By Ramzi Baroud-- Just because the Donald Trump administration has declared international law null and void regarding the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, the status of occupied East Jerusalem or the illegality of Jewish colonies in the occupied territories, does not mean that Israel has won and Palestinians have lost.
To be more specific, those who have indeed lost are those who gave Washington and its allies the power to shape the future of Palestine and, in fact, the whole of the Middle East, in a way that is consistent with the skewed US foreign policy, namely, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other quisling Arab leaderships.
Those of us who have always understood that Washington and Tel Aviv are two sides of the same coin, are hardly surprised by the so-called Deal of the Century. In fact, Trump’s ‘deal’ is but a continuation of the same dismal trajectory of blind US allegiance to Israel. Whether we call it the ‘Deal of the Century’, ‘US-sponsored peace process’, or ‘shuttle diplomacy’, they are all recycled brands of the same old product.
But, fingers of blame cannot only point at Trump and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinians deserve much of the blame as well.
Twenty-seven years ago, a group of Palestinian political elites broke away from national consensus, signing a unilateral deal with Israel that either conceded or relegated most Palestinian rights, including the status of Jerusalem, and the rights of Palestinian refugees.
They argued then that Palestinian rights could be achieved through an incremental ‘peace process’, through tireless negotiations and ‘painful compromises’. Those who challenged the subsequent Oslo accords were shunned and branded as terrorists and radicals; they were imprisoned and, whenever convenient, even assassinated.
Since then, the fate, status and legitimacy of the PA became intrinsically linked to the very Israeli military occupation it was meant to eradicate. The negotiations led to the enriching of the Israeli occupation which is now under the threat of being fully annexed by Israel. In the meantime, some Palestinians grew richer, and millions of Palestinians became even more desperate, isolated under a growing Israeli Apartheid in the West Bank or under a hermetic and deadly siege in Gaza.Nearly three decades later, the ‘Deal of the Century’ came to completely delegitimize the PA, itself set-up with American funds and a political mandate.
Under these new circumstances, there is no logical reason why the PA should continue to exist, at least in its current form, as it played a major part in subjugating the Palestinian people, allowing Washington and Tel Aviv to achieve their political ends in Palestine without the slightest resistance.
A few years ago, PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, referred to armed resistance in Gaza as ‘useless’ and a ‘mistake’. He purported to champion a different form of ‘resistance’ that would truly obtain Palestinian rights and grant the Palestinian people an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. The ‘Deal of the Century’ proved that it was Abbas, his Authority and whatever phony form of ‘resistance’ they employed, who was utterly and completely useless.
It is important that we do not protest the ‘Deal of the Century’ pretending that the PA is our partner in this process. Assigning any importance to the PA would indicate that we have learned nothing after decades of betrayal and outright theft of hundreds of millions of dollars of funds assigned to the Palestinian people.
In some odd and tragic way, the PA and the Israeli occupation are linked – the former cannot exist without the latter, and the latter requires the services of the former to entrench itself and expand its illegal colonies throughout Palestine.So, any post-‘Deal of the Century’ Palestinian strategy would have to happen in complete separation from the PA which, at this point, only represents the interests of a class of Palestinians that succeeded in accumulating wealth and power under the boots of Israeli soldiers.
Despite the PA’s unmitigated failures, the Palestinian cause is more popular than ever. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is fueled by the sacrifices and the resistance of the Palestinian people, has penetrated numerous layers of societies all around the world, forcing millions of people to take a moral stance on the ongoing Israeli apartheid and war crimes in Palestine.
More and more people around the world are also becoming aware of the destructive power of Zionism – the ideology that continues to guide Israeli politics to this day. Israel is itself responsible for that growing awareness because of its direct interventions in the political affairs of many countries.
The fact that Israel is meddling in the various laws and constitutions of well-established democracies around the world to prevent any criticism of its misconduct in Palestine, is waking up many people who may never have been awakened had the discussion on Palestine and Israel persisted in its previous form. From the UK to Italy to the US, the tentacles of Zionism is attempting, and, sadly, succeeding, in enforcing its priorities, agendas and self-serving definitions.The challenge for Palestinians, at this point, is knowing how to navigate beyond the collaborating PA and to create alternative platforms that would allow them to coordinate their actions, to widen the scope of global solidarity, and, eventually, to harness their achievements in the form of a centralized political strategy.
This will not be easy, but is inevitable. And the answer cannot be factional either. While some Palestinian factions can proudly say that they have rejected, even resisted, the path chosen by the PA, there is not a single Palestinian faction today that speaks for all Palestinians using a unifying language and embracing a universal vision. The fact that Palestinian groups continue to speak of a ‘Two-State solution’ is a reflection of its inability to transcend the confines and limitations of Oslo and the ‘peace process’.
As Israel and the US have decided to take decisive steps in the direction of Apartheid, Palestinians should take equally decisive steps in the direction of liberation by severing ties with all failed strategies and self-seeking individuals and groups.
Even within Palestine’s opposition, a major rethink is required. While the PA has failed miserably, others have failed too, and there is no shame in admitting that because, without taking responsibility for one’s shortcomings, real change can never occur.
This is far from being a call for the complete abolition of the entire Palestinian political structures, but rather for the repair of an aging system that refuses to renew itself and which is, at times, completely oblivious to changing discourses and political realities.
The fact is that many Palestinian leaders and activists, even within the opposition, come from long-gone political eras. While some of them have fought an honorable fight, they must understand that allowing for a natural transition of new leaderships is the greatest contribution they could possibly make at this stage because the nature of the fight is also changing.
Here is the truth, Palestine can no longer rely on the support of Arab countries to build the needed momentum that could eventually overpower Israel and restore the rights of the Palestinian people.Our cause is now a global cause, extending from Sweden to Chile and from South Africa to Russia, and it requires global emissaries who are able to transcend the PA, the factionalism and ideological tribalism which is destroying the very fabric of our society.
Let’s turn the ‘Deal of the Century’ from a crisis into an opportunity, where we reorganize and galvanize the very foundation of our political discourse and liberate ourselves from the numerous confines that have limited our work and appeal in the past.
As Zionism now constitutes one of the greatest threats, not only to Palestine and the Middle East but to world’s democracies as well, let the struggle for Palestinian freedom become a global struggle against Zionism and all of its benefactors.
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons”. Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU).