Palestinians must lead the world's last anti-colonial struggle

Palestinians must lead the world's last anti-colonial struggle

8 min read
02 Mar, 2020
Comment: The Palestinians must dare to lead their anti-colonial battle with a powerful raft of political, economic, legal, and mass mobilisation techniques, writes Rami Khouri.
A Palestinian man in the West Bank protests Trump's plan [Anadolu]
The United States has followed up President Donald Trump's "Peace to Prosperity" plan for Israelis and Palestinians by appointing a six-man joint committee to chart Israel's annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank. 

This land grab by American and Israeli extremist Zionists seems to catch the Palestinians totally vulnerable, helpless, leaderless, and directionless, to judge by the Palestinian and Arab leaders' feeble response to date - mostly predictable declarations rejecting the Trump plan without offering a dynamic counter-strategy.

This land grab by American and Israeli extremist Zionists makes the Palestinian people appear totally vulnerable, helpless, leaderless, and directionless, judging by the Palestinian and Arab feeble response to date - mostly predictable declarations rejecting the Trump plan.

Palestinians everywhere are especially disappointed to watch their leaders rage at the wind that tries to blow us off the world's political stage and write us out of history.

Yet, it would be a mistake to see the Palestinians as weak and helpless, even though their leaders seem clueless about how to activate the many assets we enjoy around the world.

What to do, as our dysfunctional leadership shows again that it is unable, or unwilling to challenge Zionism, Israel, and this right-wing White House with any political power more fierce than press releases?

The first step in fighting for our rights starts with correctly analysing the threat we face. The Trump-Netanyahu plan is the latest phase of a Zionist initiative for a Jewish state that was launched by Theodore Herzl's The Jewish State book in 1896, and followed by the two seminal developments of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Great Britain to rule Palestine.

The mandate's first declared aim was to implement the Balfour Declaration's vision of creating a Jewish "homeland" in Palestine, which the early Zionists clearly understood would ultimately be a sovereign state for Jews, on land that was some 94 percent Palestinian owned and inhabited. 

The link to the Trump-Netanyahu plan of 2020 is that all four of these developments - 135 years apart - share identical attitudes, assumptions, and operative actions, based on a few core ideas: that Jews have a biblical claim to the land of Palestine and priority rights there over Arab Palestinians; that civilized western powers (the UK and US) must work with Zionists to create a strong Jewish state that dominates subservient Palestinians; and, that western-Zionist assistance and tutoring are required to raise the culturally stunted Palestinians to the point where they can rule themselves in autonomous conditions under perpetual western-Zionist control.

The antidote can only be for the Palestinians to resist and repel it with equal vigor

If indeed this is the dominant force that has plagued the Palestinians for over a century, then the antidote can only be for the Palestinians to resist and repel it with equal vigor.

The Palestinians can escape their century-long ordeal of shattered national rights by using political, economic, legal, and mass mobilisation techniques that we should frame as perhaps the world's last anti-colonial struggle. I can suggest 10 steps to achieve this.

1. The immediate priority is popular mobilisation, consultation, and elections across all Palestinian communities, in order to revive, redefine, and re-legitimise a new, credible, national leadership and its communal institutions; including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority, camps management committees, and professional organisations that represent doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, women and many others.

2. Palestinians everywhere must work together to strengthen steadfastness and community-building mechanisms that non-violently resist Israel's predatory and cruel actions, so that isolated and vulnerable Palestinian communities can ensure their basic needs in the hard times ahead. This should occur in the three main zones of Palestinian communal life; inside Israel, in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and in refugee camps and exile communities outside Palestine.

3. A re-legitimised Palestinian national leadership must once again achieve a unified national political position on war or peace with Israel. Peaceful coexistence with Israel within mutually agreed borders with a new Palestinian state is an option that has already secured majority Palestinian and worldwide support. The other option that may become inevitable due to current Israeli policies is a single state for Israelis and Palestinians (which the Palestinians proposed over half a century ago).

The updated 2002 Arab Peace Plan, the 2006 Palestinian prisoners document, the 2005 Cairo agreement, and other precedents could help shape a unified national position that respects the national and individual rights of all people in the region, whether in one, two, or confederated states.

4. A Palestinian position based on prevailing global consensuses enshrined in UN resolutions and other precedents would allow for concerted international mobilisation to secure widespread support among the more than 140 countries that have expressed their solidarity with Palestine and recognised its status as a non-state UN observer member.

The Palestinians should decisively use every available international and national legal mechanism to challenge the Israeli-American colonial process

5. Such a drive should also seek more governments' de jure bilateral recognition of the state of Palestine, to strengthen its position in international legal and diplomatic fora.

6. The Palestinians should decisively use every available international and national legal mechanism to challenge the Israeli-American colonisation process that is now underway. The best response to the Trump plan's demand for Palestinians to drop all legal claims against Israel would be to triple and quadruple our legal claims to secure our rights and stop Israel's ongoing territorial expansion.

Many outstanding Palestinian lawyers have worked on these issues for decades and could launch a new legal campaign within months, at the ICC or UN Human Rights Council, and in national courts that respect universal jurisdiction.

Read more: Trump and Netanyahu issue a new colonial mandate in Palestine

7. Simultaneously, we must rapidly expand the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has already gained traction around the world, thanks to its exemplary civil society leadership, and its anchorage in law, peaceful methods, and human rights focus.

The BDS movement rightly frightens Israel because it generates global pressures to stop its apartheid-like colonial and criminal acts, and also punish international accomplices.

8. To succeed, such initiatives need smart, focused, and persistent lobbying, public education, and political engagement with like-minded parties around the world, to forge an unstoppable moral and political global coalition for justice.

The worldwide explosion of popular protests for equal rights and justice offers Palestinians unique opportunities to do just this. This is the Palestinians' strongest card today. Public opinion has been moving slowly but steadily towards a more balanced position on Israel-Palestine, as Israel's cruel practices belie Zionism's century of propaganda.

There have been many unprecedented recent developments, such as respected American Democratic Party presidential candidates openly criticising Israel's colonial and racist policies or boycotting AIPAC, signalling an evolution towards a more ethical and even-handed policy on Palestine-Israel.

9. While a few frightened Arab leaders in the Gulf and elsewhere surreptitiously develop under-the-table relations with Israel, Arab citizens overwhelmingly support the Palestinian cause, but in their autocratic systems they are powerless to translate their views into policy.

The Palestinians must harness the immense public support that exists for them and channel it towards diplomatic moves for a permanent and just peace agreement that already has wide Arab and global support.

10. A re-legitimised, re-energised Palestinian national leadership must harness these and other efforts by going on the offensive to lead a global campaign to wage the world's last battle against colonialism, rather than meekly reply to new American and Israeli colonial extensions of century-old assaults on our indigenous rights. The world is waiting for this.

It would be appropriate to launch such a strategy now, when the United States Congress is passing a law to make lynching a federal crime. For lynching of African-Americans and Israel's non-stop colonising and killing of Palestinians are two elements of a single global racist and colonial legacy that peaked in the late 19th century, but that persists today in places like Ferguson and Hebron.

The recent video of an Israeli bulldozer dragging by a rope the body of a Palestinian youth it had just killed is one variety of lynching that Palestinians suffer.

There is a reason why the Palestinian flag, the kefiyyeh, and Black Lives Matter t-shirts appear all over the world where people gather in large demonstrations

This cruel act was about as stark an affirmation as we will ever see that African-Americans and Palestinians do not fight for themselves only; they wage separate battles in the same war against racism, colonialism, and apartheid everywhere in the world.

We will win this war, because the human spirit values dignity and justice perhaps more than anything else in the world.

The Palestinians can only lead and win the world's last anti-colonial battle if we dare to wage it with something more impactful than Arab League statements that support ageing Palestinian leaders who seem to have lost their way in the world, because they have lost touch with their people.

There is a reason why the Palestinian flag, the kefiyyeh, and Black Lives Matter t-shirts appear all over the world where people gather in large demonstrations to demand justice. These people and their symbols scream out to us in the night and every day, eager to join the march for justice, equality, and peace, for themselves, and for all of us.  

Rami G. Khouri is senior public policy fellow, adjunct professor of journalism, and Journalist-in-Residence at the American University of Beirut, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Middle East Initiative.

Follow him on Twitter: @ramikhouri

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.