Sally Rooney is perhaps the darling of the literary world, with an already remarkable international reputation. However, she is also now well known in distant places for her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.
he has drawn a torrent of condemnation from mainstream circles for suggesting that the Palestinian people are being mistreated by their Israeli masters.
The cockpit of Middle East politics remains one of the most intractable problems, endlessly analyzed and analyzed, but with a settlement as distant as ever.
Nowadays, the conflict only makes international headlines when the violence reaches a certain level. Otherwise, the status quo continues.
This means that the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and 190,000 in East Jerusalem are trying to fend for themselves under the watchful eye of the ever-present Israeli army. The 1.6 million prisoners trapped in the Gaza Strip survive in what is described as “the largest open-air prison in the world”.
This is the essence of the Palestinian dilemma most recently highlighted by Rooney.
It has been repeatedly claimed that there will be no solution unless this cohort of 4.4 million people is accepted as full Israeli citizens, with full voting rights.
This, of course, will not happen. This would lead to the erosion of Israel as an inherently Jewish state, and therefore leads to another oft-cited alternative, the âtwo-state solutionâ.
It is, in the eyes of its supporters, the only real option to resolve the centuries-old quarrel between Jews and Arabs. Still, various experts suggest that this is no longer a realistic or feasible alternative.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has long opposed the creation of a homeland for Palestinians. âThe era of the Palestinian state is over,â he said.
The former incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed. It is widely shared by a significant proportion of the Israeli population.
However, it should be noted that an almost equal percentage of the Israeli public, media sections and prominent Jewish figures and commentators adamantly stick to a contrasting argument.
They stubbornly maintain a permanent peace that can only be achieved when Israelis and Palestinians each have a country they can call their own.
The main obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian homeland is the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and more recently in East Jerusalem.
The scale of this state-funded construction of houses for Israeli settlers – in traditional Arab areas – has been such that the possibility of an independent Palestinian state seems increasingly remote. There is simply not enough land to go around.
On the Palestinian side, there are other mitigating issues such as the virus of corruption coupled with the rivalry between more moderate Fatah and extremist Hamas.
The Israeli authorities also rightly point out that there are many countries where human rights are a central issue, but which attract a tiny amount of criticism directed at Israel.
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was one of those who took Rooney to task. However, he did not recognize any serious shortcomings on the Israeli side, such as opposition to a two-state solution or to settlement building.
Many Irish wish Israel the best. They recognize the traumatic history of the Jewish people and support the idea that they should live in the promised land of the Bible.
But because of Ireland’s historical memory of dispossession, they also identify strongly with the plight of the Palestinians and their lack of political and civil rights.
A sign of support from afar from an Irish novelist is an irritant to the Israeli authorities and a slight glimmer of consolation to the Palestinians.
In many ways, the latter are now an abandoned people. Pessimists argue that the creation of “facts on the ground” sealed their fate. They may have little hope for the future.
Anyone who visits Jerusalem or Jenin, Hebron or Nablus will see the anguished belly of an otherwise vibrant country. We see it in the furtive half-gaze of the vanquished.
All around, the evidence is clear: there are the winners and there are the vanquished.