[News] Reducing the Palestinians

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Mon Dec 29 08:54:35 EST 2003

Reducing the Palestinians

The Palestinian people cannot be legislated out of existence, writes Joseph 

One of the most important changes that the Oslo process brought about was 
the de facto transformation, indeed the ultimate corruption, of the 
Palestine Liberation Organisation, from a liberation movement representing 
the entire Palestinian people, into a vassal regime called the Palestinian 
Authority (PA), representing only one third of the Palestinian people. What 
is quite insidious in this process is how the PA, conscious of this 
transformation, continues to speak of the "Palestinian people", which had 
been reduced through the Oslo Accords to those West Bank and Gaza 
Palestinians it now represents. Diaspora Palestinians are simply referred 
to, in accordance with US and Israeli parlance, as "refugees", and Israeli 
Palestinians are referred to by Israeli diktat as "Israeli Arabs". In doing 
so, not only has the scope of the Palestinian leadership and its 
representative status of the whole Palestinian people (achieved in 
international fora in 1974 after a strenuous struggle) been substantially 
reduced, but the Palestinian people themselves were diminished 
demographically by the PA's appropriation of the designation "Palestinian 
people" to refer to a mere third of Palestinians.

This has had an immensely deleterious effect on those Palestinians who have 
been excluded from the designation "the Palestinian people", as, according 
to the Geneva Document, all their grievances are null and void after Mr 
Abed Rabbo signed the agreement on behalf of the PLO (not the PA), claiming 
to represent the entire Palestinian people.

The Geneva Document is explicit on this issue: "No further claims related 
to events prior to this Agreement may be raised by either Party." This 
demographic diminution of the Palestinian people was carried out with an 
important twist: while the PA will no longer fight for the rights of 
diaspora Palestinians and Israeli Palestinians, it can, in reclaiming its 
former status as the PLO temporarily, compromise and surrender all their 
rights to gain some rights for the portion of the Palestinians it now 
claims is "the Palestinian people". Thus, in order to obtain a measure of 
independence from Israeli occupation for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, 
the PA recognises Israel's right to be a Jewish racist state -- that has 
the right to discriminate against Israeli Palestinians -- and surrenders 
the internationally recognised rights of diaspora Palestinians to return 
and compensation. This has been the logic of Oslo, and it also governs the 
Geneva Document. It is thus essential to point out that the Geneva Document 
was signed by Palestinians who were not even elected by West Bank and Gaza 
Palestinians, much less the entire Palestinian people, whose rights they 

There is a parallel process that unfolded on the Israeli side. While Israel 
has no legitimacy and is not recognised by any international body as a 
"representative" of the Jewish people worldwide but rather as the state of 
the Israeli people, who are citizens of it, the PLO and the PA, contrary to 
world opinion -- including that of the United Nations and the United States 
-- have recognised Israel's jurisdiction over world Jewry. Thus, it is not 
the Israeli people's rights that are recognised in the Geneva Document; 
rather it is those of the "Jewish people" tout court. In the Geneva 
Document, the signatories affirm that "this agreement marks the recognition 
of the right of the Jewish people to statehood." While the internationally 
recognised status of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian 
people has been reduced by one third since Oslo and more recently by the 
Geneva Accords, the representative status of the Israeli government has 
been expanded threefold when the PA and its "unofficial" representatives 
recognised Israel's claims on world Jewry as legitimate. Thus, what this 
"peace" formula has made possible is the reduction of the Palestinian 
people and the multiplication of Israeli Jews. This has been done despite 
the fact that the majority of Jews living outside Israel are not Israeli 
citizens nor have any bodies representing them endowing the Israeli State 
with representative powers on their behalf.

In this vein, the Geneva Document speaks of how, "[r]ecognising that after 
years of living in mutual fear and insecurity, both peoples need to enter 
an era of peace, security and stability, entailing all necessary actions by 
the parties to guarantee the realisation of this era." The two "peoples" 
spoken of are not Israeli Jews and the Palestinian people, rather they are 
world Jewry and West Bank and Gaza Palestinians! Does this mean that the 
Palestinian people in its entirety has not actually been fighting a 
colonial settler movement on its land but instead it is West Bank and Gaza 
Palestinians who have been fighting the Jewish people worldwide? Is this 
not what Zionism always claimed in order to justify its colonial policies 
and portray itself as a victim of anti-Semitism?

When have the Palestinian people chosen world Jewry as their enemy? Was it 
not Zionism and Israel who would always insist that it is the "Jewish 
people" who are claiming the right to colonise Palestine and its people 
while the PLO always rejected Israel's claim to speak for all Jews? Have 
not the PLO, the Palestinian intelligentsia, and Palestinian revolutionary 
groups always asserted their enmity to Zionism and not to the Jewish 
people? Only by accepting Zionism's claims that Israel is the 
representative of the Jewish people, does the Palestinian anti-colonial 
struggle become identified by Yasser Abed Rabbo as a war with the "Jewish 
people". Unlike Abed Rabbo, most Palestinians have always understood the 
anti-Semitic nature of Israel, its persistent attempts to claim anti- 
Semitically that all Jews have the "same" opinion of Zionism, that they all 
support it, that it represents them all, and that any attack or criticism 
of it is anti-Semitic since it, Israel, is the Jewish people.

Such anti-Semitic claims that flatten world Jewry as some cohesive group 
with an international agenda à la Protocols of the Elders of Zion would 
produce much uproar if their authors were not Zionism and the State of 
Israel. Indeed the claim advanced by Israel and its apologists that 
criticism of Israel is "anti-Semitic" is the most anti-Semitic claim of 
all, rendering all Jews around the world represented by this one state and 
claiming that they all approve of its atrocities and crimes against 
humanity. That the PA and Mr Abed Rabbo have accepted this "logic of 
peace," as they call it in their Document, speaks of the success that 
Israel has had in imparting its version of anti-Semitism to the corrupt 
Palestinian leadership.

As for the two-thirds of the Palestinian people being eliminated by the 
Oslo process, Israeli Palestinians, on their part, understand well the 
logic of Oslo and have been fighting Israeli state racism independently of 
the PLO and the PA and without compromising the rights of the rest of the 
Palestinian people. Diaspora Palestinians, mostly bereft of leadership, 
continue to struggle for the application of their internationally 
recognised rights to return and be compensated, also without compromising 
the rights of other Palestinians. Only the corrupt leadership of the West 
Bank and Gaza wants to speak for all Palestinians in order to do away with 
most of them and derive benefits, if any, for a few. This does not mean 
that West Bank and Gaza Palestinians cannot seek agreements with the 
Israeli occupation to obtain independence; it means that they cannot do so 
by compromising the rights of diaspora and Israeli Palestinians for whom 
they cannot speak. They may compromise their own rights if they so choose, 
such as accepting limits on the future sovereignty of their mini-state to 
be, for example, but not the right of return nor the rights of Israeli 
Palestinians to fight Israeli state-racism. Indeed, most West Bank and Gaza 
Palestinians have rejected the Geneva Document on this basis, whether in 
demonstrations or public statements and in recent opinion polls, further 
proving that the PA leadership that claims to represent them does not 
represent them at all.

What is central to this politics of representation is that neither world 
Jewry nor diaspora Palestinians and Israeli Palestinians ever elected 
Israel or the PA as representatives. These two, however, continue to fight 
for so-called "rights" for world Jewry, or surrender the rights of the 
Palestinian people, respectively. This process is one wherein the Israeli 
state wants to unify world Jewry under its flag against all international 
norms, while the PA wants to eliminate two-thirds of the Palestinian people 
from its internationally- recognized mandate by surrendering their rights 
and keeping a third of the Palestinians as "the Palestinian people".

Zionism's historic denial of the Palestinian people has finally been 
adopted by the Palestinian Authority and its coterie of functionaries, 
ministers, security officers, and, yes, members of the Legislative Council 
(half of whom have already served as ministers of the corrupt Palestinian 
Authority and the other half, with few exceptions, aspires to serve in the 
future). Golda Meir asserted in 1969 that "it was not as though there was a 
Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people 
and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They 
did not exist." The Palestinian people have been fighting Zionism's denial 
of their existence from Herzl to Meir and beyond. However, the Palestinian 
Authority and its "unofficial" envoy Yasser Abed Rabbo (whose name 
incidentally means "Yasser worshipper of his Lord" and who is otherwise 
nicknamed in popular Palestinian circles as "Yasser Abed Yasser" or "Yasser 
worshipper of Yasser"), have fully endorsed the Zionist view by excluding 
two thirds of the Palestinians from the designation "the Palestinian 
People". Following this formula, all Palestinians Israel expelled and all 
those who remained living within Israel under the Israeli racialist system 
of democracy-only-for-Jews are, in line with Golda Meir's racist lie, not 
considered Palestinian at all.

The fact that a corrupt and dictatorial Palestinian leadership is aiming to 
eliminate two-thirds of the Palestinian people is symptomatic of the 
continued Zionist aggression that the Oslo process culminating in Geneva 
has legitimised. No one should have been fooled, least of all Nelson 
Mandela, by the songs for "peace" announcing the triumph of the last 
unrepentant settler colony in the world. Abed Rabbo and his colleagues may 
have accepted the Zionist victory but the Palestinian people are not going 
anywhere. They are resisting and will continue to resist all attempts to 
liquidate their national existence and their lives in the name of 
"peaceful" solutions. Mr Abed Rabbo and his PA colleagues can do what they 
want, whether with Ariel Sharon or with Yossi Beilin. The Palestinian 
people, however, cannot be legislated in and out of existence by the strike 
of a pen.

* The writer is assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and 
Intellectual History at Columbia University, New York.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online : 25 - 31 December 2003 (Issue No. 670)
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