Thursday, 5 March 2009

I don’t usually do this but…

I’ve just come back from a trip to Jerusalem. It’s my first trip there in four years. Going back to Jerusalem and catching up with the situation is never a surprise but always a shock. The dramatic increase in checkpoints, new sections of the wall and the expansion of settlements means that Jerusalem is more or less encircled. This physical reality renders the idea of it being the future capital of a Palestinian state absurd. In fact what I saw and heard on this trip left me with the uneasy conclusion of the complete and utter impossibility of a Palestinian state on ANY level.

The disconnection and complications of movement of either people or goods between Palestinian cities, let alone internationally, make it economically unviable. In several cases the wall now separates villages from their agricultural land and water resources ensuring their destitution. The absurdly time consuming and circuitous routes that Palestinians with West Bank or Gaza ID now have to make to get in and out means also that each city becomes a kind of prison for the terminally exhausted.

An eye specialist friend told me that many with eye injuries from Gaza had to travel from Gaza to Egypt then to Jordan and then by land from Jordan to Jerusalem. The time this took meant that it was impossible in many cases to save sight. Meanwhile Gaza to Jerusalem direct by road is a mere 78km.

Increased ambiguities in terms of both support and effectiveness of the PA plus the added complications of Gaza make it politically unviable. Interestingly some still believe that the release of Marwan Barghouti may be the political unifier. However, no one knows when that will be, there is less and less to unify around and an increasing perception that all leaders except Hamas are merely Palestinian administrators of Israel’s occupation. This perception does not result in a corresponding increase of political support for Hamas.

Perhaps what is most disturbing is that a Palestinian state no longer seems to be viable in the national psyche. Lives are conducted within cities largely cut off from one another and public focus has shifted to survival in these immediate and experienced urban environments. Combined with the oppressive reality of the wall, making Palestinians invisible not only to the Israelis but also to each other, even the idea of a state seems to have atrophied.

It’s so strange to see something that now requires a short introductory seminar to be comprehensible to anyone with a life. It is actually so complex that the effort required to understand it is way beyond reasonable but without that effort there is only a very simplistic way of interpreting it. I guess it was always a bit like that but now there is nothing in between. It's like some kind of bizarre mathematical equation that only works in extremis. Maybe it's an example of complexity theory.

Whatever it is hearing Hilary Clinton talk about the inescapability of a Palestinian state was like listening to someone who hadn’t attended the introductory seminar....

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