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Palestinian narratives must be protected from PA exploitation

Newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 10 March, 2019 [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images]
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 10 March 2019 [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images]

Official Palestinian media are playing a major role in disseminating Palestinian narratives, according to Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, that is. Departing from the fact that the Palestinian Authority and its media still portray Israel’s colonisation as a mere “conflict”, there is a discrepancy between the people’s concept of Palestinian narratives and the official choice of how such narratives should be presented.

“When the Palestinian narrative reaches the world,” Shtayyeh commented, “it helps a lot in the political struggle and the diplomatic effort of the Palestinian leadership.” The international community, however, has proved its disinterest in Palestinian narratives through its failure to uphold the Palestinian struggle, a situation to which the PA is not averse as it enhances its diplomatic stagnation and obsession with the two-state compromise.

How can the PA claim that its media outlets are promoting Palestinian narratives when the politics exclude core issues such as the Palestinian right of return and the liberation of historic Palestine? The PA has manipulated such narratives to promote international diplomacy and its own status. PA media promote narratives that are woven upon external constructs of Palestinian narratives which normalise Israel’s colonisation and finds no contradiction in endorsing 1967 as the departure point for the Palestinian struggle and politics.

At a time when the US is seeking to eliminate Palestinians and their claims to their narratives and land, Shtayyeh has been grovelling for Americans to “speak out in favour of the two-state solution based on international resolutions and agreements.” In February, PA Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maliki spoke of the “immediate need to salvage the two-state solution.”

READ: The PA’s ‘rights’ rhetoric normalises US-Israel violence against Palestinians

Meanwhile the Palestinian people are little more than convenient appendages for the PA. The people should be protagonists of their own narratives, though, as opposed to being portrayed as a backdrop to the politics that have ravaged their land.

Palestinian narratives actually possess the potential for unity. The PA has not only missed many opportunities to focus on this aspect, but it has also exploited narratives for commemoration, such as the 1948 Nakba, or else attempted to juxtapose one Palestinian struggle against the other, such as the preference given to Khan Al-Ahmar over the Great March of Return protests. In these examples, there is one common factor: the perpetual creation of refugees and remembrance of dispossession. Yet PA media misrepresented these narratives according to their relevance within the international community, the result being an overall disregard for the Palestinian refugee narrative despite the fact that there is no Palestinian narrative without the refugees.

Protesters gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London, in support of Gaza's anniversary march of the 'Great March of Return', in London, UK on March 30, 2018 [Palestinian Forum in Britain]

Protesters gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London, in support of Gaza’s anniversary march of the ‘Great March of Return’, in London, UK on March 30, 2018 [Palestinian Forum in Britain]

Hence, it is pertinent to ask which narratives are being disseminated on PA media: the Palestinian people’s narratives, or the PA’s selective, internationally-accepted fragments that are used to prevent Palestinians from reclaiming their rights to land and memory?

READ: The PA’s support for international agendas shuns the Palestinian right of return

Regardless of Shtayyeh’s claims, Palestinian narratives are not subservient or beholden to the PA’s political agenda. They are a collective testimony of the Palestinian experience before and after the dispossession of 1948. The PA speaks of an ongoing Nakba on ceremonial occasions, yet negates the perpetual dispossession of Palestinians and fails to connect the historical trauma with the current displacement.

The PA’s politics have confirmed relentlessly the acceptance of international restrictions on what the Palestinian narrative should constitute. Its official media, of course, will not embark upon an alternative course of action. If the PA has now deemed it necessary to turn to Palestinian narratives to endorse its own scheming with the international community, it is running out of options for its own survival. More than ever, Palestinian narratives must be promoted, yet must also be protected from the exploitation of which the PA has proved it is capable.

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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