Palestine: Redefining Solidarity
14 July 2007
Recent events in Palestine have thrown the weak solidarity movement into confusion. In Ireland leading figures in the solidarity movement argue that the main task is not to criticise – that is not to criticise the Fatah collaboration with the US and Israel. We have claims that the legitimate Hamas government was staging a coup by taking control of the territory it was legitimately the government of and defeating an armed putsch by Fatah groups armed and trained by the US and supported militarily by Israel.
Now we have the US, Israel and Arab capital rushing ahead with a coup staged by the corrupt President Abbas, which plans to advance with a programme of ‘recognising Israel’ – that is recognising Israeli right to divide the Palestinian nation into a number of prison camps with the Abbas ‘government’ paid to act as trusties within the compounds.
Fatah have been corrupted. Hamas, hampered by a reactionary Islamist policy, have proved unable to confront them politically or to step beyond seeking a diplomatic solution with the US. Many Palestinian activists are trying to move forward focusing on the one central point – the need for resistance. (Ed.)
Below we carry two initial positions:
6 July 2007
No time in the recent history of the Palestinian people has appeared darker or more devoid of hope. Internally divided, splintered across the globe, and lacking effective representation, the Palestinian national movement is arguably at the lowest point in its history. Moreover, Palestine today serves as the harbinger of the future of an Arab world under siege, occupied by external forces allied with internal collaborators intent on sowing and feeding divisions. Outside of Palestine, refugees and exiles are under constant threat and pressure from Arab regimes and Western governments, with little or no support from the traditional institutions which once represented them on the world stage. Yet, if there is to be hope it is in the desiccated and ostensibly defunct Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to which Palestinians must turn. The time has come for Palestinians globally to regain and reinvigorate the institution that the world still recognizes as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
This process begins with the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority. All Palestinians living under the 41st year of their occupation in the West Bank and Gaza must declare that they will no longer be a party to their own occupation. That they will not allow Israel to illegally withhold their tax revenues, while launching repeated incursions and invasions killing with virtual impunity. Nor will they permit representatives of their "government' to benefit financially and politically from Israel's occupation, from the construction of Israel's apartheid wall to the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and the suppression of political activity. For American President George W. Bush's favored sons -- Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, Mohammad Dahlan and their ilk -- to resign with what little dignity that remains and leave Palestine for whatever shore will take them, in order to allow a new PLO to emerge not tainted by the stench of corruption and collusion. Any government which is beholden to the financial and military support of its peoples' enemies is not deserving of either the title "Palestinian" or "Authority." Indeed, the time for this grotesque charade to end is now and it is long overdue.
As the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba approaches, it is time for Palestinian refugees in the Arab world and beyond to reassert their role as the vanguard of the Palestinian National Movement. To demand that they no longer be represented as a bargaining chip to be bartered by negotiators more interested in personal self-aggrandizement than the refugees' well-being or their internationally recognized rights. It is imperative that Palestinians living under occupation or in exile unite to revive and reform the PLO and hold new elections for the Palestine National Congress (PNC). Once elected, a new PNC would convene to announce an independent Palestinian state, a government-in-exile, and a strategy for victory that would unify Palestinian groups across the political spectrum, from secular to Islamist.
A reinvigorated PLO would also coordinate with the plethora of grass-roots organizations that have formed to oppose Israel's apartheid policies and advocating for the right of return. Currently these organizations operate independently with only intermittent coordination and suffer from a lack of financial and organizational support at the international level. Yet, they have had amazing achievements and made terrible sacrifices seeking justice for the Palestinian people. One can only imagine what could have been achieved over the past seven years with the institutional support of an internationally recognized organization representing all Palestinians. Surely, in an age of instant global communication, we should not have to imagine what is possible; we should strive to achieve it.
The Palestinians are blessed with an abundance of capable individuals across multiple generations living under occupation or in exile who can and must lead this new movement. Many have been politically active and working toward achieving justice either with the pre-Oslo PLO or with different organizations since the second intifada began. But the movement must also be open to all Palestinians who truly believe in a program of national unity, and who agree to invest in and work toward the goals elucidated by a new PLO. Self-determination begins with self-reliance. The Palestinian national movement once represented the hopes of oppressed people globally for justice and self-determination and it can once again.
However, the Palestinians can no longer look toward the Arab world, the United States, the members of the European Union, or the United Nations for support or assistance. The historical evidence of the past sixty years clearly demonstrates that they have no interest in Palestinian-self-determination or a truly independent Palestine. Moreover, they have actively colluded with Israel and the United States to prevent both. Indeed, the plethora of failed "peace" initiatives, whose worthless papers could pave a road from Washington to Jerusalem and the fetid carcass of the "peace process" rotting on its shoulder, illustrates the utter failure and deliberate impotence of the international community to resolve the plight of the Palestinians. While individuals from these nations and bodies can and are welcome to assist, the Palestinians must liberate themselves. The Palestinian national movement, which once stood proudly along other national liberation struggles, cannot be allowed to end with a descent into factional fighting, war-lord fragmentation and chaotic rule of the gun. Failure to act quickly to reverse this course will result not in an independent Palestinian state or a "one state solution," but rather with Palestinians huddled into open-air prisons ruled by a web of collaborators with the support and legitimacy of the international community.
The challenge ahead should not be underestimated. Not since the shaping of the modern Middle East at the end of World War I, has the region been so destabilized through external pressure and riven by internal factional conflict. Moreover, as demonstrated by recent events in Gaza and Lebanon, the Palestinian people remain surrounded by powerful enemies who are intent on their subjugation and defeat. As they did after 1948, the Arab governments are again actively suppressing Palestinian political activity, while publicly espousing the rhetoric of Arab unity and brotherhood. Meanwhile Bush's "vision" of a Palestinian state has proven to be a nightmarish, Guernica-like chimera whose abyss we are quickly sliding toward. We must not falter or tarry; the time for change has come. The revolution starts now or it won't start at all.
The Electronic Intifada - http://electronicintifada.net/new.shtml
Short-Term Band Aids in a Long-Term Disaster
By PHILIP RIZK
11 July 2007
There has been an array of commentary on Gaza over the past weeks. Hamas' military takeover of the Gaza Strip brought the malaise of its people, the weakness of Fatah and Hamas' ability to implement law and order into the world limelight. As outside commentators it is quite simple to chose sides in this seeming Fatah-Hamas divide, and yet what is really at stake for Palestinians in Gaza, now governed by a Hamas cabinet sacked by the president, and Palestinians in the West Bank, governed by a Fatah president and his unilaterally determined emergency government?
A Palestinian once told me, it is better to have corrupt leadership (referring to Fatah) than leaders that cannot provide Palestinians with their daily needs. In the second example he was of course referring to the 2006 election victory of Hamas subsequent to which a majority of international aid to the Palestinians was suspended and Israel illegally withheld all tax monies collected on behalf of the Palestinians. This only added to another Palestinian social crisis. Since the start of the second Intifada in late 2000 Palestinian laborers permitted into Israel, once numbering over 100,000, were on a constant decline. By the time Hamas was elected to power the gate into Israel for laborers was finally closed. One would think that a pragmatic unemployed Palestinian is likely to see the immediate consequences of those years of violent resistance and Hamas' election win as a disaster. Many Palestinians with their immediate need in mind turn a very critical gaze towards Hamas' latest actions in Gaza, other than the unprecedented safe internal security situation in Gaza, the material consequences of the Hamas takeover have been largely bad news for most Palestinians and their shattered economy.
On the 4th of July, while many were celebrating the reported release of abducted journalist Alan Johnston, an event which cemented Hamas' ability to implement law and order, Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization issued a very different report entitled, "Commercial Paralysis: Deleting Gaza's Economy from the Map." In it they detailed the recent closure of 75% of Gaza's few functioning factories since Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip; 30,000 factory workers, 10% of Gaza's work force stand to loose their jobs. Furthermore, with the shortage of wheat in Gaza, three mills are at a standstill with others soon to follow; it is the poorest of the poor (73% of Gazans live under the poverty line) that will suffer most under these conditions.
With exports at a complete standstill, salesmen are also feeling the crunch as Israel is allowing only a fragment of the minimum Palestinian humanitarian needs to enter Gaza. Although government employees have received the first full month's wage in 17 months, they aren't spending much of it, for that the days ahead are too uncertain. The Rafah border that connects Gazans to the outside world has remained closed since July 9th. Thousands remain stranded there with no way back to Egypt and no way to their homes in Gaza.
For some, the solution to all this is Mahmoud
Abbas' newly designated emergency government in the West Bank. The newly
formed cabinet, made up mostly of "independents" is taking a strong pro-Western
line in order to loosen the burden on their people.
President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Hamas' military takeover of the Gaza Strip by forming an emergency government, annulling the Fatah-Hamas unity government and isolating the Hamas leadership, considering them the perpetrators of a military coup. The Palestinian emergency government immediately agreed to the Quartet's demands (made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia) that included the recognition of Israel, applying all past agreements made between Israel and the PA and condemning all use of violence. Western funds and taxes held by Israel were immediately promised to the new government, headed by US and EU favorite Salam Fayyad. Promises were made by Israel to ease roadblocks and closure on the West Bank. The roadblocks were never changed and yet within weeks a segment of withheld taxes were transferred to the PA who subsequently paid most government employees a full month's wage for the first time in 17 months.
Many Palestinians that are willing to submit to Israel and international demands are doing so because of a simple pragmatism or an undying party allegiance and yet in the long run their decision will have no positive results for their people. The end of this path will ultimately be the wiping out of the Palestinian cause. Israel will continue to build settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank, implement its vision for a greater Israel and carry out any "security measures" on Palestinians that it deems necessary along the way. The West Bank will eventually become a large number of small Gazas, cities and communities enclosed, walled off and separated from each other.
By submitting to Western and Israeli pressure Palestinians sacrifice their cause on behalf of a pragmatism that includes Western governments paying Palestinian government salaries and returning to a sustained status quo of weakness in the face of harsh Israeli occupation and subjugation. The PA will maintain its status as a collector of handouts in order to preserve its function. Today an illegal process accompanies the choice of submission, which undermines the voice of the people and their election vote and undoes Palestinian legislative laws by overruling the elected parliament and setting up an illegal emergency government.
Submission is a short-term band-aid leading
to long-term disaster in the form of the annihilation of the Palestinian
After Hamas formed a government and even during the unity government that followed the Mecca Agreement between Hamas and Fatah in February of this year, the elected leaders were never given control of the security forces in Gaza. On June 14 Hamas used force to finally claim its rightful position, thereby preventing a US funded Fatah plot to overthrow Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Last week, Jordan's king Abdullah said that Hamas's control of Gaza was sure to worsen the humanitarian plight of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there. U.N. officials have confirmed the ominous humanitarian crisis. Yet, closure is nothing new for Gazans. Borders remained increasingly closed after Hamas' election win in early 2006 and again tightened after an Israeli soldier was captured on the border of Gaza in June later that year. With the increased pressure today, mind you without allowing the Palestinians to starve thus preventing an international uproar, the Hamas leadership is not buckling under the pressure. Their response with a variety of forms of resistance is causing a threat precisely because Hamas is not willing to submit to Israel and its allies and their imperial strategies.
On Monday Hamas barred Israeli fruit from entering the Gaza Strip, thereby implementing a plan to boycott Israeli goods. According to the Israeli Fruit Growers Association this will cost Israeli farmers NIS 3-5 million a day. The Jerusalem Post reported that the extra fruit was likely to flood Israeli markets causing a price crisis. Recently Haaretz reported that some Israeli fruit was grown specifically for the Gaza market and was not sale worthy elsewhere. Israel has been using Gaza as a captive market, even at a high price Hamas is not willing to play along.
Another development has pitted Hamas' position against that of the emergency government and president Abbas. Hamas will not allow Israel to replace the Rafah border crossing with the Israeli controlled Karm Abu Salim (Kerem Shalom) crossing as Gaza's only gateway to the outside world.
The permanent closure of Rafah for travelers would completely isolate Hamas and cripple their leadership's ability to freely travel while giving Israel full control of who to permit exit and entry to Gaza. In order to prevent the establishment of these unjustifiable "facts on the ground" Hamas and other resistance forces in Gaza have been carrying out continuous attacks on the Israeli crossing. Abbas' emergency government's recent calling for the Karm Abu Salim's opening after government officials visited Palestinians stranded in Egypt, reveals its complicity in the plan to undermine Hamas and oppose any serious form of resistance against unilateral Israeli policies. The Jerusalem Post cites the attacks on the border as "anti-Israeli." Are not the international community, Israel and the emergency government's opposition to the opening of the Rafah border anti-Palestinian?
During the emergency government ministers' visit to Palestinians stranded in the Egyptian town of Rafah, protesters responded by chanting, "We don't want Fatah or Hamas, we just want to get out of here." There are likely many in the Palestinian street who would call for this very thing, yet a current poll carried out on the independent news agency Maan's website, shows a significant point of view. At the time of viewing approximately 81,000 individuals had participated in the survey which determined that over 42% of voters would choose Ismail Haniyeh as their candidate of choice in renewed presidential elections, while 34% would vote for Mahmoud Abbas.
The people have spoken.
Submission is not the answer
Counterpunch - http://counterpunch.org/