By Alan Hart
The headline over a presentation by Jews for Justice for Palestinians of the text of a talk given by Norman Finkelstein to a number of British universities in mid-March was The End of Palestine? It’s time to sound an alarm. The purpose of this article is to do just that. In his talk which analysed U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s peace initiative (“a sham”), Finkelstein explained at length that the Palestinians are on their own because the powers that be in the Western and Arab worlds want them to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table and effectively surrender to Zionism’s will. (I’ve been saying that for ages). He also notes, and I agree, that the Palestinian cause is not as alive and well as it once was in the hearts and minds of the Arab masses, not least because they have troubles of their own.
Finkelstein’s summing up included this: QUOTE The PA fantasizes that it can liberate Palestine via international diplomacy, while BDS fantasizes that it can liberate Palestine via international sanctions. But the only ones who can liberate Palestine are the Palestinian people themselves, principally those living under occupation. Only mass nonviolent civil resistance can catapult Palestine back on the international stage. If a popular revolt, like the first intifada, erupts under the simple slogan Enforce the Law, and if the international solidarity movement does its part, it might be possible to mobilize public opinion – including sectors of liberal American Jewish opinion – and exert sufficient pressure on the international community such that Israel will be compelled to meet its legal obligations.
UNQUOTE My purpose is to put some flesh on the bone of the statement that the Palestinians themselves must take the lead if their cause is not to become a lost one. In my analysis a Palestinian strategy for taking the lead has begin with the DISSOLUTION OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA), which in Gideon Levy’s words is more or less a “sub-contractor for Israel”, and HANDING BACK TO ISRAEL THE FULL RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OCCUPATION. This would impose significant burdens on Israel. Without the PA’s American trained security forces to keep the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank under control for Israel, having to take complete responsibility for occupation would be costly in terms of the additional call on Israel’s own security forces and financially.
More to the point, dissolving the PA could be the beginning of a process to make calling and holding the Zionist (not Jewish) state to account for its defiance of international law and crimes something less than what it is at present – a mission impossible. Such a process could and would be assisted by the occupied and oppressed Palestinians resorting to a campaign of non-violent protest. It could take the form of silent gatherings of Palestinians in each and all of their locations, with each and every one of them holding above their heads a placard bearing the words END THE OCCUPATION. The placard would not need to be anything fancy.
The words, large enough for the cameras to capture, could be written on cardboard. In my view the combination of the silence of the gatherings and the message of the placards would help to focus the attention of the outside world. As I write I find myself wondering how the government of Israel would respond to such demonstrations on, say, a weekly basis. Quite possibly it would pass a law declaring that any gathering of Palestinians anywhere on the West Bank for a political purpose would be illegal without a permit. They, permits, would not be granted and, in theory, that would free up the IDF to take whatever action it deemed to be necessary – tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition – to disperse the silent protest gatherings. I say “in theory” because IDF violence to disperse silent and peaceful protest gatherings of Palestinians on their own land (what’s left of it) would help to swell the rising global tide of anti-Israelism and add substance to the perception of Israel as a pariah state. Surely no government of Israel would be that stupid…..?
As I have stated in previous articles, the occupied and oppressed Palestinians would themselves be stupid if they resorted to violent protest because that would play into Israel’s hands and save its leaders from creating a pretext for a final ethnic cleansing. (It really is the case, as noted recently by Bassem Khoury, a former PA minister, that “Israel hasn’t changed.” He added, “It is the same old colonial entity pursuing the same ethnic cleansing policies it did for decades.” But unlike what happened in 1948, I add, today’s ethnic cleansing is happening slowly and by stealth). As I indicated above, the dissolution of the PA would be only the beginning of a strategy for preventing the Palestinian cause from becoming a lost one. The other essential element of it has to be the Palestinian diaspora becoming engaged and putting its act together to bring the Palestine National Council (PNC) back to life. Once upon a time the PNC, a parliament-in-exile with its members elected or at least nominated by diaspora communities throughout the world, was the highest decision-making body on the Palestinian side. (The Arab regimes loathed it because more often than not it was a manifestation of democracy in action).
Bringing the PNC back to life would require fresh elections to it throughout the Palestinian diaspora and, Israel permitting, the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip. 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.
The number of Palestinians resident in each country would determine how many representatives in each country were to be elected to the PNC. The role of the PNC brought back to life would be to debate and determine Palestinian policy and then to represent it by speaking to power, on behalf of all Palestinians everywhere, with one credible voice. If the Palestinian diaspora is unwilling to play its necessary part in keeping the cause alive, the judgement of history one day will most likely be that it was complicit by default in Zionism’s final ethnic cleansing and the closing, never for re-opening, of the Palestine file. My question for the Palestinian diaspora is this. Can you not hear the alarm? Footnote In an article for today’s Ha’aretz, Henry Siegman, formerly the national director of the American Jewish Congress, argues that America is “irrelevant” to Middle East peacemaking because it won’t use its leverage over Israel and, therefore, that the Palestinians should resort to “a non-violent, anti-apartheid struggle.”