By Claude Salhani
If anyone should have no trouble recognising and realising the injustice committed daily against Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, it is the Israelis. History books are filled with chapter upon chapter of injustice committed against the Jewish people, dating from biblical times through the modern era.
Yet they seem oblivious to the suffering of an entire nation.
Jews understand what it means to crave for a land they can call their own. They struggled against overriding odds, suffered terrible discrimination. Over the centuries they have been victims of pogroms and bore the brunt of the madness of Nazi Germany, whose leaders wanted to impose a “final solution” — the Holocaust — intended to exterminate the Jewish people.
The Jews survived. From the death camps of Europe, many made their way to Palestine. Jews had long dreamed of having their own state where they could live in peace and without fear of being persecuted for their faith. From practically nothing, they built a modern, functioning state.
However, they have done such wonders to the detriment of another people, the Palestinians, who, forced by economic realities of the occupation, provide Israel with cheap labour that has helped it become a modern state.
The Arabs tried defeating Israel militarily and economically and have come up short.
Militarily, they waged five major wars against Israel: 1948, upon the creation of the state of Israel; 1956, the Suez crisis; 1967, the Six-Day War; 1973, the October (Yom Kippur) War; 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. There have been limited confrontations between Israel and Hezbollah and two intifadas. Still, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is nowhere on the horizon.
On the economic front, the Arab League’s boycott bureau may think its actions serve the greater good of the Arab cause. Like most other Arab League initiatives, its effectiveness could only be measured by the number of bureaucrats it has created. Nothing else.
It would periodically issue a news release announcing a new target of its boycott but that action hardly ever saw the light of day.
Palestinians have been abused by their occupiers at the same time they were exploited by their brothers. It is one thing to shout support for the Palestinians from the minarets of Tehran and to threaten the Jewish state with extinction and to throw out slogans of hate at an enemy a few thousand miles away but it is a very different thing to have to deal with the harsh facts of having to live with a military occupation on a day-to-day basis.
Israel prides itself on its technological prowess and has been referred to as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East but it falls short in recognising the needs of its neighbours: the Palestinian people.
Israel might have harnessed new technologies better than other countries in the region but, as its use of facial-recognition technology to control the movement of Palestinians across its borders shows its scientific knowhow, it failed to recognise one basic fact: Injustice to a whole people under its occupation. No sophisticated technology is needed to see that. Only the old-fashioned ability to detect human suffering.
The sad irony for thousands of Palestinian day labourers lies in the realisation that the only work they are likely to find is in helping build a better world for the very enemy they have to contend with on a daily basis, at least until there is a political solution allowing the Palestinians to establish a full-fledged independent state.
The Palestinians, like the Israelis, also have a dream. A dream of being in their own country where they would not be subjected to constant military checkpoints, searches, detention and arbitrary arrest.
Israel might turn to its technology where perhaps it may find an application or upgraded software that tells it that the Palestinian people also have the right to live freely and with dignity.
The Israelis can use Palestinian labour for economy with minimal security risks. Hardly the stuff that will guarantee them peace and tranquillity. For that, there is a need for seeing the Palestinians as more than digitised faces. There is a need to see them as human beings with histories, dreams and national aspirations.
More than just the transactional arrangements envisioned by Jared Kushner and the Trump administration, realising such basic facts would be a crucial step for peace, real peace.