Classic Thag, July 2011: Palestinians Relinquish All Claims Against Israel
Palestinian Authority encourages people to move away; calls West Bank and Gaza “Jewish”
RAMALLAH (AP) – The Palestinian Authority announced today that it is relinquishing all territorial claims against Israel, and that it encourages all Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to move elsewhere.
The announcement comes after months of internal wrangling among the Palestinian leadership surrounding efforts to build a government with Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas trounced the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in a brief but bloody conflict, taking control of the coastal territory.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, made the announcement at a hastily called press conference at the Muqat’a, the government compound. “After years of struggle, we have finally come to the conclusion that the Palestinian cause is best served by the Palestinian people themselves realizing that really, this is Jewish land,” said Rudeineh. “The best thing for the Palestinian people now is to find countries that would welcome an influx of a motivated, well educated, young people.”
Rudeineh went on to suggest that many countries in Eastern Europe could absorb a Palestinian exodus, considering that they were emptied of Jews in the 1940s. “Poland, especially, should have plenty of space, as they got rid of about three million Jews between 1939 and 1945.”
The idea of Eastern Europe as a home for Palestinians represents a turnabout. For decades, Palestinians, and Arabs in general, had opposed the existence of Israel, often through rhetoric that insisted Jews return to Europe, where political Zionism began in the late nineteenth century.
Nidal Saleh, a spokesman for Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, said that the Palestinian Authority’s announcement had no legitimacy and amounted to a historical injustice. “The people in Ramallah claiming to represent the Palestinian people lost the right to do so long ago, when they began negotiating with the Zionist enemy,” he said, referring to Israel.
Saleh presented an alternative plan that he said provided for historical justice: that the Palestinians must march into the Mediterranean Sea and drown themselves. “Only by driving the Palestinians into the sea can the world right the wrong of calling for the destruction of the Zionist entity by similar means,” he said.
Although the Fatah-led Palestinian leadership has recognized Israel and held on-again, off-again negotiations since 1991, the more radical Islamist factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have never recognized the Jewish state’s right to exist. The 1993 Oslo Accords provided for interim Palestinian autonomy over much of the West Bank and of the Gaza Strip, ushering in recognition of Israel by a number of Arab states previously opposed to its existence. Iran and Syria, the main sponsors of Hamas, have maintained their antagonism. Officially, Syria and Israel are still at war, though there have been no significant military confrontations between the two in decades. It remains to be seen how the announcement will affect the Syria-Israel dynamic, especially regarding the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In 1967 Israel struck preemptively at Egypt, Syria and Jordan, defeating the surrounding countries in six days and occupying the Golan Heights, West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Israel annexed East Jerusalem and eventually the Golan Heights, moves that have not been recognized internationally. Israel had also taken the Sinai peninsula from Egypt, and returned it under the Camp David Accord in 1978. But with Palestinians relinquishing any claims to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it remains to be seen how the international community will respond.
UN resolutions have called for Israel to give up the territories it occupied in 1967. In 2005 Israel uprooted its settlements in the Gaza Strip but has maintained a land and naval blockade. Israel claims the blockade is to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, which has fired rockets and mortars repeatedly at southern Israeli cities and towns.
The Israeli response has been muted. “This is an internal Palestinian matter,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “If the Palestinians wish to move elsewhere, that is their decision.” He declined to comment on arrangements to facilitate the Palestinian exodus. Israeli occupation has severely restricted Palestinian movement through the West Bank in order to protect Israeli settlements established there after 1967.
The announcement has sparked confusion among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and abroad. Dr. Mahmoud Aziz, a gynecologist in the West bank city of Nablus, wondered what would happen to his olive grove. “My trees have been in the family for generations. Will the Israelis keep them or bulldoze them? I could understand it either way.” He said his family of eight would probably join relatives in Frankfurt and seek citizenship elsewhere. “There’s certainly no point in moving to an Arab country. Not when they’ve had Palestinian refugees there since the beginning and done nothing for them but talk.”(Originally posted July 17, 2011) Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook.