for committing themselves to living in peace alongside Israel — the "two-state solution" endorsed by the international community. Instead, they chose to launch a destructive and unwinnable war, thereby critically weakening the Israeli peace camp and hardening attitudes on both sides. The violence has mercifully abated in recent years, but the official espousal of terrorism as a legitimate tactic and glorification of those guilty of carrying it out continues to resonate at all levels and in all corners of Palestinian society.
Ultimately peace, and with it an end to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and lifting of the Gaza blockade, can only be achieved when both sides commit themselves to it. It means the Palestinians must also be held accountable for their actions. Absurdly partisan, ideologically driven screeds of the type served up by Dadoo contribute not one iota to resolving the impasse.