I have tried, since moving to Israel in 2001-2, to really listen to what Palestinians want, rather than presuming that I ‘know’ from what the standard media says (left or right, Israeli or western.) Why did they wage and support the intifada and suicide bombings, rather than continuing with the Camp David process? Did they really want a state peacefully side-by-side with Isarel, in 97% or 100% of the WB and Gaza? After a lot of listening then, it seemed that far more important to them–what they really wanted– was recognition of the Right of Return as legitimate, and total control over Jerusalem, and/or a binational state dominated by Palestinians; and because that wasn’t being heard, they reacted in rage.
What I hear coming out of Gaza now is even more simple and extreme. Israel did withdraw, but far more than the West Bank, Gazans cannot live a full economy or full life without access to the outside world. This was articulated– by Hamas– as continuing struggle or ‘resistance’ to get right of return and an end to Israel as a Jewish state, and they won elections on this basis. They expressed this not only in words but in raids and rockets. This also was in effect stated, by Gazan Palestinians, by their overwhelming the border with Egypt and hundreds of thousands of them flooding Egyptian Rafiach to shop and visit and, well, breathe. I do hear them; they cannot live like this.
Hamas refused to recognize Israel, even though the Quartet and Egypt and Jordan pushed them to; Hamas also kept shooting rockets into Israel, and/or refused to stop smaller groups from continuing to shoot rockets into Israel. The consequence of that– the inevitable consequence of that– is Israel kept Gaza in a partial state of siege. Hamas and Palestinians have refused to take responsibility for those choices and their consequences.
Hamas also is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is bitterly critical of the (semi-secular) Egyptian leadership, which fears and periodically persecutes the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The (inevitable) consequence of this is that Egypt keeps ITS border with Gaza closed most of the time, (legitimately) fearing Hamas will destabilize Egypt. Hamas is openly Israel’s enemy, fine, but they could have built open trade with Egypt, as Israel does not control that border; compare to Lebanon, which fully trades with other Arab states and the world, in spite of being totally cut off from Israel. But Egypt does not want Gazans to have freedom of movement into Egypt, and this is compounded by the enmity of Mubarak’s regime to the Muslim Brotherhood. Again, the Palestinians refuse to accept responsibility for their role in choosing to create this dynamic.
Lastly, the Palestinians–most of all in Gaza– are utterly dependent on aid from the outside world for basic subsistence for at least half the people. The UN umbilical cord still has not been cut. This creates an incredibly unhealthy dependence– far worse than ‘welfare mothers’, and debilitating to self-esteem, and creating frustration and resentment on the part of Palestinians.
The Palestinian movement towards statehood is, literally, still in its infancy. The choices they have made and are making today in Gaza are indicative of a collective emotional state comparable to a toddler’s tantrum. An inarticulate screaming and smashing things, even self-destructive, with no hope of actually defeating the far more powerful ‘parent’. And they are refusing to take any responsiblity for the role their own choices have played in creating their plight.
Unquestionably, the unwilling ‘parents’– Israel, Egypt, the UN whose umbilical cord still has not been cut, Europe whose aid has been siphoned off to Arafat’s Swiss bank accounts, and the US who still supplies more of the money than anyone else– have all played roles, as well, in inhibiting and limiting what Palestinians can do to build a positive, self-sufficient future. [Keep in mind, all the US direct aid and loan guarantees to Israel don’t amount to more than 1-3% of Israel’s nearly 900 billion dollar GNP; foreign aid represents close to half of Palestinian economic activity.]
But until the Palestinians truly stand up for themselves and OWN their choices, and take responsibility for the consequences of their choices and actions, no amount of outside help or intervention will help them. I hear their pain; but until they stop throwing a tantrum, nobody can do anything for them.