Palestine Must Revive the PLO to Mend Palestinian Divisions

Majed Kayyali argues that the cause of Palestinian liberation has been abandoned and that Palestinians are no longer united due to conflicts between factions such as Hamas and Fatah. In order to revive the vitality of the Palestinian people and their cause, the PLO must be reactivated, demands must be unified and the struggle diversified.

al-monitor Palestinians wave flags during a rally calling on the Egyptian authorities to supply the Gaza Strip with fuel and electricity, near Rafah crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip March 19, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Topics covered

yasser arafat, palestinian refugees, palestinian leaderships, palestinian, plo, oslo accords, mahmoud abbas, israeli occupation, israel, intifada, hamas, fatah, abu mazen

Apr 5, 2012

There is no electricity in the Gaza Strip — long a source of great suffering for the Palestinians. However, their problems are not limited to power cuts. Their national cause, political entities and struggle against the enemy have lost their momentum and vitality.

The Palestinian cause did not fade away due to imbalances in the Arab and international power spectrum, which has worked to the detriment of the Palestinians for decades. This problem lies in the hands of the Palestinians themselves. In the past, they used to enjoy a combative energy derived from a national project that fueled their hopes and imaginations. The Palestinians were united under the banner of a single political identity represented by the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). This organization, which was led by a strong leader, Yasser Arafat, united them, expressed their aspirations and helped them form their identity. The PLO strengthened their resolve and renewed their vitality and openness to different options.

Today, the Palestinians lack this kind of leadership. The resistance — whether peaceful or popular — has ceased to exist. Even the intifada (uprising) has faded away. The Palestinians have lost their inclusive and inspiring national project. They have become slaves to negotiations, after their cause and aspirations were killed. They have lost all hope in establishing an independent state in either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Even the solution of a single democratic state in its various forms (including a dual citizenship) is no longer a viable option.

This is not to mention that Palestinians all over the world no longer feel like they constitute one people, except for when it comes to slogans and political statements. Their have lost their political unity. They have also lost the PLO and its authority, which has become hostage to Israel’s policies. The PLO was torn apart amidst the clashes between Fatah and Hamas, the conflict between the authorities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the removal of the refugee issue from the political agenda. In consequence, the interests and priorities of the Palestinians in the West Bank, those in the Gaza strip, and the entire Palestinian diaspora — whether in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria or other countries — now no longer converge.

What makes the situation even more painful is that the degeneration of inter-Palestinian relations is pushing Israel out of the equation. The two most powerful Palestinian movements which control the authority, people and resources are preoccupied with their internal conflict while they overlook their struggle with Israel. This internal conflict exists despite the agreement of their political stances regarding an independent state and support for the popular resistance.

Hamas’ concerns have become limited to securing the budget for its government in Gaza. Its goal is the lifting of the Gaza siege, and even this has been reduced to opening the Rafah crossing with Egypt. It also seeks to provide electricity — and to reduce the influence of its rival, Fatah. Hamas wants to impose calm on all of the factions and to improve the lives of the Palestinians who are suffering on every level from blockade. On the other hand, Fatah seeks to stabilize its authority and to secure financial resources to sustain its role as an organization in the West Bank, which has been diminished for a long period. Fatah has also been focusing on international political mobilization to halt the building of settlements while it continues with negotiation processes for the release of prisoners.

Thus, the Palestinian cause has been transformed from the national liberation of a people struggling against colonialism, racism and hegemony, to a matter of humanitarian relief, financial support and a futile quest to improve living conditions through international and regional forums. This new situation was further expressed in the resolutions of the Arab Summit in Baghdad, where Israel was held responsible for stalling the negotiations, rejecting international resolutions, besieging Gaza, carrying out excavations in Jerusalem and reneging on its commitments to transfer funds to the Palestinian authority. However, Israel was not called an occupying, aggressive and racist state that was challenging the Arab order. Israel was not even mentioned in the resolution regarding the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction in the region.

What comes next? Before answering this question, Palestinian leaders ought to answer the following: What is the essence of the Palestinian cause? If it is an Arab-Israeli issue, new political visions must be adopted in Palestine. The same prescriptions apply should it be considered a Palestinian-Arab issue. However, such discussions are no longer fruitful. The Arab nations have failed to translate their words into concrete actions on the ground; they are all absorbed in their domestic concerns and the tension prevailing in the Arab region.

If the Palestinian cause were a national issue that concerned the Palestinians alone — despite the clear existence of certain Arab dimensions — this would require more specifications. Is the cause only related to the Israeli state’s general presence and establishment, which took place at the expense of the Palestinians and the refugees in particular? Or is it a cause which is rather more pertinent to the Israeli occupation beginning in 1967, affecting the live of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Whatever the answer is, Palestinian leaders need to put their house in order, formulate better relations between their respective entities and pursue the most effective way to face their enemy. Thus, the leaders are required to synthesize a clear political vision that can inspire and unite the people.

Therefore, all political choices must include the cause of national liberation. People cannot support an authority that monopolizes power and restricts freedoms with corruption and nepotism. The people cannot support an authority that prevents them from resisting, whether armed or peacefully.

Palestinian leaders are in no way entitled to abandon their people or their aspirations, even if it means defying international resolutions. International resolutions have never recognized the reality of the Palestinians, which is one of occupation and colonization. Israel was recognized at the United Nations in resolution 272 in 1949. This same resolution provided for the establishment of an Arab state on 43% of the Palestinian land, as well as the right of return for refugees who were displaced from their homes. The same resolution placed Jerusalem under international trusteeship. Even certain Jewish Israelis continue to question the official history of their state, refusing to define it as a Jewish state, the state of the Haredim or even the state of the settlers, as these principles directly conflict with democracy.

Palestinian leaders and organizations should realize that they are not alone in determining the nature of the conflict with Israel, and that Israel has the upper hand in this matter anyway. This means that Palestinians should not be content with seeking calm and moderate positions. It is not enough. The Oslo Accords, which were established two decades ago, the experience of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] over the past seven years and Hamas’ position in Gaza are further proof that calm will lead nowhere.

In light of the degeneration of the Palestinian cause, Palestinian leaders need to bring their struggle to the forefront at all levels. They should put an end to their divisions and to the security focus of their authority, reactivate the PLO and restore the national movement to one of national liberation. The PLO needs to regain its rhetoric, relationships and forms of struggle. The option of a peaceful popular resistance requires further mobilization, better organization and greater effort.

This is the only solution that can revive the energy of the Palestinian people and their sense of struggle. A unified resistance would spark hope in the hearts of Palestinians and strengthen their identity and national unity. Thus, the Palestinian cause would return on the Arab, regional and international agendas as the legitimate and fair cause of a people struggling to rid themselves of occupation, racism and domination.

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