By Annisa Essack
26 November 2019
The remnants of failed peace plans, international summits, secret negotiations, and UN resolutions lie scattered over the blood-soaked land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The possibility of a lasting deal seems as far away as ever – and the history of failed negotiations suggests it’s largely because Israel prefers the status quo.
The cycle of Palestinian-Israeli violence that must stop, however, is not limited to assassinations, suicide bombings, missile strikes, mortar attacks, and tank shelling. The cycle of violence includes the violence inherent in decades of occupation: imprisonment without trial, demolition of homes, torture, intimidation, destruction of thousands upon thousands of olive trees and other crops, confiscation of land and the building of settlements in disputed areas, economic strangulation, and so on.
Those who actively seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians, pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, recognise that ending the cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine is key to building confidence and starting productive negotiations between the two.
In the quarter-century since Israelis and Palestinians first started negotiating under US auspices in 1991, there has been no shortage of explanations for why each round of talks failed. The rationalisations appear and reappear in speeches and reports of think-tanks - bad timing; artificial deadlines; insufficient preparation; want of support from regional states; inadequate confidence-building measures; coalition politics; or leaders devoid of courage.
Each round of diplomacy began with vows to succeed where predecessors had failed. Each included the urgency of peace or warnings of the closing window, but each ended with a list of tactical mistakes and unforeseen developments that resulted in failure. And, just as surely, each neglected to offer the most logical explanation for failure: no agreement was reached because at least one of the parties preferred to maintain the impasse.
The military alliance between the United States and Israel has long been at odds with the stated intentions of successive administrations in Washington to foster peace. One White House after another has preferred the “solution” of having it both ways: supporting a two-state solution while richly rewarding, with lethal weaponry, an incorrigible client state that was working as fast as it could to undermine just such a solution.
British banks and financial institutions hold billions of pounds worth of shares in companies that sell weapons, military equipment, and technology to Israel. By purchasing arms from and selling arms to Israel, the UK government is giving direct material support for Israel's aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions thus making it complicit in Israel's continuing violations of human rights and international law.
Armed violence and repression lie at the heart of Israel’s system of oppression over the Palestinian people. Israel’s ability to use violence against Palestinians, with impunity, relies on the relationships it maintains with supportive governments and with companies around the world that profit from the oppression of Palestinians. The UK government and UK-based military and technology companies maintain deep and ever-expanding relationships with Israel that are also key to Israel’s militarised repression of the Palestinian people.
Israel is one of the most heavily militarised states on earth. In 2016, Israeli military expenditure was $18 billion, the third-highest per capita expenditure in the world. Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest military and weapons company. When Elbit develops a new weapon or military system, it first gives or sells it to the Israeli military to use. Elbit then markets the technology as ‘field-tested’, by which it means that it has been tested on Palestinian civilians. Israeli Major General Yoav Galant described this process as “turning blood into money”.
Israel’s military violence against Palestinians in Gaza is not reserved only for large-scale bombing attacks. Some 4,000 Palestinian fisherfolk working off the coast of Gaza are under constant threat of violence from the Israeli navy, which regularly fires at fisherfolk in Gaza or confiscates their boats.
While the Oslo Accords are supposed to allow for fishing in up to 20 nautical miles off the coast, the Israeli navy only allows Palestinian fisherfolk to sail in six nautical miles, restricting the quantity and quality of their catch. According to B’tselem, 95% of Gaza’s fisherfolk live under the poverty line.
The Israeli navy has a continual presence in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Companies in the UK have been awarded export licenses for a variety of components for combat naval equipment.
During the full-scale military attacks on the Gaza Strip, Israeli naval vessels shelled seaside areas in the Gaza Strip, resulting in numerous deaths and casualties. This includes the well-known case of a beach shelling when four boys from the same extended family were killed on 16 July 2014 while playing football on the beach, as journalists looked on in horror from their hotel.
Israel’s military has been accused by leading human rights organisations of using excessive and arbitrary force to suppress mass demonstrations. In 2015 Israel adopted new ‘rules of engagement’ that allow its occupation forces to ‘shoot to kill’ Palestinian protestors.
Israel uses military force and a range of technologies in order to maintain its occupation of Palestinian territory. Walls, watchtowers and some 500 checkpoints, barriers and gates, often equipped with hi-tech sensors and cameras, are used to enforce racial segregation and deny Palestinians their freedom of movement.
When I began the article, the angle was “should Palestinians stop the armed struggle?” but as I proceeded through the research it dawned on me that this was impossible. For if they did, they would most definitely be obliterated
In a popular Arab folk ballad, El Helwa Di, promises a penniless child who has placed her life in God’s hands: “With patience, change will come. All will be better.” Like most Palestinians, I too have come to this conclusion for Palestine.
(Much of the words are from others, paraphrased by me)