After hearing that the Palestine Liberation Organization has decided to abandon a resolution requesting the Human Rights Council to forward Goldstone’s report to the UN Security Council, the thought flashed through my head was that if I was Palestinian, I’d vote Hamas. What could have possibly possessed them, but a sheer disconnect from their people? One must ask, is their money that good?
Fatah Vs. Hamas On many occasions, we that are born free (all is relative) find it hard to understand Palestinian mentality. Just this week, I’ve had exhausting debates about the safety of children, during the Bil’in weekly protest. Though I can’t defend or agree with allowing your children to be near the fence, when the army is 101% likely to fire gas grenades, I firmly believe that mindsets under occupation are something we don’t fully understand. Maybe when I’m a mother to a child that’s been snatched from his bed at night, arrested, beaten and interrogated, I’ll have a different perspective on danger.
By the same token, I believe it may be extraordinarily hard to make that fateful choice, when you’re at the voting booth. Although Hamas has been cynical towards its people during the Gaza massacre (claiming to have "won the war" and other flamboyant rhetoric), as if militaristic ego was a top priority; If I were Palestinian this latest in a long line of PLO sell-outs would seem much more cynical, to me. I agree with Amira Hass’ analysis:
Abbas confirmed in fact that Hamas is the real national leadership, and gave ammunition to those who claim that its path – the path of armed struggle – yields results that negotiations do not.
Popular Resistance- The People Choose The People
Hass doesn’t stop short, however, and I agree with her solution to the binary Fatah-Hamas dilemma:
Is the choice really only between negotiations and armed-struggle theater, the way the Palestinian leadership makes it out to be? No. The true choice is between negotiations as part of a popular struggle anchored in the language of the universal culture of equality and rights, and negotiations between business partners with the junior partner submissively expressing his gratitude to the senior partner for his generosity.
The PLO- champion of non-violent strategy- could have been championing Bil’in and other villages that have been making every possible effort at non-violent direct action. Bil’in, now suffering from over two months of nightly raids, intended to crush their struggle, have been seeing a shrink in demonstration attendants. It’s true that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and friends lead the Eid prayer, just a couple of weeks ago, which is definitely a big deal, but the fact is that they could join the demonstrations themselves, changing the violent dynamics of the army and increasing their importance to no end. Instead, the PLO pits itself against the very people it claims to aim to liberate. Any support for the non-violent struggle from the PLO, is leveraged for anti-Hamas-lead armed struggle rhetoric. Why would a powerful entity ever relinquish power, even if its limbs are strung to a greater hand?
Bil’in aside, there has been mass outrage across the board; From Gaza to the West Bank to the diaspora. Palestinians are united, amongst themselves and the international community, against the Palestinian Authority:
This irresponsible action is detrimental to the interests of our people, their rights and their struggle. It denies justice to the sacrifices of our people and the blood of our martyrs, a slap in the face of all those who stand in solidarity with our people’s struggle for justice, and all of the human rights organizations and institutions which have mobilized their forces to hold Israel accountable for its massacres and violations of Palestinian rights.
Two Roads to Perdition
Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada raised two possible reasons as to why Abbas would deny his own people justice. The first being USA unequivocal support of Israel:
Unsurprisingly, an early ally in the Israeli campaign for impunity was the Obama Administration, whose UN ambassador, Susan Rice, expressed "very serious concerns" about the report and trashed Goldstone’s mandate as "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." (Rice was acting true to her word; in April she told the newspaper Politico that one of the main reasons the Obama Administration decided to join the UN Human Rights Council was to fight what she called "the anti-Israel crap.")… One would think, then, that the self-described representatives of the Palestinian people would not casually throw away this weapon. And yet, according to Abbas ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, the Ramallah PA shelved its effort at the request of the Americans because "We don’t want to create an obstacle for them."
The second reason being all about the money. If you remember my latest article was about Israel blackmailing the PA about the Goldstone with denial of permit to a second cellular company. Abunimah elaborates:
Kital added that it was a "condition" that the PA specifically drop its efforts to advance the Goldstone report. The phone company, Wataniya, was described last April by Reuters as an "Abbas-backed company" which is a joint venture between Qatari and Kuwaiti investors and the Palestinian Investment Fund with which one of Abbas’ sons is closely involved. Moreover, Reuters revealed that the start-up company apparently had no shortage of capital due to the Gulf investors receiving millions of dollars of "US aid in the form of loan guarantees meant for Palestinian farmers and other small to mid-sized businesses" (See "US aid goes to Abbas-backed Palestinian phone venture," Reuters, 24 April 2009). Just a day before the Abbas delegation pulled its resolution in Geneva, Nabil Shaath, the PA "foreign minister" denounced the Israeli threat over Wataniya as "blackmail" and vowed that the Palestinians would never back down.
Desperate People will Act Desperately… Or Will They?
Mahmoud Abbas has actually ordered an investigation on the decision- his decision- to delay the Goldstone report. Either he’s confused, or he believes his people are. Abbas’ detachment could have singlehandedly turned his people away, further into the arms of the armed struggle. Comments on the Ma’an website point to a disappointed, desperate people:
Despaired / Palestinian #2 The question is how we can get rid of him. If only 500 showed up to express their shock and disgust at Abbas’ cowardly act, then what hope is there for independence and freedom? [#3]
Iyad / Sweden I know. Its really making me sad to know that there are palestinians who support Abbas among the people. How can this be? Dont the people realize Abbas is a traitor? The hole Fatah party is dead. Abbas and Dahlan has reformed the Fatah Palestinian party to Fatah traitor party. Vote for Hamas!! [#5]
On the other hand, there are many other opinions. Many can be found in the inciting Ha’aretz article, titled "What are the chances of a third Palestinian Intifada?":
"If Netanyahu believes he wants to maintain the occupation as it is, to expand settlements and then expect peace from us, then this will not be acceptable," [Mohammad] Dahlan told Reuters. "We may resort to popular action or civil action. We have an open mind on all legitimate methods permitted by international law. But we won’t push the Palestinian people into a disaster."
"There is a state of disengagement between the people and its political leadership so people are not ready to sacrifice as they did before," said Zakaria al-Qaq of al-Quds University. "At the same time there is a build-up of anger that is waiting for the spark. No one can predict when the spark will come. But it could take years yet."
"Israel is fueling tensions that will explode later," said Raed Abed, a 17-year-old student in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. "No one can predict what will happen."
But his schoolmate Husam Sameh forecast no explosions for now: "Enough of fighting. We need to live in peace. We cannot fight Israel. We are so weak," he said.
"The wariness among the people about popular resistance is greater than before, following the huge losses they suffered in the Second Intifada… Israel has used the Second Intifada as an excuse to build the wall and to avoid committing to signed agreements. Palestinians should not give them this excuse again."
"Samir Awad, a political science professor at Birzeit University, said: "It would be a mistake to expect a popular wave of protest. I cannot see it happening. But if Israeli provocations in Jerusalem continue, we may expect clashes arising from religious and patriotic emotion."
From the article- and in some cases directly from the responses of the interviewees- we’re conditioned to think of a third Intifada as inherently violent. It’s true that it’s hard to tell what may come. I tend to think of the BDS initiative as the third intifada (Zionists are already rebutting under the label "new anti-Semitism"). I, like Anna Baltzer, have great faith in the human spirit and in an intelligent non-violent struggle. Maybe it’s because we’ve both been to Bil’in:
Injustice is unsustainable. It cannot be normalized, because there will always be resistance. The third intifada will come. It may be nonviolent as the first, or it may be more like the second. Is it a coincidence that Israel began construction at the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem just as warring religious and secular Palestinian factions were coming to a truce? Israel prefers that Palestinians resist one another rather than their oppression, but Palestinians in the West Bank and at the negotiating table have shown their resolve to work together against their common enemies: Zionist racism and the Occupation. United, they will prevail. If the third intifada does not succeed, there will be a fourth. And then a fifth … as many as it takes, until justice is realized.