Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

After 50 Years of Occupation, What Next for Palestine?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

After 50 Years of Occupation, What Next for Palestine?

Article excerpt

The Arab Center Washington DC hosted a June 6 panel of speakers to discuss the future of Palestine, as Palestine marked 50 years of Israeli occupation. The discussion reflected on Palestine's past, examined the fate of the two-state solution, and considered the realities of President Donald Trump's "America First" platform.

In his opening remarks, Arab Center executive director Khalil Jahshan noted that "A lot of things have changed, but a lot of things have not." There are several notable anniversaries this year, he added. It has been 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 35 years since the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and more than 10 years since Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, described the day's panel as an "opportunity for reflection." The other noteworthy speakers included Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale; Khaled Elgindy, foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy; Palestinian political analyst Nadia Hijab; and William Quandt, political science professor at the University of Virginia.

Tilley called for a "paradigm shift" regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, which the international community has called a "belligerent occupation." In her opinion, much progress could be made by describing the reality of the Israeli occupation as "apartheid," akin to the situation in South Africa, where the world agreed on the need for international efforts to end the human rights violations there.

Israeli fears that a two-state solution would undermine the intertwining of religion and government resulted in decades of failed diplomacy, including the Oslo accords, only giving "lip service to the right to self-determination," Tilley said, adding that Palestinians need a "reassessment of peoplehood." The occupation delves beyond border disputes, and is deeply political and personal. She expressed that the narrative of Zionism has a clear reverse narrative, which led to the separation and disempowerment of Palestinians. If the international community saw it this way, then there would be greater efforts to restore "peoplehood" to Palestine.

Elgindy next drew the parallels between the end of the 1967 Six-Day War and today's continued Israeli settlement of the occupied territories. He also discussed the disintegrating prospects of a two-state solution, especially since former Secretary of State John Kerry's peace efforts. …

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