Palestine: To survive is to conquer?

Christian Chesnot

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A hundred years ago on 2nd November 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour announced that his government considered “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” while emphasizing that “ nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

By promising everything and nothing, London was at the epicenter of a geopolitical earthquake whose aftershocks are felt to this day.

A hundred years hence, the question of Palestine no longer holds the same centrality in the West as it once did. The failure of the Oslo Accords, followed by the Arab Spring and then the emergence of ISIS relegated the Palestinian issue to the bottom of the international agenda.

A form of weariness eventually crept in Western chancelleries, unable to make things happen on the ground. The diplomatic settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became an ‘Everest’ over the years that nobody thinks of climbing.

As for the United States, the Palestinian issue is the only one in the region where the US has shown the same constancy — if not the same blindness — in its unwavering support for Israel, even though the Jewish state violates international law and UN resolutions almost daily.

Despite the wars, the massacres, the repression and the occupation, the Palestinians have not disappeared. For them, surviving in such a condition is in itself a victory

Christian Chesnot

Diplomatic radar

In his speech at the United Nations last September, Donald Trump did not say a word on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the issue seems to have completely disappeared from the diplomatic radar!

Thanks to US support, Israel has become the most powerful country in the region — mainly due to its nuclear bomb. Is Israel safer today than it was yesterday? Can Israel project itself into the future? A century after the Balfour declaration, the Jewish state remains a besieged citadel in the Middle East with Its horizons frozen, devoid of any real perspective.

Also read: Balfour Declaration: An observance or a celebration?

For in spite of all its military and economic power, Israel has not managed to settle the Palestinian question. Palestinians have always been denied the right to a state, but they are still there. In the 80s, French philosopher Raymond Aaron had this illuminating formula when speaking about the Cold War, "to survive is to conquer.”

Despite the wars, the massacres, the repression and the occupation, the Palestinians have not disappeared. For them, surviving in such a condition is in itself a victory. Certainly, their fight has been full of setbacks and defeats. The armed struggle and the two Intifadas, political negotiations did not allow them to meet their objectives.

Act of resistance

But their mere presence has become an act of resistance. Palestinian demographics are a weapon. And in this respect, they have stood up to Israelis. History does not stop. Generations succeed one another, transmitting the tears of the previous one but also their hopes.

The Balfour Declaration is a hundred years old. It may take another century before the Palestinians get their state. What is certain is that Israeli settlement policy is preparing the conflicts of tomorrow.

Also read: Umm Marwan vs. Balfour: Who will write the history of Palestine?

Who could imagine that land seizures will lead to peace and coexistence between the two peoples? Today, everyone is turning a blind eye because the Israeli-Palestinian issue has become a low-intensity conflict and appears manageable. The major powers are occupied elsewhere in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

But sooner or later, the Palestinian question will reappear when least expected. Only this time, it will be far more violent.
Christian Chesnot is grand reporter at Radio France in Paris in charge of the Middle East affairs. He has been based as correspondent in Cairo and Amman. He has written several books on Palestine, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf. Chesnot tweets @cchesnot.

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