In DC last week, Huwaida Arraf of the International Solidarity movement posed two questions for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Minister:
1) Why is the PA not articulating the clear and continuing human rights violations by Israel, and
2) Since Mahmud Abbas wants Palestinians to end armed resistance to Israeli colonization why does his authority not show any visible participation or support for the Palestinian non-violence resistance?
His response was that he used to be president of an activist group and knows that activists may say a lot of things that leaders cannot and should not say. He also said that everyone knows Palestinians engage in non-violent resistance and obviously “we think it is good.”
Then Phyllis Bennis asked why he stated that the PA “did not like Bush’s written assurances to Sharon but we choose to interpret them in light of International law.” She explained that this makes little sense considering that Sharon is proceeding based on these assurances to consolidate control in the occupied West Bank, that such assurances contravene international law and that the Bush administration has a history of violating international law. He did not reply.
PA leaders are not in enviable positions. They are required by an imbalance of power to fulfill the Bush and Sharon “visions” of security for the occupier in return for positions of “leadership” over the captive Palestinians. The PA leaders claim that Israeli settlement policies are destroying the “vision of a two state solution.” But outgoing Israeli Army Chief Yaalon said it well “A two-state solution, is not relevant…it is a story that the Western world tells with Western eyes and that story does not comprehend the scale of the gap and the scale of the problem. We, too, are sweeping it under the carpet.”
And why are the Palestinains fulfilling their obligations under an unfair road map even while Israel refuses to implement its obligations of a full settlement freeze. As for two-states, there is already a state called Israel with discrimnatory laws, with nuclear weapons and the fourth strongest army in the world. Zionism survives only in so far as it prevents Palestinians attaining their basic human rights such as the right to return to their homes and lands and the right to self-determination. Zionism and Israeli law claim all Jews around the world are nationals of the state and give them the “right” to automatic citizenship while denying Palestinian Christians and Muslims the right to return to their homes simply for being Gentiles. Palestinians by contrast are in shrinking cantons on less than 10% of their historic lands.
Abbas is calling for resuming direct unconditional negotiations on final status issues, but how can there be unconditional “negotiations” between a superior military power backed by the only remaining military superpower and a captive population stripped of even the meager cards of armed resistance? The Palestinain Authority does have other options. It could choose to build its network with progressive organizations around the world. It could build non-violent resistance (including civil disobedience, divestments and boycotts). It could reject negotiations unless based on human rights and international law. It could insist that all Palestinians are represented (including inside Palestine 48, and refugees).
PA leaders who put the welfare of their people before personal interest must start with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Zionism/colonialism and rejection of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands are incompatible with these basic human rights. If the PA does not succeed in reversing colonial rule and instituting equality and justice, then the field will be left to Hamas or a third party (like the democratic initiative called Al-Mubadara). But, like in South Africa, Israeli society is changing and pressures from outside are building. Israeli artists recently called for ending Israel’s apartheid laws. Many churches and universities are developing divestment and boycott campaigns.
The International Court ruling on the illegality of the apartheid wall built on Palestinian land is a victory for common sense. US taxpayers who foot the bill with billions to fund Israel are now beginning to understand reality long shielded from them (but not the rest of the world) by a hegemonic media discourse. With the Israeli lobby realing from US espionage charges, and more Americans joining with the rest of the world in thinking outside the box of the fictional “two-state solution” (in which oppression and ethnic cleansing are legitimized), this may be is a time for a more rational US foreign policy.