THE Palestinians who would pursue a moderate course under the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza today face almost impossible odds. Pressures exist at every level of society from both Arab and Jew. The mayor of a city looks back to better times when Jordan administered the territory. Now he must work under a confusing pattern of Jordanian, former mandate, and Israeli laws, supplemented by more than a thousand military administration orders issued arbitrarily and not always announced. The territory of his administration is increasingly constricted by security measures and the expansion of Jewish settlements.
With the strikes, shop closings, and unemployment resulting from the uprising, his tax revenues decline and the flow of funds from outside Israel is more and more restricted by Israeli policy. To move closer to the Israelis is to risk retribution from Arab extremists; to show more sympathy for the Palestinian cause is to risk Israeli action. No mayor in the West Bank and Gaza today can forget other Palestinian administrators who have been killed, maimed, and deported.
The dean of an Arab university faces constantly the pressures of activist students, many of them in the vanguard of the uprising, on the one hand, and the deep suspicion of Israeli officials toward his institution on the other. He endures arbitrary closings and works to establish student behavior that will avoid such closings. The university is, despite his efforts, closed by Israeli military authorities ``in anticipation of trouble.''
The Palestinian intellectuals who would speak out, either in the territories or abroad, on behalf of Palestinian rights are subject to Israeli travel restrictions if they speak out too strongly and to threats from more extreme Palestinian elements if they do not.
For the ordinary Palestinian, harassment and intimidation are a daily occurrence. The shopkeeper is threatened by leaders of the uprising if his shop stays open during a declared strike and by Israeli soldiers if it does not. Those in the camps face the prospect of curfews and camp closings. In at least one camp, before the recent Muslim holiday of Id-el-Fitr that ends the month of fasting, residents were confined to their houses for more than a week and could not go out for food for the traditional feast.
West Bank and Gaza residents are subject to frequent road checks, inspection of passes, and humiliation. Arrest and detention without judicial process is common. A 17-year-old boy is arrested and held for four months on the word of a 13-year-old, arrested for throwing stones at soldiers and asked to name others in the group. Presented with a list of names, he picked one arbitrarily; later he admitted he did not know the accused boy.
The world is aware of the Israeli pattern of bulldozing houses and orchards of Arabs believed involved in attacks on Israelis. The Palestinian also faces the constant threat of those who would take his land, attack Arab houses, destroy property, and beat the occupants. In a recent case, a shepherd was shot because he moved his flock too near a Jewish settlement.
For the Palestinian, even the search for a livelihood faces intimidation. Beyond farming and retail trade, most of the jobs offered are by Israeli companies and institutions. Most of them are menial, low-paying jobs, with little chance for advancement. The Palestinian who would accept a position in the Israeli administration is subject to threats from his own community.
In addition to participating in and encouraging the six-month-old uprising, the Palestinians have responded by creating their own infrastructure of committees to establish schools, channels for welfare assistance, food supply, and security. Israelis regard these with suspicion; they see in these committees a pattern not unlike that of the Jewish Agency in Palestine before Israeli independence.
Israel justifies many of the measures on the grounds that order must be established. Mixed in with that motive, however, are elements of hate for the Arab, deep concern over Israeli security, and, among the extremists, the desire to drive the Arab out of the land west of the Jordan.
To the credit of Israel, there are many who speak out against such measures, who oppose the use of the Army in the occupied territories, and who take risks to shelter and defend the Arab. Loyal Israelis, they see clearly that the continuation of such measures in the territories can only aid the extremists on both sides - to the detriment of Israel's security and the peace in the region.
David D. Newsom, director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, has just returned from a visit to Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Egypt.