Saturday, September 10, 2011

Between fact and fiction?

Flitting back and forth between Ramallah, Birzeit and Jerusalem, I don't normally come up against the occupation.  However, during Friday night some settlers wrote abusive grafitti on the walls outside the main entrance.  One can only imagine that they are trying to provoke things, ahead of the UN vote later this month.  Needless to say, the feeling in the university community is understandably angry and the students organised a protest outside the administration building for this morning.  As a friend said to me on Skype though, What's the point?  After all, it won't be targeted at the perpetrators.  But, as I pointed out, would a demo outside a settlement fair any better?  I can hardly see the army responding in a liberal and tolerant manner.

This provocation has come at a time when I've been thinking about the current situation here.  I'm struck by the amount of Israeli hasbara (which I understand to mean 'propaganda' in Hebrew, but I see it can also mean 'public diplomacy') which has been put out by the Israeli authorities ahead of the UN vote.  We get told that Israel is opposed to the Palestinians' pursuit of a state through the UN on the grounds that it can only be the result of direct negotiations between the two sides and that even if they succeed with recognition at the UN, this will not change facts on the ground.  We also get told that this will be a cause of frustration for the Palestinians, which has the potential to become violent.

This official rhetoric has become so commonplace that it's not even questioned anymore.  I noticed this first when I read some of the articles on +972, an online Israeli magazine run by the Left.  The official Israeli position has been taken on in their authors' various musings.  Similarly, when I spoke to a colleague based abroad this week, he also implicitly accepted the idea that things may be change after September - and not necessarily for the better.  I rebuked him on this, telling him not to believe or assume everything he hears or reads.

From what I can tell - and I accept that I've not got an extensive insight on the subject - most Palestinians aren't expecting things to change substantially after the UN vote.  Things will largely remain the same, on a day-to-day level.  Also, there's really very little stomach for a violent response.  Too many have looked down that path before.  After all, they're still living with the second intifada and its consequences, most notably in the form of the wall and the various checkpoints along it.


Ben Paine said...

Do you think that the situation will worsen or improve, if the Palestinians achieve what they hope to at the UN vote? I think the Palestinians have a more permanent presence may provoke the Israeli's even more. I also think that if the Palestinians are recognized as a state, they are likely to receive more support from other Arab states like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I think this may also heighten the tensions.

Guy said...

Ben, thanks for your comment. Much appreciated. I'm not sure that a positive UN vote will change things much. We're already seeing Israeli settlers' efforts to provoke confrontation with the Palestinians (last week they camr to deface the entrace to Birzeit University). For most Palestinians, the situation is already grim: the wall remains, checkpoints exist, movement restrictions are present and settlements continut to be built. At the same time, I doubt that Palestinians will receive any more support than they already do from the Arab states (and Turkey). Much of that support has been largely rhetorical and is likely to remain that way.