Abbas reveals continued lack of strategy for Palestinian liberation

Abbas reveals continued lack of strategy for Palestinian liberation
5 min read
27 Sep, 2016
Comment: Today marks the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Intifada. Daoud Kuttab reflects on the internal obstacles to the struggle for Palestinian statehood.
This absence of a coherent strategy has resulted in some major setbacks for Palestinians [Getty]
During the same week that President Mahmoud Abbas was at the UN meeting to speak about the Palestinian cause, a very different set of events was taking place at home.

A series of attempted stabbings in Hebron and Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of the Palestinians who were reportedly wielding knives. Once again, Palestinian lives are being lost almost on a daily basis in a struggle devoid of strategy.

Meanwhile, the two Balboul brothers on hunger strike protesting administrative detention won a hard-earned victory, as their lawyers reached an agreement with Israel on the date of their release. Around the world, pro-Palestinian forces are making important accomplishments.

In addition, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement continues to make impressive progress, and the campaign for academic freedom in the US succeeded in forcing the University of California at Berkeley to reinstate a student-led course about Palestine.

Neither the stabbings nor the worldwide Palestinian solidarity campaigns featured much in the speech of the Palestinian president on September 22. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly President Abbas mentioned refugees just once in his speech, while he made 38 references to Israel.

It might be argued that the goal of Abbas' speech at the UN was to expose Israeli violations of UN resolutions and the fact that the government had acted in outright contradiction of the international community's 1947 vote on the partition plan.

But what was lacking in Abbas's UN speech and what has become clear in all the combined efforts of the Palestinian leadership, is the lack of interest in any plan at all.

Abbas's speech lacked any discussion of a strategy for ending the occupation, for realising Palestinian freedom or for the return of Palestinians who were forced to flee from their homes some 68 years ago.

This absence of a coherent strategy has resulted in some major setbacks for Palestinians

In the absence of a strategy of national liberation, Palestinians appear to be taking on a variety of tactics including violent and nonviolent actions, political negotiations, boycotts and low-level protests.

The absence of a strategy can be partially blamed on the fragmentation of Palestinian politics. The two leading movements - Hamas and Fatah - are still moving in opposite directions with the occupied West Bank and Gaza under different local governing structures.

In both locations the governing powers both claim to be adhering to the Palestinian Basic Law and the Palestinian national authority structure that was created as part of the Oslo Accords.

But this absence of coherent strategy has resulted in some major setbacks for ordinary Palestinians. Much of the Arab and international support that Palestine had enjoyed for decades has largely disappeared. While leaders of Arab and majority-Muslim countries still give lip service to Palestine, the reality is that they have lost their passion.

It is hard to convince others to be more devoted to your cause than are your own people. The split in Palestine, is reflected in a split among friends of Palestine, as well as in most Palestinian diaspora communities.

Is there agreement on the means to accomplish Palestinian liberation?

To remedy this, one cannot avoid the need for national unity. But even without all parties returning to work together, some basic agreements are needed.

To begin with, a concerted effort must be made to set the goals of the struggle for liberation, as well as the methods to be used in achieving such. Palestinians must answer the simple question of whether they are still in agreement about the two-state solution, or if they are reverting to the idea of a one-state solution.

Also of immense importance, is methodology. Is there any agreement on the means to accomplish Palestinian liberation? Is there still any logic in talking of an armed struggle or even low-level violent resistance such as sabotage of anoccupying military, at a time when such a militaristic option appears unlikely, ineffective and - some would argue - counterproductive?

If there is a consensus, will Palestinians have the courage to put a public and forceful end to the acts of desperation that see youths killed on almost a daily basis, as they engage in a totally lopsided battle with the extremely well-armed and merciless Israeli occupiers.

Palestinians must answer the simple question of whether they are still in agreement about the two state solution

If there is a consensus on nonviolent resistance, Palestinians need to agree on whether this is a strategy based on putting serious pressure on Israel, or whether it will be employed on a practical level, to protect the Palestinian accomplishments already made on the ground.

Some argue that it makes little sense that the Palestinian leadership is able to move freely and travel as VIPs, while the rest of the population suffers restrictions and deprivation of their basic rights. At the same time, the idea of throwing away the keys and upsetting the existing situation, for a plan that is not well studied and lacks consensus, could prove just as counterproductive.

Agreement on what an entire society wants to employ as both its strategy and its tactics for resistance cannot be decreed by a small group. It must be debated and eventually agreed upon, independently of the wishes of individual groups or leaders.

Despite the presence of a functioning government and general political direction, it is difficult to say that Palestinians today enjoy a leader with strong popular support.

Without the legitimacy of an electoral process and the public endorsement of a unifying national strategy, Palestinians will continue to feel that their current leaders are not able to fulfill the basic goals of leadership.

Daoud Kuttab is an award winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on @daoudkuttab

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.