Towards a New Palestinian Beginning

  • Muslim leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump
    Muslim leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and called on the world to respond by recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. | Photo: Reuters

Now that the American mask has completely fallen, Palestinians require an urgent rethink in their own political priorities, alliances and national liberation strategy.

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Business should not go on as usual after U.S. President Donald Trump accepted Israel’s definition of Jerusalem as its capital, thus violating the overwhelming international consensus on the matter.

The Fatah movement, which has controlled the Palestinian Authority (PA) since its inception in 1994, has preempted people’s anger over the United States’ move, by declaring ‘days of rage.’ Several Palestinians were killed and many wounded in clashes throughout the Occupied Territories in what is understandably justified anger over the unwarranted American decision.

But the manipulation of Palestinian emotions by their leadership is contemptible, to say the least. The ‘politics of rage,’ which has been used by the Palestinian leadership in the past, has often worked to deflect popular discontent and criticism.

Sure, Israel and the United States deserve condemnation for their role in sustaining, funding and defending the military occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, but the Palestinian leadership is deserving of much condemnation as well. Those who have willingly participated in the futile game of the ‘peace process,’ dangling the dim prospect of a ‘two-state solution’ before despairing Palestinians, should not get off the hook so easily.

Palestinian leaders and an army of officials, politicians, pundits and contractors made billions of dollars from foreign funds to keep the ‘peace process’ charade going for over 25 years, while the general population grew poorer and more despondent than ever.

Those who resisted, outside the acceptable political framework as presented by the Palestinian leadership, were harassed, imprisoned and severely punished. This was the case not just in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. Many journalists, academics, artists and activists were treated harshly for questioning the PA’s methods throughout the years.

Yet here we stand: the PA is calling on those very Palestinians to rage. Hamas, too, is calling for a new Intifada. Oddly, Palestinian factions never learned from history. Real, sustainable popular uprisings are never a response to a party’s or a politician’s call. It is a spontaneous, genuine cry for freedom that originates from the masses, not the political elites.

While some Palestinian factions are hoping that the people’s anger directed at the Israeli occupation will create a protective buffer so that they may survive another day, other groups are riding the wave for their own political interests.

But this is not a strategy. Sending bare-chested people to fight armed soldiers only to communicate a media message will neither pressure Israel nor the United States. In fact, most U.S. media outlets are centering their debate on ‘Palestinian violence,’ as if the violence of the Israeli occupation is a non-issue, and as if the safety of Israelis is the most compelling concern at the moment.

Nor will polite appeals to the United States to reconsider its decision and pressure Trump to rescind his embassy move make a difference.

The final statement presented by the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday was an example of the lackluster language that will prove ineffective.

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Calling on Trump to reverse his decision will not, on its own, make an iota of difference. The Palestinians need their Arab brethren to articulate a strong, unified position on the issue, without hesitating to explore new political routes and put real, tangible pressure on the United States and Israel to relent.

The Palestinian leadership that has downgraded the Palestinian struggle, and wasted precious years chasing an American mirage, must be held accountable.

Why are Palestinian leaders still holding so tightly onto their chairs, considering the amount of damage they have inflicted upon the Palestinian cause?

If the Palestinian leadership had a minimal degree of accountability and self-respect, it would issue a heartfelt apology to the people for all the squandered time, energy and blood. It would immediately issue a total overhaul within its ranks; activate all Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions; and bring all factions together, under the umbrella of the PLO, to declare a new strategy regarding the increasingly bleak-looking future.

None of this has happened yet. Angry statements and calls for Palestinian mobilization without a common strategy will only feed the interests of the factions, and eventually prove of no help to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations.

In truth, ordinary Palestinians need neither Fatah nor Hamas to call for ‘days of rage’ or a new Intifada. Their hate for the occupation and love for their city of Jerusalem requires no official communications. It is their fight. It has always been their fight, one they have fought every single day for the last 50 years.

What Trump has done will have terrible consequences on the region for years to come, but one of the early outcomes is that it exposed the peace process as a complete charade and the United States’ role for what it is: neither honest nor fair. However, it should also expose the Palestinian leadership for all its failings and corruption.

If Palestinians are to start anew, they have to commence their journey with a new political discourse, with new blood, and a new future outlook that is based on unity, credence and competence. None of this can ever take place with the same old faces, the same tired language and the same dead-end politics.

It is time for a new beginning.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of the Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.’ He has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara.

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