A Comment By Tony Sayegh
The buzz these days is about a one-state solution versus a two-state solution, as if the Palestinians can just pick and choose which option they prefer. The terrible reality is that in the current Nakba II the Palestinians are facing a more likely option: a no-state solution.
The question that is more important than the one-state/ two-state debate is what do the Palestinians want? Who speaks for them? Why are they so dormant as if the discussions concern another people? What has happened to them?
Indulging in the stupid illusion of a make-believe state, under occupation and colonization, the Palestinians have ended up with the worst features of both a real state and a national liberation movement. The PLO has traded liberation for a Vichy-style “state,” complete with a basic law (constitution), legislature, presidency, a prime minister, etc. However, if we were to accept this make-believe state, has it functioned and exercised even the limited powers at its disposal?
For example there is a legislature and a “constitution,” but has this legislature functioned? Has it even attempted to enforce the provisions of this constitution?
Let us compare what has just happened in Pakistan and what has not happened in Palestine. In Pakistan, in spite of a military that is fully dependent on and controlled by the US, the legislature stood its ground and insisted on impeaching Musharraf. Even with full US backing, the dictator had to accept the reality and to resign before being impeached.
Compare that with the crimes of the puppet Abbas. Here is a collaborator, who coordinates with the Israeli occupation the crack down on all resistance. He, with the help of the Israelis, arrests and tortures resistance fighters. He is responsible for mercenaries trained and armed by the CIA and who attempted to overthrow a democratically-elected Palestinian government. His regime arrests and tortures political prisoners and attacks and shuts down all opposition, orphanages, charities, press, etc. He has signed agreements with the occupiers that legitimize Israel’s control and siege of Gaza. He has played a direct role, along with Israel, in the siege and starvation of 1.5 million Palestinians. Worse still, he is likely to sign a final solution agreement with Israel that terminates all Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right of return.
So, who needs such a worthless “state” and impotent “legislature?” If it were a self-respecting legislature, Abbas would have been not just impeached, but tried as a collaborator and dealt with accordingly.
On the other hand, if a state does not exist and its institutions do not function, then where is the structure and institutions for national liberation? Is there a plan and a strategy for such liberation? What are they?
The secret for the success of national liberation movements all over the world, is that they concentrate on liberation first, before being burdened with running a state, paying salaries, issuing passports, etc. Except for the Palestinians; they do it in reverse. Is it any wonder that the Palestinian predicament is the worst it has been for three generations?
The Palestinian energy that exploded in the early seventies, in all fields: military, political, art, literature, publishing, activism, etc, seems to have died. I am afraid that the Fatah/Hamas straitjacket is preventing the Palestinians from coming up with any new revolutionary ideas. And both movements are comfortable playing their political games and sharing illusionary power over their respective reservations.
The Palestinian movement which burst on the Arab scene in the aftermath of the dismal defeat of the Arab regimes in 1967, has been replaced by an equally incompetent and impotent regime called the PA. In spite of its protestations, Hamas is a partner in this impotent Palestinian regime.
The bulk of the Palestinians who are neither Hamas not Fatah supporters need to rise up and be heard. There is much more to the cause than Hamas/Fatah. This includes the 1948 Palestinians, those in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and the millions in the Diaspora. One of the exciting developments in the early seventies was the integration of the Diaspora Palestinians in the struggle; all that is gone.
I am not sure about what it is in Arabic culture that seems to preclude regeneration, political ferment, political accountability, checks and balances, etc. Why do these processes work in a country such as Pakistan, but not among the Palestinians? As soon as the Palestinians had some structure (first the PLO and now the PA), the structure became frozen in time and devoid of mission and content. In other words it became a regime among regimes.
I suspect that free expression and free press are part of the explanation. The Palestinian movement thrived in Lebanon when Lebanon was one of the freest in the Arab world when it came to writing and publishing. Similarly some of the best Palestinian thinkers such as Edward Said and Azmy Bishara made their contributions away from the stifling and oppressive Arab milieu.
I am afraid that time is running out for the Palestinians. They have to revolt and reinvent themselves now or they will be permanently lost. Hamas has not been able to transform itself into a revolutionary movement. Fatah is finished as a credible Palestinian movement. The Palestinians have to reinvent themselves and come up with something new, something that captures the imagination of all Palestinians everywhere and pulls them to play their part in the struggle.
The current stasis is dangerous and if it continues, the Palestinian cause will wither away. If that happens, the Palestinians will only have themselves to blame.