Turning the Page, Again

by SAM BAHOUR

The pages of the Palestinian political history book turn very slowly, incredibly slowly. By the time you read these words, Palestinians will have headed to the voting booths to elect municipal and village councils in what has become a saga of multiple waves of local elections with a continuous series of postponements. Furthermore, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections are set to take place on the 25th of January, more than half a decade late.

As in most societies, elections in Palestine ought to be the virtual fingers that turn political pages, usually closing a chapter and starting anew. Yet this has not always been the case here. Under a traditional leadership, with a stagnated political environment of internal hegemony and external military occupation, elections have been used over the years to entrench the already entrenched polity. Add to this the multi-pronged foreign interventions into Palestinian society politically, economically, and socially and elections have become watered down to the point where they are no longer enough of a force to turn the pages of history.

All of that is about to change, at least we hope so. More importantly, we hope that such a change will move our political life forward and not create a multiplicity of participation while paralyzing society at all levels. The fear of paralysis is real. Few countries, including countries-in-the-making like ours, renew every level of government in a short 12-month timeframe. Add to this the still evident lack of legal and legislative recourse, and the jitteriness in the Palestinian streets starts to make sense.

A new President was elected on January 9th, 2005. The election was boycotted by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and even so, President Mahmoud Abbas faced serious competition for the first time ever, taking 62% of the votes. Three waves of municipal and village council elections were orchestrated throughout 2005. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad participated and won significant seats across the Palestinian areas. More than a political systemic shift, in my opinion, this was a result of several factors: Palestinian despair after being battered by Israel for five years, following 38 years of occupation and 57 years of dispossession; the failure of the appointed municipal and village councils to be held accountable; and a loud and clear message to FATAH that it can no longer claim a monopoly on Palestinian politics. This message will be brought unequivocally home during the PLC elections.

The PLC elections of January 2006 will reshuffle the internal balances of power. Even before the elections, the process has shaken the very foundation that is supposed to carry the process forward. The election law was dealt with, by an expired PLC body, as if it were a t-shirt to be ripped apart with the winner getting the largest piece. All of this while Israel systematically moves ahead with destroying any remnants of a political horizon while daily ripping through what little remains of historic Palestine by continuing, unfazed, in building its illegal Separation Wall on Palestinian lands.

As lacking as the electoral process is, it does begin a historic process of elections in a multi-party environment. Elections do wonders in and of themselves; that is, if the political system itself has an acceptable level of confidence. Such a level of confidence has been nearly lost in Palestine and, in consequence, regrettably, we will not realize the full power of elections this time around. Instead of expecting wonders, we should be positively looking at this one-year election season as concrete that has now been poured. What remains to be seen is whether it will actually dry in time and remain in place to hold the Palestinian political house together.

Regardless, we should remember the insightful words of the renowned Israeli journalist living in Ramallah, Amira Hass, when she suggested that Palestinians would be better off to start acting like a serious national liberation movement rather than fall for the trappings of statehood without a state. She said: "The Palestinian people [are] capable of withstanding terrible trials and tribulations: physical, psychological and economic. It can certainly face those trials if they become a means within the context of planned, coordinated and deliberately led strategic action meant to break the rules of the game that faked peace and statehood, rules that were set down in the days of Oslo and are coming back to deceive us now once again."1

Hass boldly went on to say that, "In impersonating an ordinary ‘government’ to the world and to its people, at best it [the Palestinian Authority] is perceived as a corrupt and failing organization and at worst, as a sub-contractor for the bureaucracy of the occupation."2

Dr. Ali Jarbawi, a professor of political science at Birzeit University, recently said it point blank: "these [results of both Palestinian and Israeli] elections will set the stage for a third, ‘springtime’ intifada."3

Our future can only be shaped by our own hands. Are we ready, not only to turn the page, but to rip out and then rewrite the last chapter of the chronicle that has imprisoned us in occupation like never before?!

SAM BAHOUR is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city of Al-Bireh. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). He can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com

1 http://www.counterpunch.org/hass03032005.html

2 http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=640518

3 Published on 5 December 2005 in bitterlemons.org

This essay originally appeared in This Week in Palestine.




 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism