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The crisis of the Palestinian national project

February 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Negotiations in Palestine have reached an impasse. This is due to the fact that there are currently two authorities fighting over who should hold the key to our people’s open-air prison cell. Also contributing to this impasse is the declining support for Palestine in neighbouring Arab countries – following the Egyptian court’s recent designation of the Al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation, for example, relations between authorities in Gaza and Egypt are tense. The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza are both suffering from a financial crisis; there is a state of frustration amid the Palestinian public and the national Arab movement is exhausted. The most it can offer is out-of-date mantras that have become so oft-repeated as to be meaningless. The PA and Hamas conferences thus represent battlefields for numerous trends towards Arab nationalism, although the commitment of both movements to Arab, rather than Palestinian nationalism, has resulted in frustrating the Arab masses.

We are also facing a lack of agreement amongst national and left-wing forces regarding how to instigate a national programme that unites everyone at the same time as it responds to US pressure on the PA to reach a settlement with Israel. We have distracted ourselves with the possibility of gaining recognition of this state, or prospective state, that still has not been established, and considering this a Palestinian victory despite its failure. However, those promoting and celebrating the statehood bid know in their hearts that such recognition does not mean anything on the ground. Instead, such celebration only serves to mask the crisis of the Palestinian national project and its lack of prospects. The only Palestinian leader who dared to address the core of this issue and declare the truth of the Palestinian situation is Dr George Habash when he raised the question: “Why were we defeated?” He tried very hard throughout his life to answer this critical question.

It is also very important to stress the organic link between the Palestinian national project and its Arab counterpart; they cannot be conceived separately. While it may be true that there is a specific Palestinian project, on the other hand it is important that both projects support one another. When addressing the reasons for this crisis, it is all too easy to adopt the “conspiracy theory” stance and lay the blame at the feet of everyone but the Palestinians themselves – but this is only part of the issue. The more prominent part is the role of subjective factors, such as the relevance of the Palestinian and Arab past. The following questions are legitimate in this regard:

Don’t we need a shake-up (I will not say an uprising or a revolution, even though that it was we need) of current Palestinian factions and their relations with Arab forces? Don’t these forces need to reconsider their programmes and their responses to the challenges of reality? Don’t they need new mechanisms based on what they have learned from their mistakes on the national and regional levels? Don’t they need political programmes based on sound analysis of the reality on the ground? Don’t they need a new political discourse; especially since the Palestinian and Arab populations are prepared for action? It is so easy to blame others; and so hard to recognise one’s own mistakes and shortcomings in such matters.

In addition to this, in the Palestinian arena, we are still suffering from a lack of consensus regarding specific demands, such as whether or not the 1967 borders should be re-instated or amended. Moreover, we lack a suitable reference-point for the Palestinian struggle in light of the disablement of the PLO. However, inflexibility in the national liberation phase should stem from the need for the national project to dominate, not a specific party, since partisanship is the virus we have been suffering from since the formation of the PLO.

We are still suffering from the catastrophic results of the Oslo Accords. We are still suffering from the narrow-mindedness of those who believe in a strategy reliant on diplomatic negotiations as the sole option to restore Palestinian national rights; despite the fact that negotiations have proved unsuccessful. Some people do not realise and do not want to realise this, and unfortunately they are clinging to this as a means of disproving their helplessness.  They continue their wrongdoings and fantastical perceptions of reality and rely on mirages.

Whenever a writer or intellectual assesses the situation from their point of view, they do not, and will never, have the right to claim they possess a magical solution for the dilemmas of reality; this will remain in the hands of the decision-makers and committees able to transform decisions into practical work. Therefore, the solutions are always subjected to the collective vision. The following are the most important factors in finding a solution:

First, we must acknowledge the crisis and dynamically interact with daily developments. We must also analyse the situation by looking to the future instead of confirming positions from past incidents; and we must be innovative in finding new mechanisms and methods of practical struggle. Other factors include: knowing the enemy and their political variables, their contradictions, the limits of their settlement, factors of strength and their weaknesses. Ultimately, we must reach collective formulas for struggle, mass influence, and its impact on the enemy, and before all of this, we must reach a strategy for the struggle.

In the 1960s, under the banner of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, 22 Vietnamese groups and parties (including Catholic and Protestant groups and the Communist Party) joined forces and fought together. After their liberation, during the national democratic liberation phase, they separated and their contradictions emerged, after which the Vietnamese people judged these parties by means of voting; this is what is meant by democracy. I understand that the Palestinian situation and struggle is different than any other experience, and that the enemy we are facing is extraordinary, but our distinction must motivate us ten-fold to enhance our collective struggle and common denominators, and not remain in the same situation we are in at the moment.

Yes, there is a crisis of the Palestinian national project; a crisis of structure, programme, formulations, political discourse, approach, and action, among other things. But first and foremost, it is a crisis of confidence.

Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 18 February, 2015.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.