Returning from the Friday demonstration in al-Walaja in unbearable heat (new video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pftDUGV9RY) we note that the talks about the talks about the peace talks are to resume in Washington September 2nd. The Obama administration decided not to spend any political capital challenging the Israeli lobby. In fact the US politicians want to blunt Republican criticism ahead of midterm elections by chalking out a diplomatic “success” in form if not in substance. Direct talks will lead to more erosion of Palestinian rights especially when conducted Israeli-occupied Washington between Abbas whose mandate as president of the Palestinian bantustan in the West Bank expired last January and Mr. Netanyahu, a known terrorist and war criminal leading the most extreme right-wing government in the history of the apartheid state of Israel. I believe most Palestinians (Abbas included) are neither optimistic nor pleased about this development. But few of us believe it was necessary for Abbas to yield yet again. Most (including large segments of Fatah) believe it is a huge mistake that just set back the real cause for peace. I challenge those who think otherwise to public debates on the issues.
An executive committee of the PLO representing various factions (who get paid through the same system) stamped its approval by a majority to the decision to go back to direct negotiations (and thus yield to the U.S. pressure). I would be curious to read any deliberations and hear from any dissenting voices who voted no (and not just say no to their cadre members). The fig leaf that is used to save face for the officials going to fruitless negotiations is this statement from the Quartet:
‘The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should ‘lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.’
Israel already rejected the notion of ending the occupation but are thrilled with the notion of direct negotiations without interference or “preconditions” between the occupier and the occupied. After all, it takes two to agree and Israel holds all the power and all the cards and it can dictate what it wants in “direct, bilateral negotiations”. The simple question is how TO GET A MODICUM OF Palestinian rights since the quartet even backed down on the simple demand of “suspending settlement activities” while negotiations go on (itself a retreat from the road map which requires dismantling all that was built illegally since 2002)? If you can’t get the rapist to even suspend the rape for a time, why would your demand only direct negotiations with his rape victim in a closed room? If we accept the notion that Netanyahu is restricted by his political coalition from even this small gesture of a suspension of illegal colonial activities (see Geneva conventions), then why would we expect that he will be able to offer anything bigger (like dismantling settlements or sharing Jerusalem, or allowing refugees to reclaim their land)? If we believe the U.S. and its quartet are now more serious, then how come nothing was achieved from the indirect negotiations under their tutelage?
The Zionist movement stole 78% of Palestine and does not believe there is an occupation of the remaining 22%. They already annexed 10% of the West Bank and also annexed the Golan heights. They already put 500,000 colonial settlers in the best and richest lands in the West Bank. They already steal 80% of the water from the West Bank. They make billions off of the occupation and billions more from direct US aid tax-deductible donations from Zionists around the world. What is the incentive to Israel to bilaterally negotiate an “end to the occupation that began in 1967” let alone deal with the more relevant and more significant issue of the ethnic cleansing committed in 1948 and still continuing in places like the Galilee and the Negev?
Initially we heard that Abbas will never go to the negotiations unless Israel stops building in its colonial settlements in the 22% of Palestine that some are still dreaming will become a “state”. In an interview with CNN after the announcement of resumption of negotiations with no preconditions, Saeb Erekat said that he “hoped” that with the direct negotiations beginning, that Netanyahu will extend the “moratorium on building” in the settlements in the West Bank (supposedly set to expire in September). Today there are nearly 500,000 colonial settlers living in the West Bank and there was no moratorium worth the hasbara/propaganda created about it. So I would like to ask why is he now begging for renewal of a “moratorium” that was no moratorium? This is the same Erekat who told us repeatedly that the partial moratorium is a ruse. Colonial settlement construction continued and still moves with speed as we speak. I would love the opportunity to take Mr. Erekat or anyone who has eyes to see around Palestinian villages and show them what is actually happening on the ground. In my area in Har Gilo and Har Homa, colonial settlement building activity did not even take a breather. Actually, there was an acceleration last month in buildings in Har Gilo (on top of Beit Jala) and in building the wall that will make al-Walaja a concentration camp pending finally ethnically cleansing what remains of this village population.
Yes, I know all the arguments for going back to negotiations. They go along these lines: we tried different forms of resistance, the balance of power is tipped completely to the Israeli side which is supported by the US (thanks to the Israel lobby), the European governments are not showing backbone, blah blah blah. One high ranking Fatah official said we have nothing left but negotiations. I am sorry, but if the leaders in Vietnam or Algeria or South Africa made similar defeatist statements, these countries would never have achieved their freedoms. If our leaders have lost faith in their cause, they should step aside and let those who have a positive message lead. If we are going to achieve an emasculated statelet by endless negotiations with such leaders reaping the rotten fruits falling down from the tree after 130 years of struggle, then we do not want such statelet.
Leaders should first of all accept responsibility for their mistakes and level with their own people. The biggest mistake in the past 20 years has been this road of Oslo which ended the search for justice and reclamation of Palestinian rights to replace it with a road of “security for Israel” (the occupying power), positions and autonomy and an endless negotiations and “process”. The process could/would somehow(if all Israeli conditions are met) lead to state that will be less than the state of Zululand.
I could be too harsh in my statements. But should we not expect expert opinion on issues that are existential? Should we not at least expect consistency on the part of our supposed leaders who are really not experts in any area of international law or diplomacy? For example, they told us repeatedly that the reason for asking for settlement freeze is because as we negotiate, Israel has made a Palestinian state impossible with continued eating away what is left of Palestine. Now Palestinians have access to 8.3% of the land of Historic Palestine and this is shrinking (the Bantustans in the Galilee, Negev, Gaza and WB). Since Israel continued to build everywhere even after they announced a “partial settlement building moratorium”, why do you agree to go back to negotiations? If Netanyahu and all his ministers say there is never going to be a compromise on Jerusalem (illegally annexed by Israel according to International law), how will you force his government to change its mind? And how will you deal with the fact that Israeli politicians of all stripes say Palestinian refugees can’t return to their homes and lands and must instead be settled elsewhere (including the already over-crowded West Bank and Gaza of which half the population is refugees and displaced persons)? Is compromise now defined as you can bring any issues to the table of bilateral negotiations to which the occupiers already said they will just say no?
Our “leaders” knows that not only they had to cave in to go back to the negotiations but that further concessions are required to continue to fund their Bantustan economy (and VIP status) from Western donors and Arab countries beholden to the West. So why do they try to give out the notion that bilateral negotiations can succeed under such circumstances? If you can be threatened with a cut-off of aid to go back to fruitless negotiations, why do we believe that you can resist pressure to cut off aid unless you give up on Jerusalem or the refugees? Palestinian negotiators already are not allowed to raise the issue of treatment of Palestinians inside the state of Israel where Israel is demolishing whole villages. So many further concessions are needed to maintain the privileges of running the autonomy areas with money from the West and compliant Arab states? I believe at this stage, three more concessions were needed: a) to return to endless direct and public negotiations that prop-up the Israeli government (and could break the increasing isolation of this pariah state) , b) to retract the very mild measure of boycotting settlement products and refrain from supporting International investigations into Israeli war crimes or legal proceedings to hold it accountable, and c) to continue to suppress local resistance in all
Some might dispute this and claim that the PA supports popular resistance (and suppresses armed resistance). But unfortunately the facts of the last year tell a different story. Could they please come to places like Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Jayyus and explain to the people what had happened to end the popular resistance in those and dozens of other places? Could they explain why popular resistance in many places that used to be costly to the occupation is now ritualized media stunts. Could they meet with people who engage in real popular resistance regularly and are volunteers and not paid employees of the PA and ask them what are the challenges they face? The answers would be scandalous.
I am making three challenges here to all those who will be negotiating with Israeli politicians. 1) I challenge you to come and tie yourself to an Israeli bulldozer (or sit in front of one) in an act of civil disobedience, and 2) I challenge you to convene panels of independent experts (not those profiting) in every major Palestinian population center to discuss the direction of Oslo accords and what has transpired in the last 20 years, and 3) based on 1 and 2, speak truth to the people. Much more sacrifices will be needed and are coming from our people with or without honest leadership. Would it not be more dignified and more likely to give us freedom if we have to do without the foreign aid for one or two years?
And sorry, past good deeds 20 years ago do not give ANYONE the right to give up on Palestinian rights. In international law, even duly elected leaders of occupied people cannot give away their people’s rights. Our lives are nothing compared to 5,000 years of our people’s history in this land. And even the struggle against Zionism has already lasted 130 year including life times of many who “negotiated”. Who now remembers Hassan Dajani who tried to accommodate with the British occupation because of a balance of power. History will not be kind to those who give-up on their own people. We the common people, must take matters into our own hands.
Confucius added “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.”
Other relevant articles on this subject
Peace Talks in the Shadow of Demolitions
While President Barack Obama pressures Palestinians to re-engage in direct
peace talks, and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu loftily counsels President
Mahmoud Abbas not to miss the opportunity, recent demolitions within the
Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel continue unabated and unaddressed.
According to OCHA, July and August have marked the highest number of
demolitions this year. As of the end of July, OCHA reports Israeli forces
have destroyed over 230 structures effectively displacing and/or affecting
over 1,100 Palestinians, including 400 children since the beginning of 2010.
Analysis by Israeli Paper Haaretz: Netanyahu has won, for now
Economic emptiness in Palestine and Israel By Sam Bahour
RAMADAN KAREEM FROM THE NETANYAHU AND OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONS by Jeff Halper
Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided by Stephen
And as always, come visit us in occupied Palestine…
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People,