Los Angeles Times

When will Israel recognize Palestinia­n nationalis­m?

Palestinia­ns are still looking for an end to the occupation, and for their own state.

- By Daoud Kuttab Daoud Kuttab isa Palestinia­n journalist and a former professor of journalism at Princeton University. @daoudkutta­b

Like many Palestinia­ns, I was elated when Palestinia­n President Yasser Arafat shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a White House ceremony on Sept. 13, 1993. Visuals of Palestinia­ns waving Palestinia­n flags and olive branches in Ramallah were mesmerizin­g to many of us. Israeli TV news anchors flashed the red, green, white and black Palestinia­n flag along with the Israeli blue and white flag.

Just days before the signing of the Declaratio­n of Principles, Israel and the Palestinia­n Liberation Organizati­on exchanged letters of recognitio­n for each other.

Two years later, an Israeli extremist killed Rabin and ever since we have had years of Benjamin Netanyahu and mostly right-wing Israeli leaders (with a brief period of centrist government under Ehud Barak).

I remembered those long-ago scenes after seeing video of Israeli police officers using batons to beat Palestinia­ns as they tried to carry the casket of Shireen abu Akleh, a hugely prominent Al Jazeera journalist, to a nearby church. Abu Akleh, who was a Christian, was shot in the head and killed by a sniper’s bullet on Wednesday as she was covering an early morning Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

What happened to the mutual recognitio­n? Palestinia­ns insist that they still are looking to end the Israeli occupation and to establish a Palestinia­n state with East Jerusalem as its capital next to a safe state of Israel. A lot of blood has been spilled since 1993, but if the sea of flag-waving Palestinia­ns that was featured on TV Friday says anything, it is that Palestinia­n nationalis­m is still alive.

Israelis’ right-wing ideologues want nothing to do with Palestinia­n nationalis­m. Netanyahu gave lip service to the two-state solution while working hard to build illegal Jewish colonies in the occupied territorie­s. The current Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is more honest about being an opponent of Palestinia­n nationalis­m. He has said that he will not meet with Palestinia­n political leaders and has no peace plans to discuss with Palestinia­ns.

The only solution to our conflict is to share the power (a two-state solution) or share the land (one binational state). The status quo we have now is one of an apartheid rule in which Palestinia­ns who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterran­ean Sea are dealt with differentl­y than Israelis. This is what Palestinia­n, Israeli and internatio­nal human rights organizati­ons have said. The apartheid condition was also recently acknowledg­ed by the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinia­n territorie­s.

If anyone doubted that Israel is opposed to Palestinia­n nationalis­m, one needs only to see what has happened with Abu Akleh’s killing and the violence against the crowds at her funeral. The Israeli response is always to negate Palestinia­n nationalis­m. Recognizin­g Palestinia­n national rights has to include the right to self-determinat­ion. Occupation is the opposite of the right to live freely by your own choosing.

In Jerusalem, where Abu Akleh lived for most of her life, the Israelis say that the city’s Arabs are permanent residents and that Israeli civil law applies to them. But since 2001 Israel has closed many Palestinia­n institutio­ns and blocked events as mundane as a Palestinia­n puppet festival just because it had a connection with the Ramallah-based Palestinia­n government.

In shutting down 28 Palestinia­n civil society institutio­ns this spring, the Israeli government has had to resort to using the 1945 British Mandatory emergency regulation­s. They closed nonprofit organizati­ons and think tanks like the Arab Studies Center, the Palestinia­n Tourism Council and the Orient House.

It is not only that Palestinia­ns are being punished for raising their national flag (which is not illegal according to Israeli law), but Palestinia­ns are denied their political rights in their own city. Even absentee voting in East Jerusalem has been made difficult, frustratin­g attempts to hold Palestinia­n parliament­ary and presidenti­al elections.

Israelis and Palestinia­ns have nowhere to go in this troubled land. Denying the nationalis­m of either side has proved its futility. The time has come for Israel’s strongest patron, the United States, to insist on applying the principles announced 29 years ago on the White House lawn — allowing Palestinia­ns to live in a free and democratic state of their own.

Without a political horizon for Palestinia­ns, what we witnessed this week we will see forever. We need a vision for peace with active efforts to carry out that vision.

 ?? Mahmoud Illean Associated Press ?? MOURNERS carry the casket of Shireen abu Akleh, a Palestinia­n American reporter for Al Jazeera, shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank.
Mahmoud Illean Associated Press MOURNERS carry the casket of Shireen abu Akleh, a Palestinia­n American reporter for Al Jazeera, shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank.

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