Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Question of Palestine: From One Century to Another

The Question of Palestine has been ongoing for more than a century. Yet, Palestinians continue to suffer from Israel's discriminatory policies.

Question of Palestine
A Palestinian child takes cover behind a sheet of corrugated iron during clashes in Khan Yunes in the Gaza Strip 24 October 2000. THOMAS COEX/ AFP

Majed Kayali

The question of Palestine stands as one of the most intricate and challenging political dilemmas the world has ever encountered. It might be even the most insurmountable one.

Alongside the questions of the Kurds and Kashmir, it remains an enduring matter that spans from the twentieth century well into the twenty-first century.

Despite the establishment of Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the Palestinian issue remains in a state of stagnation. There is no room for denial or the propagation of false hope.

On the one hand, Israel continues to exercise control over the entire territory of historic Palestine.

On the other hand, Palestinians find themselves scattered as refugees across numerous countries or residing in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under the occupation and the blockade imposed by Israel.

Palestinians endure discriminatory policies at the hands of Israel, which encroaches upon their land and restricts their freedom of movement. Their homes are demolished, their activists face assassination or imprisonment, and they experience domination in all aspects of their lives, including politics, economics, administration, and security.

Israel demands an exclusive recognition of a Jewish state, rather than a regular state. Such a demand reflects a level of arrogance that disregards the plight of the Palestinians, who have been victimised by Israeli aggression. This demand requires Palestinians to recognise Israel’s historical narrative and its right to exist at their expense.

Consequently, it entails displacing Palestinians from their land, erasing their identity, and subjecting them to humiliation. Israel also seems to expect an apology from the Palestinians for merely existing and resisting its occupation.

Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership’s attempts to negotiate a settlement were not met with understanding from Israel. Despite the Palestinian leadership’s willingness to compromise, which included relinquishing the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees and accepting a Palestinian state on just 22 per cent of historic Palestine, Israel remained unsatisfied. Israel rejected the Palestinians’ pursuit of justice through a negotiated solution encompassing various aspects of their cause.

In essence, Israel’s demands amount to nothing short of the complete, public, and written surrender of the Palestinians. It insists that establishing a Palestinian state, limited in its self-rule and under Israeli hegemony, signifies the relinquishment of Palestinian rights!

Since its inception in the Oslo Accords, the settlement process has lacked realism and seriousness. This can be attributed to the significant power imbalance in Israel’s favour or its failure to evolve beyond its identity as a colonial, settler, and racist state. Moreover, Israel did not embark on the path of settlement to genuinely resolve the Palestinian issue.

Similarly, Israel did not pursue this path to settle its relations with neighbouring countries. Instead, Israel pursued the settlement process primarily as a means to adapt to global changes, enhance its global image, and relieve itself of the burden posed by the Palestinians.

Additionally, it aimed to preserve its identity as a predominantly Jewish state. This approach helps to explain Israel’s arrogance and inflexibility, which even led to missed opportunities for peace and normalisation with Arab countries, including the disregard of the Arab peace initiative nearly two decades ago.

Israel seeks a settlement to rid itself of the Palestinians, who are perceived as an economic and security burden, weighing heavily on its budget and military resources. Israel seeks freeing itself from their presence, viewing them as incongruous with time and place.

More significantly, Israel considers the Palestinian presence a demographic threat to its vision of establishing an exclusively Jewish state and perceives it as a challenge to the integrity of “Israeli democracy.”

The establishment of the Palestinian Authority initially raised the hopes and aspirations of Palestinians for establishing their own homeland and state.

However, over time, it became apparent that this entity greatly burdened the Palestinians. The authority imposed limitations on various forms of Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation, leading to a division among Palestinians, constraining their capacity for struggle, and tarnishing them with corruption.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has muddled the perception of the Palestinian cause in the eyes of the global public by portraying the conflict as a clash between two equally rightful factions engaged in negotiations!

The establishment of the Palestinian Authority resulted in two significant and concerning changes. The first was the shift of many Palestinians into the public sector. Many Palestinians now find themselves working outside the realms of productive sectors. This shift negatively affected the Palestinians’ way of life and political outlook. Presently, the authority supports around 160,000 employees.

Moreover, the authority has become reliant on donor countries’ contributions and tax revenues collected by Israel on its behalf. Consequently, the authority cannot sustain its existence without these resources.

The second change manifests in the challenging circumstances the Palestinians endure, both politically and in their daily lives. They find themselves unable to alter their choices or resist Israel’s impositions concerning settlements, the separation wall, blockades, arrests, and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

Simply put, any change in their choices could incite adverse reactions from Israel and the Western world, which the Palestinians cannot bear.

Consequently, their reliance on external aid perpetuates a cycle of dependency, compliance, and political appeasement. These factors contribute to the erosion of their willpower, the weakening of their national spirit, and the prevalence of apathy and corruption.

Consequently, the prevailing Palestinian political class, including the Hamas authority, faces a crucial crossroads. They must either maintain their position as an authority, ensuring the continuity of their financial resources, or disengage from this equation and bear the ensuing consequences.

The first option presents numerous political benefits, including political and security coordination. On the other hand, the second option carries the risk of the Palestinian political class forfeiting their authority status and losing the financial resources that bolster their legitimacy and dominance within Palestinian society.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of impartiality, it is important to acknowledge that the persistent frailty of the Palestinian cause, encompassing its ideas, structure, and performance, can be attributed to several fundamental factors. One such factor is Israel’s assimilation into the global order alongside the world’s superpowers.

Despite its colonial, settler, racist, and religious underpinnings, Israel is regarded within the framework of modernisation and democracy by this order.

Additionally, the Palestinians lack a suitable Arab support system alongside their fragmented state. Furthermore, the Israelis surpass them regarding power dynamics, administration, and organisation.

Consequently, unless there is a transformation in the structure of the global order, a change in Arab circumstances, or a maturation of Israel’s stance toward reaching a settlement, the status quo will persist.

Thus, it becomes imperative for the Palestinians to undertake a substantial reorganisation of their ranks. They must also explore alternative political avenues to bolster their standing and rights within this protracted and intricate century-old conflict.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our writers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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