Will the Palestinian Authority Declare
an Independent State, or Collapse?
By Stuart Littlewood
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, December 8, 2010
Either might force international
Stuart Littlewood argues that
without strategic communications and public relations plans and competent
professionals to implement them, the Palestinians stand little chance of
exploiting the few opportunities that might present themselves in 2011.
The other day I looked back with sadness on how nothing had changed
for the better since my last trip to Palestine three years ago. On that
occasion I also visited Gaza, an experience indelibly etched on my memory.
The situation there only goes from bad to worse – intolerably worse.
But if I'm dispirited, heaven knows how the average Palestinian must feel
as a result of the incompetent leadership they have had to endure these
last 63 years, a leadership which failed to coherently argue and convey
the justice of the Palestinian cause and never bothered, even to this day,
to formulate and put into action an effective communications plan to win
The Israelis, though accomplished propagandists, are not
very bright. In the battle for hearts and minds they have a violent story
to tell and a lousy reputation to defend. And it’s getting worse every
day. In their greed they score potentially damaging own-goals and leave
the moral high ground to their victims.
Their conduct reveal a
cruel streak. They trample human rights and show no respect for
international law. They are steeped in war crimes and crimes against
Yet the Palestinians shrug and let the endless flow of
priceless PR opportunities slip away.
“The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is supposed to
be leading the fight-back, has little to say to the
outside world and the many sympathizers out there.”
The Palestinian Authority, which is supposed to be leading the
fight-back, has little to say to the outside world and the many
sympathizers out there. The task of informing and educating is left to a
handful of exiles, academics, dedicated internet site operators,
conscientious UN personnel like
Falk, political mavericks like
Galloway, bold “freelancers” like
a host of courageous charities on the ground and rising numbers of
students across the globe. Jewish peace activists play a vital role too.
All work hard to keep the issue alive, no thanks to the PA.
The front that Palestine presents to the world remains
disunited, chaotic and dysfunctional, just the way Israel and the US like
it. Fatah, with a history of sleaze and corruption, has taken on a role
similar to that of the hated
in World War II, the ass-licking paramilitary outfit set up by the Vichy
French government, with Nazi help, to fight the French Resistance and do
much of the Nazis’ dirty work. Parallels with what’s happening now in the
Holy Land are unmistakable.
Fatah should remember
that when the Nazis were beaten the French people took their revenge on
surviving members of the Milice.
its packed coastal enclave, meanwhile allows itself to be demonized and
makes no move to overhaul its image – a puzzling omission and a blunder
with huge self-inflicted consequences.
watching the sort of self-indulgent and ultimately self-destructive lunacy
no-one in this day and age can afford, least of all the Palestinians. Who
can blame sympathizers for throwing up their hands in exasperation, crying
“Enough! A pox on you all,” and reaching for the “off” switch?
“Hamas ... allows itself to be demonized and makes no
move to overhaul its image – a puzzling omission and a
blunder with huge self-inflicted consequences.”
If any real progress is to be made, things must now change drastically
within Palestinian ranks.
My own finger was hovering over the “off”
switch when an excellent piece by Jeff Halper entitled "Palestine
2011" dropped into my inbox and made me sit up. When this remarkable
man speaks I, for one, listen.
Will a jolt from the outside create “new circumstances for peace”?
For many years Jeff Halper and his organization, the
Israeli Campaign Against
House Demolitions (ICAHD) have closely monitored the Israeli
occupation and its sinister methods, sometimes courageously facing the
bulldozers and rebuilding what they knock down. ICAHD's analyses and other
resource materials are essential reading for anyone wishing to properly
understand the situation. If you visit ICAHD in Jerusalem, as I have done
twice, you can arrange to be taken on a tour to see the awful truth.
"We are at a dead-end of a dead ‘process’," says Halper, adding:
“Israel will never end its occupation voluntarily; the best it may agree
to is apartheid, but the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians is more
what it has in mind."
Given the massive “facts on the ground”
Israel has established in the occupied territories, Halper believes the
international community will not exert enough pressure to make the
two-state idea a reality. Even if they wanted to, the veto power enjoyed
by Israel's sponsor, the US, wouldn’t allow it. "And the Palestinians,
fragmented and with weak leadership, have no clout. Indeed, they're not
even in the game ... we have arrived at the end of the road."
However, he predicts that 2011 will create a new set of circumstances in
which a just peace is possible, but the necessary game-changing jolt must
come from outside the present "process".
He puts forward two
possibilities. The first is a unilateral declaration of independence by
the PA on the 1949 armistice lines (the 1967 "Green Line") together with
an application for UN membership. A Palestinian state within those
pre-1967 borders, which UN member states, including the US, already
recognize, would be accepted by most countries in the world. Such a move
would place reluctant powers like the US, Britain and Germany in an
awkward position and force the hand of the international community.
The trouble is, says Halper, "the leadership of the Palestinian
Authority lacks the courage to undertake such a bold initiative".
It’s more likely, he thinks, that 2011 will see a continuing deadlock in
“negotiations” and the collapse of the PA, bringing to an end the current
process. It would be unthinkable for Israel to allow Hamas to fill the
vacuum, so it would be faced with the prospect of reoccupying the
territories at full security strength, a massive burden. Such a move
would, of course, inflame the Muslim world and generate massive protests
worldwide, again forcing the hand of the international community. “Looked
at in this way,” Halper observes, “the Palestinians have one source of
enormous clout: they are the gatekeepers."
Jeff Halper throws some
welcome shafts of sunlight onto a bleak landscape. But is civil society,
in Palestine and abroad, in any shape to seize the opportunities presented
by either of these scenarios? Activists, wherever they are, need to
prepare for what happens and agree how to react if the PA falls.
may be weak and pliable, but he is not a collaborator," says Halper. Well,
he certainly had me fooled. If it waddles like a collaborator, quacks like
a collaborator and jumps through hoops like a collaborator, it sure as
hell ain't no patriot duck! Abbas might have created a better impression
if he’d carried the fight to the Israelis and the US, demanded the
enforcement of international law and UN resolutions, refused to negotiate
before Israel complied, and insisted on any subsequent talks being
supervised by the UN, not by Israel's ally, financier, arms supplier and
Far from upholding Palestinian rights, “honest
broker” America torpedoes them at every turn even under this peace-prize
president. It must be sidelined somehow.
To my mind the
international community, with or without the US, could have used leverage
to force an end to the occupation any time during the last 63 years, and
could do so tomorrow. The great mystery – for many – is why the PA and the
Arab community of nations have not explored that angle energetically
Mahmoud Abbas’s “‘silent routine’ and reluctance to
make waves lend weight to accusations of collaboration.”
It has always been vitally important to counter Israeli propaganda.
Abbas should have set up a professional communications unit, trained and
funded Palestinian embassies around the world to educate and inform, and
orchestrated an effective worldwide campaign.
Why didn’t he? His “silent routine” and reluctance to make waves lend
weight to accusations of collaboration. The only information coming out of
the PA’s embassy in London, for example, is social “froth” like details of
the next concert. Its website hasn’t been updated for since April, which
just about sums up the uselessness of Abbas and his henchmen.
Compare this with the slick, always-on-the-ball Israeli operation.
As for Hamas, they certainly have what it takes in terms of raw courage,
firm resolve and popular support to fill the void, as they did in the 2006
elections. But they are unapproachable at a time when they need to open
up, forge friendly links and defuse the West's fears and misconceptions.
Without a careful makeover and general rebranding they’ll have a hard road
ahead and so will their people.
If 2011 doesn’t bring Jeff Halper’s
“jolt from outside”, and a dose of salts to flush Palestine’s insides, the
“off” switch will remain a serious temptation.
expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors
and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & ccun.org.