By Samah Sabawi
As Israeli air strikes rain death and destruction on Gaza, and as protests rage in Palestinians cities and camps throughout the West Bank as well as inside Israel’s 1948 borders, an op-ed appearing in Haaretz written by the president of the Palestinian Authority clearly reveals that the chasm between the Palestinian people and their leadership could not be wider.
Mahmoud Abbas, begins the op-ed by reminding Israel that 26 years have passed since Palestinians endorsed the two-state solution, and in effect conceded 78% of their historic homeland, agreeing to have a Palestinian state on what remains of Palestine inside Israel’s 1967 borders. Abbas ends his oped by assuring Israel he remains “totally committed to the vision of a two-state solution, normalization and peace with our neighbor – Israel”.
Abbas knows that for Palestinians and Israelis to be neighbours there must be two independent states, Palestine and Israel, both with clearly defined borders. This is no longer feasible given the facts on the ground that Israel has created. Israel does not plan to live next door, it plans to continue existing on top of all of Palestine, crushing it, inhaling its oxygen, removing its indigenous population while stealing its natural resources.
Palestinians are not as Abbas would like to imagine, neighbours of Israel, Palestinians are Israel’s captive occupied population and they have had enough. They are calling for an uprising and are building their resistance with or without the PA.
The brutal murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned alive inside and out by three Israelis after being forced to drink gasoline, is the trigger for much of the uprising we see today. Thousands of people came to Abu Khdeir’s mourning tent while tens of thousands marched in his funeral.
His fate captured the imagination of Palestinians and brought home the brutality and vengeful nature of Israel. Abu Khdeir’s murder came amidst various other kidnapping attempts of Palestinian children by Israeli settlers, as well as Israeli attacks on Palestinians on buses and in the streets.
While Israel apologists tried to justify these attacks claiming they are a direct response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens on 12 June, the reality is Palestinians have faced death and destruction at the hands of Israel on a daily basis for decades and most of it often goes unreported. According to statistics by the Ministry of Information in Ramallah, 1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel’s occupation forces between September 2000 and April 2013. This means that for the past 13 years, one Palestinian child has been killed by Israeli forces every three days.
Reeling in Gaza
Even though Hamas – often not shy of claiming responsibility – denied its involvement in the kidnapping of the Israeli teens on 12 June, the Israeli government has insisted, without any solid evidence, that Hamas is responsible. This gave Israel the opportunity to conduct hundreds of arrests. Reneging on a deal it had with Abbas to release the Palestinian prisoners, Israel rounded up prisoners recently released, including Hamas politicians, once again proving that “gains” made at the negotiating table were easily reversible by Israel. This further undermined the Palestinian Authority and their commitment to negotiations.
The move by Israel to hold Hamas responsible resulted in what we are now witnessing: a large scale Israeli military assault on the besieged and trapped people in Gaza. The situation in Gaza has become unsustainable both for the population and for the political leadership of Hamas. Hamas’s increased isolation following the seven year siege and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has forced it to move toward reconciliation with the PA.
However, Israeli pressure on the PA and the PA’s failure to address the economic hardship of the Palestinian civil servants in Gaza, including the explosive problem of the salaries for civil servants appointed by the Hamas government, have torpedoed the potential for real reconciliation and for a unified leadership for the Palestinian people.
What Palestinians Need
Abbas writes in his op-ed in Haaretz that negotiation can be a powerful tool for bringing about peace but he makes the mistaken assumption that negotiations with Israel have failed because Israel did not have ‘a stated goal and known parameters’. While this is true, Israel has refused to define its borders and has used the negotiations to provide a cover to its aggressive settlement expansion, the reality is the main obstacle preventing Palestinians from succeeding in their negotiating efforts is first and foremost the lack of leverage they had every time they came to the table.
Abbas quotes international law constantly when speaking of Palestinian rights, but quoting international law is one thing, actively pursuing its implementation by addressing Israel’s war crimes at the intentional court of justice is another. To have justice on the Palestinian side is not enough to compel Israel to change its brutal and racist policies, what is needed are tactics that can work to bring about pressure, massive amounts of international pressure, that can force Israel to consider changing its course.
What Palestinians need today is a unified leadership that is not focused on maintaining Israel’s security, but on challenging the legitimacy of its action in the International Court of Justice. What is needed is a leadership that is able to support the Palestinian internal popular resistance and the international solidarity calls for boycotts divestments and sanctions in order to leverage diplomatic support.
As Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Mahmoud Abbas cannot continue to do the same thing while expecting his people to believe that he will be delivering different results. Palestinians are out in the streets calling for active resistance.
They are standing up to the Israeli Occupation soldiers. They are challenging the submissive quiet that was imposed on the Palestinian Occupied Territory for years. They are rebelling against Israel’s “economic peace” while demanding a peace that is based on freedom, justice and equality for all. They are calling for Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions. When will the Palestinian leadership change its dead end tactics and join them?
– Samah Sabawi is a playwright, poet, political analyst and human rights advocate. She has written and produced the critically acclaimed plays Cries from the Land and Three Wishes as well as having co-authored the book Journey to Peace in Palestine. She is also Policy Adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network. (This article was originally published in the Middle East Eye.)