[News] Nakba and the Question of ‘Palestinian Strategy’

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 21 12:04:14 EDT 2015


May 21, 2015
*http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/21/nakba-and-the-question-of-palestinian-strategy/*

Why It's Important


  Nakba and the Question of ‘Palestinian Strategy’

by RAMZY BAROUD

“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”.

First, 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 Palestinian people.

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.

The 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 this day.

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.

That alternative 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 place.

/*Ramzy Baroud* – www.ramzybaroud.net <http://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)./

-- 
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