Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Towards a True Paradigm Shift in Palestine
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, December 8, 2011
The Palestinian Uprising or Intifada of 1987 remains the single most
significant triumph of popular mobilization in Palestinian history.
The First Intifada, as it is commonly known, had, once and for all, placed
the Palestinian people as a collective on the political map of a region that
previously had room only for Israeli Merkava tanks and US ‘peace envoys’.
The Arab body politic had been led by mostly powerless leaders, and
Palestinian factions with multiple allegiances were led by men with numerous
nom de guerres.
Not discounting the fact that some of the
Palestinian factions had, in fact, contributed to the long and arduous
struggle for Palestinian freedom, a chasm had long existed between the
larger mass of the Palestinian people and those who claimed to represent
The Intifada tried to change that unsettling paradigm. It
transported the struggle away from Arab capitals back to Palestine, and,
more importantly, involved ordinary Palestinians in the campaign to end
Israeli occupation. The parties that represented the traditional ‘players’
in the conflict faced an unprecedented situation in a conflict that had
previously been determined almost solely by Israel’s military might, enabled
by US’ unconditional support and Arab acquiescence. But this time around, no
bullets were deadly enough, no US support was generous enough, and no
political submission was demoralizing enough to stifle the spontaneous calls
of freedom made by ordinary Palestinians.
The Intifada eventually
subsided. Palestinian political elites tried to capitalize on its gains, and
Israel did its best to prevent its reoccurrence. Thus the Oslo Accords, a
joint effort by Israeli and some Palestinian leaders to create a new status
quo. Selected Palestinians were brought back to the occupied territories to
manage the ‘unruly’ masses while Israel carried on with its colonial mission
unhindered. Since then - and despite of the Second Palestinian Uprising in
2000 - no major paradigm shift has managed to change that terrible reality.
The Palestinian leadership, clustered in the so-called Palestinian Authority
(PA), has fallen deeper into corruption while illegal Israeli settlements
have morphed beyond the imaginings of Ariel Sharon and other ardent Israeli
Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to subsist
between bouts of defiance - as exemplified in Gaza, Jenin and other places -
while slowly being ethnically ‘cleansed’ from East Jerusalem and the West
Bank to make room for expanding Jewish settlements. The courage of these
ordinary Palestinians, men and women holding onto their beloved ancient
olive trees as they are ruthlessly bulldozed, is now a trademark known in
its Arabic form: sumoud, steadfastness.
That said, the political
landscape is once again being locked into a predictable pattern. Two-faced
Israeli leaders speak of peace while maintaining a state of siege and
occupation over millions of Palestinians, while a self-designated
Palestinian leadership grows increasingly reliant on the very occupation it
is trying to end. According to the International Middle East Media Center,
citing an academic study conducted by a Palestinian researcher from the West
Bank, “the amount of investments by Palestinian businessmen in Israeli
settlements and in Israel itself, amounted to $2.5 Billion in 2010” (IMEMC
and Agencies, November 9).
In fact, this is a much bigger issue than
Palestinian money invested in the Israeli occupation, or even some
outrageous concessions made by one ‘chief negotiator’ or some other
official. The tragedy is that while Israeli dominance is once again being
normalized (as was the case before 1987), the Palestinian leadership,
despite repeated failures, insists on maintaining its position of ascendancy
and control. This insistence continues even as the geopolitical map of the
region is being redrawn - whether by the action of Arab peoples, or through
the military might and political influence wielded by outsiders.
paradigm shift is in fact underway in several Arab countries, especially
those immediately adjacent to Palestine and Israel. While the breeze of the
so-called Arab Spring is likely to be felt by occupied Palestinians, the
extent of its political influence remains uncertain. Even if change in
Egypt, for example, proves truly fundamental and irreversible, it will do
the Palestinians little good if an alternative and truly revolutionary
leadership doesn’t materialize soon. This is the only change that could
possibly renew and harness the indefatigable energies of the Palestinian
The political attitude of the Palestinian
leadership, whether the US-backed ‘moderates’ in the West Bank, or Hamas in
Gaza are maneuvers aimed at accommodating the political change underway in
Cairo and Damascus. The unity talks between Fatah and Hamas – the latest
touted ‘successful’ talks being held in Egypt on November 24 – might, in
theory, bridge the divide between the two rivals. Yet, in reality, it
remains a political project between two movements aspiring to find common
ground for their own political ends. This is arguably a positive feat, but
it will definitely fall short of the minimal paradigm shift required in
Palestine under the current circumstances.
It is almost ahistorical
that Palestinians haven’t yet marched forward, along with Tunisians,
Egyptians and others. This could be attributed to the extreme factional
polarization and bitter politics that have divided Palestinians in myriad of
ways. There have been a few bashful attempts at reaching a critical mass of
popular mobilization, but instead a limited movement with overly sentimental
and unclear political demands was quickly co-opted.
national unity is not a mere strategic decision, necessitated by rapidly
changing political reality. It requires a fundamental shift from old
strategies and the shedding of old beliefs. In the case of Palestine, a new
beginning requires the total mobilization of all aspects of Palestinian
society, restating nationally unifying priorities, introducing original
language, new tools and strategies, and accompanied by as little empty
rhetoric as possible.
This critical stage of the Palestinian
struggle cannot be satisfied by the rebranding of Palestinian politicians,
and it cannot be ushered in by a leadership with tainted records. It
requires a generation of leaders with clean slates, revolutionary in their
thinking, motivated by the single belief that no freedom can be achieved
without true national unity, under a single flag. The allegiance must not
lie with any particular faction, but to Palestine itself, and the only
unifying slogan should be ‘Freedom’.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).