Kerry Creates More Problems Than Solutions In Palestine
26 October 2015
By Ghada Ageel
On 1 October, Palestinians burst into the streets protesting a racist system
that allows settler mobs to attack Palestinians and their properties, lands,
and holy sites; and burn families to death along with their children.
It was a stark expression of anger in response to the fact that no action has
been taken against the criminals who perpetrated the horrific burning of an
18-month-old Palestinian toddler at the end of July. The parents of Ali
Dawabsha, who were burnt in the attack, died from their wounds weeks later.
Meanwhile, the state of Israel continues to show the world that they are
uninterested in Palestinian victims by concealing the perpetrator's identity
and tacitly supporting their actions.
To date, historic Palestine remains in the midst of a deep crisis facing a
myriad of dangers on all fronts. The profound urgency and complexity of the
protests that are now sweeping across the two sides of the green line have
pushed the US administration to act belatedly in an attempt to contain the
Despite the failure of the peace talks during the summer of 2013, the US
administration has again acceded to the desire of Secretary of State John
Kerry to beat the dead horse of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation by proposing
another round of meetings to ''reduce tensions''.
Last week, Kerry met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in
Berlin and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan over the
Ahead of these meetings, Kerry called on both sides to exercise restraint, to
refrain from actions that could escalate the situation, and to take urgent
steps to end the current "senseless" violence. According to Kerry, the
priority in these meetings was to restore stability and reduce tensions that
have been running high across the Occupied Territories.
'No return to 30 September'
Speaking to reporters after meeting with the two leaders, Kerry voiced
cautious hope that there may be a way to soothe violence. He told reporters
he was "hopeful," without elaborating. Yet no one familiar with the long
stubborn conflict and its history of half a century of failed diplomacy
believes Kerry's optimistic words.
In fact, Kerry's careful, diplomatic words create more problems than
solutions. There is little evidence that his priorities are achievable unless
they provide answers to some basic questions. What sort of stability is Kerry
referring to and to which side does that stability need to be restored? What
tensions need to be reduced? Is he referring to the particular tensions that
existed just before 1 October or the many chronic tensions that preceded that
date and that have been going on unnoticed by many, including officials in
For many observers, these meetings and any upcoming ones will be fruitless if
Kerry's understanding of the current unrest mirrors the Israeli point of
view. Palestinians and their supporters have the right to question the
intentions, given the fact that Kerry's strong assertions almost never follow
the killing of Palestinians. Palestinian deaths at the hands of the Israeli
army and settlers have been accumulating unchecked for years. These, however,
have produced no calls for a meeting to stop the senseless Israeli violence
or for a list of priorities to restore stability.
Kerry's meetings - more failure yet to come
Kerry's round of meetings will surely result in more failure if stability
amounts to restoring the reality preceding the current unrest. This reality
has stripped Palestinians of their dignity, freedom, and normal lives - both
as subjects of direct military occupation and as second-class citizens under
a racist regime. The only chance of success for Kerry's proposed priorities
is ensuring there's no return to 30 September, the day after, 1 October, was
the day when the ''tensions,'' to use Kerry's term, erupted.
Restoring stability will stay an unattainable goal without addressing the
summary executions and the daily human rights violations carried out by
Israel's army and police, both of which are implementing a ''shoot-to-kill''
policy. According to UN figures, even before the eruption of the current
protests, between January and September 2015, at least 26 Palestinians were
killed by Israeli forces.
In other words, Israel killed one Palestinian every ten days, on the average,
since the beginning of 2015, and none of the leading world diplomats
discussed this violence. In fact, ''senseless violence'' by Israel against
Palestinians has claimed one innocent life after another for the past seven
decades, some of them directly and many others indirectly through home
demolitions, land theft, abuse and torture of detainees, forced displacement,
and inhumane and illegal siege.
Ending the culture of impunity
For tensions to be reduced, it is this senseless violence which needs to end.
Any remedy must also include an end to the culture of impunity allowing
Israelis to kill Palestinians and go scot-free. There is no chance of
stability until perpetrators are brought to justice and Israel's systematic
crimes are brought to an end.
The generations born under occupation must be offered honest hope. Enclosed
in ghettos under the false pretext of peace and left in despair between walls
and checkpoints, harassed, arrested, imprisoned, nearly starved and denied
their rights, their belief in a future has to be thoughtfully rebuilt.
Reducing tensions requires restoring dignity.
When Palestinian voices are included, when Palestinian victims are named,
when Palestinian choices are respected, and aspirations for freedom and
dignity are taken into full account, only then will their anger and their
protests end, restoring stability to historic Palestine. A mere, but
imperative, first step in that direction is the immediate implementation of
the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which stipulates the protection of
civilians during conflict and the prosecution of persons alleged to have
committed grave crimes.
- Ghada Ageel is a visiting professor at the University of Alberta
Political Science Department (Edmonton, Canada), an independent scholar, and
active in the Faculty4Palestine - Alberta.