Palestinians facing 'futureless future with no hope' - Norman Finkelstein

© Mohamad Torokman
The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory began in 1967, and since then the people of the West Bank, especially the young haven’t had the hope of a bright future and decent life, American political scientist Norman Finkelstein told RT.

RT: Let’s discuss the escalating violence in Palestine. How did we get here?

Norman Finkelstein: First of all we have to make clear to the listeners what “here” is. There is a new outbreak of violence which has garnered a lot of media attention. So I guess our responsibility here first of all is to explain what is going on. I don’t think there is much disagreement about the broad context of the current Palestinian resistance. It is an occupation that has now lasted nearly a half century; it began in 1967. So next year or the year after it is going to be 50 years – an occupation in which people effectively have no future – it is a futureless future. There’s no hope, no prospects for living a decent life. For young people who are at the forefront of the current resistance, the unemployment in the West Bank is estimated about 30 percent for the age 20s cohort. But it is probably around 50 per cent; 30 per cent is considered a low estimate. Even the jobs that people do have those who are employed – these are jobs that don’t require any great skills, even though the Palestinian population is very educated – these are not skilled jobs.

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Also, as you know, in Palestinian society - because you are Palestinian - if you have no job, no occupation, there are no prospects for your social life: you can’t get married, you can’t have children. So it is not just your professional life, your occupation, that’s left without a future, it’s your whole life. People who can’t afford a family can’t get married.

That is the generation that’s currently in revolt. Beyond the broad context of an occupation, which denies Palestinians basic rights, basic human rights, and the basic rights to have any future, any crack at life’s happiness. There is the specific context which most chronologists nowadays, if you look further example – AP [Associated Press] – they say it begins the current round of resistance, the revolt begins on July 31, when Israeli settlers torched the family home of the Dawabsheh family incinerated the child and then the parents – the two parents - also died subsequently...

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RT: Who was the catalyst to that though?

NF: Interestingly enough, when settlers carry on with the ‘price tag’ revenge actions, which were the case with the Dawabsheh family, it is not something that Palestinians did - it is when the Israeli government does something which is seen by the settlers as being too appeasing or placating of the Palestinians. Then they carry out what’s called a ‘price tag operation’ - namely the government pays a price for being too lenient to the Palestinians. So it wasn’t even anything that Palestinians did.

RT: It wasn’t a specific incident of violence against the Israelis, was it?

NF: No, from what I’ve read, I could be mistaken at this point, but it was a fairly typical ‘price tag operation’ against the Israeli government. And then the other catalyst for the current outbreak was the fears among Palestinians that Israel is trying to change what is called the status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. There has been an escalation on the Israeli side of aggressive moves regarding what is called the status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that resulted on September 30 in several Palestinians barricading themselves in the mosque, and throwing stones at the Israelis. Senior Israeli officials in the Knesset, settler leaders, they’ve been flocking in unusually large numbers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and has caused Palestinian trepidation that this is just one more step in Israel’s systematic eviction of Palestinians from their homeland. Those are, what you might call, the larger context and then the immediate triggers of the current round of fighting.

RT: Although bloodshed is really common in that area of the world, it seems that this is a sort of different type of aggression that is taking place with the stabbings. Would this link to a third Intifada and could you discuss the difference in the wave of violence?

NF: I think that is an important point. We don’t want to get too semantic about an incident as ‘Intifada’ as if you go to a dictionary, look for the definition and see whether the definition fits what is happening. The reason we should look back is because we want to see what works and what doesn’t. The First Intifada did work – it was remarkably successful. And we have to figure out why it worked in order to judge what are the prospects for this Intifada. I’m old enough to remember, for better or for worse, the First Intifada. I wrote a book on my own experience, I lived off and on after 1987. Between 1988 and 1995 I went back every year and spent a few weeks in the occupied territories to experience the Intifada first hand.

Here, in my opinion, the reasons it succeeded, and also its distinguishing characteristics: Number one, the good luck of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, their leadership wasn’t in Palestine. The leadership at the time had been exiled in Tunis after being expelled from Lebanon in 1982. So they didn’t have the burden weighing down on them of a sclerotic and very corrupt leadership. The leadership was far away – that was a very fortunate thing for the Palestinians.

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Secondly, even though the leadership was far away, the grassroots organizations of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] were deeply entrenched in Palestinian society and they were quite functional. They had the talent – the political talent was inside them. So you had the labor unions, the women’s groups, you had the political parties. And almost immediately as the First Intifada began, it began spontaneously December 7, 1987. There seems to have been a car accident between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Gaza, and then the accident erupts into the accumulation of hate, anger and so forth, it erupts into the First Intifada.

But almost immediately, even though it was spontaneous, the organizations, not the leadership, thank God, far away in Tunis, but the popular organizations immediately leapt into action, in particular by the way, the Communist party at that time- now it is called the [Palestinian] People’s Party [PPP] – was on record as being for non-violence - all along that was their strategy. So this is their milieu, this is their element now, because it turned into a non-violent revolt. But the important point is, right at the beginning they formed what was called – the Unified National Command, and it was the political parties all together – Hamas was not there at the beginning, if my memory is correct. But apart from Hamas they all joined together- very well organized, because they had the organizational experience. And everything was done with a lot of subtlety and cleverness.

© A Palestinian protester hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin October 16, 2015. © Mohammed Ballas

Secondly, even though the leadership was far away, the grassroots organizations of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] were deeply entrenched in Palestinian society and they were quite functional. They had the talent – the political talent was inside them. So you had the labor unions, the women’s groups, you had the political parties. And almost immediately as the First Intifada began, it began spontaneously December 7, 1987. There seems to have been a car accident between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Gaza, and then the accident erupts into the accumulation of hate, anger and so forth, it erupts into the First Intifada.

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But almost immediately, even though it was spontaneous, the organizations, not the leadership, thank God, far away in Tunis, but the popular organizations immediately leapt into action, in particular by the way, the Communist party at that time- now it is called the [Palestinian] People’s Party [PPP] – was on record as being for non-violence - all along that was their strategy. So this is their milieu, this is their element now, because it turned into a non-violent revolt. But the important point is, right at the beginning they formed what was called – the Unified National Command, and it was the political parties all together – Hamas was not there at the beginning, if my memory is correct. But apart from Hamas they all joined together- very well organized, because they had the organizational experience. And everything was done with a lot of subtlety and cleverness.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.