PRINCETON, N.J. — Almost as regrettable as the loss of life during the recent violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank has been the Israeli government's failure to acknowledge the nature of its predicament. Instead of confronting its fundamental dilemma, Israel is merely asserting, in tones of bluster, that resistance will disappear if the outside world just keeps quiet while Israel's army applies the iron fist even more harshly.
But no one should expect the Palestinians to sit by as their military overlords progressively preempt their remaining lands with Israeli settlements. Since 1967, Israel has, in violation of the Geneva Convention, seized more than 53% of West Bank land from 800,000 Palestinian inhabitants for the benefit of 50,000 Jewish settlers--6% of the population.
In the Gaza Strip it has seized one-third of the land for 1,300 Jewish settlers--compressing the 400,000 Palestinian inhabitants into a fetid slum with a population density approaching that of Calcutta. At the same time, Israel has prevented Palestinian residents from efficiently cultivating their dwindling remnants of agricultural acreage, while making them dependent on Israel to do low-wage menial jobs shunned by Israelis.
Since the West Bank and Gaza Strip were first overrun by Israel's army in 1967, a Palestinian generation has grown up under the domination of occupation troops. Because three out of four Gazans are under the age of 25, they have never tasted self-rule and increasingly despair of doing so. It was inevitable that their bitterness would ultimately take the form of reckless resistance. In this new outbreak, the nearly 800,000 Palestinians in Israel proper have for the first time joined in by calling a paralyzing strike--signaling the Israeli government they are tired of being treated as second-class citizens.