What Palestinians Can Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last week, Americans celebrated the life and legacy of the great civil-rights leader Martin Luther King. The veteran Palestinian activist Bassam Eid, who has dedicated much of his career to criticizing Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, reflects on what his own people can learn from this great man:

Dr. King would have been proud to see the progress Israel has made toward making his dream of a free, equitable society a reality in the Middle East. In his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, King shared his vision for a world in which his children would be judged “not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character.”

Today in Israel, one can see the manifestation of Dr. King’s dream. Israel is a sprawling, diverse nation, where diverse communities coexist peacefully. Regardless of their background, Israelis—be they Jews or Arabs—can practice their religion freely, serve in government, and raise their children without fear of retribution.

Dr. King also recognized that there can be no justice and equality without democracy and economic opportunity. The event where he gave his 1963 speech was called “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Israel has internalized this message with its booming economy, and it is sharing at least some of that wealth. Every day, thousands of Palestinians are allowed to cross the border into Israel to work side by side with Israelis.

Meanwhile, the feckless Palestinian leadership has rejected this vision for decades, to the detriment of our people. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is currently led by a president who just celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of his election to a four-year term. Rather than use his position to improve life for ordinary Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas has spent his nearly two decades in office enriching his cronies. He has blocked fair elections, hindered peace with Israel, and done nothing to create jobs and opportunity in the West Bank. Things are even worse in Gaza, where a terrorist group runs the show and economic opportunity is nonexistent.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Israeli Arabs, Martin Luther King, Palestinians

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood