Agustin Velloso: What Role for Palestinian Supporters Today?

By Agustin Velloso
Special to

1. Supporting Palestinian resistance: today as in 1947

After receiving from Chilean e-journal ("hoja de ruta" means "roadmap") the question “What does it mean today to engage in political action for the Palestinians?” the first thing I thought was : the same thing it meant forty years ago (in 1967) and sixty years ago (in 1947). That is to say, to support Palestinian resistance, which amounts to fighting the Zionist project in Palestine . The reason is that the problem has not changed: a colonialist enterprise is in motion of a scope that threatens the very existence of Palestinians as a people.

Israel’s colonialism is the most extreme kind, since its aim is to expel Palestine ‘s original inhabitants and appropriate their land to make room for Jews from all over the world who want to settle in the whole of Palestine . Since 1947, the way to achieve this aim has been through violence: combining the expulsion of as many persons as possible with repression of the ones who stay put and resist.

The Zionist project, allegedly designed to protect Jews from all over the world, is being implemented through the sacrifice of millions of Palestinians, whose only crime is to be born in Palestine , the land they have inhabited since time immemorial but which Zionists have coveted since the XIX century.

Now, the question is how to deal with Zionism in the XXI century. The Palestinian cause exists because Palestinians are Zionism’s victims just as the Iraqi cause exists because Iraqis are Imperialism’s victims. Both cases are totally contrary to human rights, international peace and the rights of nations. Supporting the Palestinian people (or the Iraqis) does not mean one considers them superior to other peoples, nor that one is pro Islamist nor, obviously, does it mean one is anti-Semitic, regardless of the perversion of this term by Zionists.

On the contrary, if we agree that all nations are to live in peace in their own land and enjoy all rights internationally accorded to them, we must side with the people who are prevented from doing so and consequently fight those responsible for that violation.

Although the Palestinian cause is the same today as in 1947 and the ethical response to it does not change, circumstances have changed over the years and, accordingly, political actions have to be adapted to the new circumstances. A number of fields need to be tackled: the decline of the Palestinian cause, the internal crisis in Palestine , social and demographic changes in Israel , the increase in Arab and Muslim resistance, the international situation. Only the first and second ones will be considered here.

2. The decline of the Palestine cause

The Palestinian situation is said to be grim. Palestinians live under an Israeli and international blockade. Their land is being stolen on a daily basis. Israeli violence and repression is ever increasing. As a consequence poverty and suffering are rampant.

However, is the situation today worse than in the past? Being both an observer and a participant does not help to make such a comparison. What matters is the current general view amongst concerned people: the situation has deteriorated. It could be argued that the situation has not really changed, but perceptions of it among some of its supporters have and consequently, their political stand. To put it clearly: there is an atmosphere of decline and confusion in the Western solidarity camp.

For people politically non-motivated, the great majority, the Palestinian conflict, although noticeable, is a far away problem and almost by definition impossible to solve. It is part of the political ‘landscape’ of their lives. As for those involved in politics, the usual terms right wing and left wing will be used here without discussing their vagueness. If the right wing is discarded for obvious reasons, the left can still be divided into two: leftist governments and leftist sympathizers. Not much (good) can be said about governments, since the policies of leftist and centre-left parties, democrats, social-democrats and the like, is pro Israeli.  This is definitely so in the case of European Union governments (Preferential Agreement for Israel, joint military manoeuvres with Israel, military and intelligence exchanges, etc.) and the United States (although the Republican Party is now in power, the Democratic Party marks no difference concerning Israel).
The core issue is to realise the difference between words and actions, since leftist politicians feel compelled to wrap up their pro-Israel policies with statements apparently in favour of peace and international law. This is an impossible mission, since international law is categorical regarding the right of return for refugees, Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories , the illegal construction of the wall, amongst other issues. Therefore, most of the time left wing politicians skip the legal issues and talk about ‘governmental accountability’, ‘extremists’ and ‘terror’ when dealing with Palestine, and about ‘security’, ‘peace efforts’ and ‘democracy’ when dealing with Israel.

There is no doubt about the corresponding political action: to denounce and to reject pro-Israel policies by leftist governments. Leftist people have to choose today between supporting these leftist parties in this respect, that is to say, supporting Zionism, or supporting the Palestinian cause.

Another problematic issue nowadays is the relationship between the left and political Islam. There are many leftist people who feel uncomfortable (to put it mildly) mixing with bearded Islamists. The alleged incompatibility between the left parties and the Islamist camp is the preferred argument of the ‘official’ left to disguise their pro-Zionist policies.

One should not waste time arguing against this coarse "incompatibility" argument.  Hamas easily won the elections held in the Occupied Territories in January 2006, and has called since then for national dialogue and a government of national unity. In any case it is not up to outsiders to choose the Palestinians’ representatives. That they seek to do so indicates a great deal about Westerners’ deeply-rooted patronizing ways.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause need to reflect about the absolutely anti-democratic actions – high treason, really, although this is something incumbent on Palestinians to define – carried out by some Fatah leaders and other associated elements, and then decide accordingly whom they should support in Palestine.

It can be said that the international pro-Palestinian camp is not enjoying its best moment. In spite of this, the Palestinian cause is as legitimate as ever. Political action has to answer to new circumstances. Not all of them are bad. One has only to consider the failure of the proponents of the 1993 Washington Declaration of Principles. Should leftist people insist on ‘coming back’ to that Declaration, when it is already 20 years now since Hamas declared that peace talks are games for children? Why do leftists not admit that Palestinians withdrew their support for Fatah because of its political failure and corruption?

3. Internal division in Palestine

On top of increasing Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories , the widespread international blockade and the resulting decline in living conditions there, internecine fighting, provoked by a group of Fatah leaders after Hamas won the elections, has led to armed confrontations in the Gaza Strip.

The main cause of these confrontations is the inhuman policies of Israeli and allied policies towards the Palestinians, and not only Hamas, as Zionist propaganda about the international war against ‘Islamist terror’ wants Western people to believe. Israel ’s aim in Palestine , as happens with any other colonial power in the area under its control, is to subdue the population using all means possible, including the divide and conquer tactic.

Collaborators and traitors are not new in Palestinian politics. They can also be found all over the world in other national liberation struggles. In the last months, the situation has worsened because those elements were hard at work, hand in hand with the occupier and its allies. This has had an evil effect on Western sympathisers of the Palestinian cause. The most common argument in the West about the issue of internecine fighting is also the weakest. It goes like this: if Palestinians are killing each other and are unable to join in a common front, how can they expect foreign sympathisers to support them?

Instead of increasing action against the occupation and multiplying support for Palestinians at this most difficult time, people are paralysed and lose interest in the cause. There are many who are misled about what is going on in Palestine , and the mistake is being carefully promoted by mass media. This adds to the vulnerability of the Palestinian people faced with Zionist attacks. With almost no foreign witnesses in the Occupied Territories and with most of the media siding with the aggressor, the last thing Palestinians need is Western supporters to turn away from their cause. This is like giving a green light to the Zionist enterprise to work harder and faster towards its objectives.

Finally there are some who have sided with the Palestinian Authority President and his cohort. It defies common sense that individuals who consider themselves supporters of the Palestinian people could side with this group. It can only be explained, as has been said before, by the influence of mass media and the ‘official left’ aversion for political Islam.

4. Conclusion.

Relevant political action today means firstly to reassert the urgency of justice for the Palestinians and consequently peace for everyone in the area and beyond by insisting on the supremacy of the Palestinian resistance above anything else: peace processes, peace summits, peace initiatives, special envoys from the Quartet or the United Nations. After that, the next step is to support the resistance in agreement with its democratically chosen leaders.

Relevant questions concerning political action are: Who leads the resistance, confronting a much superior enemy who makes no concessions whatsoever? And who has abandoned resistance in exchange for nothing but words? Who benefits from dialogue with the enemy and who, on the other hand, suffers and resists the occupation? What have peace conversations achieved? What can a nation expect from corrupt leaders fawned on by Israel , the United States and the European Union, the very same powers that feed the occupier? The answers to such questions will suggest who is to be supported in the liberation struggle and who is to be discarded.

Any other action is tantamount to playing along the Zionist script, whether in its Likud costume or its Labour costume. To do otherwise is also to make oneself an accomplice of the Western left wing’s sleight of hand vis-à-vis the problem of Palestine . It is not by chance that the Labour Party is member of the International Socialist, amongst whose principles –although not in its political actions- “peace, disarmament, solidarity, justice, democracy and human rights” are enshrined.

Before asking Palestinians to close ranks, it would be much more useful if Western leftists made public whether they plan to continue offering Palestinians empty ethical principles – as their governments do – or whether they plan solid support for the resistance. If they take the wrong decision, all the Westerners will lose is their sense of shame. But the Palestinians may lose everything.

-English version by the author proof-read by Toni Solo, an activist based in Central America.

-A regular contributor to, Agust

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