FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who Owns the Palestine Solidarity Movement?

by RAMZY BAROUD

A few years ago, after I spoke at a conference in South Africa, Ronnie Kasrils, then the country’s Minister for Intelligence Services, leaned towards me and said, “I agree with everything you said, but in order for the boycott of Israel to become adopted by world governments, the call has to be initiated by those who represent the Palestinian people in Palestine, not outside groups.”

I was not actually purporting to represent any group, inside or outside Palestine. A few days later I received more counsel from a leading South African official. “A representative from Mahmoud Abbas’s office was here few days ago,” he said. “He seemed to have different priorities from yours. He asked me to ensure that the South African government continues to isolate Hamas, not Israel.”

Kasrils, a legendary member of the African National Congress (ANC), was, of course, right. It was the decisive call of academic boycott made by the ANC in the 1960s which started a process that eventually succeeded in isolating the apartheid regime and speeding up its demise.

Alas, those who are recognised as the representatives of the Palestinians stand on the wrong side of history. Their political fate is now intrinsically linked to that of the very Israeli occupation that continues to torment Palestinians. Ensuring dominion over an occupied nation has proved to be more urgent to them than isolating Israel for its crimes.

The leadership vacuum goes back even prior to the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Since then millions of Palestinians have been left alone to fend against Israel’s violent occupation. In fact, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has itself become a liability in the mission of obtaining freedom for Palestinians.

In the Occupied Territories, Hamas grew in its political significance as a viable alternative to the PNA’s failings. This led to further US-Israeli punishment of Palestinians. It also challenged the traditional gatekeepers of Palestinian rights, culminating in a destructive conflict which continues to this day.

Palestinian communities in the diaspora are also struggling with the new reality. When Iraq-based Palestinian refugees became an easy target for militias after the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, hardly anyone spoke on their behalf. The Palestinian leadership had obviously more pressing matters than tending to hurting refugees — some of whom were hauled away from their dismal refugee camps at the Jordan and Syrian borders to start new lives in South America.

The political vacuum created by the self-seeking ‘leadership’ has indeed devastated Palestinians, both politically and intellectually. The physical fragmentation of the Palestinian collective has never been more urgent an issue than it is today. Previously there had been a cohesive narrative and a shared sense of political identify.

In its heyday, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) had succeeded in galvanising a degree of political and cultural unity. Although camaraderie among Palestinians will still survive despite all the hurdles, there is now an undoubted feeling of loss.

One of the strongest retorts to the PNA’s tragic failures was the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Its unquestionable success is a testament to the growing global consensus that Israeli practices are unacceptable. The BDS opened up a channel where solidarity with Palestinians could be translated into action.

Not a political organisation per se, the BDS is rather a manifestation of numerous collectives in uncountable cities and towns around the world. The decentralisation of the BDS is one of its greatest assets and also challenges. On the one hand, it cannot be easily thwarted. On the other hand, the efforts of a movement of this scope cannot be summoned into action through a single call by one or a small group of individuals. Its unity is not based on any political treatise or ideological framework. In a way, it is a parliament for world solidarity based on universally recognised principles of justice, peace and human rights.

The BDS cannot be controlled, nor, in my opinion, should it be. It is not a political platform as such, but a reservoir of multitudes of energies. It is obliged to no one but the growing community of justice activists who work to convey the harsh reality in Palestine, along with the message of the Palestinians.

Its success is embedded in the model itself: democratic, yet decentralised, global, yet responsive to local reality. Most importantly, it operates as a basis of solidarity, not a hub for political dictation — for that right and responsibility is completely reserved for the Palestinian people. It is their land, their struggle, and their future on the line.

Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook such facts. The sense of dejection caused by disunity, and the action of the quisling Palestinian ‘leadership’ might inspire some to overstep their boundaries. They speak on behalf of Palestinians and the ‘solidarity movement’ as a whole and liberally theorise in a way that could actually divide the movement.

In a recent interview with Haaretz, long-time pro-Palestinian rights author and intellectual, Norman Finkelstein claimed he had decided to “switch … hats from a critic of Israel to a diplomat who wants to resolve the conflict”.

Intellectuals may switch hats as they find suitable, but they should not do so at the expense of a global movement whose messages need to be guarded. The solidarity movement cannot afford to be used as a vehicle for individuals’ intellectual realisations. It belongs to no one, though is inspired by the suffering and heroism of the Palestinians people.

In the case of Palestine, a movement of this nature is even more indispensable than it would have been in South Africa in the 1960s, due to the political and moral bankruptcy of the PNA. And it should remain united around the principles of humanity and human rights set clearly by the Palestinian people themselves.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle  and  “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London). 

(This article was first published in Gulf News)


Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail