John Paul II Foundation / Magazine / Palestine, three indications of social collapse

Palestine, three indications of social collapse


Summary: The latest war between Hamas and Israel has highlighted the drama of Palestinian society, now divided into three sections. Palestinians in Israel, those in the West Bank and those in Gaza, one people but three different fates.

          Israel and Palestine have experienced and are experiencing some very tough months. On the one hand, Israel's institutional crisis: in the space of a few days we have seen the fourth political election in less than two years, a bitter parliamentary consultation that led to the emergence of a government no longer headed by Benjamin Netanyahu (longer in power than even the founding fathers of the Jewish state, the election to the presidency of the Republic of Isaac Herzog, a labor-minded politician who represents the aristocracy of Zionism, being the son of another president (Chaim Herzog) and grandson of Israel's first chief rabbi.

          They were, however, also the months of yet another armed clash between Israel and the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. Missiles versus fighter-bombers, for a very high death toll: 232 dead on the Gaza side (including at least 66 minors) and 12 on the Israeli side. Not to mention the West Bank. The din of war has overshadowed the cancellation of elections, which among Palestinians have not been held since 2006.

          There are many, of course, reasons for concern and pessimism. We want to address here one that concerns the Palestinians, that is, the weak link in this drama. It is not just a matter of taking note of an economic and social collapse that seems unstoppable. To give just one example: at the end of 2020, unemployment in Gaza was close to 50 percent and in the West Bank 16 percent. And we are talking about abundantly subsidized economies where jobs are largely "state-owned." Add the burden of the Covid, the destruction of the war, the flight of tourists who may have been thinking of returning to the Holy Land, the aggravated difficulties of tension between Israelis and Palestinians...

          The real problem today is the hypothetical disintegration of Palestinian society, which seems to be getting more entrenched every day. In Israel, the "all but Netanyahu" coalition that brought Naftali Bennett to the role of prime minister was made possible by the membership of the United Arab Party (of Islamist orientation) led by Mansour Abbas. A very pragmatic choice, this, but one that signals a reality. Palestinians living in Israel do not have the same problems as those in the West Bank or Gaza. For them, who are second-class citizens in Israel, the key issue is to climb back up the ladder in terms of rights and dignity, within a modern and efficient society such as Israel's.

          In the West Bank, the issue is quite different. Here it is about resisting the slow but inexorable expansion of Israel, which year by year erodes the lands and resources of the Palestinians. Who are caught between the dependence and control of Israel (which can decide at any time on the standard of living of each of them) and the inability of its own political class, which is unable to restrain the Israelis, is appalled by the growing allure of Hamas and can do nothing but rely on a gerontocracy well represented by President Abu Mazen. In the Gaza Strip, a third phenomenology: two million extraordinarily resilient Palestinians are confined to a kind of open-air prison dominated by Hamas, which is unable to produce anything more than a policy of resistance for resistance's sake, demanding ever greater sacrifices from militants and ordinary citizens in the name of a symbolism with no outlets other than those of war.

          Those who care about the fate of all suffering peoples must try to curb this Palestinian disintegration, which can only produce harm, and not only to Palestinians. There is a need to give hope in order to restore breath to the hypotheses of a peaceful solution to the conflict. And for millions of people in need, hope in the future comes in the form of work in the present, the ability to form a family and support it, the knowledge that they have something to protect as well as an identity to defend. This, on the other hand, is what development cooperation is for. Everywhere and everywhere.

 Fulvio Scaglione


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