Palestinians living under Israeli occupation aspire to liberation and
freedom, but eighteen years after the Palestinian leadership, from
exile, announced the Palestinian independence day, the Palestinian
people are still under Israeli military occupation, facing daily
attacks by the army, and even further from independence than they were
in 1988 when the holiday was declared.

The following is a segment of the declaration of independence, written November 14, 1988:

The Palestine National Council, in the name of God, and in the name of the Palestinian Arab people, hereby proclaims the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif).

The 'State of Palestine' is the state of Palestinians wherever they may be.  Having a state is an internationally-recognized right for all people: to enjoy in it their collective national and cultural identity, to pursue in it a complete equality of rights. In it will be safeguarded their political and religious convictions and their human dignity by means of a parliamentary democratic system of governance, itself based on freedom of expression and the freedom to form parties. The rights of minorities will duly be respected by the majority, as minorities must abide by decisions of the majority.  Governance will be based on principles of social justice, equality and non-discrimination against men or women, on the grounds of race, religion, color or sex, under the aegis of a constitution which ensures the rule of law and an independent judiciary.  Thus shall these principles allow no departure from Palestine's age-old spiritual and civilizational heritage of tolerance and religious coexistence.

But today in occupied Palestine, the Palestinian people enjoy none of those rights, as they remain under Israeli military occupation. 

The following interviews were conducted by Najeeb Farraj, Palestine News Network, surveying the opinions of the people;

A local Falafel shop owner in Beit Jala town, near Bethlehem, Khaled Al Shatla, was joking with the people on Tuesday, saying “Tomorrow is November 15 — our independence day.  Independence!!  It has been eighteen years since the declaration, and the people are still suffering, and the occupation continues its massacres against them”.

Al Shatla said that independence has moral and political importance for the Palestinians, who are determined to achieve liberation and freedom, but added that the people should not overestimate this day.

“We aren't independent yet, we are still living under occupation, we should not believe that we are independent”, he added, “real independence is still far away”. 

Lamees Musallam, a fifth-grade Palestinian child from Bethlehem, said on Tuesday evening, ”Tomorrow is a general strike day”.

She could not differentiate between a day of strike and the independence day because she is living under occupation, without stability and peace.  Her mother said that, for her daughter, independence or strike is the same,  both are days off school.  On the ground in Palestine, the people are still falling, killed and injured, as hundreds are being taken prisoner each week.

Lama Shaheen, a University Student, said in bitterness that independence is only on paper, but on the ground Israel is occupying the land and the people.

“Independence became a symbol of hope and joy to the people who aspire to freedom, and are counting every moment until their liberation”, Shaheen stated, “Eighteen years have passed since the declaration, but the Palestinians are living under occupation, poverty and continuous attacks.  This day became an official holiday, where the people just stay at home, especially when its rainy”.

The Palestinian media that usually cover this day and the popular celebration were not very optimistic and did not report on every ceremony that was held.

Even President Mahmoud Abbas was abroad on the eve of independence.  He did not deliver any speech marking the Day, although most of the people expected him to say something, especially since his predecessor, the late President Yasser Arafat, used to make enthusiastic speeches on the occasion.

Some institutions in Bethlehem conducted debate sessions, and the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy invited the people to attend a ceremony at its headquarters, but only a few dozen attended. 

In Jerusalem, dozens of high school students tried to march in the streets, but Israeli police and border-guards attacked them with batons and tear gas.  At least four students were taken prisoner, and were brought to Al Maskobiyya interrogation facility.

One of the students who participated in the protest, that that they wanted to express their anger towards the Israeli attacks, and continuous assaults and crimes against the people.

“Every occasion, like the so-called Independence Day holiday, for us is an opportunity to express our anger against the occupation”, the student stated, “We are not independent, but the people want to be independent for real”.

Palestinian factions, especially the factions that are members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), issued leaflets and press releases, as they do every year.

Observers to the situation in Palestine said that the most of the people, and even members of these factions, might  not read these leaflets because they are only a repetition of previous ones, with nothing new in them  — just the same hopes, same wishes and same phrases, but nothing new on the ground.

Unlike previous years, especially the first several years after the declaration, the streets were not decorated with flags or pictures.

One of the residents, a member of the Fateh movement who was talking in condition of anonymity, said that independence is only on paper, but on the ground, the people are still being killed and attacked by the Israeli occupation.

“The army is invading every city, town, village and refugee camp”, he said, “The occupation became more violent, bloody, and the people are suffering, facing poverty and the ongoing siege”.

A freed detainee identified as Nidal Abu Aker said that the people cannot think of celebrating independence day while “massacres are still being carried out against them”.

“The siege is ongoing, poverty is increasing, the town of Beit Hanoun has not had a chance to dry its tears and blood yet”, he added, in reference to an Israeli invasion last week that left 83 Palestinians dead in Beit Hanoun.   “The economical situation is continuously deteriorating, the Palestinian leadership is still weak, and the internal crisis is still ongoing”.

In addition to the facts pointed out by Abu Aker, others add that Palestine is still occupied, Israel is still constructing the annexation Wall deep inside the occupied West Bank, and Israelis are still constructing and expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The Palestinian people are still imprisoned in their own land, unable to move freely within the Palestinian areas (let alone enter the Israeli areas), unable to leave the country, and those who are abroad are unable to come back.

The Israeli occupation did not end yet.  Israel still controls the land, air and sea, it is still controlling every aspect of the lives of the Palestinian people, still annexing their lands, shelling their homes, facilities and even their schools.

Children, women and men are still being killed by Israeli shells, bullets and air strikes.

November 15 is considered an important day that reminds the world that the Palestinians are not freed yet, they are still under occupation, their lives and lands are still being taken away by the Israeli machinery.  But this day will remain a day of hope to the people who are persistent to continue their struggle until achieving independence and real liberation from the Israeli military occupation, its settlements and the Wall that are spreading deep into the occupied West Bank, robbing the lands and lives of the Palestinian people, the indigenous inhabitants of the land. 

——————————————————
Declaration of Independence
November 15th ,1988

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled. Thus the Palestinian Arab people ensured for itself an everlasting union between itself, its land, and its history.

Resolute throughout that history, the Palestinian Arab people forged its national identity, rising even to unimagined levels in its defense, as invasion, the design of others, and the appeal special to Palestine's ancient and luminous place on the eminence where powers and civilizations are joined. All this intervened thereby to deprive the people of its political independence. Yet the undying connection between Palestine and its people secured for the land its character, and for the people its national genius.

Nourished by an unfolding series of civilizations and cultures, inspired by a heritage rich in variety and kind, the Palestinian Arab people added to its stature by consolidating a union between itself and its patrimonial Land. The call went out from Temple, Church, and Mosque that to praise the Creator, to celebrate compassion and peace was indeed the message of Palestine. And in generation after generation, the Palestinian Arab people gave of itself unsparingly in the valiant battle for liberation and homeland. For what has been the unbroken chain of our people's rebellions but the heroic embodiment of our will for national independence. And so the people was sustained in the struggle to stay and to prevail.

When in the course of modern times a new order of values was declared with norms and values fair for all, it was the Palestinian Arab people that had been excluded from the destiny of all other peoples by a hostile array of local and foreign powers. Yet again had unaided justice been revealed as insufficient to drive the world's history along its preferred course.

And it was the Palestinian people, already wounded in its body, that was submitted to yet another type of occupation over which floated that falsehood that "Palestine was a land without people." This notion was foisted upon some in the world, whereas in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (1919) and in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), the community of nations had recognized that all the Arab territories, including Palestine, of the formerly Ottoman provinces, were to have granted to them their freedom as provisionally independent nations.

Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty.

By stages, the occupation of Palestine and parts of other Arab territories by Israeli forces, the willed dispossession and expulsion from their ancestral homes of the majority of Palestine's civilian inhabitants, was achieved by organized terror; those Palestinians who remained, as a vestige subjugated in its homeland, were persecuted and forced to endure the destruction of their national life.

Thus were principles of international legitimacy violated. Thus were the Charter of the United Nations and its Resolutions disfigured, for they had recognized the Palestinian Arab people's national rights, including the right of Return, the right to independence, the right to sovereignty over territory and homeland.

In Palestine and on its perimeters, in exile distant and near, the Palestinian Arab people never faltered and never abandoned its conviction in its rights of Return and independence. Occupation, massacres and dispersion achieved no gain in the unabated Palestinian consciousness of self and political identity, as Palestinians went forward with their destiny, undeterred and unbowed. And from out of the long years of trial in ever-mounting struggle, the Palestinian political identity emerged further consolidated and confirmed. And the collective Palestinian national will forged for itself a political embodiment, the Palestine Liberation Organization, its sole, legitimate representative recognized by the world community as a whole, as well as by related regional and international institutions. Standing on the very rock of conviction in the Palestinian people's inalienable rights, and on the ground of Arab national consensus and of international legitimacy, the PLO led the campaigns of its great people, molded into unity and powerful resolve, one and indivisible in its triumphs, even as it suffered massacres and confinement within and without its home. And so Palestinian resistance was clarified and raised into the forefront of Arab and world awareness, as the struggle of the Palestinian Arab people achieved unique prominence among the world's liberation movements in the modern era.

The massive national uprising, the intifada, now intensifying in cumulative scope and power on occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the unflinching resistance of the refugee camps outside the homeland, have elevated awareness of the Palestinian truth and right into still higher realms of comprehension and actuality. Now at last the curtain has been dropped around a whole epoch of prevarication and negation. The intifada has set siege to the mind of official Israel, which has for too long relied exclusively upon myth and terror to deny Palestinian existence altogether. Because of the intifada and its revolutionary irreversible impulse, the history of Palestine has therefore arrived at a decisive juncture.

Whereas the Palestinian people reaffirms most definitively its inalienable rights in the land of its patrimony:

Now by virtue of natural, historical and legal rights, and the sacrifices of successive generations who gave of themselves in defense of the freedom and independence of their homeland;

In pursuance of Resolutions adopted by Arab Summit Conferences and relying on the authority bestowed by international legitimacy as embodied in the Resolutions of the United Nations Organization since 1947;

And in exercise by the Palestinian Arab people of its rights to self-determination, political independence and sovereignty over its territory,

The Palestine National Council, in the name of God, and in the name of the Palestinian Arab people, hereby proclaims the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif).

The State of Palestine is the state of Palestinians wherever they may be. The state is for them to enjoy in it their collective national and cultural identity, theirs to pursue in it a complete equality of rights. In it will be safeguarded their political and religious convictions and their human dignity by means of a parliamentary democratic system of governance, itself based on freedom of expression and the freedom to form parties. The rights of minorities will duly be respected by the majority, as minorities must abide by decisions of the majority. Governance will be based on principles of social justice, equality and non-discrimination in public rights of men or women, on grounds of race, religion, color or sex, and the aegis of a constitution which ensures the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Thus shall these principles allow no departure from Palestine's age-old spiritual and civilizational heritage of tolerance and religious coexistence.

The State of Palestine is an Arab state, an integral and indivisible part of the Arab nation, at one with that nation in heritage and civilization, with it also in its aspiration for liberation, progress, democracy and unity. The State of Palestine affirms its obligation to abide by the Charter of the League of Arab States, whereby the coordination of the Arab states with each other shall be strengthened. It calls upon Arab compatriots to consolidate and enhance the emein reality of state, to mobilize potential, and to intensify efforts whose goal is to end Israeli occupation.

The State of Palestine proclaims its commitment to the principles and purposes of the United Nations, and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It proclaims its commitment as well to the principles and policies of the Non-Aligned Movement.

It further announces itself to be a peace-loving State, in adherence to the principles of peaceful co-existence. It will join with all states and peoples in order to assure a permanent peace based upon justice and the respect of rights so that humanity's potential for well-being may be assured, an earnest competition for excellence may be maintained, and in which confidence in the future will eliminate fear for those who are just and for whom justice is the only recourse.

In the context of its struggle for peace in the land of Love and Peace, the State of Palestine calls upon the United Nations to bear special responsibility for the Palestinian Arab people and its homeland. It calls upon all peace-and freedom-loving peoples and states to assist it in the attainment of its objectives, to provide it with security, to alleviate the tragedy of its people, and to help it terminate Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The State of Palestine herewith declares that it believes in the settlement of regional and international disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with the U.N. Charter and resolutions. With prejudice to its natural right to defend its territorial integrity and independence, it therefore rejects the threat or use of force, violence and terrorism against its territorial integrity or political independence, as it also rejects their use against territorial integrity of other states.

Therefore, on this day unlike all others, November 15, 1988, as we stand at the threshold of a new dawn, in all honor and modesty we humbly bow to the sacred spirits of our fallen ones, Palestinian and Arab, by the purity of whose sacrifice for the homeland our sky has been illuminated and our Land given life. Our hearts are lifted up and irradiated by the light emanating from the much blessed intifada, from those who have endured and have fought the fight of the camps, of dispersion, of exile, from those who have borne the standard for freedom, our children, our aged, our youth, our prisoners, detainees and wounded, all those ties to our sacred soil are confirmed in camp, village, and town. We render special tribute to that brave Palestinian Woman, guardian of sustenance and Life, keeper of our people's perennial flame. To the souls of our sainted martyrs, the whole of our Palestinian Arab people that our struggle shall be continued until the occupation ends, and the foundation of our sovereignty and independence shall be fortified accordingly.

Therefore, we call upon our great people to rally to the banner of Palestine, to cherish and defend it, so that it may forever be the symbol of our freedom and dignity in that homeland, which is a homeland for the free, now and always.

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

"Say: 'O God, Master of the Kingdom, Thou givest the Kingdom to whom Thou wilt, and seizes the Kingdom from whom Thou wilt, Thou exalted whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt; in Thy hand
is the good; Thou are powerful over everything."

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