The Palestinian Authority is the most significant enabler of the occupation today.
Seventy years ago, at the height of the manmade tragedy of World War II, two bombs (‘Little boy’ and ‘Fat man’) were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two hundred and fifty thousand human beings were immediately incinerated to death and hundreds of thousands slowly died afterwards from radiation poisoning. It was an unspeakable act of state terror that remains unparalleled in human history. It was a politically motivated plan to send a signal to the Soviet Union. But, no lessons were learned from his tragedy as today nine countries have arsenals of nuclear weapons (US, Russia, China, France, England, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea). A fraction of this arsenal is enough to wipe out all human life on earth. Burning people alive continues, of course, though on ‘smaller scale’ and the West seems to ignore this. For example, consider the burning of the Dawabsheh family in Duma (near Nablus in Palestine). The father and an 18 month old baby died, and the mother and second sibling are still in bad shape in the hospital. The perpetrators, funded by the Israeli government, remain unpunished.
Yesterday morning, the army of the new colonial ‘Jewish state’ of Israel (68 years of mayhem in the making) destroyed 15 olive trees that were between 2,000 and 3,000 years old in Beit Jala. The reason? Israel wants to close off the fertile valley of Beit Jala in western Bethlehem (Wadi Abu Ahmed, Cremisan area). Gradually closing off the land from its owners (the 55 Christian families of Beit Jala) is the first step towards land confiscation, as thousands of other locations have demonstrated. The international community and the Palestinian Authority (PA) ignore the ongoing massacre of the land and people, albeit occasionally giving meaningless “statements.” In practice though, the Western governments support Israel and have close working ties with the country (which legally makes them co-conspirators in such crimes). But, I want to focus on the Palestinian Authority to argue that it is the most significant enabler of the occupation today.
First, let us review the history of the PA. Establishing a self-governing authority in the heavily populated centers of occupied Palestinian territories was an idea of the Israeli government. It was adopted after a commission was created, headed by General Yigal Allon in 1968, immediately after conquering the areas in 1967. After the 1973 war and many US interventions that clearly acted on behalf of Israel (Henry Kissinger, arms shipments and other support that saved Israel), the ‘compromising’ (‘compromised?’) faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) decided to lobby Western governments to accept them – especially the US. The Ten Point Program in 1974, the ‘Declaration of Independence’ in 1988 and the Oslo process in 1993 were all steps on the downhill course to implementing the Allon Plan. Oslo brilliantly succeeded in fully ‘domesticating’ the PLO by rendering it a meaningless shell and replacing it with a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation, the PA. The only thing the PA inherited from the PLO was the nepotism and corruption of the PLO hierarchy under Yasser Arafat. Money, jobs and privilege became the currency for people whose parents, uncles and friends suffered and even sacrificed their lives for revolution and resistance.
Now, people believe in endless talks and sacred security coordination with Israel and the US. Does anyone even wonder how, in 1993, 150,000 settlers lived in the occupied territories, afraid for their lives and in need of armed escorts? Today, in 2015, 650,000 colonial settlers live in the occupied territories with impunity. They even burn Palestinian families alive. This is the responsibility of the process that established the PA.
The PA remains paralyzed and excuses itself from doing anything by citing the division between Fatah and Hamas. This is not some unforeseen outcome. Palestinian advisers and other experts involved with the political leadership warned of this. Some of these advisers left the ‘negotiations’ in disgust and now have nothing to do withe PA. Some of them realized they couldn’t do anything and got on the wagon of privilege and power. Thus, they were co-opted by the fruit of the Allon Plan, the PA. The separation wall that the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004 is still being built on Palestinian land and the only way to stop it is to end mental occupation.
The consolidation of mental occupation among the elites and large segments of the Palestinian population is incredibly damaging. Mental occupation is characterized by:
a) Implicitly or explicitly accepting that Apartheid Israel is powerful and here to stay (basically accepting sub-humanization).
b) Implicitly or explicitly accepting that Apartheid Israel will always be supported by Western governments, especially the US.
c) Believing that the only options for having a semi-comfortable life are either to work for the PA or for NGOs (I will discuss issues with NGOs in a separate article). The illusion of a manageable life under occupation without a struggle for freedom constitutes mental occupation.
d) The ‘why rock the boat’ attitude, combined with a lack of belief in others (PA officials always tell me the Palestinian people are hopeless, tribalistic and weak etc).
e) The widespread mistrust of all who claim they resist (the examples of martyrs and prisoners on hunger strike remain a challenge to this skepticism).
In my book on ‘Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment’ I explain why such corrupt leadership eventually fades away and the people create their own history. Every day I see examples of heroism and self-sacrifice paired with examples of cowardice and mental occupation. But those who put their personal interest ahead of their peoples’ interests are also fighting with each other over a shrinking “pie.” History will disgrace them. Our job is to help people shed mental occupation and rise from the ashes. The screams of women defending the Al Aqsa compound echo with the screams of the children burned alive and the land owner’s in Beit Jala as he watched his 2,000 year old olive trees uprooted. These echoes say ‘wake-up’ and ‘fight.’ After all, what other choices do we have besides living and fighting with dignity or living as mentally occupied slaves in fancy offices in Ramallah? If the PA leaders wanted to reclaim a shred of decency, they would go in front of the bulldozers that demolished a home, even today, in Jerusalem and face arrest instead of begging the occupiers for crumbs. Remember the South Lebanon Army! Arise and reclaim your dignity!
Also in Opinion/Analysis: Ali Dawabsheh, Cecil the Lion and the Biopolitics of Animal Life