illustration - Eran Wolkowski - January 26 2011
Illustration. Photo by Eran Wolkowski
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The real concession of the Palestinian leadership is on its occupied people as an active force in the struggle for independence. For this, there is no need for leaked documents.

Indeed, the "Palestine Papers" confirm an open secret: Contrary to the declarations recited in public, the leadership of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority is prepared for far-reaching concessions on the holy grail of the traditional Palestinian position: the right of return of refugees from the Palestinian "nakba" of 1948.

"When we demand a two-state solution, we do not mean two Palestinian states," a senior Fatah official told me with regard to the question of the return of the refugees to pre-1967 Israel. Had the PLO leadership respected its people, it would not be speaking out of both sides of its mouth, but conducting an open debate about this demand. It would have shared its conclusions with its public (at home and in exile ): The dreamed-of right of return is not attainable, at least not at this stage in history, and that it is not fair to continue to keep four million people hostage under the boot of the occupation for its sake. Others would have replied that under cover of the negotiations, and despite the Palestinian concessions, Israel simply expanded its settlements anyway.

It is not technical problems that are preventing such a democratic debate, but the failure to see the people as an agent of change.

The PLO depends on the largess and diplomacy of Western nations who cooperate with the occupation policy. Hamas, addicted to the armed struggle and its purported achievements, is dependent on donations from its own sources, and is waiting for the toppling of the pro-western Arab regimes by radical Islamic movements.

Both Palestinian rivals know how to use the resilience and creativity of their people in the face of the daily torture that is foreign rule. But they do not help translate this personal and collective stamina into a strategy of unarmed popular struggle.

A strategy of popular struggle is a daily commitment, first and foremost by whomever presents himself as a leader. This is the only option left after the disasters caused by the amateurish negotiations in the 1990s and the use of arms, mainly against civilians, in the last decade. Israel proves every day how dangerous this option is to its occupation, otherwise it would not invest so much effort in its repression.

But a strategy of a general popular struggle, not only in five exemplary villages, does not jibe with the perks of power that the PLO and Fatah leadership have gotten used to, and which are directly dependent on travel permits from the Civil Administration and contracts with USAID.

Thus the Palestinian Authority is becoming entrenched as a channel for paying salaries and an elite disconnected from its people. Where are the members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council? Where are the members of the PLO Executive Committee? Why aren't they spreading the word of the popular struggle to other parts of the West Bank?

And when it comes to Hamas, the democratic potential of popular activities clashes with the military character developed by this movement, with the intellectual obedience that it demands, as borne out by its style of rule in Gaza.

Hamas and the PLO are in the thrall of their false status as two governments whose existence and maintenance have become a goal in itself. Had they not given up on their people as a decisive factor, the two rival forces would have listened to it, and before anything else found a way to end the dual rule.

The U.S. makes demands and sets conditions? Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood whisper instructions? Excuse me, the two-headed leadership would have said, there's a people whose opinion we have to consider.