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The Mandela Model

Who Can Negotiate for Palestine?

by BARBARA NIMRI AZIZ

Palestine-Israeli peace talks seem to proceed from uninspired to obscure to fruitless. This week we learned that U.S. negotiators may offer the notorious Israeli-American spy Jonathan Pollard as a carrot to Israel to concede something to Palestinians, even a promise to continue negotiations. Would it work? And who would it benefit? Can anything move Israel towards a genuine agreement that would realize Palestinian autonomy?

Can you remember any meaningful Israeli move towards peace during these agonizing costly decades? The Oslo Accord lies in tatters. Israel’s pullout from Gaza was an opportunity to rid itself of an ungovernable population on a tiny coastal strip which Israel then proceeded to lay siege to, surrounding Gaza with boats and fences and bombing its population at will.

Does anyone buy a release by Israel of Arab prisoners as anything but a transfer of men and women essentially held as hostages? Secretary of State Kerry who began his tenure with energetic diplomatic initiatives recently suggested the US might offer a real prize to Israel—the American spy Pollard for…  . For what? Hostages. And, oh yes– extending a peace talks deadline, leading we don’t know where. Any extension of talks would likely slide into the next U.S. president’s tenure. Then they’d restart under a new US administration.

Meanwhile we’ll see 1000s more armed Jewish colonizers installed in the West Bank, while 1000s more Palestinians are dislodged, more Arab lands seized, more defenseless Palestinians killed, more livelihoods lost, more Palestinians fleeing abroad, more foreign funding allocated for more helpless, more impoverished refugees.

A Pollard-Palestinian exchange would also provide another reminder that one Israeli is worth hundreds of Arabs. So more humiliation.

Where else can Palestinians look for action? Not their militants. Not Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, not Iran’s Ahmadinajad or Turkey’s Erdogan:– all erstwhile champions of Palestinian statehood. And not Tony Blair and his phony “Quartet”.

The recent Palestinian announcement that it will pursue membership in various U.N. agencies is long overdue.

Despite legions of talented, courageous, determined Palestinians outside, and the enduring millions under occupation, this leadership has thus far failed its people and its supporters. It must change. It must invoke bold strategies.

Palestinian leaders can still turn to one of their bravest supporters, Nelson Mandela; his recent passing recalled an extraordinary 1990 confrontation in New York where Mandela boldly responded to a hostile audience regarding his support for Palestine, reducing the normally aggressive Ted Koppel to a dithering amateur.   The clarity of his words in this clip reinforces Mandela’s ideological position; it demonstrates a brilliance and fearlessness we rarely experience today—from anyone.

All Palestinian orators, researchers and supporters outside and all the martyrs inside cannot achieve their goal without really skilled people at their negotiating table. The greatest tribute Palestinians can pay to the foremost champion of their cause is to study every detail of Mandela’s evolution, and adopt it. Immediately.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist and journalist. She has visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories on numerous occasions, reporting for Pacifica-WBAI in New York and elsewhere. Her website is www.RadioTahrir.org.