Finding a lasting solution for Palestine | By Rashid A Mughal


Finding a lasting solution for Palestine

THE world again saw with shock and sorrow, consternation and trepidation all that went on for 11 days in the most volatile region on our earth, resulting in over 250 deaths in Gaza- half of them elderly people and children as against 6 Israelis killed in clashes.

The world and big powers in particular, preferred to stay quiet, giving Israel Carte-blanche to massacre innocent Palestinians with relentless and ruthless bombing.

Their only fault was that they gathered in huge numbers to offer Juma-tul-Wida (last Friday of Ramadan) prayers in Masjid-e-Iqsa and protested against Jewish settlements.

Pakistan took a firm stand against the Israeli atrocities and projected the Palestinian plight at various platforms very successfully.

Thanks to our brothers in Turkey and leadership of their dynamic and charismatic President, who openly and boldly not only condemned the Israeli aggression but assured Palestinians all the help, they needed.

The condemnation by OIC was a positive move and displayed some unity among the Muslim countries which was long overdue. The call of UN Secretary General, though late, to cease-fire was also a welcome move.

Most surprising was the moving of a resolution in the US Congress to stop supply of arms to Israel and stand taken by Bernie Sanders, former Presidential candidate- himself a Jew. For the first time there is a feeling on global level that Palestinian lives matter too.

UN OCHA reports that the conflict displaced 75,000 Palestinians, including 47,000 who are seeking protection in 58 UNRWA schools across Gaza. An estimated 800,000 people are without access to safe water.

An estimated 1,000 housing and commercial units are destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, and almost 13,000 housing units damaged. Six hospitals and 11 primary health care centres have been damaged.

Humanitarian actors continue to plead for access to Gaza as the humanitarian situation deteriorated.

The violence may have stopped, but children and adults in Israel and in Gaza have been traumatized by rockets and airstrikes.

Within Israel, horrific attacks in the country’s mixed Arab-Jewish cities marked the worst outbreak of inter communal violence in decades.

The events also brought to surface the internal rivalry between various factions that are fighting to gain power and control in Gaza.

The role and influence of PLO after the departure of Yasser Arafat has also diminished.

The vital question of how to reconstitute and strengthen the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and renew the Palestinian national project has long been at the forefront of Palestinian concerns.

However, it stalled due to the bitter divisions between the major political parties, Fatah and Hamas, after the legislative elections of 2006.

During the discussions by Palestinian factions to map a way forward, the Palestinian Diaspora and the role it could play in reviving the PLO and the national project was conspicuously absent.

Rather, the focus was on elections in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, despite Israel’s complete control and ability to subvert any meaningful outcomes.

It is too early to judge the reconciliation initiative by the factions, but there is so far little recognition that the Diaspora has freedom of action and resources that are not available to the Palestinians under occupation or to the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Some time back a study was carried out to look into the question of how this key constituency of the PLO–Palestinian Diaspora communities–might reinvigorate the PLO’s representative character so that the organization may be able to develop an effective national strategy and be better equipped to respond to the extraordinary challenges facing the Palestinian people.

The assumption underlying the study is that a more active and regular engagement between the Diaspora and the PLO diplomatic missions abroad could contribute to strengthening the PLO, make it more attuned to the challenges and concerns of the Palestinian people, better position it to withstand threats to Palestinian rights and sovereignty, and contribute to the Diaspora’s strategic mobilization in the countries where Palestinians reside.

A PLO that is not engaged with the Palestinian people, particularly with those residing outside historic Palestine, guarantees Diaspora disengagement from its representatives, which in turn guarantees a non-representative PLO.

Thus, at a more fundamental level, revitalizing the relationship between the Diaspora and the PLO via the Palestinian diplomatic corps is critical to the legitimacy of the PLO as a reflection of the will of the Palestinian people.

The signing of the Oslo Accords and the creation of the PNA negatively impacted the once organic relationship between the Palestinian Diaspora and the PLO and its various departments.

As PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi points out: “The Jerusalemites, as well as the Palestinian refugees and exiles, felt abandoned by the PLO, whose jurisdiction began to narrow down to part of the people on part of the land for a temporary period of time, and only through the PNA.”

This development contributed to the belief throughout the Diaspora that its rights and concerns were no longer a priority to the Palestinian leadership.

Over a passage of time the traditional role played by the PLO in foreign affairs and Diaspora relations changed and shifted in favor of the PNA.

However, now a new generation is leading this daunting task, as they build and solidify their visions, strategies and program for the future.

They are doing so by anchoring their actions in a collective participatory leadership model that the current political regime in Palestine lacks.

The 18 May general strike across Palestine, called and led by non-conventional political actors (new emerging youth-led groups), the level of commitment toward this call, the launch of The Dignity and Hope Manifesto, the powerful narrative emerging and featured on mainstream written and televised media by Palestinian analysts, the leading role of Palestinian women at the forefront in all these ongoing efforts, the ability to mobilize across and over the so-called “Green Line” despite all the mechanisms of control and repression, the emergence of youth-led groups such as the Generation for Democratic Renewal, and the rejection-via-actions to shrink the Palestinian people to those isolated in the “Oslo framework prison”, are all examples of an evolving new dynamic that could be transformed into a political opportunity if sustained, endorsed, and adopted by large segments of the Palestinian people.

Such developments and dynamics might be “invisible” at this stage, especially with the very visible crimes piling up in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, we should not dismiss these “invisible” attempts, even if they are in their infancy, as they are avenues to hope amid escalating pain.

The ongoing cycle of confrontation is already generating early signs that have been sorely missed as far as the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and liberation is concerned.

Capitalizing on these signs is imperative in order to engage in a process of positive future change.

Large Anti-Israel protests, in which even Jews and people of other faiths walked hand-in-hand to condemn Israel, in European capitals and USA are clear manifestations of winds of change.

The realization that Palestinian lives matter too is a great victory for the slain women, children and elderly people who lost their lives for no fault of theirs.

The pressure on Israel, therefore, must continue and the present regime must be made accountable before International forums, including International Court of Justice for War Crimes.

— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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