Celebrating the Ridiculous in the West Bank

If political leaders are not democratically elected then why on earth should he or she be concerned with public opinion? (Via Aljazeera/file)

By Jamal Saad

Whenever you think that you are facing contradictions, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong. So Ayn Rand said.

Recently, segments of the Palestinian people—mainly across the West Bank—held public rallies celebrating, or commemorating, “Independence Day”. For me and many other Palestinians the contradiction was too enormous to bear and too obvious to ignore. Just a few months ago the Gaza Strip was indiscriminately flattened by Israel’s military machine. More than two thousand Palestinians were killed, more than ten thousand were injured—many with life-changing disabilities—and many families lost everything. Refugees, again and again. With this state of fact I see no independence, only the brutal reality of military occupation and state fascism. So what we are celebrating then?

Of course, we should celebrate and commemorate the men, women and children who stand firm in Gaza, who have lost their lives, and who are rallying to protect Al-Aqsa mosque and the Palestinian existence in what is left of Jerusalem. But this is in defiance: it’s not an independence day simply because we Palestinian are not independent, sovereign or free yet. Our reality is living under the Israeli military occupation and that is the simple fact of our daily lives.

Israeli state policy and practices, backed by the majority in Israel, are constructed to eliminate the existence of the Palestinian people and their history. In other words it is the continuation of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began before 1948. For this reason, which reflects our reality, we must concentrate our full efforts to strengthen our resistance and the ‘sumoud’ of our people in the best possible way, not waste our energy and effort on meaningless celebrations.

A few reflections on the history of the Palestinian political establishment may give us some answers on how we have become so deluded in understanding our own situation, people, society and our political struggle. The appointed political leaders, who are neither democratically elected nor representative of the people, have become an unwanted heritage and a norm among most of our political institutions. At the top, our ‘number one’ in terms of size, is the Palestinian Authority (PA).

We Palestinians should have the right to demand from the political apparatus that exists accountability, transparency and most important a full functioning democracy, yet this is not our reality. These democratic practices should not only be understood purely in relation to elections but also, and far more importantly, in relation to representation. This means it should reflect the will, demand and needs of society. At the same time political leaders should be constrained into delivering a set of goals and a vision to be built upon for the good of the people. It should also provide checks and balances between the people and their political leaders.

If political leaders (as is the case in Palestine) are not democratically elected then why on earth should he or she be concerned with public opinion? As long as the ‘leader’ manages to satisfy his ‘boss’, then everything will be fine for that political elite but it will be far from fine for the people. Given this situation no one should be surprised to hear that “Over 70% of the PA’s revenue goes on salaries to public officials and the average salaries to ministers or parliament members is 24 times higher than the average salary.” Should we call this theft, corruption or irresponsibility? Clearly it is all three.

The lack of a democratic process not only creates a huge gap and multiple differences between the people and the leadership, but it also contributes to political division, social exclusion and is therefore most certainly a lost cause. Here political delusion becomes a necessary remedy which is used very effectively to maintain the status quo. What else other than this explains our political leadership’s total conviction and commitment to an agenda which includes a peace process that even a child can see is long dead! Or to negotiations dictated and control by Israel? A process which, let us be clear, has been the foundation used to maintain the occupation, to allow “Jewish” only settlement expansion (gradual and persistent ethnic cleansing) and the total control of every aspect of Palestinian life. If all this is not political delusion then why have our ‘leaders’ and the security services of the ‘authority’ failed to provide us with minimum expectation of security?

The struggle for Palestine is the struggle for liberty and human dignity, and not the establishment of a ‘state’. And to achieve our freedom we require a strategy of inclusion based on the participation of the people, of the opinion of the people and of the action of the people. Let Palestinians take responsibility for their own lives, let them choose what is best for them and let the people liberate Palestine.

– Jamal Saad is a Middle East political analyst and co-founder of Ahdaf, an organisation supporting youth empowerment, community development and access to education in Palestine. He was born in Deheishe refugee camp, Bethlehem, occupied Palestine. After the second Intifada he moved to London to continue his studies, gaining undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Middle East politics. He blogs at http://liberalpalestinian.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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