Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Failure of Palestinian diplomacy in 2006

Khalid Amayreh

"In 2006, the Palestinian diplomacy failed, almost completely, in achieving its central goals.

These include, first, expediting the process of ending the Israeli military occupation that began in 1967; second, lifting the draconian siege imposed by Israel, the US, and EU, in connivance with certain Arab regimes, for the purpose of punishing the Palestinian people for electing Hamas; and, third, exposing Israeli brutality and criminality against our people.

In the past year, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas visited many capitals, including Washington D.C. , and received in Ramallah scores of foreign leaders and diplomats. However, these high-profile meetings and encounters yielded next to nothing in terms of positive tangible outcome, apart from the usual pleasantries and public relations trappings. Indeed, a meticulous review of Abbas’s meetings with foreign leaders in 2006 (2005 was no different) shows that the Palestinian leadership failed utterly in communicating the messages that ought to have been communicated to these foreign visitors.

For example, Abbas made little or no efforts to tell the world community that it was unfair and unwise to punish ordinary Palestinians because of Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel and that it was illogical to demand that Hamas recognize Israel without demanding a reciprocal Israeli recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He also equally utterly failed to effectively and clearly convey the message that the election of Hamas in January 2006 didn’t really imply that a majority of Palestinians were against peace with Israel or dedicated to the destruction of the apartheid state as Israeli hasbara has been successfully trying to convince the international community.

Indeed, Abbas’s statements and remarks in the presence of foreign visitors often suggested that he more or less agreed that the Palestinian people erred, to put it mildly, by electing Hamas, and had to incur the consequences.

Furthermore, the PA leadership in 2006 was guilty of indulgence in seeking to appease and please the West, especially the United States , by creating the impression that the PA, especially Fatah, was joining the American-inspired “coalition of the moderates,” which includes pro-American regimes in the Middle East against the anti-Israeli coalition, which includes Hamas, Hizbullah , Syria and Iran .

Well, this impression is false and deceptive because Palestine and the Palestinians are occupied and tormented by Israel whose occupation of our land is supported, sustained and guarded by the United States , not by Iran or Hizbullah or Syria .

More to the point, we must take note of the fact that these artificial and disingenuous classifications (the coalitions of moderates and extremists) are being utilized by the bankrupt Bush administration in order to redefine the essence of the Palestinian cause, from an enduring criminal and racist occupation of Palestine and systematic repression of its people to a mere psychological problem of moderates and extremists. This is how the Bush administration, in coordination with some Zionist circles, such as the so-called Peres Peace Center , has come to understand the conflict in this region.

That is why they are always trying to get Palestinian soccer players (usually the young boys and girls uncorrupted by extremist thinking!!) to play Israeli counterparts or play with them in one team against a foreign soccer team, as happened recently in Spain . Well, they are trying to spread the message that the problem is not the rape of Palestine by the Jews, the expulsion of millions of Palestinians from their ancestral homeland, but merely a psychological problem and some unresolved psychological complexes.

Having effectively joined the “axis of moderates” (which actually is an axis of liars), Abbas may have hoped that this false perceived proximity vis-à-vis the Americans would have placed him in a better position to extract Palestinian rights from Israel ’s criminal hands. But this view is short sighted if not outright naïve. This almost messianic American administration, which believes that the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq, was inspired by God, will not award or reward Abbas for being moderate (in the American lexicon “moderate” means coming to terms with the Israeli occupation and giving up Jerusalem as well as the right of return and much of the West Bank).

This is clear from the quality of the award the Bush Administration is already giving the PA. Indeed, instead of ordering Israel to stop building racist Jewish-only colonies and put an end to the policy of narrowing Palestinians’ horizons, George Bush has decided to give us weapons and millions of bullets to kill each other. More to the point, the fact that the delivery of these weapons has been supported by the likes of Avigdor Lieberman and right-wing Jewish extremists in the US speaks volumes in itself.

This is the same Bush that once described Ariel Sharon (we know well who Sharon is) as a man of peace and awarded his artificial withdrawal from Gaza by bestowing legitimacy to scores of Jewish colonies in the West Bank .

Our leadership must realize that the Palestinian people are not an Eidul Adha ram, to be fed today in order to be slaughtered tomorrow. It is lamentable that PA spokesmen, from Abbas downward, are scandalously failing to get the right messages through to the world.

For these reasons, in 2007, we must seek to rethink our performance with regard to media tactics and public diplomacy and do away with the often jumbled and confused public discourse. And in order to do that, we must concentrate on the following messages.

First, that the Israeli occupation is an act of rape and that it is the mother of all problems in the Middle East and beyond, and that there can be no peace or stability between Islam and the West, let alone between Israel and the Muslim world, as long as the Israeli occupation persists and the Palestinian people are denied their rights, including the right to have a viable and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital as well the repatriation of Palestinian refugees to their original hometowns and villages in what is now Israel.

Second, that Hamas is an authentic societal force that can’t be marginalized let alone eradicated and that it is futile and unrealistic to starve and torment the Palestinian people in order to weaken Hamas.

Third, that the Palestinian people will not be cajoled or bullied into accepting a deformed state, one with a form but without a substance.

Furthermore, the PA should stop talking about Hamas in the presence of foreign, especially American visitors since this would give the impression that the real problem lies in the existence of Hamas, not in the reality of the Israeli colonization and occupation of our homeland.

More to the point, the PA should really tell the international community that the PA itself is under the Israeli occupation and that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is still as sinister and as direct as it was prior to the conclusion of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Indeed, giving the false impression of Palestinian statehood, by employing such bombastic but mendacious phrases as Palestinian “sovereignty” and Palestinian “government” and Palestinian “security forces,” is really self-defeating and very very harmful to Palestinian aspirations for real freedom and real statehood. After all, real freedom can only be attained following a real delivery from this Nazi-like occupation of our country.

Finally, it is sad that the PA continues to employ poorly qualified or unqualified spokespersons with inadequate political and linguistic abilities to communicate the Palestinian view point to the outside world. We need professional spokespersons with excellent knowledge of the world and mastery of foreign languages, especially English, to tell the world in straightforward manner that Israel is a murderer, liar and land thief and that the problem lies squarely in the Zionist theft of our land and savaging of our people."

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