A hundred years is a long time for a people to fight for their own sheer survival in their homeland. Palestinians are doing it. And they have no sign of giving up. It is imperative that they should take stock of what had taken place and what will.
The destruction of Palestine and the establishment of Israel on its ruins is a unique experience in the history of the world. This extraordinary colonial project far exceeds the limits, the methods and the duration of a typical colonial project. It has used several features, very rarely combined in other projects.
For one thing, it used the religious beliefs of a minority of the world population as a justification to uproot the majority of the people in the colonized country. To do so, it relied on two assumptions of religious phobias.
The First: That Anti-Semitism is endemic in Europe and there is no way that Jews will ever be accepted in Europe. The answer should be in a faraway place, preferably where Jews can relate to. Zionism has held that the prime reason for colonizing Palestine was to escape persecution in Europe by Europeans. This has nothing to do with Palestinians.
The Second: That the resistance of Palestinians to colonialism is due to their hatred of the Jews on religious grounds according to Islam's teachings. Thus Zionism whipped fear mongering of Islam and rallied support from Christians who maintain the Crusaders’ spirit and translate it today as Islamo-phobia. Witness the Israeli connection of Palestinian resistance to Al Qaida, Dai’sh and Boko Haram.
Zionism could not have undertaken such a leap over history and geography without marshalling a very large bag of myths, such as Palestine is God-given to Jews, Palestine is a land without people, Palestinians never existed in Palestine, never mind the anomaly of the expression. There are no Palestinians in the country, they say, only nomad shepherds who passed through there and left. These were the exact words of Ruth Kark, a professor of the Hebrew University in her "expert" opinion to an Israeli court.
Denial of Palestinian rights in their homeland was planted first by the British Mandate administration, in cynical contravention of its undertaking to respect the “Sacred Trust of Civilisation”, according to Art. 22 of the League of Nations Charter. As early as 1920, Britain did not allow the Palestinians to form a Representative National Council because they were the majority in the country.
When Palestinians protested Balfour Declaration and massive Jewish immigration, Britain used brutal force to quell the great Arab revolt of 1936-1939. This resulted in the complete dismemberment of the Palestinian society. Therefore, the year 1939 may be considered the British-made Nakba.
Zionism picked up the thread and committed a series of massacres, expulsion, uprooting of people, confiscation of their property, looting and plunder, demolition of villages and houses, in a campaign which started in 1948 and continues till today, seven decades later. This became Israel’s standard practice as the only way to keep and maintain its domination of Palestine and its people.
The Zionist colonial project is anachronistic. It came in the tale of the 19th century at a time in which European colonialism planted its seeds but missed out on the harvest season. After WWII, when colonial soldiers packed their bags and returned to Europe, leaving behind independent Asian and African countries, at this very same time, Jewish soldiers, veterans of WWII, descended upon Palestine to occupy it and uproot its people.
If Western colonial powers felt that their early endorsement of the Zionist project was a mistake, even a crime, they do not show any sign of it. Just after 1948, when the destruction of Palestine and the uprooting of Palestinians were clear to all, the West, in its Tripartite Declaration of 1950, issued a warning to Arab countries not to reverse this process. Since then, the West, not only refused to acknowledge responsibility for the original sin, but continued to this day, through 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2002 and the series of wars on Gaza, to support Israel militarily, politically, financially and in the media. Even when British public opinion resolutely voted for Palestine last month, the British Prime Minister declared that this will not change his government’s policy.
All this is so glaringly contradictory to the principles created by the same colonial countries, when 51 states, mostly western, formed the United Nations in 1945. After two devastating world wars, Europe recognized that law, and not war, should be the legal arbiter among nations. They meant law to apply to Europe, not to the previously colonized countries who now constitute the majority of the UN member states. The Security Council was created to guard against this privilege to extend to smaller nations.
In its wording the Charter of the United Nations advocates human rights and justice. It was also the inspiration for a long series of charters and covenants covering various areas of world problems. On Dec 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared, followed the next day by its first application: the well known UN resolution of 194 calling for the return of the Palestinian refugees, the warden of the UN.
Soon after, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 was endorsed by many nations. This was followed by other international and regional covenants supporting human rights, rights of civilians in wartime, rights of refugees, women and children and prohibiting colonialism, racism and Apartheid.
Almost every article in this array of legal formulation, in a commendable drive to a more civilized world, was flouted by Zionists in Palestine. Western colonial powers have consistently shoved aside the stacked list of international law they created, and supported Israel in violating it.
Israel is therefore like an inverted pyramid, standing on its apex while its flat base is on the top. It cannot maintain that precarious position without a strong, steady hand to hold it in that position. How long can this go on? This needs no answer.
All the above indicates that the Zionist project will ultimately fail. Why? There are two factors. First: Zionism has its own seeds of destruction. Second: The Palestinian resilience has no limit.
In spite of military, economic and political power, Israel is an artificial creation held by umbilical cord to mother West. Its population of 6 million Jews is half the Palestinian population of 12 million. Most Jews live in 17% of Israel and a tiny portion, 2%, squat on the vast refugee land. According to a recent Haaretz study, Israel is “torn by colossal identity questions” and it failed to create “a monolithic ideological and cultural hegemony”. The study proposes to quarantine its diverse communities into 12 autonomous provinces. The Israeli president himself, Rivlin, admitted that Israel is a sick society which needs treatment. An estimated 750,000 holders of Israeli passports live abroad permanently. Many Jews, especially German in their campaign: Aliyah le Berlin, apply to restore their original citizenship. The Israeli atrocities in Gaza alienated many young Jews in Europe and USA. They joined campaigns like BDS and SJP and Jewish Voices for Peace.
But that is not enough. Artificial creations can last a very long time if constantly fed. This feeding must be dried up.
Palestinians, on the other hand, the victims of the Zionist project, have their own inherent store of strength. For about 100 years, since Allenby took Beersheba on 31st of October 1917 and Balfour made his infamous Declaration two days later, the Palestinians have always resisted their subjugation.
In this period the Palestinians have increased in number form 1 million to 12 million. Today almost half of them are in historic Palestine, whether refugees or under Israeli rule, and the other half, around the borders of Palestine, with only about 1 million in further lands, in Arab and foreign countries. This latter group, in their dispersion, portrays an ironic reversal of Jewish paths. They created a presence and lobby groups in the same colonial countries which brought Jews to their land.
In about half of the last hundred years, the urban population of Palestine provided the political and cultural leadership of the Palestinian national movement. The rural population made up the army of resistance in 1936, 1948 and after Naksa of 1967. The latter led to the rise of the Palestinian Revolution, under Yasser Arafat, which gave Palestine a seat in the United Nations. The rural population, who now make up the bulk of the registered refugees of UNRWA, continues to be the fuel of the resistance.
The three recent wars on Gaza, especially the last in August 2014, showed beyond doubt the resistant spirit of Palestinians against barbaric Israeli attacks, a spirit which matches, if not surpasses, that of Stalingrad and out shadows Warsaw Uprising by several degrees. The social cohesion, the familial ties, the refusal to surrender and the determination to keep at bay an enemy, which spewed its wrath on a largely civilian population, are rare traits in the history of nations.
But it is not all good news.
Since the disastrous Oslo Accord and the diminution of the PLO, the Palestinians have been fragmented geographically and each community was allowed to develop separately in the absence of the unifying force of PLO.
Palestinians in Jordan, the largest community outside Palestine, acquired a modus Vivendi with the regime. In Syria, they are chased by both the regime and its opponents. In Lebanon, they were curtailed in their movement and work. Palestinians in Israel are fighting for the recognition of their identity while they are still second class citizens. In Gaza they stand tall although the blockade drains their energy.
But it is in the West Bank that they are in the worst condition. Fragmentation there has exceeded geography and penetrated into their daily life. They are now reduced to seeking economic survival at the level of the household, being trapped by easy loans. Donors’ money created a PA Police force of 175,000 to quell any resistance to Israel by force and created a staggering number, 2750 NGOs, to tame Palestinians by persuasion into accepting Israeli occupation. Turning Palestinians into hired collaborators for their daily bread is the most sinister manifestation of Oslo Accord. But I am sure that people there, descendants of the Great Arab Revolt of 1936, will have the upper hand soon.
This leaves about a million Palestinian away from Palestine in al shatat. They are safe from political persecution and financial hardship. They possess a great store of expertise. Today they are the ideal force for igniting a new reform. It is here where we should start. Palestinian refugees make up two thirds of all Palestinians. They are the largest percentage of uprooted people in the world. Their uprooting is the essence of the conflict with Zionism. Oslo Accord, its cohorts and disciples, buried the core of the conflict. Those who ignore two thirds of the Palestinians have no right or legitimacy to represent the remaining third.
Therefore, I call here again, as I did for the last decade, for forming the National Council for the Palestinian Refugees, to uphold, defend and implement the Right of Return. This council shall be an integral part of PLO and shall be a political block within the PNC.
Regrettably the Palestinian resistance, their resilience, determination and capacity to absorb disasters have not been matched by shrewd, or efficient, or trustworthy leadership. Some leaders in the last 100 years had one or two of these qualities but not all. Present leadership has hardly any of these qualities. It is here where the priority of change must take place.
The Arab peoples have always been supportive of Palestine cause, and remain so until today. However, Arab governments have failed to save Palestine from Zionist colonialism and failed to save themselves from Israeli expansion in their own countries.
On the military front, there is not a single Arab country which fought for Palestine, except for that brief period in 1948, in which it entered Palestine to save Palestinians and ended up losing Palestine. Arab forces were disunited and inefficient. They entered Palestine when it was 94% Arab-owned and left when only 22% remained. Israel now controls 100% of Palestine plus Syrian Golan Heights, parts of south Lebanon and diminished sovereignty of Egyptian Sinai.
On the political front, Arab governments substituted their failure in the military field by fiery verbal devotion to the Palestine cause. This devotion soon receded into seeing Palestine as a heavy burden, which should be shed, by accommodation with Israel on its own terms. Now, almost openly, many Arab governments effectively abandoned Palestine Cause and found the Palestinians in their midst to be dangerous provocateurs or at best a nuisance. Inevitably, this has led to open mistreatment of Palestinians in some Arab countries which manifested itself in severe limitations on their travel and work, almost total prohibition of their political organizations. Even some participated in the blockade on Gaza.
This all leads to the conclusion that, since Palestinians have no intention of abandoning their country, they have to rely primarily on themselves.
First and foremost; Palestinians have to elect a new leadership through election of a Palestine National Council. The primary goal is rebuilding PLO and restoring the structure of the Palestinian people. This task is more important than any other field of struggle. All public pressure should be directed to restore the high-jacked leadership, which speaks on behalf of all Palestinians without authority, to its real constituency, the Palestinian people everywhere. The obstacles placed in the plan for the election of a new PNC, as agreed in Cairo in March 2005, are unforgivable. Another necessary action is the removal of all vestiges of the infamous Oslo Accord, which caused greater harm to the Palestinian people than Balfour Declaration.
Mobilization of the young, now about 70% of the people, particularly the generation of Oslo, is the first building block in the new society. Many of those young people, especially among the million Palestinians living abroad, are highly educated, confident and articulate. They are a good material for leadership.
The Western colonial powers have consistently acted together in building Israel and destroying Palestine. Yet they never paid the price of helping Israel in killing our children and stealing our land. They still get Arab oil and have lucrative trade with Arabs. The answer is wider campaign of BDS, hitting the pockets. After all, the success of the Zionist lobby in recruiting politicians is financial.
To do so we have to mobilize people of good will around the world, and there are plenty of them. We have seen this when the pictures of Israeli atrocities in Gaza were splashed on the screens all over the world.
Mobilizing the world is certainly doable for two factors. The first factor is the greatest universal and popular respect for human rights around the world, particularly after 1990’s. The atrocities in Bosnia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Iraq and long stream of Israeli atrocities wherever Palestinians existed, in Jenin, Sabra and Shatila and in Gaza strip, made these war crimes a domestic matter of concern for the ordinary citizen everywhere.
The second factor is the great advance in electronic communications. It has a tremendous effect on spreading information instantly. Gone are the days when half a dozen news agencies told the world what to think. Gone also the days of Zionist monopoly over the media. Still remain their smearing campaigns against those who dared to speak, but it is receding.
In the recent Israeli war on Gaza, there were a thousand unpaid reporters on the ground. Everyone who has a mobile can transmit his daily experience instantly. The ugliness of Israeli crimes could be seen and heard live in the world’s sitting rooms and no amount of professional lying could hide it.
These are but some of the many things people of good will can do. People are creative and can always find ways to express themselves and support the human spirit yearning for freedom and justice.
Palestinians must be in the front line for this effort. They should start by putting their house in order and remove the present debris with a democratic broom.
Not underestimating the obstacles ahead, I am sure the Palestinian struggle will bear fruit and that freedom and justice will be the flag that is raised on Palestine. Thank you.