Next Step: Bring the Palestine National Council Back to Life

The Palestinian National Council, Nov 15, 1988.

By Alan Hart

The headline over my last post on 29 December was For the occupied and oppressed Palestinians UN means Useless Nations. The following day the Security Council itself confirmed my analysis by refusing to consider a resolution submitted on behalf of the Palestinians calling for an end to Israeli occupation within three years. Lawyer John V Whitbeck then hit the nail on the head with the statement that the Security Council had demonstrated that “it is as much of a whorehouse as the U.S. Congress.” In this post I am going to suggest what I think must now happen if Palestine is not to become a lost cause.

My starting point is that the Palestinians have nothing concrete to gain from seeking to advance their cause through the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even IF it did determine that Israel (as well as Hamas for “balance”) had a case to answer for war and other crimes, the Zionist state’s leaders would ignore the court’s findings and the U.S. would prevent action to call and hold Israel to account.

Although they have the right in international law to resort to force to resist occupation, the Palestinians also have nothing to gain and much more to lose from violence. Palestinian violence on a significant scale would give Israel’s leaders the pretext to speed up their ethnic cleansing program and even, perhaps, to go for a final ethnic cleansing.

So what must happen if the dynamics of the conflict are to be changed to give the Palestinians real hope that their almost super human steadfastness, their refusal to surrender on Zionism’s terms, will deliver them an acceptable amount of justice?

The assumption on which my answer is based is that only the major powers have the leverage to cause Israel’s leaders to end their defiance of international law and become serious about peace on terms the Palestinians could accept.

The problem is that governments are not going to use this leverage unless and until they are PUSHED to do so by public opinion – by manifestations of real democracy (citizen concern and care) in action.

In America for example, and as I put it in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, nothing is going to change unless and until members of Congress are more frightened of offending their voters than they are of offending the Zionist lobby and its allies.

According to a poll for the Brookings Institution last November, U.S. public opinion is shifting. When asked for their preferred solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, 34% of those Americans polled said their government should push for one state with equal citizenship. That was up from 24% the previous year.

Also worthy of note is that among those who support a two state solution, 66% said they would support one state if two states were not possible.

The key question is this.

What can be done to give greater and unstoppable momentum to the pushing process underway in America and Europe to cause governments to use the leverage they have to end Israel’s defiance of international law and oppression of the Palestinians?

In my view what is needed most of all is the dissolution of the Palestine Authority and handing back to Israel complete responsibility and accountability for occupation.

This would impose significant economic, security and other burdens on Israel and its leaders would respond in the only way they know how – with more and more brutal repression of the occupied Palestinians. Yes, that would mean more suffering of all kinds for them but it would also an add fuel to the slow burning, global fire of anti-Israelism.

In other words, the more an arrogant, sickenly self-righteous and brutal Israel demonstrated its contempt for international law and its rejection of the Palestinian claim for justice, the more the pushing process required to cause governments of the major powers to act would gather momentum.

For their part the occupied and oppressed Palestinians could help to sustain this momentum with peaceful demonstrations across the occupied West Bank and throughout the Gaza Strip open prison camp. For maximum impact in Europe and America I think the demonstrations should be silent with the message of the demonstrators conveyed by placards held aloft. The messages would include “End the occupation!” and “We want our freedom!”

Something like that on at least a weekly basis would convey a powerful message to the outside world and all the more so if the IDF and armed illegal Jewish settlers sought to break up peaceful and silent Palestinian demonstrations with tear gas and bullets.
Then there’s the question of Palestinian leadership. After the dissolution of the PA who could provide it and what form should it take?

Initially the PLO Executive Committee would provide it but much, much more than that is required if the Palestinians are to be enabled to speak to power with one credible voice.

The need is for the Palestinian diaspora to become politically engaged and put its act together for the purpose of bringing the Palestine National Council (PNC) back to life.

Once upon a time this now side-lined parliament-in-exile represented Palestinians almost everywhere in the world and was the supreme decision-making body on the Palestinian side. It was not without flaws but it was more democratic than not and that’s why the authoritarian Arab regimes feared it. Even Arafat at the height of his power was accountable to the PNC. (It did, in fact, take him six long years to persuade a majority of PNC delegates to endorse his policy of politics and compromise with Israel. That happened towards the end of 1979. The PNC vote in favor of Arafat’s policy – the two-state solution – was 296 for it and only four against. From then on the Palestinian door was open to peace on terms which any rational government and people in Israel would have accepted with relief).

For the PNC to be brought back to life there would have to be elections to it in communities throughout the Palestinian diaspora as well as the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The composition of the Palestinian diaspora by countries and numbers of Palestinians resident in them is roughly the following. Jordan – 2,900,000; Israel – 1,600,000; Syria – 800,000 Chile – 500,000; Lebanon – 490,000; Saudi Arabia – 280,245; Egypt – 270,245; United States – 270,000; Honduras -250,000; Venezuela – 245,120; United Arab Emirates – 170,000; Germany -159,000; Mexico – 158,000; Qatar – 100,000; Kuwait – 70,000; El Salvador – 70,000 Brazil – 59,000; Iraq – 57,000; Yemen – 55,000; Canada – 50,975; Australia – 45,000; Libya – 44,000; Denmark – 32,152; United Kingdom – 30,000; Sweden – 25,500; Peru – 20,000; Columbia – 20,000; Spain – 12,000; Pakistan – 10,500; Netherlands – 9,000; Greece – 7,500; Norway – 7,000; France – 5,000; Guatemala – 3,500; Austria – 3,000; Switzerland – 2,000; Turkey – 1,000; and India – 300.

The prime task of a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC would be to debate and determine Palestinian policy and then represent it by speaking to power with one credible voice.

If the Palestinian diaspora does not become politically engaged to bring the PNC back to life I think it is more than possible that future honest historians will say that by default it betrayed the occupied and oppressed every bit as much as the Arab regimes have done.

Without a new strategy along the lines I have suggested above to change the dynamics of the conflict and how it is perceived in America and Europe I really do believe that Palestine will become a lost cause.

There will be some who will say (as a few Israeli Jews have said) that the Zionist state is in the process of committing suicide and that justice for the Palestinians is one day inevitable.

Perhaps, but just as likely, in my view more than likely, is that the coming years will see an exodus of Jews from Israel leaving behind a neo-fascist hardcore which will be prepared to threaten the region and beyond with nuclear destruction.

And on the basis of what Prime Minister Golda Meir said to me in an interview I did with her for the BBC’s Panorama program, it would not be an empty threat. I asked her to clarify a point she had made. I said: “Prime Minister, I want to be sure I am understanding what you have just said. You did mean that in a doomsday situation Israel would be prepared to take the region and the world down with it…?”

Without a pause for thought she replied in her gravel voice, “Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying!”

– Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. He contributed this article to He blogs on

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1 Comment

  1. What Golda was saying Alan was “Never Again” and Jews mean that, so the Arabs can’t win and should settle for what’s on offer. That way there’ll only be 22 failed Arab states rather than 23 and a demilitarised Pal state living side by side with a Jewish state (not flooded by millions of Arabs from all the places you mention with some very dodgy arithmetic) might be the sole exception. You should be a bit more worried about the plight of millions of Arabs in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Libya etc etc who are being murdered in their thousands by their own brothers. Imagine what the Arabs would do to the Jews if they got a chance, in fact don’t have to imagine, have a look at France this week!

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