Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Palestinians Must Redefine Struggle

The problem is indeed bigger than mere ideological or even personal quarrels between two rival political parties; rather, it is the expression of a prevailing Palestinian factionalism that seems to consume members of various Palestinian communities regardless of where they are based.

By Ramzy Baroud

"It’s never easy to admit that the Palestinian front, both at home and abroad, remains as fragmented and self-consumed, thus ineffective, as ever before, and got worse during the disastrous post-Oslo period.

Such realization wouldn’t mean much if the inference concerned any other polity; but when it’s made in regards to a nation that is facing an active campaign of ethnic cleansing at home and an international campaign of sanctions and boycott, the problem becomes both real and urgent......

It must also be acknowledged, as uncomfortable as this may be to some, that the Palestinian democratic experience is rapidly succumbing to Israeli pressures, American meddling — tacitly or otherwise, coordinated with other governments — and the fractious Palestinian front that has been for decades permeated with ideological exclusivism, cronyism and corruption.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), since its formation by the Arab League in 1964, but most significantly since its reformation in the early 1970s under Palestinian leadership, was for long regarded as the main body that eventually brought to the fore the Palestinian struggle as — more than a mere question of a humanitarian issue that needed redress — a national fight for freedom and rights. There was, more or less, a national movement that spoke and represented Palestinians everywhere. It gave the Palestinian struggle greater urgency, one that was lost, or willingly conceded, by Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in September 1993, and again in Cairo in May 2004.

Aside from snuffing out the Palestinian national project, reducing the territory to self-autonomous areas, rendering irrelevant millions of Palestinians, mostly refugees scattered around the world and thus demoting the international status of the PLO to a mere symbolic organization, Oslo gave rise to a new type of thinking among Palestinians who see themselves as pragmatic and whose language is that of real politic and diplomacy. This is the most woeful case of self-defeatism, and it continues to infuse most Palestinian circles whose new “strategy” is limited to acquiring funds from European countries which eventually dotted the West Bank with NGOs, mostly without a clear purpose, agenda and coordination. Involving oneself in such useless projects is ineffectual, while rejecting them without a clear alternative can be frustrating or demoralizing.

An official in President Mahmoud Abbas’ circle chastised me during a long airplane ride once for subscribing to Edward Said’s school, whose followers, I was told, wish to parrot criticism from the outside and refrain from “getting their hands dirty”, i.e., getting involved in the Palestinian Authority’s institution building, and so forth. Such a claim is utterly baseless; and no viable institution can possibly come out of the current setting, an amalgam of a most violent occupation, and internal corruption sanctioned, if not fed, by both Israel and the US government.

Truth is there have been no serious collective Palestinian efforts to redress the Oslo mistakes and to breathe life into the PLO. The Intifada was a popular expression of Palestinians disaffection with Oslo and the occupation, but, alone, it can hardly be considered a sustainable strategy. Neither a religious movement like Hamas nor a self-exalted one like Fateh is capable of approaching this subject alone, nor are they individually qualified to alter the Palestinian course, which seems to be moving in random order....."

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