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The Palestinian statehood dead end: isn’t it time to focus on civil society as a transformational strategy?

The defeat of yet another UN resolution on Palestine shows the ineffectiveness of statehood-focussed efforts in the Palestine-Israel stalemate. It is not that the goal of a Palestinian state is unimportant or unjust – it is that it is unachieveable in anything like the forseeable future.

The human cost of this focus on statehood over the last 4 or more decades has been huge. The demoralisation amongst Palestinians is now very deep, matched only by the intransigence amongst Israeli authorities. There is a stalemate here that breeds resentment, bitterness and hopelessness.

The alternative path is to focus on civil society. It is to view interactions and relationships between Palestinians and Israelis as the locus for change, not the pronouncements of officials or the resolutions passed or defeated in international councils. Some might say both are important: in reality the public focus is almost entirely placed on statehood rather than civil society.

What would a civil society focus on Palestine-Israel look like?

In schools, it would mean ending the segregation of Palestinian and Israeli children and students, co-locating education facilities, and sharing curriculum on language, history and culture.

In sport, it would mean integrating leagues and competitions across Israel and Palestine.

In business, it would mean maximising trade across national borders, and intentionally building up workplaces comprising both Israelis and Palestinians.

In aid, it would mean removing funding from NGOs which do not bring Israelis and Palestinians together in creating practical trust-building solutions.

Instead of other countries pouring in aid dollars to either Israeli or Palestinian sides of the fence, aid should be made contingent on de-segregation of projects based on nationality and religion.

International subsidies could be made available specifically for Israeli products sold in Palestine, and Palestinian products sold in Israel.

International civil society could drive this civil society focus, mobilising initiatives and resources for this agenda of de-segregation, social interaction and mutual trust-building, and against perpetuation of the status quo.

vern@civilsociety.org.au


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