From Socialist Voice, February 2011


The Palestine Papers and the Palestinian liberation movement

The following article was written by a long-time Palestine solidarity activist and represents the writer’s personal opinion only. We welcome letters and comments.

The Palestine Papers, leaked—allegedly—by disaffected functionaries of the Palestinian Authority to Al-Jazeera television and the Guardian last month, have exposed what many who have been following Palestinian politics long suspected: the PA leadership long ago abandoned the Palestinian national liberation struggle in their desperation to crush opposition and cling to the meagre privileges they were granted under the Oslo Accords.
     Any Palestinian on the ground would, of course, have been able to tell you that; but these papers provide proof. More importantly, however, they show that no matter what concessions the PA negotiators offered Israel, they were rejected out of hand: Israel is not interested in peace, it is interested only in subcontracting its occupation to US-trained PA subordinates while it continues its ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
     The papers reveal a PA-Fatah leadership more interested in destroying their rivals in Hamas than in carrying forward the struggle against Israeli colonialism and US imperialism. Indeed there has instead been collaboration with these, and other, reactionary forces.
     Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations in this regard is that after Hamas blew up the border wall with Egypt in 2008—allowing thousands of Gazans temporary access to food and supplies in Egypt—one of the PA negotiators, Ahmed Qurei, called on Israel to reoccupy the Philadelphia Corridor “buffer zone” between Gaza and Egypt to prevent such a thing from happening again.
     It was also disgusting to learn that the PA had apparently been facilitating the extra-judicial assassination of “problematic” resistance fighters, including members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which itself is closely linked to Fatah.
     In negotiations as part of the so-called “peace process” the PA—unknown to the people on whose behalf they were allegedly negotiating—showed a willingness to suggest extreme compromises. They agreed in principle to grant control over most of colonised East Jerusalem to Israel (including Sheikh Jarrah, which has become a symbol of non-violent resistance to the occupation) and international control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
     On refugees, the PA were willing to forgo the right of return that refugees enjoy under international law, instead agreeing to a token return of 10,000 (out of 5 million) to Israel. Furthermore, any referendum on a final status solution would not see the refugees allowed a vote. This caused uproar, as the refugee issue has always been a central plank of the national liberation movement.
     That the PA leadership should sell out their peoples’ struggle in such a craven manner comes as no surprise: such is the fate of bourgeois nationalism grown fat and weary of struggle; it has happened to many such movements over the years.
     More importantly, the papers reveal the rejectionist nature of the colonial Israeli state. Pro-Zionist pundits, NGOs and politicians have long repeated the mantra that there is “no partner for peace,” that Palestinian “intransigence” is the main obstacle to a solution. The papers in fact show that the Palestinians were willing to make extreme—arguably indefensible—compromises: on refugees, on Jerusalem, on Israel as a “Jewish state,” even on the sovereignty of the “future Palestinian state.” Yet the Israelis offered absolutely nothing in return.
     As a clearly frustrated Saeb Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, said to US negotiators, this “gives them the biggest [Jerusalem] in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state . . . What more can I give?”
     In response to the release of the papers the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, comically told the Guardian that Israel is “fed up with giving and giving and giving, and not getting any real substance [in return].” He “dismissed the extensive concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators . . . saying they were insignificant.”
     Ultimately what the Palestine Papers prove is that the “peace process” is a farce. Negotiations provide a fig-leaf for Israel to point to while it continues its bantustanisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine while Western governments continue to ogle the Israeli fig-leaf, modestly averting their eyes from the naked horror surrounding it. They may also sound the death-knell for the “two-state solution.”
     It may transpire, however, that—inspired by the popular Arab uprisings of recent weeks—the Palestinians may take to the streets, perhaps rendering the issue of negotiations moot. As the respected Palestinian commentator Ali Abunimah, joint founder of the Electronic Intifada web site, noted, “today, Palestinians form at least half the population in historic Palestine-Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. If they rose up collectively to demand equal rights, what could Israel do to stop them? Israel’s brutal violence and lethal force has not stopped regular demonstrations in West Bank villages including Bilin and Beit Ommar.
     “Israel must fear that if it responds to any broad uprising with brutality, its already precarious international support could start to evaporate as quickly as Mubarak’s. The Mubarak regime, it seems, is undergoing rapid ‘delegitimisation.’ Israeli leaders have made it clear that such an implosion of international support scares them more than any external military threat. With the power shifting to the Arab people and away from their regimes, Arab governments may not be able to remain as silent and complicit as they have for years as Israel oppresses Palestinians.”

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