By Yousef M. Aljamal – Gaza, Palestine
For the 7th week in row, the Center for Political and Development Studies, (CPDS) – a Gaza based think-tank – held a lecture via Skype with Palestinian and international activists, aiming at drawing attention to crucial issues related to Palestine. Palestinians have been misrepresented and defamed in the world as a result of PR campaigns unleashed by well-financed pro-Israeli groups, and CPDS, like other groups attempt to bring a more balanced view on the issue.
Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian-American journalist, the founder and editor of the Palestine Chronicle, a well-regarded Palestinian website in the US, and the author of three books including his last My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story talked to CPDS on Sunday, February 19, on ‘How to Establish a Palestinian Narrative’, with the presence of Palestinian activists, academics and politicians.
"We have the truth on our side – a clear and consistent Palestinian discourse that articulates everything regarding the conflict from a collective Palestinian point of view. By this, I don’t mean the factional narratives of Hamas, Fateh, or PFLP. I mean the view that represents the values, objectives and principles of the vast majority of Palestinians everywhere regardless of ideology and faction", Baroud said.
The International Community played a major role in the Palestinian cause, marked with the known, but unimplemented 194 UN Resolution, calling for the return of the forcibly displaced refugees to their homeland. The vulnerable refugees have not made it home since then, yet their number grew, hitting 6 million; scattered across the globe. The calls to grant Palestinians self-determination, repeatedly advocated by various UN resolutions remain ink on paper.
"This is important because we constantly try to engage the international community, particularly, civil society groups around the world. They are very important to our cause. The more we engage civil society, using the language they understand, the better we promote our just cause. Our history is clear, and we must narrate it with equal clarity, so that people can relate to it,” he continued.
Some experts believe that the growing unity between Fatah and Hamas could signal a turning point for the so-called ‘peace process’. US brokered talks between Palestinians and Israelis have had no considerable results. The promises of establishing a ‘viable and independent Palestinian state’, made by the American administrations since 1993 didn’t put an end to the Israeli occupation. But what it did achieve was dividing Palestinians into two camps, thus harming the Palestinian National Movement.
"Factionalism forced some of us to borrow history of other nations to supplant the gaps created by our infighting, thus the heavy borrowing from other anti-colonial struggles. While history by extension has its own uses, our authentic history was neglected and overlooked".
"But Palestinian historians,” Baroud said, “should be keenly interested in conveying the collective history of refugee camps – Nusirat refugee camp, Shejaeaa’ neighborhood and Jabalia. “This is how we resist national fragmentation, factional and ideology-based agendas", he noted.
A movement of young writers and bloggers emerged in Gaza after the 2008-2009 massacre that claimed the lives of over 1400 Palestinians, primarily civilians. Youth started to look for alternatives to convey their message to the world, using alternative media and social networks.
"To get the Palestinian narrative heard, we have to possess clarity of message and an equally clear set of objectives. Our objectives must be based on humanistic values. That message must emerge from Gaza and the West Bank; from Palestine itself", Baroud stressed.
The PA has controlled the narrative of the Palestinian people for the past two decades. A real and credible election should be held to represent Palestinians worldwide.
"I am sorry to say that the behavior of PA officials can be extremely embarrassing. They are constantly touring from London to Washington. They speak like people who are removed from the everydayness of ordinary Palestinians. They speak a language of power, funds and ‘peace process’. As if Palestine is a charity or a bank account that needs to be fed with endless cash. That is not the language of people with a national project. Palestinians didn’t sacrifice for over 63 years for this", he added.
Khader Anan, a young Palestinian leader in an Israeli prison, captured the attention of media and people across the globe, entering his 65th day of striking for being ‘administratively’ detained with no charge. Palestinian activists used Twitter to bring the international community’s attention to his cause, tweeting about him and making his name and struggle a trend.
Baroud continued, "Khader Adnan is simply seeking freedom. He brought the attention of the world to the Palestinian cause more than anyone else. We need to raise questions; such as, how can we convey our message to the world? What message do we need to send out? This is our historical opportunity to step forward. We need to think strategically about how to use the world’s solidarity to serve the Palestinian cause. Otherwise, we will lose ground".
"Gaza and the West Bank have been politically and geographically fragmented by Israel. This has resulted in intellectual fragmentation. This is risky. To solve this problem, you Palestinians on the ground need to be the source. You need to be clear and demanding. The starting point is Gaza. You need to find a way to look beyond factionalism and ideological affiliations. You must think deeply about taking part in that discourse. You need to be clear and very strong. You are the origin and source. Tell all that Palestine is not just a clearing-house of NGOs. Palestine is the people who are suffering under the siege", he ended.
CPDS aims at bringing attention to the way the world thinks about Palestine and telling it how Palestinians perceive their cause. This lecture is one in a series that The Center held recently to help the Palestinian people improve their presence in the global political arena.
-Yousef M. Aljamal works with the Center for Political Development Studies (CPDS) – a Gaza based non-profit organization that aims at having Palestine represented "in the tongues of its own people". CPDS also works to enhance Palestine’s presence in world forums and international organizations.