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Is there anything Palestinians can do? (Part 1)

Palestinian protestors burn a poster with a picture of US President Donald Trump during a demonstration against the deal of century, in the West Bank city of Hebron, 22 February 2019 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apa Images]
Palestinian protesters burn a poster with a picture of US President Donald Trump during a demonstration against the deal of century, in the West Bank city of Hebron, 22 February 2019 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apa Images]

Do the Palestinians have any “cards” they could play that would allow them to turn the table on the American-Israeli project, falsely named the “deal of the century”? What are these cards and what are the advantages and consequences of playing them?

This question is present in every interview with any Palestinian official or intellectual. It is a question that occupies the minds of the Palestinians and takes over their hearts and emotions amid a deep sense of being lost. This is reminiscent of their situation between 1948 and 1965, with the fundamental difference in the international circumstances surrounding their national cause. That era was the era in which Arab and international national liberation movements were emerging, and these carried the new-born Palestinian national movement on its wings. Today, the Arab situation seems to be in its most turbulent and conceding state, and the joint camp is taking its last breath in its last strongholds in the international arena.

The answer to the opening question of this article is often vague and confused. It does not satisfy the Palestinians and allow them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It does not cause a surge of adrenaline in the veins of their adversaries and enemies. Discussions and rhetoric replace scientific and practical thinking, while the compass direction is lost amid empty slogans, certainty and faith which bet the present on the unknown future. It also links the national agenda to “historic imperatives”, both in its faith-religious dimension and in its leftist-nationalist dimension.

Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to the question. I fully believe that finding the answer to this question lies in redefining the Palestinian national project. Is it still possible to reduce it to return, self-determination, and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital? We can also find the answer by studying how sustainable this is after everything Israel and its allies have imposed on the ground. Can we build national consensus on a new definition of this project? What are the elements and components of this project? What do we have to do in all existing frameworks, structures and institutions? What will serve our new project and what will stand in its way? What forms, priorities and instruments of struggle should the Palestinian people resort to and use in the next phase of their struggle for freedom, independence and self-determination?

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Some will say: Today we must achieve Palestinian reconciliation immediately and without delay. However, the more we call for reconciliation, the more fragmented the Palestinian situation becomes. Look how the virus of national division has spread to single factions and to the ranks of the PLO. Look how it killed the Joint List. The deterioration and fragmentation of the Palestinian situation should not prevent us from continuing the call for ending the division and restoring unity, but without “naivety” in our assessments and reliance.

Others may say: We need peaceful popular resistance, and we can cite many pioneering examples of peaceful popular resistance actions in this regard. This includes the Great Return Marches and the successive uprisings for Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem. However, we must look closely at the significance and indications of the negotiations that took place alongside the return marches, which did not include “return” on their agenda. Instead, they just discussed a truce that prevents the Gaza Strip from exploding and prevents the fall of the de facto authority in the besieged and starved Gaza Strip. Once again, this does not mean we should stop demanding raising the price of the occupation and launching a peaceful popular resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are tasks present on the agenda during all phases of the Palestinian struggle, but we must think about things in a context other than wanting to absolve ourselves or pretending to know the direction of the compass and the path to salvation.

A third group may say: We need to revive the PLO, develop it, activate it, and resume its roles and links to the Palestinian communities across the world. I remember that this slogan was the focus of our internal struggles before and after leaving Beirut. Since then, the PLO’s situation only deteriorated instead of improving, while the national movement aged and grew older instead of becoming younger and more active. Furthermore, the gaps between the only legitimate national representative and its people grew, until the PA was established and the son ate its mother. This led to two generations of refugees (and even those in the country) remaining outside the framework of the PLO and its popular organisations. Some who care about the fate of the Palestinian cause have begun thinking about the need to launch a Palestinian Agency similar to the Jewish Agency for Israel. Meanwhile, others with narrow and close-minded visions are striving to create alternative and parallel frameworks, as part of a despicable and hateful factional conflict. The call for reviving the PLO requires discussion and analysis regarding its seriousness and chances of success, as well as its potential and likely roles.

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A fourth group may say: The escape, or one of the escapes, is the national and international boycott movement. This may be the source of the brightest light in the dark Palestinian night. However, we must look into the repercussions of the Arab and Muslim fragmentation, as well their unprecedented “scrambling” to normalise relations with Israel and gain its support. By doing so, we would see that this movement is also facing a fundamental threat, especially in light of the new American and European right-wing approaches, which seek to create artificial symmetry between the “criticism of Israel” and the call for boycotting it on the one hand, and anti-Semitism and BDS on the other. The BDS movement must continue and must be supported given the fact that it is a long-term strategy to restore matters to the way they were and rebuild and promote the Palestinian narrative. Till tomorrow, then…

Read part 2 here

This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 9 April 2019

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

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