Azmi Bishara on what to do regarding Trump’s “Deal of the Century”

Azmi Bishara on what to do regarding Trump’s “Deal of the Century”
The long read: A new book by Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bishara presents a comprehensive strategy to resist Trump and Netanyahu’s widely condemned ‘Deal of the Century’ overwhelmingly rejected by Palestinians.
26 min read
28 May, 2020
Bishara presents a plan for Palestinians to resist the Deal of the Century [Getty]

In his book, The Trump – Netanyahu Deal – The Path to the Deal and the Answer To The Question of What to Do (Arabic), recently published by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, the Arab intellectual Azmi Bishara offers a critical analysis of what is commonly know as “The Deal of the Century, beginning with the text of the plan in the first chapter.

In the second chapter, the book looks at what brought the Palestinian issue to its current state. In the third chapter, he looks at the answer to the question "What to Do?", then in the fourth chapter, Dr. Bishara looks at the survey results of the Arab Opinion Index regarding the question of Palestine, undertaking a more detailed analysis of the ”What to Do?” question in the process.

In truth, this is the most urgent question facing the Palestinian cause today.

When we read this fourth chapter we find a descriptive and analytical answer to today’s Palestinian situation and a comprehensive strategy for struggle and action. Some of this analysis has been offered repeatedly before by Dr. Bishara over thirty years as he studied the Palestinian situation and the political activity of the Palestinian Authority after the 1993 Oslo Agreement. Dr. Bishara was a witness to the transformation of the Orientalist conception of the Palestinian problem into reality. This book, however, frames this analysis in the current time period in order to reach a comprehensive strategy to confront Trump and Netanyahu’s "Deal of the Century", which is currently being implemented on the ground as Israel prepares to annex the West Bank. This is the issue of the hour and it coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

Read also: The day after annexation: Israel, Palestine and the one-state reality

The third chapter, "What to Do", contains a comprehensive blueprint for a Palestinian and Arab programme of resistance and Dr. Bishara presents its as an intellectual specialised in politics, sociology, and history with a long experience in political struggle. It can be considered a founding political statement and nothing like it has been produced by any Palestinian activists or factions in this darkest of times in the history of the Palestinian cause - As the Israeli apartheid system is expanding and growing stronger while the surrounding Arab world has washed its hands of the Palestinian cause and is even conspiring against the Palestinians in alliance with Israel, not just normalising relations.

The Palestinian political situation today

Dr. Bishara starts answering the complex “What to Do” question regarding the Trump-Netanyahu deal by describing the state of the Palestinian political situation as he sees it today. He describes the limitations of the situation and what brought it to the state it is in currently. According to Dr. Bishara, Palestinian political action has now taken two forms.

"The first is to acquire funding to guarantee the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority and this is subject to continuous American and Israeli pressure. Funding is subject to an Israeli political calculation involving the use of money to pressurise the PA whenever any dispute happens and ensuring that the PA can continue its security tasks. The second form consists of initiatives to accede to international organisations.”

As for non-violent resistance to occupation, this was a slogan but it was never implemented, except for some local initiatives in villages on the frontline with Israeli settlements. In Jerusalem, where the Palestinian Authority and its security commitments are absent, there have been many advances in civil resistance.

However, a growing danger over the past 15 years has been the exacerbation of a struggle for power among Palestinians. “This struggle is consuming Palestinian political energy both locally and internationally. When Fatah was confronted with Trump’s ‘deal’ it was busy with the question of who would succeed Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority, as well as its conflict with Hamas. These internal struggles and shifting alliances were a daily topic of discussion in the West Bank."

The Oslo Agreement was a trap, according to Bishara. “The Palestine Liberation Organisation traded a national liberation movement for an Authority without a state, so struggles for power started before a state came into existence. As a result, the PLO, and also movements of solidarity with Palestine, were sidelined.” Oslo became a justification for many countries to develop relations with Israel, who would say they didn’t want to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority also relied on the United States for everything and for this reason specifically it was taken by surprise by Trump’s plan, according to Dr. Bishara.

"The Palestinian Authority didn’t pay attention to [international] solidarity movements, which in turn focused on Gaza. It also wasn’t concerned about Africa and Latin America or about public opinion in major states allied to Israel, like India. On the other hand, Islamic resistance movements only count on Islamic states. Their understanding of solidarity is solidarity based on religion, and this helped frame the conflict [with Israel] as a religious conflict. This is how the Israelis want the conflict to be framed. The loss of the support of public opinion in the West and in countries like Russia and China was one of the symptoms of the religionisation of the conflict. In this way also the Palestinian cause lost its symbolism for the peoples of the Third World, including the Islamic World, which was a great source of support".

In this way, Dr. Bishara says, the global democratic solidarity movement with the Palestinian people became detached from Palestinian politics, as the PA wagered on the US administration or on the Israeli left and the results of Israeli elections. This was a "deadly delusion" according to Dr. Bishara, "because there is no possibility of the Israeli left replacing the right in power. Its power in the Israeli street has been effectively eliminated. As for depending on Palestinian-Israelis, this is important, even if the goal is just to organise Palestinan-Israelis to fight for their causes, as citizens and as an ethnic group, and to preserve their Palestinian Arab identity at the same time. But it is hopeless to gamble that an Israeli government can come to power with the support of a Jewish minority and Arab votes to decisively solve issues of war, peace, and negotiations."

Dr. Bishara believes that hopes like this betray "an underestimation of the meaning of Israel's Zionist ideology and it encourages Arabs to become Israeli in a country which identifies itself as Jewish – the state of the Jews."

Trump's plan as the end of the Oslo delusion

Dr. Bishara believes that there was a "silver lining" in Trump’s vision in that it finished off the delusions of the Oslo peace process. "The stronger party imposes what it wants on the weaker party which has avoided confrontation, and allows it to give any descriptions it wants to the ‘entity’ whose nature it imposes.” The most important aspect of Trump’s vision, according to Dr. Bishara, is its recognition of the reality which Israel fundamentally changed starting 53 years ago and its ending of the illusion that things could go back to the way they were. This is what the Israeli right are celebrating and this is what should motivate Palestinians to think of new strategies.

Thirty years ago, Dr. Bishara called the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank an "apartheid" that would lead to the creation of bantustans. Today this bantustan regime has come into existence and what sets it apart from the bantustans that were under apartheid South African tutelage is that it is a proud bantustan that doesn’t recognise its miserable reality.

Palestine – an unsolved colonial issue

Dr. Bishara believes that it is impossible to resist the Trump-Netanyahu project, which has recently been backed by Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz without calling the Palestinian question by its real name – an unsolved colonial issue. It is in fact the last issue of its kind in the world and it now manifests as a system of racial segregation. Dr. Bishara says that the symbolism of the Palestinian cause for Arabs and the peoples of the Third World stems from it being a colonial issue, not from the scope of the suffering involved. He gives examples from the suffering of other Arab peoples. “The Syrian, Libyan, and Yemeni people have their calamities, concerns, and refugee issues. But the importance of the Palestinian cause to them is in that it’s the last colonial cause in the region and that it is the cause of the Arab community, i.e. the issue is related to their Arab identity.”

The primary cause of the Arabs?

"Is the Palestinian cause the primary cause of the Arabs?” Bishara poses this question, widely asked in the Arab world, without regard to the motives and contexts which have caused it to be asked recently and formulates a direct and conditional answer.

"Yes, it’s the primary cause of the Arabs if we consider them as a national community (ummah), but it’s not the primary cause of the Syrians. A Syrian’s primary cause is his or her national one, which is struggle against tyranny and preservation of Syria, and it’s the same for an Iraqi, with issues such as sectarianism, corruption, and foreign intervention or an Egyptian with issues around dictatorship and impoverishment, or a Sudanese or a citizen of another Arab nation. All Arab peoples have causes but when the Arabs meet as one nation their primary cause is Palestine."

But the Palestinian cause is important to every Arab people on an individual basis because Israel continues, “to threaten the sovereignty of every [Arab] nation, through regional interventions in several countries in support of separatist tendencies or to interfere in relations between the Arabs and their neighbours. Israel threatens all Arabs, if we consider them a national community. It threatens the sovereignty of their nations because Israel wants them to accept terms that would allow it to shape their foreign policies and re-divide the region between ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’, with Israel deciding who is a moderate and who is an extremist. Israel also wishes to impose a sectarian state model as a solution to conflicts in the region while diluting Arab identity, so that all states in the Arab region will be sectarian like Israel.”

Dr. Bishara believes that the Palestinian leadership should give this message to all the Arab states and create a joint programme for Arab diplomacy regarding the Palestinian cause, starting with a rejection of Trump and Netanyahu’s deal. This effort needs a spirit of resistance, not surrender to the normalisation of relations with Israel which some Arab countries are perpetrating.

On the inevitability of democracy in liberation movements

There are some Arab opponents of dictatorial regimes which have used the Palestinian cause and its slogans for their own personal gain, who when seeing these regimes’ rejection of normalised relations with Israel, say that Israel is a reality on the ground and accept a normal relationship with it. Bishara says that these voices are “delusional”.

“The Palestinian people are a reality on the ground as well, and so are occupation and racial segregation… you can’t be against tyranny and be indifferent to racism and occupation of Arab land at the same time, just like you can’t truly fight for liberation from occupation and not care about the suffering of an Arab people living under dictatorship.

Dr. Bishara thus concludes that normalisation of relations with Israel “will not solve any economic or social problem, as has been proved in Egypt, Jordan, and South Sudan. In fact it may become the source of new economic and social crises.”

Bishara sums up the inevitability of democracy in liberation movements - “Any renewed Palestinian liberation movement will be in harmony with the general democratic trend in the region. If the Palestinian struggle is currently against a system of apartheid in Palestine, that means that its demands are democratic. The discourse of this struggle must be democratic. It is not possible at this time, when surrounding you are Arab struggles against tyranny, to take part in a struggle for justice with a non-democratic discourse. No one will be convinced of your sincerity if you defend the Syrian and Egyptian regimes.”

Bishara offers a practical solution to Palestinian politicians and activists regarding Arab regimes. “You’re not required to boycott these regimes. If you are not able to express a clear position against tyranny at least be quiet! Everyone will appreciate your circumstances.”

What to do? A strategy for liberation but no suggestions for a solution

Bishara gives a complex description of the apartheid system in Palestine and its different layers, saying: “Palestine [in its pre-1948 boundaries] is now a single unit and a single space subjected to different levels of theft of land and confiscation of the national entity and different methods of control by the Israeli ruling power. It subjects the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as the Palestinians of Jerusalem, who are in a half-way house. But the situation of all these Palestinians is different and so are their specific needs. Their methods of resistance are by necessity different, as are the spaces they resist in. It’s possible to fit in the issue of the Palestinian refugees within this apartheid system. In 1948, racial segregation took the form of expulsion and displacement in order to turn a Jewish minority into a Jewish majority in a Jewish state. But segregation today takes the form of occupation and racial discrimination.”

Based on this, Dr. Bishara says “there is no more scope to imagine ‘a solution to the Palestinian problem’ which only includes part of the Palestinian people. Implementing such a solution is not possible. The failure of the negotiations which set this solution as a goal in fact showed that this solution is nonsensical and absurd.”

Because the racist Israeli apartheid system is all-encompassing, Palestinian resistance to it also encompasses all Palestinians, wherever they are, and this is one of the main conditions of the resistance strategy which Dr. Bishara formulates. This needs “a high degree of organisation and coordination, without prejudice to the specific characteristics of every Palestinian community and the nature of the resistance it undertakes. Palestinian communities cannot be subservient to the agendas of a Palestinian Authority – or two Palestinian Authorities. It is important that there are local leaders with autonomy regarding community issues, as well as a collective Palestinian framework identifying a collective national agenda.”

The new Palestinian spirit

Dr. Bishara says that the Palestinian national liberation movement began in the diaspora after the Nakba, in the Palestinian refugee camps and among middle class Palestinian intellectuals in exile. After this it became a movement for the whole Palestinian people. However, he says, “when it agreed to limit itself to an entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the fragmentation didn’t stop there, and this entity then split up into three different units – the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, and each one of these became a political issue in its own right.”

Dr. Bishara believes that the new, rebellious Palestinian spirit, which has emerged from the wreck of the Oslo peace process rejects this division, and this is of the utmost importance here.

But how do these currently separate entities work together again in a many fronted struggle against the Zionist system itself? “This question should be put to the Palestinian factions and parties. Those leading a faction or a party should answer questions about programmes and resistance plans. This is not a theoretical question, it’s connected to the presence of a political organisation.”

Dr. Bishara stresses that “there is no purpose to the existence of any Palestinian political party if it doesn’t have a programme relevant to the current circumstances. Theorising isn’t one of the functions of political organisations, instead they should present practical political programmes based on specific principles and ideas. Whoever joins a political party or faction of this kind should expect an answer from the leadership about what the programme is and shouldn’t just settle for slogans which have lost connection to reality and are now only there to preserve the identity of the political organisation.”

Dr. Bishara asks what Palestinians in the diaspora are doing after the PLO has become just a tool for the Palestinian Authority. The PLO is kept by the Palestinian Authority and convened occasionally but it is paralysed and currently has no function. “Will diaspora Palestinians set up a new organisation? If they try to set up a new political organisation they will immediately be accused of setting up an alternative to the PLO.” This problem must be solved between the Palestinian factions which have now, along with the Palestinian struggle, reached a dead end. “There is no question that if this problem is not solved, alternatives to the PLO will be set up anyway. Palestinian factions shouldn’t be surprised if initiatives taking place throughout Palestinian communities organised themselves and they shouldn’t be angry if alternative organisations rise up to challenge them.”

Dissolving the Palestinian Authority is a rhetorical threat… its role is what is important

In a speech at the Arab League headquarters at the beginning of February this year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Dr. Bishara doesn’t see this as a new idea or strategy, but simply a rhetorical device, like Abbas’s repeated threats to end security coordination with Israel, which haven’t been carried out and which he himself said wouldn’t be carried out.

Bishara asks, “How can the Palestinian Authority be dissolved? Is the Palestinian Authority a company or a football team or a scouting club? The Palestinian Authority is a network of institutions and interests including hundreds of thousands of employees and security officers. Abu Mazen [i.e. Mahmoud Abbas] said that he invited the Israeli occupation to return to take up the Palestinian Authority's responsibilities? What does this mean? This isn’t an invitation to a party. Israel will thank him for the invitation and won’t take it up.”

“If Abbas dissolves the Palestinian Authority that means he will be gone, and it is likely that a coup leader or an ambitious security officer will get support from Israel or the US to take over. Israel will find groups who can take over the Palestinian Authority’s functions. It doesn’t want to go back to Palestinian cities and directly rule their inhabitants. So the question isn’t about keeping or dissolving the PA, it is about its role and the political choices on the table.”

Dr. Bishara says that it is impossible to leave the Palestinian people without economic, educational, social, healthcare, and security institutions. “Any people working for liberation has to prove their ability to self-organise and the importance of this civilizational mission is doubled in the case of the Palestinian people. This is regardless of whether it is liberated in a Palestinian state (with the realisation of other demands related to Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza) or in a state that includes two peoples. (Israeli) Jewish society is organised in a strong state with an advanced economy and advanced health, educational, and cultural sectors.”

A unified political leadership for the Palestinian people… above the Palestinian authority.

According to Dr. Bishara, the Palestinian Authority can remain in place, “but as a kind of central administration for autonomy. Local authorities… running the affairs of residents with police powers. It is necessary and there is no way to abandon it, but it is not the political leadership of the Palestinian people”.

Here, Bishara suggests a detailed plan: “The PLO has to be revived to take up this role [of political leadership] or a new national congress should be held, from which a political leadership will be formed. The main factions, who aren’t controlled by [Arab] regimes should meet along with independent personalities to form a temporary leadership to prepare for this congress.”

A very important question here is whether a unified political leadership for the Palestinian national movement, above the two Palestinian Authorities in Gaza and the West Bank, will help unite them in this framework. Bishara answers, “Negotiations between two Palestinian Authorities are not the way to reconciliation. In their current state they can’t achieve union through negotiations, because neither Fatah nor Hamas will give up their limited power over resources, people, and their security forces or their unilateral foreign relations, including their direct and indirect negotiations with Israel. This is the trap of authority without sovereignty. Factional conflict for authority has superseded the struggle for sovereignty. There is no path to unity except through redefining the functions of the Palestinian authorities free of the conditions and dictates of agreements and the transformation of the two authorities into institutions recognising a single political leadership.”

Accepting the presence of a Palestinian Authority with internal functions such as building institutions, developing the economy, education, and so on “opens the opportunity to build political institutions with new horizons and new programmes which can deal with the reality imposed on the ground, recognising that it is a reality of racial segregation and adopting resistance along different fronts to Zionist racism. The original Palestinian inhabitants of Palestine, living on the ground, can take part in this resistance, each according to their position and circumstances. That means not separating the issues facing the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank and within Israel’s 1948 borders. They are all the original inhabitants of Palestine living in a single Israeli system of rule. It’s not possible under the current Arab situation and for the forseeability future to defeat this system of rule militarily and it’s not possible to dismantle the Zionist infrastructure without involving (Israeli) Jews themselves in this process”.

Dr. Bishara defines the nature of this process, saying that “it is a long-term process and needs patience, organisation, and a change in discourse to a democratic discourse. This is in harmony with the hopes of the Arab peoples generally for democracy. Because the road is a long one, and especially because it’s long, we can’t just call it a road of sacrifices only. It has to be a road of building institutions wherever there are Palestinians. A people which can impose its will in a struggle with a Zionist authority has to be a strong and organised people. Success in building economic, educational and health institutions and increasing resilience in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, and the 1948 territories as well as in the Arab states and the diaspora and then networking between them in order to arrive at a political programme to resist the apartheid system is, in sum, a step forward in this battle.”

Does this mean a one state solution?

Dr. Bishara asks this question and responds in precise and measured language, saying the answer lies in a “national democratic struggle for justice and equality, the political model of which will not be revealed except through struggle and a long process of dialogue after the principle of justice is accepted. It may take the form of a single binational state or two states, both of which are states of all their citizens. The Palestinian state would keep its Arab character and the Israeli one its Jewish character and the refugee and citizenship issues would be solved.” This only pertains to the character of the states, which is linked to the culture of the majority in each one.

Bishara points out that he is not speaking the language of solutions, neither the “one state solution” nor the “two state solution”. The Palestinian people are not involved in negotiations to solve a dilemma. He stresses that “the political mood must shift from one of negotiations where solutions are proposed to one of a long-term political struggle aimed at achieving justice for the Palestinian people.” Bishara also views that there are no political negotiations on the horizon where a “one-state solution” will be presented, saying that “we are not talking about a negotiated solution yet, but a struggle against apartheid”.

Bishara also talks about previous writings and discussions by Palestinian and Jewish intellectuals about the one-state solution as an alternative to the two-state solution, saying “if we talk in the framework of negotiations, initiatives, and solutions, the one-state solution is more difficult to achieve than the two-state solution in view of the current Arab, Israeli, and international situations. This is why I don’t talk about solutions but a struggle for justice in all Palestine.”

Bishara dwells on the nature of the single state, proceeding from his belief that “a single state for all its citizens in historic Palestine cannot come into existence if a majority of Jewish and Arab citizens don’t support it. Imposing it on them is not possible and the circumstances motivating them to accept it should come into existence. Resistance is one of the factors that will bring about these circumstances.”

There are currently no circumstances motivating Israeli Jews to give up their national, political, and economic privileges in the framework of the colonial apartheid system and given their military superiority, neither for a single state nor for two states. The issue is, therefore, one of resilience, nation building, struggle for justice, and democratic discourse.

Proceeding from the lengthy formation of a Palestinian and Arab national identity over a century and the formation of a Jewish Israeli nationality of Hebrew language and culture in Palestine – and taking into account that it was formed through colonialism - any just solution in the future would have to acknowledge the existence of a Palestinian Arab and an Israeli Jewish people.

“All the one-state solution idea says is that it is impossible for them to live in two states and that they need to find a way to live together equally and that Palestinians and Israeli Jews have to be convinced of that. That requires diligent and persistent struggle. Since its aim is to achieve justice for the persecuted and dispossessed Palestinian people, it needs to be honestly put forward in the framework of democratic liberation to convince the two peoples that achieving justice and equality is in both their interests. The struggle for justice is a struggle for recognition of the national rights of the Palestinian people and equality for Palestinians without denying the formation of another people in Palestine, even though this formation came about through colonialism.”

Bishara says, “Maybe the appropriate framework is a single state recognising two distinct peoples in its borders but the priority currently has to be for democratic struggle to achieve justice for the Palestinian people, keeping in mind possibility that this struggle against apartheid and the achievement of equal rights for Arabs and Jews may result in two national entities joined by an equal common citizenship, after recognition of the historic injustice that befell the Palestinian people. Also for argument’s sake it could result in the recognition of the need for two states. The important thing is that it won’t be just ‘a two state solution for two peoples’ in order to allow Zionism to get rid of the ‘demographic threat’ but is instead implemented in a framework of justice for the Palestinian people wherever they are.”

Dr. Bishara clarifies the position of Israeli Jewish forces in this new thinking, saying, “Wider and wider sectors of Israeli public opinion have to be engaged with and there should be cooperation with Jewish groups not to revive negotiations and force the Israeli right from power, but to establish justice in Palestine and build a future where we can live together without a Zionist system in power. This is completely different from the ongoing dialogue for peace. This dialogue, according to this framework, will not be about peace but about justice under a non-Zionist system.”

Practical strength and its sources

Dr. Bishara concludes the third chapter of his book by pointing out the sources of strength in today’s Palestinian situation. He says that “the main source of power is in the Palestinian people’s presence on their land and their refusal to surrender to the reality of occupation, and the inability of the US and Israel to impose Trump and Netanyahu’s vision on them.”

Dr. Bishara believes that “the continuation of resistance and the persistence of institution building in Gaza and the West Bank are two vital paths to organising the Palestinian people and strengthening their ability to resist. In addition to this is an important shift in public opinion around the world in favour of Palestine, specifically in the West. Some of this is genuine and comes from the growth of new generations who are more moral and less ideological and some comes from a reaction against right-wing populism which is no longer on the ascendant.”

Bishara sees the local youth initiatives which defend the rights of the Palestinian people as an expression of the continued vitality of the Palestinian people but also as a symptom of a leadership crisis among Palestinians.

“However, these won’t be useful in the long term if they are separate from and unable to effect Palestinian politics. This is why it is important to unite [these initiatives] so they have a say in Palestinian politics.”

Bishara’s resistance strategy

The resistance strategy offered by Dr. Bishara is a comprehensive one, as shown by his analysis of the entire Palestinian situation and the theoretical formula he applies to the different levels of apartheid at different stages of time and their different application and forms throughout all of Palestine. The strategy is not confined to a single group and it does not surrender to a territorial division and this is unique among Palestinians. After each Palestinian community adopted practices related to their location and produced their own authority, leadership, and distinguishing characteristics, there was no more thought of strategies that could link all Palestinians. Even in terms of discourse this comprehesiveness was absent. Dr. Bishara’s strategy proceeds from the different realities, the different levels of resistance, and the different needs of every Palestinian community according to its location and the form of colonialism imposed against it. Dr. Bishara offers this resistance strategy uniting Palestinians without ignoring the uniqueness of every Palestinian community.

This strategy is distinguished by its synthesis of people’s essential needs, their organisation, and their ability to go about their affairs in a civilised society with institutions. At the same time it goes to the heart of the Palestinian issue as a political and moral issue, by treating it as an unsolved colonial problem.

This leads to an analysis and political theorising of matters which politicians dislike discussing out of fear of losing a popular base fed by slogans or in order to preserve the identity of their political factions regardless of what is achieved on the ground. Here we can examine Bishara’s ideas regarding the “idolisation of the state” in the dominant perspective of Palestinian political actors, whatever the form of the state – represented by sovereignty – is. Dr. Bishara’s vision, which he has put forward since the 1993 Oslo Agreement, sees sovereignty as the primary feature of the state, leaving aside slogans. Israel’s problem is not with the name of the entity which Trump’s plan allows if the Palestinian leadership accepts it, nor is it concerned with the level of aggrandisement given by Palestinians to their entities. The important thing for Israel is the lack of sovereignty of a Palestinian state and its lack of the features of this sovereignty, and Israel’s continued hegemony in practice.

Dr. Bishara’s critical analysis extends to a review of the means of resistance which the Palestinians tried, looking at the achievements on the road to liberating Palestine from colonialism and achieving justice for the Palestinian people. This historic and political review, characterised by realism, doesn’t look at the legitimacy of means of resistance and the right to use them, because these are constant, but asks instead about their effectiveness and efficacy when used.

Many forms of resistance have been emptied of their content and have simply been raised as a slogan. They are used to preserve what is left of popularity, as a tool against internal political rivals, or as slogans which are now ineffective on the ground and not able to be implemented given the progress of the Zionist project.

Dr. Bishara assesses armed struggle and characterises it as a glorious chapter in Palestinian resistance and an important element of national identity. However today armed struggle cannot liberate Palestine. In both Gaza and Lebanon it is clear that it is defensive resistance. As for negotiations, insisting on them despite their failure is a strategy of the Palestinian Authority which it uses in its intra-Palestinian conflict with Hamas. Everything is used up for the sake of spiting political rivals – even failure itself is a means to spite, as Dr. Bishara says.

In the same fashion, the strategy offered by Bishara points out the evident distinction between the role of the Palestinian people generally and the role of the political movements, factions, and leadership of the PA and the PLO. This distinction is important today, when the Palestinian leadership and factions are avoiding their theoretical roles in the Palestinian struggle and the formulation of political programmes in favour of depending on solutions to the Palestinian problem and waiting for them.

The Palestinian political scene is now marked by debate over the possible solutions. Palestinians have not united in a multi-layered resistance movement, which each group takes part in according to its place in the map of Zionist apartheid. In this vein, Dr. Bishara takes apart illusions suffered by Palestinian politicians regarding Israeli politics and the balance of political power in Israel. He refutes the ideas of Palestinian and Jewish intellectuals regarding the “solutions” to the Palestinian issue by giving importance instead to the struggle for justice which will lay the ground for different choices and possibilities regarding solutions.

Finally, this “project”, which is theoretical in its composition and practical in its possible implementation, transcends politicised (not political) discussion regarding the Palestinian situation by placing the Zionist project generally as a target for both theoretical and practical resistance.

The importance of this model, which is presented to all Palestinians everywhere around the world and with them every democrat around the world who believes in justice and Palestinian national rights, is amplified by the fact that it comes at a time when both popular political movements and the Palestinian Authority leadership are avoiding offering their people a comprehensive and honest programme befitting the great threat that the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people are facing today.

This is an edited translation from Arab48. Republished with permission.

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