If I were a Palestinian… but I’m not, I’m a Jewish Israeli. I write this article not only because some Palestinian friends have asked me what I would do if I were a Palestinian, now that the two-state solution seems impossible, but mainly because I am an Israeli Jew who really wants Israel to genuinely be the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, which it is no longer.
As long as the occupation continues, the status quo of Israeli control over all of the land and people between the River and the Sea, Israel is not democratic and it no longer has a Jewish majority. I do not believe that Israelis will seriously look at themselves and the non-democratic binational reality that exists here without being totally shaken up, and I am completely against violence, so this is what I would like to believe I would advocate and do if I were in fact a Palestinian.
If I were a Palestinian, I would stop cooperating with the occupation. Palestinian compliance with the “rules of the game” as set by Israel allows the occupation to continue.
That does not mean closing down the Palestinian Authority and handing “the keys” back to Israel as many Palestinians propose. Quite the opposite. Too much hard work has already been done to build the foundations and the institutions of statehood to throw that away.
It means asserting your sovereignty, it means taking control of your destiny. What I propose will come at great costs to the Palestinians – so I advise great caution.
They must be prepared for great sacrifices; there must be a very high level of social solidarity and mutual aid. Independence and freedom carry a price tag, and the Palestinians must be aware of the costs and be prepared to pay them.
It seems to me that they have been paying a great price for many years, without the desired results. Perhaps they have inflicted great pain on their enemy, but they have suffered far greater pain in the loss of human life without achieving or even getting close to the results that they want. So I propose: drop the thought of violence and of hurting the enemy – the goal is to hold up a mirror to the enemy and force them to see the reality that they are sustaining. The goal is to fully possess the higher moral ground.
Palestinians will suffer. The Palestinian economy will take a serious blow. They must be prepared to stop all work in Israel – more than 100,000 families directly earn their livelihood in Israel. They must be prepared not to travel abroad for as long as it takes – because Israel controls the borders. They must be prepared to assist each other – economically and in all ways – until the occupation is brought to its knees. The first element of control over Palestinians by Israel is the population registry. Israel approves the issuing of all ID numbers, passports, birth and death certificates.
If I were a Palestinian, I would expect my leader, the president, to stand in public and burns his ID card and call on all Palestinians to do the same. Then the Palestinian government should issue all-new ID cards with completely different numbers, turning the existing population registry into something totally irrelevant.
That means that no Palestinians will be able to receive a permit from Israel to enter Israel or to leave the country – and that is exactly the point.
I would then call on all the mayors and city council members in every town in the West Bank to get on bulldozers and to open every road that Israel has closed throughout the area and call on the residents to use those roads. Israel will stop the delivery of fuel to the Palestinians and Palestinians should be prepared for that – save and allocate in advance – use only what is absolutely necessary.
Take to the roads by foot, by donkey, by bicycle.
I would encourage people to plant “victory gardens” on their land – even as a symbol of resistance. Build, build, build – on all Palestinian-owned land in Area C – without a permit from Israel. Just as you go out to pick olives every year with the whole family, go out to your land and claim it, mark it, erect something on it – without a permit from the occupation authorities.
Stock up in advance on goods – for at least a year – because commerce with Israel should stop. Be prepared.
For all of this, Israel will respond by arresting people – that is exactly what I would want to happen. Every single Palestinian who sees themselves as a leader should have the goal of getting arrested. Israeli prisons should be full so that Israel needs to build tent cities of prison camps for Palestinians.
100,000 Palestinians should be held in captivity by Israel – that would be my goal.
Women, children, elderly people, everyone should resist, without violence, in order to be arrested.
They may close schools, they may close roads, and whole towns – but there is no way to force an entire population to comply with the continued occupation if the people refuse. Leadership is essential and in its absence and with the presence of social media – new leaders, young resisters, examples of success, stories of encouragement – should flood the Internet, being seen throughout Palestine, the Arab world and the West. Don’t forget to continue to send messages to the Israeli public – they are the ones you are trying to shame and to wake up.
Security cooperation and coordination with Israel should end completely, but at the same time the Palestinian security forces must increase the vigilance and commitment to non-violence and work to ensure that there will be no terrorism against Israel. Acts of violence by Palestinians, even when receiving acts of violence from Israel, would derail the entire strategy of capturing the high moral ground and shaking Israeli society to want to end the occupation on its own.
This is just the beginning. A winning strategy for the Palestinians could be one based on the ideas above. The Palestinians themselves need to develop it. But we Israelis who believe that our state is being destroyed by the continuation of the occupation can be partners in the process of us breaking free from this occupation. We have the main responsibility for ending our control over another people.
We are not free from working to take our responsibility as well.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
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