Palestine: The end or a new beginning?

That call for restructuring Palestinian institutions echoed one made by Osamah Khalil, a co-founder of Al-Shabaka, in March 2013. (He is Assistant Professor of History of the U.S. in the World at Syracuse University). In a briefing paper with the headline “Who Are You?” The PLO and the Limits of Representation, his conclusion was the following (my emphasis added).


If Palestinians want a representative body, national unity, an end to factional differences and to a corrupt and illegitimate leadership, they will need to build that movement themselves from scratch. They will also need to make the previous body and its leaders – regardless of their revolutionary origins and rhetoric, titles, symbolism, and emotional ties – obsolete and irrelevant. With a past marked by failure, Palestinians must imagine and work toward a very different future. Otherwise there will be little hope of finding a successful strategy or vehicle to achieve Palestinian rights.


Given that liberation was the goal the Palestinian past is indeed “marked by failure” as Khalil states but complete understanding of it has to take account of two most important facts.

The first is that Arafat risked everything – his credibility with his leadership colleagues and his life – to prepare the ground on the Palestinian side for peace on terms which a rational government in Israel would have accepted with relief. (Israel’s response was to invade Lebanon all the way to Beirut with the objective of liquidating the entire PLO leadership and destroying the organization’s infrastructure). If the major powers led by America had backed Arafat after he secured support for his policy of politics and unthinkable compromise in the shape of a two-state solution, peace would have been there for the taking if Israel’s leaders had wanted it.

The second is that the occupied and oppressed Palestinian people have not failed. Israel’s policy was and is to make life hell for them in the hope that they will abandon their struggle and either surrender on Zionism’s terms or, preferably, pack their bags and leave to start a new life in Arab and other countries. The steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinian people (not their leaders) is a success not a failure.

In my analysis the process of building a new Palestine liberation movement “from scratch” would have to begin with something I have been advocating for several years – the dissolution of the PA and handing back to Israel complete responsibility for its occupation of the West Bank.

As I have noted in previous articles, that would impose significant burdens – economic, security and other – on Israel. But with complete responsibility for occupation would come full accountability.

How might that benefit the Palestinians?

Israel’s racism, oppression and on-going colonization of the West Bank (ethnic cleansing slowly and by stealth) would be exposed, fully naked, for the whole world to see, and that could assist the mobilization of public opinion everywhere for pressure on governments to use the leverage they have to cause (or try to cause) Israel to end its defiance of international law and denial of justice for the Palestinians.

I think it can be assumed that Israel would prevent the Palestinians under its control engaging in activities to rebuild their liberation movement on democratic foundations. So how, actually, could the rebuilding be done?

In my view it could only happen if the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians was supplemented by practical and co-ordinated Palestinian diaspora action.

The composition of the Palestinian diaspora by countries and numbers of Palestinians resident in them is roughly the following. Jordan – 2,900,000; Israel – 1,600,000; Syria – 800,000; Chile – 500,000; Lebanon – 490,000; Saudi Arabia – 280,245; Egypt – 270,245; United States – 270,000; Honduras – 250,000; Venezuela – 245,120; United Arab Emirates – 170,000; Germany – 159,000; Mexico – 158,000; Qatar – 100,000; Kuwait – 70,000; El Salvador – 70,000; Brazil – 59,000; Iraq – 57,000; Yemen – 55,000; Canada – 50,975; Australia – 45,000; Libya – 44,000; Denmark – 32,152; United Kingdom – 30,000; Sweden – 25,500; Peru – 20,000; Columbia – 20,000; Spain – 12,000; Pakistan – 10,500; Netherlands – 9,000; Greece – 7,500; Norway – 7,000; France – 5,000; Guatemala – 3,500; Austria – 3,000; Switzerland – 2,000; Turkey – 1,000; and India – 300.

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page