Palestine need not be lost cause

Posted by ALAN HART | ARAB NEWS | Feb 1, 2011 00:57

The most sickening (I mean truly vomit inducing) thing about the Al Jazeera revelations, the so-called Palestine Papers, is not what they confirm about the quisling status of the impotent and corrupt Palestine Authority.

Nor is it what they confirm about the Israeli leadership’s complete lack of interest in peace on terms other than those which require the Palestinians to surrender – to abandon their struggle for even an acceptable minimum amount of justice. What then is the most sickening thing?

By offering or at least indicating that it was prepared to offer such huge concessions, the PA leadership encouraged Israel’s political and military leaders in their belief that if only they are intransigent, repressive and brutal enough for long enough, they can break the will of the Palestinians to continue their struggle and force them to accept a handful of crumbs from Zionism’s table.

That’s the really bad news. The good news is that if the Palestinians – the occupied and oppressed and those in the diaspora – can now put their act together, they could create a new situation to their advantage.

For the past two years I have been defining in articles and speeches what I think putting their act together means, or should mean.

For example, in a post on 15 September last year with the headline Does the Palestinian diaspora care enough to become engaged? I asked this question.What can the Palestinians do to help themselves? My answer (first put forward more than two years ago) was the following.

They should wind-up (close down) the discredited PA and put policy making and implementation back into the hands of the Palestine National Council (PNC), which is supposed to be (it once was) the highest and most supreme Palestinian decision-making body. To become relevant again it would have to be reconstructed and re-invigorated by elections to it in every place where there are Palestinians – the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza concentration camp and the diaspora.

The fact that the PA is impotent, corrupt and discredited was reason enough, I went on to say, for it to be put out of its misery, but there was more to it.

In their claim for justice, I wrote, the Palestinians have 100% of right, legal and moral, on their side (whereas the Israelis have 99% of the might, conventional and nuclear, on their side). If this claim was properly presented and pressed by a credible Palestinian leadership, by definition a democratically elected leadership duly authorized to represent the views of all Palestinians, it would be more difficult for the governments of the major powers, the one in Washington DC especially, to go on refusing to use the leverage they have to end Israel’s occupation of Arab land grabbed in the Zionist state’s 1967 war of aggression. (Not self defense as Zionism asserted and succeeded in getting most people in the Western world to believe).

In that context and the light of Al Jazeera’s revelations, the first main message of a reconstructed and re-invigorated PNC, addressed to the Israelis but also for the attention of the governments of the world, would be something like this.

“You have demonstrated that you can make puppets of some of our leaders you decided not to assassinate, but you will never break the will of the Palestinian people. In the name of this people we tell you now that we will never accept anything less than a complete end to Israel’s 1967 occupation, as required by UN Security Council resolutions and international law.”

To demonstrate that it was prepared to play its part in addressing and hopefully removing one of the main fears Israel’s leaders have installed in the minds of the Jewish citizens of the Zionist state, (the fear being that the Palestinian right of return means the destruction by demographic and therefore peaceful means of a Jewish majority Israel), a restructured and re-invigorated PNC could also say that in the event of an end to Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state, an authentic Palestinian leadership would reluctantly accept (as Arafat and his senior leadership colleagues did behind closed doors) that the right of return would have to be limited to the territory of the Palestinian state, with compensation for those who wished to return and for whom there was no space.

Yes, I know, that’s an unthinkable concession to the reality of Israel’s existence for some and perhaps many dispossessed Palestinians at present, but it does not necessarily have to be the end of the right of return story. Why not? Because it’s not impossible that after a generation (perhaps two) of living side by side in peace with the Palestinians in a mini state of their own, many Israeli Jews would conclude, or at least be open to the idea, that there should be one democratic state for all, possibly in a confederation with Jordan, with equal political and human rights for all. In that event the right of return would be an issue that could be re-visited.

A first statement by a restructured and re-invigorated PNC could also say that in its view the best solution to the problem of Jerusalem is for it to be an open, undivided city and the capital of two states.

If I was drafting a first statement for a new PNC, I would also have it address head-on one of Zionism’s most absurd propaganda claims – the assertion that a Palestinian mini state would pose a threat to Israel’s existence. Even an armed Palestinian state neither would nor could. Why was explained to me many years ago by Arafat. When I raised with him the Israeli assertion, he began his answer with a question. “Do you really think we Palestinians are that stupid?” He went on to say that if a Palestinian mini state initiated any military or violent action against Israel, or even if it failed to prevent a terrorist attack on Israel by Palestinian dissidents from within its own borders, Israel would retaliate massively, perhaps even to the point of crushing the Palestinian state out of existence. Arafat’s main point was that after so many years of struggle and sacrifice to get a mini state, the Palestinians would not be stupid enough to give Israel’s leaders a pretext to take it away from them and close the Palestine file for ever.

It seems to me that the policy guidelines for a new and credible Palestinian leadership answerable to a reconstructed and re-invigorated PNC are, or ought to be, clear. There is absolutely no point in seeking to negotiate with insufferably self-righteous and deluded Israeli leaders who are not remotely interested in peace on terms the vast majority of Palestinians (and also most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere) could accept.

One explanation of why there is no point in negotiating with Israel’s leaders is provided my Jewish friend, Professor Moshe Machover (with whom I do not always agree). Born in Tel Aviv, he started out in Israel politics on the Left and then gave up, moving to academia in London in 1968, where still today he is a champion of the need for international resistance to Zionist colonization. In an article for The Cambridge Student in December last year, he wrote this:

“Israeli leaders realized they could exploit the situation of the PLO leaders and, by dangling in front of them vague political promises as well as granting them some real personal privileges, get them to serve, in effect, as proxies for Israel in controlling and suppressing the Palestinian masses.

“At that point, Israel departed from its previous policy of not talking to the PLO. Instead, it embarked on a strategy of an endless so-called ‘peace process’. This is how it goes. At each stage, Israel demands new concessions from the Palestinian side. If the latter balks at making these concessions in full, Israel breaks off the talks and blames the Palestinians for being extreme and intransigent. If the Palestinians accept, then Israel, making few if any actual concessions, finds some other excuse to prolong the process. A favourite Israeli ploy is to strike at Palestinian targets, for example assassinating leaders it describes as ‘terrorists’. If some Palestinian group responds by killing Israelis, then Israel can break off the ‘peace process’ and blame the Palestinians. Meantime Israeli colonization of the occupied territory proceeds at full steam, thus creating new facts on the ground. Next time the negotiations resume, the concessions made by the PLO at the previous round are taken as the new starting point, and Israel demands fresh concessions. And so it goes.”

Even more so in the light of Al Jazeera’s revelations, it follows, or so I believe, that the policy of a new and credible Palestinian leadership should concentrate on educating and mobilizing the citizens of nations, the Western nations most of all and America in particular, to press their governments to do whatever is necessary to end Israel’s occupation. A real commitment to do so by the governments of the major powers led by the U.S. is the absolute prerequisite for a real peace process.

The main case to be made in such a Palestinian policy thrust is that it’s not in anybody’s best interests, including those of the Jews of the world and Israel, that the Zionist state be allowed to go on defying international law and pouring petrol on the fire of Islamic extremism.

The days of there being one rule for the behaviour of all nations except Israel and another rule exclusively for Israel must be ended.

There are only two ways to run the world. One is in accordance with the rule of law. The other is jungle law. Unless contained, the nuclear-armed Zionist monster could take us all back to the jungle.

• As I was bringing this article to a close I received as many others did a message from Anna Baltzer, the Jewish-American campaigner for Palestinian human rights. It said in part that the revelations in the Palestine Papers have “exposed the utter futility of US-brokered peace talks. I am more convinced than ever that the solution lies with listening to the Palestinian people themselves, civil society, and their call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law and respects Palestinians’ human rights.”

So am I, dear Anna, but if the Palestinian people are to be heard to good effect, they must be represented by a credible leadership answerable to a reconstructed and re-invigorated PNC.

— Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East.

Palestine need not be lost cause – Arab News.

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