Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Nakba and the Question of Palestinian Strategy
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, May 25, 2015
"What is the Palestinian strategy?" is a question that I have
been asked all too often, including on 15 May, the day that millions of
Palestinians around the world commemorated the 67th anniversary of the Nakba,
the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by Zionist militias in 1947-48.
The question itself doesn’t require much elaboration, as in, "What is
the Palestinian strategy to combat Israeli military occupation, siege
violence, apartheid and racial discrimination?" The painful reality is well
known to many, although few take on the moral responsibility to confront it.
And the posing of the question is telling in itself. It wouldn’t be
asked if there was a strategy in place, being implemented, and regularly
revisited and modified. The question is a testament to all the failures of
past strategies, and the political disintegration of any credible
Palestinian leadership, currently represented by Mahmoud Abbas and his
circle of wealthy businessmen and "politicians".
But the very idea
of formulating a strategy would require urgent prerequisites that are
currently lacking. These prerequisites are not only essential, but most
critical if Palestinians wish to overcome the current stalemate and surpass
the dead-end process that is the so-called "peace process".
the centrality of the Nakba for the Palestinian historical narrative must be
transformed to be central to the political agenda of any Palestinian
leadership that is truly representative of the political aspirations of the
But why is the Nakba important if it is an event
that is supposedly located in the past?
What makes the Nakba a
particularly poignant and painful experience is the fact that it has never
truly concluded. The original 750,000 who were removed or forced to flee
their historical homeland have morphed to over five million, and those who
became internally displaced in their own Palestinian homeland, later renamed
the State of Israel, continue to fight for basic rights. This makes the
Nakba a present political event, granted its historical origins.
Nakba, or Catastrophe, was an earth-shattering experience for the entirety
of the Palestinian collective. Rarely before was a society almost entirely
displaced in a relatively short period of time with such brutality and
violence, followed by every possible attempt at erasing every piece of
evidence, every link, every claim, every memory that the refugees affiliated
with their homeland.
That ruthlessness, however, is further
accentuated by two major events. One is that for 67 years Israel has both
refused to recognize the original sin upon which it was created, and two, it
has done its utmost to deny the disaffected Palestinian people any political
aspirations that would finally allay the pain of dispossession, handed from
one generation to another.
Palestinians in exile subsist in a
nomadic political landscape, as they only belong to a place that has been
stolen at gunpoint, yet are forced to exist in places that they cannot see
as home for a whole set of reasons.
Palestinians in the occupied
territories – from the occupied West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem or
besieged Gaza – experience the Nakba in its most raw and painful forms. It
is not just an event that delineates memory, but the very event that ushered
in a process of dispossession, dislocation and deprivation, not just of land
and freedom, but even of the right to form a national identity within the
safety of a place that Palestinians can call home.
This year in
particular, the 15 May events commemorating the Nakba within Israel’s
Palestine '48 community - made up of Palestinian citizens of Israel - was
massive and involved all aspects of society, including the political
leadership. These events highlighted the centrality of the Nakba question to
20 percent of Israel’s own population, who were disaffected directly by the
dire consequences of the Catastrophe and all of its negative impacts until
If the Nakba is Israel’s original sin, discounting the
Nakba and the right of return for refugees by the Palestinian Authority (PA)
is the Palestinian leadership’s own sin against its people. This takes us to
the second prerequisite for the formulation of any sound Palestinian
strategy: the current PA leadership structure is simply contrary to the
aspiration of the Palestinian people.
The PA is one of the most
corrupt political structures in the Middle East. The current government in
Ramallah is not an elected one and its "president" continues to serve with a
mandate that expired years ago. Naturally, fair and democratic elections are
unwelcome by both the PA and Israel – for it would probably lead to other
unpleasant outcomes such as those that brought Hamas to power in 2006.
The PA and its Israeli benefactors are keenly invested in perpetuating the
status quo, for it is allowing the latter to cement its military occupation
at a minimal cost of policing occupied Palestinians, while the former
benefits in terms of enjoying access to international funds, investments and
the chance to move freely in and outside occupied Palestine. The vast
majority of Palestinians, however, are confined behind walls, checkpoints
and barbed wire. Their imprisonment is guarded as carefully by Palestinian
security forces as by the Israeli army.
Sure, there is always the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an old political structure that is
more politically representative of Palestinians and reasonably democratic –
especially if compared to the corrupt elites of Ramallah. But sadly, the key
to the resurrection of the PLO lies exclusively in the hands of Fatah, the
PLO’s largest party, and the one currently controlling the PA. Without a
revolt within Fatah itself, there can be no restructuring of the PLO, for a
democratic PLO would most likely challenge the PA head on and dismantle its
entire wretched apparatus of political peddlers and businessmen.
Thus, the third prerequisite would have to wrangle with the question of
leadership, one that doesn’t serve necessarily as an alternative to the PLO,
but rather as a platform that unifies Palestinian energies in the occupied
territories, in Israel and throughout the shatat (diaspora). This platform
must be essentially political with grassroots links, so it communicates
clear political messages, but representative and difficult to crush. Also,
it would have to remove the obstacles that hindered Palestinian national
unity, throughout Palestine, Israel and the world.
body must also be based in Palestine itself for that’s the only way to
secure a degree of authentic representation and remain directly connected to
the land. But, it should give an equal and fair representation of all
Palestinian communities especially those in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan
and Syria. Doing so would eliminate the danger of elitism and ensure that
the refugees are not a question or a problem to be contended with, but the
center of the Palestinian political initiative.
This body must not
be factional either, and cannot be seen as a competitor to Fatah, Hamas, the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and all the rest, for it’s a
platform that is essentially meant to overcome factionalism, and open the
door for factions to break away from the tribal confines of politics to
something entirely different.
This is not a strategy per se, as only
the Palestinian people – once they have a platform and a democratic
representation centered on the question of the Nakba and the right of return
– should have access to the very idea of formulating a strategy in the first
- Ramzy Baroud –
www.ramzybaroud.net - is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a
media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the
University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Share this article with your facebook friends