Stateless…it has been the term used to describe the Palestinian people for over two generations. In a world full of nations, existence and security are defined within the context of a state, a sovereign piece of territory, a part of the Earth to call your own. Without a state you are nothing, a nomad, a non-citizen, a refugee, a forgotten individual lost in a world whose power structures you can never tap into and never use to build a home for your family. And while having a state does not guarantee having a home…for many, it is at least the first logical step in the process…
As a global wanderer, it is inherently difficult for me to relate to the intense desire to build a home, to settle down, to own a piece of the earth and invest in its future. I live everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I can make any place a temporary residence but have no desire to ever establish myself upon a single piece of ground somewhere on this planet. And yet, that very concept of a home has been the core cause of so much angst and conflict throughout the last sixty years for the entire region of the Middle East and the millions of people who rest their heads upon its soil. To have a home means absolutely everything to so many…but what cost is worth bearing to establish one? And how many of your neighbors must you turn into enemies in the process?
We are on the verge of an interesting time in history. Amid the twilight of the Arab Spring, with the fires of revolution still burning in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the Palestinian people find themselves on the eve of claiming their final, legal rights to statehood through the only functional international governing body that exists today, the United Nations. It is interesting to follow the responses to this proposition throughout the international community. There are threats of denial of aid and assistance, calls for further patience, claims that statehood could derail the peace process, and reminders that even with an established, recognized state the people will still wake up the next morning faced with the same problems, only a slightly different context.
If one thing is clear, it is that statehood will not solve the problems for the Palestinian people. They will still have to deal with the occupation of their territories, the Israeli settlements, the Gaza blockade, the militancy of Hamas, and the demographic difficulties of trying to fit too many people in too small a piece of land. Both sides will still have to make real sacrifices and real compromises with the illusions of reality they have grown far too comfortable with over the years. The peace process will still continue, the real issues will still need to be settled, and the great expectations that come with final recognition of statehood will have to be relaxed. Yet if nothing else, these next few weeks can only bring the renewed attention and renewed commitment to finally solving one of history’s longest conflicts and establishing the framework for further development in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
If you want peace in the Middle East, all roads lead through Jerusalem…as all roads to peace in Central Asia lead through Kashmir… And while I have no answers or even suggestions to offer for solving the problems of the peace and state-building process in the region, I can be sure that the time is fast approaching where they must at least be finally addressed. Amid a new Middle East where puppet regimes and shadow governments are finally meeting their end, the time has come to work again at solving the deep, civilizational problems that we have built over the course of the last two generations. The people of the region cannot consolidate their gains and move forward with their newfound democratic freedoms without a solution to the problem of the Palestinian state and the Israeli occupation. And as we are fast realizing that our old, unsustainable policies in the region are no longer tenable or coherent with the call for freedom, we must look at ourselves and seek out new directions and new opportunities to build crucial and lasting friendships and alliances with our newfound brothers and sisters. The United States cannot continue to blindly support the policies of Israel if they fail to measure up to the new realities on the Arab street. And Israel cannot continue to believe that its ultimate security lies in building bigger and bigger walls to keep away its neighbors. At the same time, the Palestinians cannot expect the immediate deportation of thousands of Israeli settlers or immediate relief of the injustices they have suffered since the establishment of the Jewish homeland.
As we look to building the future and even dream of a possible end of major war in our lifetimes, we must draw our attention to the longest-running and deepest conflicts of our time. Only through our cooperation and dedication to finding lasting solutions to these problems can we move our global society forward. As long as they are allowed to fester and remain unattended, unnoticed they will continue to spread instability and factionalism across our world, sowing the seeds of further violence and prolonged injustice. So as we look at the future of a Palestinian state and the challenges of a long and difficult journey ahead, let’s renew our commitment to the spirit of the Arab Spring, and the future society our children will soon inherit. We seem to be in the business of ending wars these days…it’s about time this one went into our history books…
God Bless the Children of Abraham…
19 SEP 2011, 2110 AST, Orgun-E, Paktika, Afghanistan