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What the Masses Said to the Ramallah Leaderships - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is every Palestinian official’s duty to observe firstly the Arab public reaction and then the Palestinian public reaction against the position taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that called for the talks in Geneva over the Goldstone report on Israel’s crimes in Gaza to be stopped. Every Arab and Palestinian house filled up with anger, objection and condemnation and called for counteracting the PA and its methods of negotiation.

The Arab rather than the Palestinian public reaction tells every official in the PA in Ramallah that the masses are on alert and are ready to make their move as soon as the PA shows carelessness towards- or disregard for- the basic issues and interests linked to the Palestinian cause. All that a Palestinian official has to do is look around and first think about the reactions of his allies and followers in Ramallah in order to understand the level of anger and willingness for rebellion. If he leaves this circle of influence to look at a wider public reaction in Jordan for instance, or in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, or Al Nayrab camp in Aleppo, the Palestinian official would find that the level of danger is even greater. When an observer leaves the Palestinian camps and looks into Arab homes, he would be surprised to see that the Arab reaction is no less violent or aggressive than that of the Palestinians. He would also discover how the Palestinian cause sits deep within us despite attempts made in recent years to separate the Palestinian cause from the Arab cause.

If the reaction to the careless Palestinian attitude towards an international report that condemns Israel’s war on Gaza and calls for the prosecution of Israeli leaders as a result was that strong, just imagine what the situation would have been if a Palestinian official declared that the leadership had abandoned the right of return – a right that is upheld by nearly six million Palestinian refugees around the world. There are clear signs of the PA abandoning the right of return as expressed by President Mahmoud Abbas himself who said that the issue of the refugees will be dealt with in three ways: some of the refugees will return to Israel, some will return to the homeland, and the rest will be given Ramallah passports to solve problems with the countries that host them, that is Arab countries not Israel. When it becomes clear that words will be put into practice and will be put in an agreement with Israel and into articles of an official covenant to be signed, then there is no doubt the Palestinian and Arab public reaction to this new crime will be even bigger than the reactions to abandoning the Goldstone report.

In the same that we can see a storm brewing on the horizon, we can see signs of a Palestinian thunderstorm brewing against the weak leadership. The slack position towards the right of return, an issue that has prompted the establishment of committees to secure this right in particular, is a warning sign of a storm brewing – that is for those who can see. The comprehensive Palestinian-Arab rising against abandoning the Goldstone report is another dark cloud that joins the first, warning that a storm is on its way. Other clouds have also been looming on the horizon and are getting bigger and bigger as they approach.

A third huge cloud representing the issue of Israeli settlements is being built up by Israel in a provoking manner to challenge all Palestinians and Arabs. The PA surrendered its demand to the Israelis to cease construction work at the signal of the US president, and this is simply a victory for Israel.

A fourth cloud is also coming together in Jerusalem, challenging all Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. Barefaced, Israel drove a Palestinian family out of its home and placed an Israeli family in its stead.

A Palestinian author living under the state of Israel (I intentionally chose this example) describes living in Jerusalem as following:

“The issue is no longer confined to one part of Jerusalem, as each part of the holy city is being targeted in accordance with a systematic plan with strategic visions and ramifications for years to come. The celebration of laying the foundations of the second stage of the Zion Zahav settlement in Jabal al Mukaber was preceded by the announcement that 104 residential units would be built in Ma’ale Hazeitim settlement in the Ras al Amoud area of Silwan. This coincided with dozens of Palestinian families in the village of Anata, northeast Jerusalem, being notified in writing that hundreds of thousands of dunams [1 dunam is equivalent to 1000 square meters] of their land will be confiscated for the settlement projects.”

Jerusalem, settlements, the right of return and the Goldstone report all are clouds gathering in the Palestinian skies, warning of a great thunderstorm in the region. Two images will come with this thunderstorm:

The first image is the fall of the PA leadership in Ramallah or it will remain [in power] by force only to bring back the “village leagues” of the mid-1970s, an experiment in which Israel sought to cancel public support for the Palestinian national leadership in favour of local leaderships under Israel’s auspices. This local leadership was capable of offering everyday services to the Palestinian people (travel permits, construction permits etc). It was boycotted by the Palestinian people before it soon vanished, as it was condemned and rejected by the people.

The second image of the upcoming Palestinian thunderstorm is that a new Palestinian leadership will ultimately be established and will be required to preserve basic Palestinian rights and avoid the ongoing negotiations with Israel and bias US sponsorship of Israel. It will be a leadership that represents its people and one that is keen to satisfy only its own people. The emergence of such a leadership is unquestionable and necessary.

As for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership abroad, we must look at the situations of the Palestinians (of 1948). Those Palestinians had their own leaders, parties, societies, and leading bodies, and are now active in defending Jerusalem and Al Aqsa mosque. Israel is keeping an eye on those leaders and is seeking to convict them and imprison them. These leaders are Azmi Bishara and Sheikh Raed Salah. Most importantly, they are active inside the city of Acre and hold large public rallies under slogans such as “Yes to prosecuting war criminals, no to covering up their crimes,” “Let us protect Jerusalem,” and “Let us protect national principles.” Such activity for Jerusalem and against settlements represents a kind of unity that includes the entire Palestinian nation vis-à-vis Israel’s attempts to divide the Palestinian nation, and its demands and solutions. When people speak of a third Palestinian Intifada, the Palestinians of 1948 will not be far away, many of whom will have leading roles. The simplest example of this can be seen on Fridays when the residents of Jerusalem prepare for Friday prayers and Israeli forces, police and other oppressive apparatus are on full alert in order to prevent the residents from heading to the mosques to perform their prayers, except only those over the age of fifty. At that point, the 1948 Palestinians can head to the mosques in their dozens and Israel cannot prevent them, [from doing so] and thousands upon thousands of worshippers will fill the prayer halls and corridors in a scene that will bring joy to the hearts of the Arabs and sadness to the Israelis.

Such an initiative that seems simple is a weekly confrontation with Israel, emphasizing that the people of Haifa and Jaffa are no different to the people of Jenin and Nablus, and that when Israel blocks the way of the Palestinians of the West Bank the Palestinians of the motherland will take the lead and play the desired national role, a role that will grow essentially in order to reach a level whereby they will be naturally taking part in the next Intifada.

Israel is being boisterous and is protected by Washington and is happy when it sees that the Palestinian leadership is subservient to it. But there are indications that things will be different in the coming days and that national causes will be set back on the right path.

Bilal Hassen

Bilal Hassen is a renowned Palestinian writer and political analyst.

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