[News] ‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now

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Sun Jul 12 11:47:10 EDT 2020

of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
Ramzy Baroud - July 12, 2020

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared
that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic
Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole
new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by
well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and
writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven
some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to
examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the
ever-entrenched Israeli occupation
the planned annexation <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-52756427>
of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab
with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the
futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating, but ahistorical as
well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about
freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite
seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of
French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as
compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from
to South
Africa <http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:344963/FULLTEXT01.pdf>
and from India to Cuba.

Palestine is not the exception.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It
is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the
Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own
history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly,

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of
national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined
sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General
mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and
Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in
the six-month-long general strike
of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of
national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a
prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising
of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened
consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative
of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they
forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider
and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya
Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing
and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and
necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars
carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as
with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was,
within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was
self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were
answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns,
including those located in Israel.

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting
to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly
disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada – literally meaning the “shake off” – sent a powerful message
to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of
upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted
the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in
their factional and self-seeking politics.

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 <https://www.jstor.org/stable/2537235>
between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli- American
political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for
acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a
representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords
signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the
Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative
PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in
their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great
March of Return
is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the
people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but
their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential
of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused
and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian
leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western
capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political
validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous.
After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the
Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current
Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century
has finally proven.

I have recently spoken <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY1eZNrWM70> with
two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and
the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is,
itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not
define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would
be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in
anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of
despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian
and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause
regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she
told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States,
around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming)
pressing topics – equality and justice – in the mainstream. As
Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the
mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the
United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level,
to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine
happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th
October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the
world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending
the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because
they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not
report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted,
referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the
entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with
Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice
movements the world over.

*Another Palestinian political prisoner dies in Israeli prison due to
deliberate medical negligence

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted
that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects
Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the
right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the
current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although,
at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and
sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great
at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which
has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship.
Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness
of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci,
the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair,
the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must
keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.
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