Two grim think pieces

 Palestine Update 533

Two grim think pieces
Ukraine has exposed the duplicity of the West which controls international bodies, including those which pertain to culture, arts, and sports. Routinely, one sees this deception applied when it comes to Israeli interests. The alacrity with which all western nations have called for and implemented BDS on Russia is stunning. For 70+ long years, this should have happened to make Israel walk on its knees. But no! They have dragged their feet and installed some divestments which are meaningless and irrelevant. Such is the clout of the Zionists in western capitals.

Here is a shaggy dog fact! “Even the International Cat Federation – who knew there was such a thing? – banned Russian cats from competing”. Absurdity trumps common sense. This is about NATO, it is about political prejudice, when you argue that this is a war that NATO made necessary by its brazenness and Zellensky pursued based on his earlier career as a movie cartoon.

While we still regret the global inaction of the western empires, there is worse when one looks at how centres of political authority within Palestine are blowing up themselves and rendering their potency as absolute. As the author of an article titled, “Whither PLO” says: “The bad news is that the PLO is near dead. The cause of death is yet to be determined either old age or self-inflicted wounds. The coin, fortunately, has another side as the author avers: “The good news is that the Palestinian people’s quest for national self-identity and self-determination remains very much alive and well”.

Please read and disseminate the below two articles widely,

Ranjan Solomon

The West has lost all credibility

Palestinian activist Susan Abulhawa, who wrote this article, is a member of Workers World, is a globally acclaimed novelist. Her latest novel is “Against the Loveless World,” Atria, 2020

Last year, an elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama, forbade their students from discussing the occupation of Palestine, due to the political nature of the topic. They said it was not appropriate to mix education with politics. Last week, that same elementary school held a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees.

FIFA and UEFA have routinely fined football fans for flying Palestinian flags during matches against Israeli teams. They have likewise punished players who expressed solidarity with Palestinians. In 2009, at the height of Israel’s assault and rampant murder of Palestinians in Gaza, and as Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak was wasting away on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Seville striker Frédéric Kanouté was slapped with a fine for exposing a T-shirt reading “Palestina” under his jersey.

Colin Kaepernick was booted from the NFL for kneeling in protest for unrelenting police brutality against Black America. Repeatedly we were told it was not appropriate to mix sports with politics. But within days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA announced they were banning Russia’s national and club soccer teams from all international football competitions, including the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Many musicians and other cultural workers who rebuffed the Palestinian call to boycott Israel told us that culture should not mix with politics. Some of those same celebrities, like Nick Cave, are now cancelling their performances in Russia. Venues around the United States and Europe are cancelling Russian ballets, orchestras and other performances. Even the International Cat Federation – who knew there was such a thing? – banned Russian cats from competing.

Palestinians, who have faced constant bombs, apartheid, murder, theft, harassment and unspeakable terrorism from the Israeli military and their paramilitary settlers, have been calling on the world for over a decade to boycott Israeli goods as a minimal act of solidarity with a besieged and occupied civilian population with no way to defend itself.

But we were told that boycotts are “unhelpful,” and we should instead “negotiate” with our colonizers for our freedom. In fact, nearly every state has since passed so-called “anti-BDS laws” meant to literally criminalize boycotts of Israel. But within days of Russia taking military action in Ukraine against increasing NATO threats on its border, stores around the world are removing Russian products from the shelves.

When the U.S. was carpet-bombing Iraq, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the media called it “Shock and Awe.” They showed us explosions, as if fireworks. That same media has referred to the attack in Ukraine as a “Nazi-style blitzkrieg,” even though what Russia did does not compare in severity, death toll or duration to what the U.S. or Israel did in any of their imperial wars throughout the Middle East.

We always knew — even if we hoped otherwise — that the West was irredeemably racist and terminally corrupt. But whatever doubts we may have had before have been put to rest. The West hates us. They have nothing but contempt or occasional pity for our lives. They have never been our friends, nor can they ever be. I don’t know what it will take for the Global South to finally understand this.

Whither the PLO?
The writer is president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute

When it comes to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the PLO is near dead. The cause of death is yet to be determined, either old age or self-inflicted wounds. The good news is that the Palestinian people’s quest for national self-identity and self-determination remains very much alive and well.

A bit of history: The PLO was created to embody the Palestinian people’s right to national independence and self-determination. Israel has always hated the PLO and, almost from the organisation’s inception, they waged an intense propaganda campaign against the group. Israel projected it as a terrorist entity, a disruptive agent of the Soviet Union, and, when the PLO was embraced by the Non-Aligned Movement, Israel drew on a colonial era racist trope describing it as the uncivilised peoples of the world confronting civilized democracies. In fact, Israel’s main objection to the PLO, in the words of their leaders, was not “terrorism”. Rather, it was because the PLO represented the Palestinian national identity and recognition of it meant accepting the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

This was an issue in 1975, when Israel extracted a US pledge not to engage with the PLO in exchange for Israel’s acceptance of a US-brokered Israel-Egypt-Syria disengagement plan. That “no-talk” pledge hampered US diplomacy for 17 years. It cost UN Ambassador Andrew Young his job when it was revealed that he met with the PLO’s UN representative in New York. Legislation was passed prohibiting the PLO from operating an office or even visiting the US. Members of Congress were threatened and/or denounced for speaking with the PLO.

This Israeli rejection of the PLO and Palestinian self-identity even complicated US efforts to organise the Madrid Peace Conference. The Israelis only agreed to attend on the condition that the Palestinian participants were not members of the PLO and would be present only as part of the Jordanian delegation. The negotiations that followed Madrid were awkward, at best, leading to 11 failed rounds of talks. The impasse was broken when some Israeli and PLO representatives took it upon themselves to negotiate outside the constraints of the Madrid Process. The agreement they reached was later accepted by both the Israeli government and the PLO. In it, the PLO affirmed its recognition of Israel’s right to exist and Israel recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

Tragically, Oslo turned out to be a trap. While on three separate occasions the Palestinians reaffirmed their recognition of Israel’s right to exist, it became clear that Israel never intended to move beyond its pre-Oslo position that Palestinians should expect no more than “limited autonomy” under Israeli control. During the next three decades, Israel tightened its domination of Palestinian life, including: seizing more land, expanding its colonial outposts in occupied lands, and exercising increased repressive control over the Palestinian economy, resources, and freedom of movement.

During this same time, the Palestinians took disastrous steps that have proved fatal to their PLO. They merged the PLO with the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority (PA), thereby effectively cutting off the organization from the Palestinian diaspora. They subordinated the PA to Israeli domination of their economy and internal security, relying on Israeli goodwill and the whims of the international community. In the process, the PA became a supplicant for funds and a dependent.

The emergence of potent factions outside of the traditional PLO framework, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the competing Islamic movements in Palestine, have only complicated this deterioration. Their rejection of the terms of Oslo and their penchant for acts of self-destructive violence against civilians, whether past use of suicide bombers or more recent launching of missiles into Israel, have tightened Israel’s strangulation of Gaza and deepened the divide within the Palestinian polity, rendering the PLO even less representative of the Palestinian people.

Today, the PA and Hamas run parallel organisations, one in the West Bank, the other in Gaza. Both use funds, derived from taxation or external donors, to provide limited services and to fuel an extensive patronage system that rewards operatives.

While outsiders and even some Palestinians suggested that corruption was the reason that Hamas defeated Fateh, the group that dominated the PA and PLO, in the 2006 elections in Gaza, polling we conducted back then revealed a different story. Respondents told us that both groups were equally corrupt. The reason voters said they supported Hamas was because Fateh had been in office for a decade and nothing had changed. It was a classic “throw the old guys out and give the new guys a chance”. Once elected, however, Hamas refused to assume the responsibility of governance, preferring to remain the “resistance”, and more disaster followed.

Here we are a decade and a half later. The Palestine Central Committee, the nominal governing body of the once vibrant PLO, has just convened. By all accounts the meeting was farcical. Many boycotted, others were absent because they had been expelled by the PA head, Mahmoud Abbas. Being a patronage system, attendees ratified whatever they were told to ratify, and hollow resolutions were passed denouncing Israel and advocating for “international legitimacy” and the right to have a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. It was the last gasp of breath for a moribund institution.

It is tragic that the once respected national liberation movement has devolved into two competing unrepresentative leaderships, the PA and Hamas, both of whom appear more focused on their survival and retaining “control” of their occupied fiefdoms. On the other hand, it is inspiring to witness how Palestinians, across the occupied lands and in Israel, are daily courageously confronting the occupation, mainly using the techniques of civil disobedience. In the wake of the decay and demise of the organisation that once led Palestinians, it is the resilience and determination of the people that, in the words of the poet Tawfiq Zayyad ensures that the Palestinians and their just demands will remain “like a cactus thorn in the throat” of Israel.

To resuscitate the national movement, it is imperative that it be reconstituted from the bottom up. Our polling shows that Palestinians want unity. But the unity they need cannot be based on the mere coalescing of two ossified self-serving entities. New life can only come by empowering Palestinian civil society. That means elections; open, fair and free.