By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
It is safe to say that under their present conditions, the Palestinians’ situation is in shambles. Their spatial fragmentation imposed on them by Zionist colonialists and their incompetent self-serving corrupt leadership hardly leaves room for optimism. The rhetoric of Mahmud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) calls for freedom from occupation and end to settlements but his security forces arrest and jail those who challenge the occupation and the settlers. The IDF and the settlers who perpetuate violence against Palestinians and their property know they are not likely to face any punitive action from the Israeli authorities for their crimes.
The Israelis resent being called “occupiers,” or “colonialists, but their actions are documented as that of colonial/settler society. Israel trashes any report by human rights organization as biased, distorted, and, when necessary anti-Semitic. Abbas asks the Palestinians, who have little legal recourse against the attacks of the occupation forces and armed settlers, not to retaliate and accept the insults and humiliation. He dehumanizes his own people and does not seem to agree with the nineteenth century African-American reformer, Fredrick Douglas that “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
The Palestinian leadership recognized Israel while neither the Zionist project nor the state that it created ever recognized the indigenous Palestinians as a people for whom Palestine had been their homeland for more than 1,500 years. Instead, they were deemed “Arabs,” who would be absorbed into adjacent Arab territories. When David Ben-Gurion came to Palestine in 1906, he came not to escape persecution but to fulfill Hertzl’s dream of a national Jewish home in “Eretz Israel” and in the years to come he was unambiguous regarding the boundaries of that nation. On January 7, 1937, in his testimony before the Peel Commission, he stated, “I say on behalf of the Jews, that the Bible of our Mandate, the Bible which was written by us, in our language, in Hebrew, in this very country [Palestine]. This is our Mandate; it was only the recognition of this right which was expressed in the Balfour Declaration.
In Zionist lexicon Palestine was “a land without people for a people without land,” but when the new state of Israel declared its territorial domain at independence, Jews owned only 6.8 percent of the land. Israel enacted many new laws to transfer ownership of all the land to the state of Israel. Palestinians who fled or expelled from their homes before and during the Arab-Israeli war are not allowed to return to their homes. Even those who remained within the borders of what would become Israel were legislatively deemed “present absentees,” and they were not indemnified for lost property. The Palestinians who retreated to nearby villages when theirs was under attack were deemed to have fled their property, even if they did not intend to leave for more than a few days. The property was expropriated. A common practice was the use of emergency regulations to declare land belonging to Palestinian citizens a close military zone, forcing the population out before using one of the many absentee laws to declare the land the property of the state.
Zionism is a liberal fascist expansionist movement that does not see natural boundaries to its ambitions; and Israel never abandoned the Zionists’ territorial expansion scheme defined in maps presented by the Zionist delegation to the 1919 Paris Conference after World War I. The map covers all historic Palestine and areas from the Arab neighboring states.
While Israel was wreaking havoc in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Abbas told visiting Israelis at his headquarters in 2014: “the security coordination [with the Israeli occupation military and the Shabak] is sacred, and we will continue it.” He said recently: “Security coordination is on until now.” This is consistent with his long-standing strategy of capitulation on Palestinian rights while the Israeli governments never reciprocated. Even the US officials admit that Abbas had bent over backwards to accommodate virtually every Israeli demand.
Abbas was the architect of Oslo agreements that helped Israel control the Palestinians in the occupied lands by proxy and at no cost. He had publically given up on the UN Resolution 194 that gave the Palestinian refugees and their descendents the right of return to their homes, thus legitimized Israel’s cleansing of the Palestinians! Judge Richard Goldstone, a Jewish liberal with close ties to Israel, dared to place his conscience above his career and exalt Israeli crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza in 2009. He told the Israeli military and political leaders, “You have to defend yourself in the Criminal Court.” This was the first time the human rights dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved center stage; the Israeli government campaign against Goldstone took the form of venomous denunciation; but Mahmud Abbas, the President of the PA and the Chairman of the PLO, asked his envoy in Washington to ignore the report.
I hate to say that, more than any other time the Palestinians need leaders with the stature and the dedication of their adversaries Chaim Weizmann or David Ben-Gurion to salvage their cause, rather than the likes of the self-serving Abbas and his cronies. When the Zionists thought that Britain, that gave them Palestine in Balfour Declaration, turned from enabler to obstacle and backpedal on its promises, Ben-Gurion and his colleagues did not coordinate with the British Mandate security forces against their people! They turned against Great Britain.
More than six decades after the establishment of Israel on seventy eight percent of Palestine and almost five decades after occupying the rest of their country, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and in the refugee camps are frustrated. There is simmering resentment, anger, derogatory remarks against their leadership and accusation of duplicity and demand for dignity and justice among the Palestinians. For every Palestinian, the humiliation and dispossession meted out by the omnipresent of the military occupation and the hordes of settlers trigger both individual and collective outrage.
Abbas explained that his motive for security coordination with Israeli occupation military against his people is to protect his country. The question is: what country is Abbas trying to protect? There are three very different visions for what a Palestinian state should be, the one promised by the PLO leaders rhetoric; the one negotiated by the PLO and Israeli elites behind closed doors in Oslo; and the mini-state that Israel has been creating in the occupied West Bank under the cover of Oslo, Camp David, and the Quart’s fiction of two-state “roadmap.”
Based on their leaders’ rhetoric that pretend they are engaged while Israel establishes and expands settlements, the Palestinian people envisage a state along the lines of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. It would be a modern nation-state, a full-fledged member of the international community enjoying full sovereignty, control of its borders, and the ability to defend itself. But the 1995 Oslo II agreement that was negotiated by the PLO self-appointed leaders on behalf of the Palestinians talks about a different state.
It fragments the West Bank and gives Israel the whole 61 percent of the West Bank which encompasses the bulk of Palestinian resources and the agricultural abundance of the Jordan Valley. The occupied West Bank was divided into three Areas, A, B, and C. Area A, which comprised 18 percent of the West Bank total area that includes the majority of the Palestinians would give the PA administrative and security control, with the caveat that the IDF could still make forays into the area at will if they think that “security” considerations were at stake, a practice that occurs every day. And within this practice, the Palestinian security would coordinate with the Israeli occupation military. In Area B, that constitutes 21 percent of the West Bank, the PA would exercise the administrative control but share security with the IDF. In Area C, 61 percent of the occupied land, the IDF would exercise total control.
The Oslo Agreements did not touch on some of the most recalcitrant core issues: borders, Jerusalem, the right of return, water and the settlements. This allowed Israel to act unilaterally and create on the ground a Palestinian mini-state that would not be geographically contiguous, with underground tunnels that would connect population centers. Palestinians would not have direct connection to East Jerusalem, large settler blocks would not fall within Palestinian territory, borders would be under Israeli control, Israel would share control of its airspace and the Palestinians would not be in full control of their state electromagnetic spectrum.
After two and half decades of failure to stop Israel from expanding its settlements, effectively annexing a substantial share of Palestinian lands, and more than six decades of bitter animosity, it is time to recognize the impossibility of reaching a two-state solution and start engaging in a new process no longer hamstrung by rhetoric and false assumptions. This needs a new Palestinian leadership.
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.