What Would Palestine Want Us to Do?

By Mazin Qumsiyeh – Bethlehem

We now know how Nothingyahoo (Netanyahu) intends to pursue the classic Israeli policy of engaging in endless "Peace Talks" without the intention of reaching any peace based on International law. 

He says to US envoy George Mitchell that his government wants the Palestinians to agree to recognize Israel not just as a state but as “A JEWISH STATE” before beginning to discuss the possibility of a two-state solution. This is like South Africa under apartheid insisting that the ANC recognize South Africa as a White State before beginning to discuss the possibility of giving the blacks a state (a Bantustan).

Even without complying with International law and allowing the Palestinian refugees to return, there are 20-25% of the population in Israel who are not Jewish and are already targeted (Israel’s foreign minister who came from abroad and has no connection to the land wants to get rid of the natives). If there is a definition of Chutzpah then this notion of recognizing a racist “Jewish state” as precondition even for talks is it.

Unfortunately, this is only made possible by the lack of a Palestinian coherent strategy to face the regional and International challenges including outright attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Instead, the struggle between Hamas and Fatah have now become a defacto struggle between leadership of two prisoner factions for leadership of prison blocks (Gaza and the five cantons in the West Bank) and the struggle for freedom has receded to lower priority if not outright ignored. 

An encouraging sign came when Mahmoud Abbas said he would demand a freeze to settlements before returning to talks (we will see if this holds).

The Obama administration beginning to talk with Iran on its nuclear program does not necessarily imply progress as we the Palestinians may end up being just another bargaining chip in these international chess games. 

Egypt’s spat with Iran and Hezbollah is also part of this political positioning for influence and relevance. There are International powers (principally Russia, US, and to a lesser degree major European countries) and there are regional powers (Israel, Turkey, Iran, and to a much lesser degree Egypt and Syria). All now have a say or at least want a say in Palestinian affairs and are having major inroads thanks to the disastrous route taken in the last 15 years (especially the fragmentation of the Palestinian collective). Since Hamas and Fatah are the two largest Palestinian factions, they hold the biggest share of responsibility for this pathetic (though not hopeless) state of disjointed affairs.    

In Birzeit University student elections, the factional competition was strong but held in a civil discourse. Of 51 seats, the block affiliated with Fatah got 24 seats and that with Hamas 22 seats (last year it was 25 and 19).  It shows that among the youth and in this rather progressive school, these two parties remain with strong support despite their leadership not getting us any closer to freedom.

But it also emphasized that no truly national discourse of liberation could be achieved by either of those two groups alone or in competition using their current political platforms and mechanisms. It emphasized the need to reconciliation and agreement but more important for a reevaluation of the discourse taken by these groups since 1988 (the founding of Hamas and the Fatah-led effort to implement a two-state solution along the 1967 borders).

Twenty years forward we are in far worse shape than what we were in 1987. There are now 450,000 colonial settlers in the West Bank and Israel accelerated its relentless plan to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its native people and Judaicize the whole country (including East Jerusalem). While Israel destroyed 3000 homes in Gaza in 3 weeks of bombardment, it plans to finish destroying that number of homes in Jerusalem in two months.  It is thus not a matter of left-right or religious-secular differences that matter, but a fateful future of what remains of Palestinians in Palestine after 61 years of relentless onslaught. Yes, we have had a bad deal and conspiracies from the International community (who can forget Balfour, Sykes-Picot, the US funding and shielding of apartheid Israel etc) and a bad deal and conspiracies from Arab countries (far too long to list here). But we also have to look in the mirror and I am not just talking here about the factions (Hamas, Fatah, and left wing parties) but also as people. I sometimes look at the scarring of Palestine with colonial settlements everywhere growing like a cancer and feel tears rolling down my cheek and the need to personally apologize.  

Political Zionism indeed was a racist colonial system with lots of internal support. But it was aided and abetted by many, many people and facilitated by the silence and indifference of millions. We have all let the Holy Land down by not rising to the challenges. All of us were tested: the native people (Palestinian Jews, Christians, and Muslims) and people internationally (and not just politicians). If some higher power was grading our performances would we get an F, a D, or a C- for most of us.  Some have done better than expected and certainly thousands paid the ultimate price (deserve an A+).  And my research in the past few months revealed that resistance (most of it civil) did make a huge difference (without such principled resistance, the more ambitious Zionist goals of the Nile to Euphrates would be far closer).

But it is fair to ask the questions and demand that we collectively sit down TOGETHER and plan and act to change. In other words to do better. Some are now talking about Fatah going back to its founding documents about a democratic state for all its people (and thus accept that the Oslo discourse failed). Some are urging Hamas to reeducate its cadres about the diverse nature of Palestinian society (yes including the presence of Jews and Christians in Palestine) and thus assure skeptics that its ideology is the Islam of pluralistic Spain (AlAndalus) and not the narrow visions of other models that lead only to strife and civil war (e.g. in Taliban Afghanistan). And yes, there are decent Israeli Jews who must feel that there is something in it for them in this transformation.

By taking those steps, we can come closer to the only possible long term scenario for a durable peace: one pluralistic democratic state in all of Palestine for all its people. But whether one agrees or disagrees, the time is right to reevaluate, reflect and CHANGE when the status quo becomes intolerable and self-destructive.

As individuals we must speak out whether we belong to political camps or we don’t (independent) and more importantly we must act. We can make a difference if we act on our conscience: Wala Yughayir Allah Ma Biqawmen 7atta Yughayuri ma bianfusihim (God does not change what is to happen to a people unless they change what is within themselves).

What would Palestine want each of us to do?

I am sure these discussions are going on. Let us build on them.

[Action: Sign Petition that “We want the Pope to go to Gaza” and write letters to editor and to the Vatican insisting that this is the right thing to do. . Also, email the Pope at: benedictxvi@vatican.va. Find all Vatican Emails here.] 

– Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Palestinian-American Professor at Bethlehem University, Chairman of the Board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, and author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle”. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his website at: http://qumsiyeh.org.

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