Palestine In Search Of Unity

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Palestinians gather at al-Aqsa Mosque compound in June 2018 (AFP)

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations has just published a strategic assessment of the future of al-Aqsa Mosque in light of Trump’s deal and ongoing Israeli measures. The most hopeful scenario the study projects involves a comprehensive popular confrontation with Israeli forces driven by certain “difficult conditions” (italics mine):

An outbreak of popular action at a spontaneous favorable moment, whereby the hardest conditions in the above scenario could enhance this trend [a stable second term for Trump, the stability of the Israeli government, the lack of wide popular action, the KSA (Saudi Arabia) publicly joining the the UAE in detente with Israel, a second wave of the pandemic] . To this could be added if [the condition that] a void in the PA leadership occurs with the death of Mahmud ‘Abbas.

The hoped-for outcome of this scenario is described as follows:

A limited or comprehensive retreat of the Israelis in al-Aqsa, and the West Bank in general, depending on the severity, breadth and duration of the act. The involvement of Palestinians in the 1948 occupied territories and the Gaza Strip in this confrontation.

In other words, things have to get worse before they get better, and better (a limited or comprehensive retreat by Israel from Al-Aqsa according to the scenario) is contingent partly on a “leadership void” in the form of the demise of Mahmoud Abbas that would then allow a unified popular front to confront and exert pressure on Israel.

Regarding the difficulties Palestinians face in coming together while the current make-up and mindset of the Palestinian Authority is in place, Hani Al Masri, Director of Masarat: The Palestinian Center for Policy Research & Strategic Studies, commented today on the news that Abbas has finally agreed (without setting a date) to meet with the secretary generals of all Palestinian political parties.

Abbas’ announcement, as Masri explains, is in response to demands that he convene a meeting of the temporary committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), reactivated with wide-ranging powers by the Cairo Agreement in May 2011, which has convened only once since.

This committee was put in place until such time when a unified national council with an executive central committee emerged from it with the participation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In his comments, Hani Al Masri throws cold water on Abbas’ tentative initiative explaining that expectations from any such meeting — if held at all — would be low, based on previous experiences and the existing division between Fateh and Hamas. He goes on to give an incisive analysis of why attempts to bridge the divide have so far been intractable and concludes:

Without a unified national program, true partnership, and a ready will to pay the price, it is neither useful nor sufficient to hold meetings, agreements or festivals, while the division [between Hamas and Fateh] continues and deepens. In response to the imperative of unity, the Palestinian people, their vanguards, and their elites should not remain hostage to these two parties. Rather, it is hoped that the people will pressure them and impose the will of the people on them.

In a session on the second day of Masarat Center’s ninth annual conference, titled “Palestine after Trump’s vision: What’s to be done?”, Ayman Odeh, member of the Knesset and head of the Joint List alliance, speaking from Haifa, engages in conversation with Nadim Rouhana, the Founder and General Director of Mada al-Carmel, Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, and a zoom audience.

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Participating in Masarat’s ninth annual conference — Left: Ayman Odeh, member of the Knesset and head of the Joint List alliance. Right: Nadim Rouhana, professor of International Negotiation and Conflict Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Founder and General Director of Mada al-Carmel, Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa

Odeh, too, speaks about the imperative of unity and specifically the necessity of involving ’48 Palestinians (i.e. Palestinian citizens of Israel) in an all-inclusive organic Palestinian national political program. Following is the gist of what he says and the video recording of the zoom session:

When I say we are one nation, I don’t mean this just in the historical sense; in the immediate sense too we are the product of one struggle. But whether the proposed solution is two states or one state, it is clear we have been negligent in promoting the commonality of our national identity and culture. I have often called for a single strategic political framework to embrace all Palestinians.

That does not mean a framework to replace the PLO; rather it means a framework that extends Palestinian national identity beyond the conflict and the symbols of the Palestinian Authority to those who are not present within the circle of Israeli occupation. Collective representation is missing in the PLO now and was even missing in the PLO’s historical founding. I do not mean that ’48 Palestinians (or Jordanian Palestinians for that matter) should be represented in the PLO. What I mean is that the PLO is missing a collective functional framework that specifies and integrates the roles each Palestinian group could play.

It beggars belief that our relationship in 2020 with the PLO has so far been in the form of unprompted visits now and then by Abu Mazen, or previously by Abu Ammar — casual invitations to express a greeting as a faction at a conference every four years or so. We need to build an organic all-inclusive relationship and define both roles.

Therefore I am not speaking of our becoming members of the PLO or National Council. Such a burden is beyond our ability to carry. The Council may decide to embrace armed struggle or unarmed struggle against Israel, for example. We can’t deal with this from inside Israel but at least there should be an integration of functions.

ALSO SEE (friendly links):

In Saeb Erekat, ‘There Is No Life In The One You’re Calling’ لا حياة لمن تنادي
And: Now What? The Million Dollar Question Before the Palestinian Authority

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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Palestinian and righteously angry

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