By Stuart Littlewood – London
‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!’
A few weeks ago, on the annual Robert Burns Night, these immortal lines from 1786 were being recited all over the world, but probably not in Palestine. The leadership there aren’t blessed with the gift of seeing themselves as the rest of the world sees them… a bit like the Israelis that way. The consequences for the Palestinians are tragic.
Fatah especially would do well to learn the lines off by heart. The next two go
‘It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion!’
The poem addresses a louse, which seems appropriate enough.
We’ve heard a great deal about Fatah spreading security chaos, almost provoking a civil war, then collaborating with the US to recruit sinister battalions of “security” thugs with orders to crush all opposition, silence dissent, destroy Hamas and the welfare structure it provides, and force Palestinians to bend to Israel’s will.
This vile scenario is topped off with unjustified arrests, torture and lack of due process. It sounds like Fatah’s brave “security” forces have been trained in terror tactics by the Gestapo and are working for the enemy.
Who is the enemy these days? Palestine’s external enemy we know about. But the ‘enemy within’ is always more dangerous.
Since I first visited the Holy Land nearly 5 years ago I have tried to keep my promise to tell the story of those wonderful people struggling under cruel occupation. So I added my voice to the many that campaign for justice and freedom. But what exactly are we giving our support to?
The endless ordeal of the Palestinian people and their terrible loss tugs at the heart-strings of millions here in the West, but efforts to win over public opinion are continually undermined by the infighting between Fatah and Hamas.
This 2-rump division and the violent squabbles are what Israel prayed for. Mr Abbas, Mr Fayyad and the Palestinian National Authority are the ‘Acceptable Face’ of Palestine but only because they are propped up by Washington and Tel Aviv. Abbas and Fayyad have power but little or no legitimacy and it’s not clear whom they represent, which again is what Israel prayed for. They rule the West Bank in a game of footsie with Israel and with funding and support from the US, but are silent to the media, and the Israelis love that.
The PNA’s embassies in the West have nothing to say, and Israeli propagandists are laughing themselves silly. The London embassy is deliberately starved of resources. Who but a raving lunatic – or a knave – would gag their communications outlet in the world’s media capital?
This part of the Palestinian story just doesn’t sell.
Israel meanwhile continues its bombings and abductions and its land-grabbing and water thieving and house demolitions and settlement building and blockades and check-points and collective punishment and general harassment, even ruins youngsters’ education and forces Gazans to rebuild their blitzed homes and factories with mud bricks.
It is obvious that Fatah must face down threats from the US, forge unity with Hamas and agree clear objectives based on what has already been set out in UN resolutions and international law. Both camps need to behave impeccably, hold new elections instead of overstaying their term, and co-operate if they are to earn respect inside and outside Palestine. They need to become squeaky-clean and media-friendly. Everyone needs to sing off the same hymn-sheet.
Every day they delay, more damage is done to the cause.
But instead, the Palestinian National Authority (a misnomer if ever there was one) presents such an appalling image to the outside world that the long-suffering people it is supposed to represent are actually losing the sympathy they deserve. If any progress has been made recently it’s by campaign groups and students in the West creating awareness and putting pressure on governments and business, and no thanks to Palestine’s leaders.
Democratically elected Hamas is the ‘Unacceptable Face’ of Palestine, according to the White House and the rest of Israel’s hirelings. But even those who dislike Hamas have a sneaking admiration for their courage and single-minded determination against impossible odds. How many of their critics could have emerged from what they have been through with colours still flying? We in Britain owe a duty to Palestinians to talk to Hamas as well as Fatah instead of welcoming onto our streets Israelis wanted for mega war crimes.
Islam is only a problem to the West when it is corrupted and distorted by fanatics. The teachings of Christianity and Judaism are also a menace when distorted, and we don’t have to look very far.
But don’t you think, Mr Meshaal and Mr Haniyeh, that the Hamas Charter is an obstacle to peace? Can you appreciate that ordinary Westerners, who could turn the tide of opinion, see the Charter as threatening and are easily persuaded not to back your cause, while the enemies of Palestine – especially the ‘Friends of Israel’ and their stooges in the corridors of power – gleefully use it to make mischief and stoke up hatred?
OK, the Charter dates from 1988 and is basically an Intifada rallying call by a resistance group that never dreamed of being catapulted into government 18 years later. But the puzzle is why it wasn’t torn up promptly in 2006 and why Hamas didn’t seize the occasion to re-invent themselves.
A new Charter removing the West’s objections would significantly improve chances of a just settlement. Right-thinking people will respect your unwillingness to sacrifice national constants and your reluctance to accept Israel’s claims of legitimacy, but after 42 years you might consider formally accepting the reality of Israel within internationally agreed pre-1967 borders, as set out in UN resolutions and international law. This would show that Hamas is at least evolving and now worthy of being considered a potential partner for peace, if not among the West’s present crop of corrupted leaders then at least among the people they answer to.
Israel of course will continue to demand “recognition” but on what basis? On the 57 per cent of mandated Palestine generously allocated to the Jews by the UN in 1947? Or the 78.5 per cent they had illegally expanded to by 1949?
Or are we all supposed to recognise present-day Israel occupying/blockading 100 percent and determined to keep it all, including Jerusalem? Their relentless drive to dispossess the Palestinians totally must be halted. Until it is who can reasonably be expected to recognise Israel, especially the Palestinians?
No-one should be asked to agree peace with an occupier’s jackboot on his throat. The UN and the International Court of Justice have already spoken and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is simple enough to understand. Justice can only be delivered when Israel conforms to international law and complies with UN Resolutions, yet the international community still funks implementation and takes the coward’s way, urging “negotiations”.
What is there to negotiate? Is international law negotiable? Or human rights? Is the US entitled to re-write these laws and conventions to suit its Israel lobby?
Negotiations should not even be mentioned until all outstanding legal issues are dealt with and a level playing field is prepared. That, one would have thought, is the unshakable precondition for any talks.
The question is, when will the US see to it? Answer: not until its pro-Israel lobby is purged, or the rest of the world runs out of patience and overrules America.
The same goes for the UK, where ‘Friends of Israel’ and their stooges now run foreign policy.
That stooge extraordinaire Tony Blair is now to step up his efforts as Middle East peace envoy by doing things “bottom-up” – more months/years of negotiations to improve freedom of movements, change living conditions, encourage investment, etc – which has been a recipe for failure for decades. The Israelis will love that too. Top-down enforcement of international law is what’s needed before anything useful can be achieved.
Saeb Erekat, the PNA’s chief negotiator, is urging the Palestinians to call for a new UN resolution that recognises a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and builds upon the position established by numerous previous resolutions. That’s more like it!
But good ideas and fine words are not enough. Palestine’s ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ faces, both ugly as sin, must dissolve seamlessly into a single, likable, honest face that inspires confidence. The quarrelsome rumps must vanish for ever.
-Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.