Category Archives: Palestinian Authority (PA)

Hamas and Fatah: Why the Two Groups are Failing

The Palestinian national movement, which has led the decades-long struggle against Israel’s takeover of the Palestinians’ homeland, has reached the lowest ebb in its history, according to analysts.

But as Palestinians mark this week the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the “Catastrophe” that followed the dispossession of their homeland and the creation of Israel in its place, there are signs of possible change.

For more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinian movement has been split into two increasingly irreconcilable ideological factions, Fatah and Hamas – now reflected in a profound geographical division between their respective strongholds of the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Both camps have not only failed to bring about any significant achievements, say analysts, but illegal Jewish settlements have steadily entrenched across the West Bank and a 12-year blockade, bolstered by Israeli military attacks, has choked Gaza into a humanitarian disaster.

There is no tangible regional or international support for the Palestinian cause, and the Trump administration barely bothers to conceal its role now as cheerleader for Israel.

That includes a decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem this week, effectively recognising Israel’s claim on a city Palestinians regard as their future capital.

Ideological ‘bankruptcy’

“The Palestinian national movement has moved beyond crisis to the point of bankruptcy,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and now a lecturer at Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah.

“Neither the armed resistance of Hamas nor the diplomacy of Fatah has made any gains,” he told Al Jazeera. “They are failed governments, and the public is deeply dissatisfied.”

The dire situation has left observers wondering whether the Palestinian national movement can reinvent itself and find more successful strategies over the coming years and decades.

Both Fatah and Hamas are preparing for major demonstrations, hoping to bring attention to decades of oppressive Israeli rule.

But the events are also likely to underscore how much ground they have lost to Israel – and how the pressure for new thinking is coming from the ground up, not from the leadership.

‘No need for fear’

Recent weeks have seen regular protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence attracting tens of thousands of Palestinians, and dominated by young people. The emphasis has been on direct, non-violent mass action, spurning the high-level diplomacy of Fatah and Hamas’ traditional commitment to armed resistance.

Although the Gaza protests – under the banner of the Great March of Return – were not initiated by Hamas, it had shown a willingness to support them, noted Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

“Hamas has recognised the utility of the marches,” she told Al Jazeera. “It adopted them rather than crushed them. The hope must be that Fatah will soon realise this too – that they understand there is utility to people resisting.”

Ahmed Al-Naouq, a youth activist in Gaza, pointed out that the focus of the protests was the demand that the refugees – a large majority of Gaza’s population – be allowed to return to the lands, now in Israel, they were expelled from in 1948.

“In Gaza we are more creative and flexible in our thinking because we have no other choice. We want to break out of this prison,” he told Al Jazeera.

“My father worked for many years inside Israel. We are ready to live alongside Israeli Jews in peace – they need to set aside their fears.”

Return to conflict’s roots

Nathan Thrall, a local analyst with the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organisation based in Washington and Brussels, pointed out that the Gaza protests were returning the Palestinian struggle to its historic roots.

“Even before the founding of the PLO, the central issue in Palestinian nationalism was the refugees – more so than the 1967 issue [of the occupation],” he told Al Jazeera.

The right of the 750,000 Palestinians made refugees by the 1948 war and their descendants to return to their ancestral lands originally lay at the heart of the platforms of all the political parties, he said.

“The national movement slowly compromised on that.”

Under the Oslo process launched in 1993, it was widely assumed that the refugees, if they returned at all, would move to a separate and minimal Palestinian state rather than their former towns and villages.

“There was an intentional ambiguity: the leadership talked about the right of return at the same time as it promoted the two-state solution, even though the two principles appear contradictory,” said Thrall.

Support for one state

But the Palestinians’ historic compromise had turned into a dead-end.

“The two-state idea was never seen as ideal. No one marches for it or is prepared to sacrifice their life for it,” he said. “But that pragmatism has yielded no results, and has led to great popular disenchantment. Now ordinary people are going back to the roots of the Palestinian issue.”

That appears to return Palestinian nationalism to its original vision of a single state, as long propounded by the PLO under its leader Yasser Arafat. He only accepted partition of historic Palestine in the late 1980s, faced with overwhelming western pressure.

“It is significant that there has been a steady increase in support for one state among the Palestinian public, now at around 30 per cent,” Buttu said.

“That is surprising, given that today not one Palestinian party, in the West Bank and Gaza or the 48 areas [of Israel], publicly supports it.”

Even Hamas, she said, had effectively followed Fatah. It had abandoned its traditional goal of Palestinian-Islamic rule over all of historic Palestine.

“Gradually Hamas has adopted the two-state formula, plus, in its case, a long-term truce with Israel,” Buttu said.

‘Critical gap’

In an indication of Hamas’ growing desire to compromise, the Israeli media reported this month that “unprecedented strategic distress” had led the movement to offer Israel a truce in return for easing the blockade and allowing it to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure.

What was evident, said Khatib, was a “critical gap” between the national leaderships and Palestinian public opinion, especially among the youth.

The latter was increasingly interested in popular, non-violent struggle as a way to break out of the Palestinians’ isolation.

“But there are strong vested interests that will try to maintain the current situation,” he said, pointing to the Palestinians’ dependence on foreign donors, Israel’s control over the transfer of income to the PA, and in turn the vast number of families relying on PA salaries.

“Neither Fatah nor Hamas are in a position to advance popular struggle. They are bureaucratic governments, with structures, leaders and ideologies that militate against non-violence as a tactic.”

Waiting for Abbas to leave

But Khatib and others admit that change is likely to happen – some think rapidly – once 82-year-old Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas departs the scene.

Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University, said ending the factionalism, between Fatah and Hamas, was a precondition for turning the different parties into an effective vehicle of national struggle.

“There must be a unified national movement,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The PA has to stop being the security contractor for Israel. Then we can solve the real problems. We must demand an elected and unified leadership with a single platform.”

The biggest problem currently facing the Palestinian national movement, said Buttu, was that, despite its various institutions, it was dominated by one person in the figure of Abbas.

“Abbas has made all these institutions irrelevant, and they have allowed themselves to become irrelevant,” she said. “That has entirely marginalised other approaches, like boycotts and the one-state solution. It has ensured the alternatives can’t be effective.”

Hunger strike ignored

She noted that Abbas had all but ignored imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti during the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike last summer.

Barghouti is widely reported to be a student of non-violent strategies of resistance like those of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He is said to have found support among the jailed leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Look at the difference between the way the ANC [in South Africa] kept attention on Nelson Mandela while he was in jail,” said Buttu.

“They made sure people knew who he was. But Abbas has done his best to extinguish Barghouti, so young people barely know who he is after so many years behind bars.

“The prisoners are a hugely powerful and symbolic issue for Palestinians, and yet Abbas has preferred not to capitalise on it.”

More Ahed Tamimis

With Abbas gone, Thrall thinks Fatah and Hamas may be capable of adapting to new thinking. “But they will do so only if there is a groundswell of popular sentiment that forces them to,” he said.

He pointed to the decisions in January of the PLO’s Central Council to demand the ending of security cooperation with Israel, which Abbas has previously termed “sacred”, and to adopt the anti-apartheid-like struggle of the boycott (BDS) movement, even though it conflicts with Abbas’s strategy.

Thrall said the moves reflected pressure, in the case of security cooperation, from the Palestinian public and, in the case of BDS, from civil society organisations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Buttu noted that Palestinians were still conducting popular forms of struggle, despite the lack of institutional support.

“Look to the Ahed Tamimis,” she said, referring to the 17-year-old girl arrested and jailed for slapping an Israeli soldier who invaded her home.

“She isn’t choosing to be a teenager like her peers around the world. She chooses to resist, she is defiant like the rest of her village of Nabi Saleh. The same is true of those marching in Gaza.

“At the moment they have to operate as one-offs, because of the failure of the bigger political structures.”

Change could be rapid

Thrall observed that what happens in occupied East Jerusalem could prove decisive. Israel, he noted, was extremely concerned about large numbers of Palestinians there seeking Israeli citizenship and voting in city elections.

“If a majority starts applying for citizenship that could prove to be a deadly blow to a two-state solution, and it could happen very rapidly,” he said.

“Then the PA would no longer speak on behalf of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the future Palestinian capital.”

That might be the point at which other Palestinians were driven into mass protests for equal rights in a single state, along the lines of a civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle.

Buttu agreed that Israel could be gravely mistaken in thinking it has crushed Palestinian nationalism.

“I often wonder what it looked like in Algeria in the 1930s or 40s, or in South Africa in the early 1980s,” she said.

“The French in Algeria and apartheid’s leaders in South Africa thought they had the situation wrapped up, with a pretty ribbon on the package. They did not realise that in a few years everything would utterly change.”

• First published in Al-Jazeera

Western Leaders Betrayed Palestinians 70 Years Ago; there is no sign that’s about to change

On Tuesday, Palestinians will commemorate the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, their mass expulsion and dispossession 70 years ago as the new state of Israel was built on the ruins of their homeland. As a result, most Palestinians were turned into refugees, denied by Israel the right to return to their homes.

Israel is braced nervously for many tens of thousands to turn out in the occupied territories this week to protest against decades of its refusal to make amends or end its oppressive rule.

The move on Monday of the US embassy to Jerusalem, a city under belligerent occupation, has only inflamed Palestinian grievances – and a sense that the West is still conspiring in their dispossession.

The expected focus of the protests is Gaza, where unarmed Palestinians have been massing every Friday since late March at the perimeter fence that encages two million of them.

For their troubles, they have faced a hail of live ammunition, rubber bullets and clouds of tear gas. Dozens have been killed and many hundreds more maimed, including children.

But for more than a month, Israel has been working to manage western perceptions of the protests in ways designed to discredit the outpouring of anger from Palestinians. In a message all too readily accepted by some western audiences, Israel has presented the protests as a “security threat”.

Israeli officials have even argued before the country’s high court that the protesters lack any rights – that army snipers are entitled to shoot them, even if facing no danger – because Israel is supposedly in a “state of war” with Gaza, defending itself.

Many Americans and Europeans, worried about an influx of “economic migrants” flooding into their own countries, readily sympathise with Israel’s concerns – and its actions.

Until now, the vast majority of Gaza’s protesters have been peaceful and made no attempt to break through the fence.

But Israel claims that Hamas will exploit this week’s protests in Gaza to encourage Palestinians to storm the fence. The implication is that the protesters will be crossing a “border” and “entering” Israel illegally.

The truth is rather different. There is no border because there is no Palestinian state. Israel has made sure of that. Palestinians live under occupation, with Israel controlling every aspect of their lives. In Gaza, even the air and sea are Israel’s domain.

Meanwhile, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former lands – now in Israel – is recognised in international law.

Nonetheless, Israel has been crafting a dishonest counter-narrative ever since the Nakba, myths that historians scouring the archives have slowly exploded.

One claim – that Arab leaders told the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to flee in 1948 – was, in fact, invented by Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. He hoped it would deflect US pressure on Israel to honour its obligations to allow the refugees back.

Even had the refugees chosen to leave during the heat of battle, rather than wait to be expelled, it would not have justified denying them a right to return when the fighting finished. It was that refusal that transformed flight into ethnic cleansing.

In another myth unsupported by the records, Ben Gurion is said to have appealed to the refugees to come back.

In truth, Israel defined Palestinians who tried to return to their lands as “infiltrators”. That entitled Israeli security officials to shoot them on sight – in what was effectively execution as a deterrence policy.

Nothing much has changed seven decades on. A majority of Gaza’s population today are descended from refugees driven into the enclave in 1948. They have been penned up like cattle ever since. That is why the Palestinians’ current protests take place under the banner of the March of Return.

For decades, Israel has not only denied Palestinians the prospect of a minimal state. It has carved Palestinian territories into a series of ghettos – and in the case of Gaza, blockaded it for 12 years, choking it into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite this, Israel wants the world to view Gaza as an embryonic Palestinian state, supposedly liberated from occupation in 2005 when it pulled out several thousand Jewish settlers.

Again, this narrative has been crafted only to deceive. Hamas has never been allowed to rule Gaza, any more than Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority governs the West Bank.

But echoing the events of the Nakba, Israel has cast the protesters as “infiltrators”, a narrative that has left most observers strangely indifferent to the fate of Palestinian youth demonstrating for their freedom.

Once again, these executions, supposedly carried out by the Israeli army in self-defence, are intended to dissuade Palestinians from demanding their rights.

Israel is not defending its borders but the walls of cages it has built to safeguard the continuing theft of Palestinian land and preserve Jewish privilege.

In the West Bank, the prison contracts by the day as Jewish settlers and the Israeli army steal more land. In Gaza’s case, the prison cannot be shrunk any smaller.

For many years, world heads of state have castigated Palestinians for using violence and lambasted Hamas for firing rockets out of Gaza.

But now that young Palestinians prefer to take up mass civil disobedience, their plight is barely attracting attention, let alone sympathy. Instead, they are criticised for “breaching the border” and threatening Israel’s security.

The only legitimate struggle for Palestinians, it seems, is keeping quiet, allowing their lands to be plundered and their children to be starved.

Western leaders and the public betrayed the Palestinians in 1948. There is no sign, 70 years on, that the West is about to change its ways.

• First published in the National Abu Dhabi

Why Israel Feels Threatened by Popular Resistance in Palestine

Why did Israel kill many unarmed Gaza protesters and wound over 2,000 on Friday, March 30 and on the following days, when they clearly posed no threat to Israeli soldiers?

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers, many of them snipers, were deployed to the deadly buffer zone that the Israeli army has created between besieged Gaza and Israel, as tens of thousands of Palestinian families held mass rallies at the border.

“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people,” tweeted the Israeli army on March 31. “We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

The tweet, which was captured by the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, was soon deleted. The Israeli army must have realized that killing children and bragging about it on social media is too cruel, even for them.

Palestinian popular mobilization deeply concerns Israel, partly because it is a PR nightmare. By killing and wounding this number of Palestinians, Israel had hoped that the masses would retreat, the protests would subside and, eventually, end. This was not the case, of course.

But there is more to Israeli fear. The power of the Palestinian people, when united beyond factional allegiances, is immense. It disrupts Israel’s political and military tactics entirely, and places Tel Aviv wholly on the defensive.

Israel killed those Palestinians precisely to avoid this nightmarish scenario. Since the cold-blooded murder of innocent people did not go unnoticed, it is important that we dig deeper into the social and political context that led tens of thousands of Palestinians to camp and rally at the border.

Gaza is being suffocated. Israel’s decade-long blockade, combined with Arab neglect and a prolonged feud between Palestinian factions, have all served to drive Palestinians to the brink of starvation and political despair. Something has to give.

Last week’s act of mass mobilization was not just about underscoring the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees (as enshrined in international law), nor about commemorating Land Day, an event that has united all Palestinians since the bloody protests of 1976. The protest was about reclaiming the agenda, transcending political infighting and giving voice back to the people.

There are many historical similarities between this act of mobilization and the context that preceded the First Intifada (or ‘uprising’) of 1987. At the time, Arab governments in the region had relegated the Palestinian cause to the status of ‘someone else’s problem’. By the end of 1982, having already been exiled to Lebanon, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) along with thousands of Palestinian fighters, were pushed even further away to Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and various other countries. This geographic isolation left the traditional leadership of Palestine irrelevant to what was happening on the ground.

In that moment of utter hopelessness, something snapped. In December 1987, people (mostly children and teenagers) took to the streets, in a largely non-violent mobilization that lasted over six years, culminating in the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993.

Today, the Palestinian leadership is in a similar state of increasing irrelevance. Isolated, again, by geography (Fatah holding the West Bank, Hamas Gaza), but also by ideological division.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah is rapidly losing its credibility among Palestinians, thanks to long-standing accusations of corruption, with calls for the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign (his mandate having technically expired in 2009). Last December, US President Donald Trump compounded the isolation of the PA, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in defiance of international law and UN consensus. Many see this act as the precursor designed to further marginalize the PA.

Hamas – originally a grassroots movement born out of the refugee camps in Gaza during the First Intifada – is now similarly weakened by political isolation.

Recently, there seemed to be a ray of hope. After several failed initiatives towards reconciliation with Fatah, a deal was signed between both rival parties in Cairo last October.

Alas, like previous attempts, it began to falter almost immediately. The first hurdle came on March 13, when the convoy of PA Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, was the target of an apparent assassination attempt. Hamdallah was en-route to Gaza through an Israeli border crossing. The PA quickly blamed Hamas for the attack which the latter vehemently denied. Palestinian politics went back to square one.

But then, last week happened. As thousands of Palestinians walked peacefully into the deadly ‘buffer zone’ along the Gaza border into the sights of Israeli snipers, their intention was clear: to be seen by the world as ordinary citizens, to show themselves as ordinary human beings, people who, until now, have been made invisible behind the politicians.

Gazans pitched tents, socialized and waved Palestinian flags – not the banners of the various factions. Families gathered, children played, even circus clowns entertained. It was a rare moment of unity.

The Israeli army’s response, using the latest technology in exploding bullets, was predictable. By shooting dead 15 unarmed protesters and wounding 773 people on the first day alone, the aim was to discipline the Palestinians.

Condemnations of this massacre flooded in from respected figures around the world, like Pope Francis and Human Rights Watch.  This glimmer of attention may have provided Palestinians with an opportunity to elevate the injustice of the siege up the global political agenda, but is, sadly, of little consolation to the families of the dead.

Aware of the international spotlight, Fatah immediately took credit for this spontaneous act of popular resistance. Deputy Chairman, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, said that the protesters mobilized to support the PA “in the face of pressure and conspiracies concocted against our cause,” undoubtedly referring to Trump’s strategy of isolation towards the Fatah-dominated PA.

But this is not the reality. This is about the people finding expression outside the confines of factional interests; a new strategy. This time, the world must listen.

The Last “Peace Process” Warrior: Abbas Hanging by a Thread

The ‘deal of the century’ is a farce. We suspected that, of course, but, upon his return from Washington, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, revealed in more detail why the long-anticipated plan of the administration of US President Donald Trump has no basis in reality.

Netanyahu told his cabinet that there are “no concrete details” to report on the US peace plan. One has to suspect that the ‘plan’ was, all along, the US disavowal of the so-called peace process and the dropping of the ‘honest peace broker’ act.

In fact, that much has been achieved, especially with the US decision last December to accept Israel’s illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem and agreement to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since then, Israel has initiated a clear strategy to annexing the West Bank. Its top officials are contending that the ‘two-state solution’ is not even deserving of a conversation.

“We are done with that,” said Israel’s Education Minister, in recent remarks to students in New York. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas was, thus, left with the inviable position. It is lashing out left and right, convulsing like a wounded animal.

It is hard to imagine that, at the moment, Abbas is orbiting within a grand strategy of any kind. Random statements, attacks on his Palestinian rivals, the Israelis and the Americans – mostly for betraying him – is all that seems to keep his name in the news.

“May God demolish his home,” was one of the statements attributed to the Palestinian leader, in response to Trump’s decision regarding Jerusalem.

That was on January 14. A few days ago, Abbas referred to David Friedman, the ardently right wing and pro-Israel US Ambassador to Israel, as “son of a bitch.”

Friedman is an avid supporter of the illegal Jewish settlements, but name calling is not a promising sign of a constructive Palestinian strategy.

Abbas feels beleaguered, disowned by Washington and a victim of an elaborate US-Israeli plot that has cost Palestinians precious time and much land, while leaving Abbas with nothing but an embarrassing political legacy.

Abbas is not necessarily angry because the US has betrayed its role in the ‘peace process.’ He is angry because he has, for years, perceived himself as a member in the American camp of ‘moderates’ in the Middle East. Now, however, he matters not. The US government is notorious for betraying its allies.

The US, now run by the most pro-Israel administration in years, has no role for Abbas to play. They renounced him, just like that, and carried on to imagine a ‘solution’ in Palestine that only serves the interests of Israel.

A recent meeting, chaired by leading pro-Israel officials in Washington, including Jared Kushner, was dubbed as a “brainstorming session” on how to solve the Gaza crisis. No Palestinian was involved in the conference.

Since Abbas has hung all his hopes on Washington, he is left with no plan B. The Europeans neither have the will, desire nor political clout to replace the US. They have often served as lackeys to US foreign policy, and it would not be easy, if at all possible, for any European government to replace the US as the new ‘honest peace broker.’

Abbas’ popularity – and that of his Authority – among Palestinians is negligible. In fact, 70 percent of Palestinians want him to step down immediately. That was according to a poll conducted last December. Yet, at 83 and suffering from ill health, Abbas is still holding on tightly to his chair.

It may appear that, during this time of political uncertainty and isolation, it would be advantageous for Abbas to reach out to other Palestinian factions. However, the opposite is true. Abbas is accusing his main rival, Hamas, of an assassination attempt targeting PA Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah.

After a promising agreement, signed in Cairo between Fatah – Abbas’ party – and Hamas, all hopes have been dashed once more. In a joint conference with visiting Bulgarian President, Rumen Radey, in Ramallah, Abbas proclaimed “The Gaza Strip has been hijacked by Hamas.”

“They must immediately hand over everything, first and foremost security, to the Palestinian national consensus government,” he said.

What ‘national consensus government’ is Abbas referring to, anyway? There have been no general elections since Hamas won the parliamentary majority in 2006. Abbas himself rules on an expired mandate. As of January 9, 2009, Abbas lost his democratic legitimacy.

Oddly, it is the conflict between him and Hamas that is allowing both sides to impose themselves on the Palestinian public – which is left disenchanted, practically leaderless and facing the brunt of Occupation and apartheid on its own.

Instead of mending fences with the Palestinian people, Abbas continues with his political one-man show, encouraged by his enablers in the PA, who are equally responsible for the havoc wreaked by the US and Israeli governments.

Still, the Palestinian leadership (whether in the PA or the PLO) continues with its desperate attempts to resuscitate the ‘peace process’, lonely warriors in a political illusion that has been abandoned even by its own masters.

For Abbas and the PA, participating in the US-led project was the last bridge they wished not to burn. Trump’s decision to relocate his country’s embassy signaled that the last bridge was, indeed, up in flames, but Abbas is yet to be convinced of this obvious reality.

From American and Israeli viewpoints, the ‘peace process’ could be considered a success. It allowed the US to define the political agenda in the Middle East and for Israel to shape the physical reality of the Occupied Territories in any way it found suitable.

The Palestinian leadership has emerged as the biggest loser. It first sat at the ‘negotiation table’ to talk of borders, refugees, water, territories and Jerusalem, only to be left with nothing at the end.

It has lost both credibility and legitimacy. The space in which it was permitted to negotiate withered year after year.

Now, the Palestinian people must reflect on this current harsh reality, but also hope for a new beginning predicated on unity, the re-articulating of national priorities, and a new strategy.

Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?

On March 13, while on his way to the besieged Gaza Strip, two 33-pounds bombs targeted the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah was visiting Gaza, through the Israeli border checkpoint, Erez, to open a large sewage treatment plant that, if allowed to operate regularly, will make life easier for hundreds of thousands of Gazans, who have endured a perpetual Israeli siege since 2006.

The Prime Minister’s visit was also seen as another important step in the reconciliation efforts between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah – led by PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Occupied West Bank – and Hamas, led by former Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh, in Gaza.

Although reconciliation efforts have, for years, been half-hearted at best, the latest round of talks between both groups led to a breakthrough in Cairo last October. This time, Palestinians were told that the two factions are keen on establishing unity, ending the siege on Gaza and revamping the largely dormant Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were to join the PLO at some point in the future, leading to the formulation of a unified Palestinian political program.

And, perhaps, this keenness at ending the rift has led to the attempt on Hamdallah’s life.

But who is Rami Hamdallah?

Hamdallah, 60, was chosen by Abbas to serve in the current post in June 2013, despite the fact that he was not a member of Fatah. He took over from Salaam Fayyad who served for six years, focusing mostly on state-building in a region that is still militarily occupied by a foreign power.

Hamdallah, though not a particularity controversial figure, has been a follower of Abbas and committed to his agenda. He is a political moderate by Palestinian standards, and it was through his strong ties with powerful Fatah figures like Tayeb Abdul Rahim and Tawfik Tirawi – who served under late PA leader, Yasser Arafat, and Abbas respectively – that allowed him to claim the post and keep it for nearly five years.

Last October, Hamdallah led a delegation of Fatah PA officials to Gaza to “end the painful impacts of divisions and to rebuild Gaza brick by brick.”

Since Israel destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and thousands of homes in the summer of 2014, Gaza – already reeling under a hermetic siege and the impact of previous wars – has been in ruins. Hamdallah’s visit rekindled hope among Gazans, and all Palestinians, that respite is on the way.

Hamas’ insistent attempts to break from its isolation seemed to be finally bearing fruit.

Abbas’ party, too, moved forward with the unity arrangements, although for its own reasons. Fatah has been dysfunctional for years, and the imminent exit of Abbas, 83, has opened up intense rivalry among those who want to succeed the aging leader.

Supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, who was shunned by Abbas years ago and is currently based abroad, would like to see him back in a position of power.

The United States and Israel are following these developments closely. They, too, have favorites and are vested in the future of Fatah to sustain the current status quo as long as possible.

Those who want Hamdallah dead are likely not targeting the Prime Minister for his own ideas or policies, per se, but for what he represents, as the moderate leader capable of achieving a long term understanding with Hamas.

Killing Hamdallah also means ending or, at least, obstructing the unity efforts, discrediting Hamas, and denying Abbas and his leadership the necessary political capital to secure his legacy.

Hamas’ main enemy in Gaza are the Salafi Jihadist groups who are unhappy with Hamas’ politics and what they see as a too moderate style of Islamic governance.

Of course, there are those in Fatah, including Abbas’ own office, who accused Hamas of trying to kill Hamdallah. Hamas did more than deny the accusations, but, within one day of the apparent assassination attempt, announced that it had apprehended suspects behind the explosion.

It would make no sense for Hamas to kill Hamdallah. The group has worked tirelessly to engage the PA, as life in Gaza has become truly unlivable.  Their leadership and reputation has suffered as a result of the failed efforts to end the siege.

Moreover, as Amira Hass noted, Hamas “could not have any interest in attacking senior Palestinian Authority officials on their way to inaugurate a sewage treatment plant that residents of the Gaza Strip have long awaited.”

Hamas, in turn, accused the Israel intelligence of the assassination attempt. The group’s spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, claimed that “same hands” that gunned down Mazen Fakha in March 2017 and Tawfiq Abu Naim in October are behind the attempt on Hamdallah’s life. He was referring to Israel, of course.

The timing of the bombing of Hamdallah’s convoy was quite interesting as well, as it came barely a few hours after a meeting at the White House regarding Gaza. The meeting, chaired by leading pro-Israel officials in Washington, including Jared Kushner, was dubbed as a “brainstorming session” on how to solve the Gaza crisis.

“The Palestinian Authority, furious over the Trump administration’s actions in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, and cutting aid for Palestinian refugees, refused to attend,” reported the New York Times.

One, however, should not undermine the seriousness of the remaining disagreements between Hamas and Fatah.

Perhaps the main point of conflict is over Hamas’ fighting force. Hamas refuses to compromise on the issue of armed resistance, and Abbas insists on the dismantling of Hamas’ armed group, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

But these disagreements are hardly strong enough reason to kill Hamdallah, the last hope for an end to the rift and easing the blockade on Gaza.

Although Hamdallah survived, the bombing achieved some of its objectives. A senior PA official told AFP that “Abbas decided no members of Hamdallah’s government would travel to Gaza in the short term ‘due to the security problems.’”

While this might not be the end of reconciliation, it could possibly be the beginning of the end.

Theresa May recruits Royalty to thwart BDS

Prince William, second in line to the throne, is being sent to the Holy Land by the UK Government “to promote diplomatic and cultural ties”. In effect he’ll be helping to normalise 70 years of Israeli occupation and sanitise the unimaginable cruelty that has gone with it. His trip cuts across the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions movement’s efforts to bring pressure for justice.

*****

Kensington Palace has announced in a tweet that “the Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian territories in the summer.”

The visit “is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the news, saying: “It is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm.” And President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his Twitter account that Prince William will be “a very special guest” and his visit will be “a very special present for our 70th year of independence.”

Royals are supposed to remain aloof from politics, at home and abroad. The Monarch, for good reason, has avoided any state visit to Israel since the entity established itself in treacherous circumstances back in 1948.

So why the sudden change in Palace policy?

Recruiting Prince William to shmooze the Zionists follows the warm welcome extended to Netanyahu by Theresa May to the infamous Balfour Declaration celebrations in London last November and her earlier speech oozing adoration for Israel. In that speech she attacked the successful BDS campaign calling it unacceptable and warning that her government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”.  The Israel lobby meanwhile has agitated furiously for the UK to shut down BDS.

Mrs May was ticked off for her hostility to BDS by 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from all over Europe who pointed out to her that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention. Any efforts to repress BDS amount to support for Israel’s violations of international law and a failure to honour the solemn pledge by States to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.

So why is she so stiff-necked about it? After all, Netanyahu is on many a wanted list for crimes against humanity and should, in a sane world, be locked up. What’s more, he is under investigation for corruption in his own country. Israel, as everyone knows, is in flagrant breach of umpteen UN resolutions of the sort that would have brought crippling sanctions down on any other offender.

The international community’s failure to act has left civil society no option but to fill the vacuum with BDS.

All the same Mrs May and the Israel lobby are pressing ahead with their anti-BDS programme and it looks like they’re getting special help from the Royal Family. But if Prince William seeks to undo the efforts of civil society he sets himself against the people.

According to May’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt, the official reason for the royal trip is that it’s “an important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region”, which is shorthand for enriching big business post-Brexit. So that’s OK then. Don’t let the misery of decades-long military occupation get in the way of new riches, eh?

Prince William’s mission needs to be very different to the one intended by May and Netanyahu

Kensington Palace’s tweet received this reply from a certain Suzanne Levy, who describes herself as a full-time ‘kook’: “Fantastic news, but please correct your erroneous terminology. The Palestinian Territories are not occupied by Israel – they are under the rule of Hamas and the PA.” As if jumping to her kooky instruction the British embassy in Israel released a Hebrew-language version of the Kensington Palace announcement omitting the words “occupied territories” and replacing them with “Israel and the Palestinian Authority”.

In denying the Israeli occupation Ms Levy, like other hasbara trolls, is at odds with the United Nations, international law, world opinion and documented history. Even the UK Government officially refers to Palestine as the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), so the edit by its own embassy is puzzling.

Unless, of course, it tells the truth and the plan is to prevent Prince William from actually experiencing the Occupied Territories by confining him to the witless ‘Palestinian Authority’. The PA has precious little legitimacy and is led by a ‘quisling tendency’ who have done next to nothing for the Palestinians. Their reward for wasting the nation’s time and wrecking its prospects is a life of comparative luxury, very different from that suffered by the unfortunate people they are supposed to serve. They can be relied upon to give the Prince a suitable skewed view of things.

Here’s acid test number 1. The Occupied Territories include Gaza. So will the Israelis and May allow Prince William to visit there, shoot the breeze with Hamas (whose political wing are not proscribed as terrorists in the UK and who struggle to run the devastated place after 10 years of vicious blockade, almost daily air strikes, repeated military ground incursions and occupation of its territorial waters and airspace by Israel) and to see for himself the true horror of the humanitarian crisis all this has caused? If the answer is no, the entire visit should be called off. But it won’t be.

Acid test number 2 is this. Prince William will likely succeed to the throne one day and become Defender of the [Christian] Faith, a 500 year old obligation. As a true Christian – if that is what he is – he’ll know all about the cry for help issued only months ago by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches and the entire ecumenical movement. It was signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

They say:

We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration…. A hundred years later and there is still no justice! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule…. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality.

The message ends with these ominous words:

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse…. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.”

William must be allowed to hear direct the serious concerns of the Christian and Muslim communities and take a robust line that involves consequences for the occupier if those concerns are not properly dealt with.

Prince William’s wife Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) is expecting their third child towards the end of April so he’ll probably make the trip without her. But expect the visit to be accompanied by waves of media rapture over the new arrival, with Israel’s propaganda machine working flat-out to milk maximum PR benefits and subliminally stamp the Royal seal of approval on their apartheid regime.

If Prince William does set foot in the Holy Land his mission must obviously be very different to the one described by Alistair Burt or wished for by Netanyahu and May.  If he is seen to lend legitimacy to a grasping, racist enterprise like the Israel Project, which shows no respect for human rights or international law, it will surely come to haunt him.

Ahed’s Generation: Why the Youth in Palestine Must Break Free from Dual Oppression

As global voices continue to demand the freedom of 17-year-old teenage Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, Israeli authorities have arrested nine additional members of her family.

Those who were detained on February 26 include Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi.

Israeli troops had shot Mohammed in the head last December, shattering his skull. The teenager, who is awaiting reconstruction surgery, is unlikely to receive proper medical care in Israeli prisons.

Ahed’s crime was that she slapped an Israeli soldier in a video that, since then, went viral, shortly after her cousin was shot. He was then placed in a medically-induced coma.

The Israeli soldier who shot Mohammed did not receive even a reprimand for shooting-to-kill an unarmed boy.

The Israeli military provided an outrageous explanation of why the Tamimi family members, all hailing from the small village of Nabi Saleh, were detained in a pre-dawn army raid.

“The detainees are suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, popular terror and violent disturbances against civilians and security forces,” the Israeli military spokesperson said.

By ‘popular terror’, the statement was referring to the recurring protests led by the 500 residents of Nabi Saleh against the illegal settlements and Apartheid Wall. These protests have been a staple in the everyday life of the village for nearly 12 years.

Anywhere between 600,000 and 750,000 illegal Jewish settlers live in settlements placed strategically throughout the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are a glaring violation of international law.

Aside from the massive Israeli army build-up in the Occupied Territories, the armed settlers have been a major source of violence against Palestinians.

Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children and teenagers, were born into this violent reality, and feel trapped.

Their collective imprisonment is not only as a result of the perpetual military occupation of their land by Israel, but also by the fact that their leadership has operated for many years in a self-centered fashion, orbiting far away from Nabi Saleh and its tiny, struggling but brave population.

Nabi Saleh is relatively a short distance away, northwest of Ramallah, the political base of the Palestinian Authority (PA); but in some way, both places are a world apart.

The PA was formed in 1994, as one of the outcomes of the Oslo Accords, which was initially reached and signed in secret by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel.

Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories matured politically or were even born after the advent of the PA. They have no other frame of reference but Israel and the Ramallah-based authority.

The latter has grown comfortable by its wealth and status and, with time, evolved into a culture of its own. It is no longer a democratic institution, and definitely does not represent all Palestinians.

Thus, Palestinian reality is now shaped by three forces: the domineering Israeli occupation, the subservient and self-centered PA and the indignant and leaderless Palestinian youth, which is held captive in dual bondage.

This is why Ahed’s slapping of the Israeli soldier resonated throughout Palestine, and among Palestinians across the world. It was a symbol of defiance that, despite the twofold oppression, Palestine’s youth still have the power to articulate an identity, one that is, perhaps, captive but nonetheless resilient.

Although Mohammed’s skull is crushed, he continued to speak out as soon as left the hospital. The spirit of the Palestinian people is clearly not broken, and Palestine’s youth are the only way out of the double-walled cage.

Alas, the mission of this generation of young Palestinians is even harder than previous generations, especially Palestinian youth that led and sustained a 7-year-long uprising, the Intifada of 1987 – also known as the Intifada of the Stones.

That generation resurrected the Palestinian cause as they daringly organized their communities, mobilizing all efforts to challenge the Israeli occupation. Thousands were killed and wounded at the time, but an empowered Palestinian nation arose in response.

The Palestinian leadership used the Intifada to reinvent itself. It exploited the attention young Palestinians had garnered to negotiate Oslo, which ultimately gave some Palestinians special status and denied the rest any rights or freedoms.

The PA, led by aging President Mahmoud Abbas, understands well that if the youth are to be given the chance to mobilize, another Intifada would dismantle his entire leadership, possibly in a matter of days.

This is why, no matter how serious the disagreements between Abbas and the Israeli government become, they will always stay united against any possibility of a popular Palestinian revolt, led by the youth.

Numerous Palestinians have been arrested, imprisoned or tortured by Palestinian police in the years that followed the formation of the PA. The latter did so in the name of ‘national interest’ while, in reality, it was done in the name of Israeli security.

Indeed, Oslo has allowed both Israel and the PA to maintain ‘security coordination‘ in the West Bank. This has mostly been used to keep the illegal settlements safe and to prevent Palestinian youth from confronting the Israeli army.

Such a practice has meant that the PA became a first line of defense against rebelling Palestinians.

While Palestinian officials continue to pay lip service to Ahed Tamimi and thousands of young Palestinians who continue to endure imprisonment and ill treatment by Israel, in truth, Ahed epitomizes the antithesis of everything that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah stands for.

She is strong, morally-driven and defiant; the PA is subservient, morally bankrupt and quisling.

Palestinian youth already understand this, and it is mostly up to them to free themselves from the confines of military occupation and corruption.

In his seminal book, The Wretched of the Earth, anti-colonial author and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon wrote, “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”

Ahed and Mohammed Tamimi’s generation have already discovered their mission, and it will be them who will continue to fight for its fulfillment – their freedom and the freedom of their homeland.

More Than a Fight over Couscous

As soon as Virgin Atlantic Airlines introduced a couscous-style salad “inspired by the flavours of Palestine”, a controversy ensued. Israel’s supporters ignited a social media storm and sent many complaints to the company, obliging the airline to remove the reference to Palestine.

In the Zionist narrative, Palestine does not exist – nor is it allowed to exist – even if merely as a cultural conception.

The sad irony is that, while Israel appropriated Palestinian-Arabic couscous (the Palestinian dish, in particular, is known as ‘maftoul‘), branding and marketing it in western countries as ‘Israeli couscous’, its supporters go to every extent possible to erase any reference that may validate Palestinian Arab culture, whether Muslim or Christian.

This is an old habit, an endemic practice that dates back to the destruction of nearly 600 Palestinian villages and localities in 1947-48. Palestinians refer to these earth-shattering events as the ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe. Tellingly, Israel outlaws the use of the term or the commemoration of the tragic event in any way.

From claiming Palestinian Arab culinary culture as their own, to ‘Judaized’ Arabic street names to rewriting history, Israel and its supporters are relentless.

Israel fears a Palestinian narrative because the Israeli government understands, and rightly so, that it is the collective Palestinian narrative that has compelled resistance, in all of its forms, for over 70 years.

All attempts have failed, until recently.

The 1993 Oslo Accord is a critical juncture that shattered the cohesiveness of Palestinian discourse and weakened and divided the Palestinian people. However, it is not too late to remedy this through decisive and concentrated efforts that overcome the challenge of a Palestinian political viewpoint beholden to self-seeking political aspirations and competing factions.

In the absence of a Palestinian leadership populated by the Palestinian people themselves, intellectuals must safeguard and present the Palestinian story to the world with authenticity and balance. The clarity and integrity of the Palestinian story has been damaged and divided by Palestinian Authority (PA) tactics which remove Palestinian refugees’ right of return from their political platform.

Essentially, the story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they are the victims of oppression and the main channel of Resistance, starting with the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian villages. If Palestinians had not resisted, their story would have concluded right there and then and they, too, would have disappeared.

Those who admonish Palestinian Resistance, armed or otherwise, have little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance, such as a sense of collective empowerment and hope amongst the people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre describes violent resistance as a process through which “a man is re-creating himself”.

And for seven decades, Palestinians have embarked on this journey of the recreation of the “self”. They have resisted, and their resistance in all forms has moulded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous divisions that have been erected amongst them.

Relentless resistance, a notion now embodied in the very fabric of Palestinian society, denied the oppressor the opportunity to emasculate Palestinians, or to reduce them to helpless victims and hapless refugees. The collective memory of the Palestinian people must focus on what it means to be Palestinian, defining the Palestinian people, what they stand for as a nation, and why they have resisted for years.

A new articulation of the Palestinian narrative is necessary, now more than ever before. The elitist interpretation of Palestine has failed, and is as worthless as the Oslo Accords. It is no more than a tired exercise in empty clichés, aimed at sustaining American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the Middle East.

The peace process is dead, but the Palestinian people are still resisting; unsurprisingly, the people are mightier than a group of self-centred individuals. Grassroots resistance is not constrained by the frivolous politicking of PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas, or any other actors.

Abbas and his men have not only muzzled the political will of the Palestinian people and falsely claimed to represent all Palestinians, they have also robbed Palestinians of their narrative, one that actually unites the ‘fellahin’ (peasants) and the refugees, the occupied and the ‘shattat’ (diaspora), into one distinct nation.

It is only when the Palestinian intellectual is able to repossess that collective narrative that the confines placed on the Palestinian voice can be finally broken. Only then can Palestinians truly confront the Israeli Hasbara and US-Western corporate media propaganda and, at long last, speak unhindered.

But there are obstacles, leading amongst them is the ruthless attempt by Zionist historians and institutions to replace the Palestinian historical narrative with their own. The story of the Palestinian cuisine on an airline menu may appear trivial in the greater scheme of things but it is significant, nonetheless.

In the Zionist Israeli narrative, Palestinians, if relevant at all, are depicted as drifting nomads, without a culture or tradition of their own, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress – a duplicate narrative to the one that defined the relationship between every western colonial power and the resisting natives, always.

From the Zionist point of view, Palestinian existence is an inconvenience that was meant to be only temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their places,” wrote Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Assigning the Palestinian people the role of dislocated, disinherited and nomadic people without caring about the ethical and political implications of such false representations has erroneously presented Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective, to be wiped out by those more powerful.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Palestinian resistance is the unremitting example of the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people. Palestinian culture is rooted, like the olive trees and mountains of Galilee.

Yes, the fight has been an arduous one. Between the rock of Israeli occupation and Hasbara and the hard place of Palestinian leadership acquiescence and failure, Palestine, Palestinians and their story have been trapped and misconstrued.

It is time for us to step up. We, as Palestinian writers, historians and journalists, assume the responsibility of reinterpreting Palestinian history and internalizing and communicating Palestinian voices, so that the rest of the world can, for once, appreciate the story as told by wounded, but tenacious, victors.

Year in Review: Will 2018 Usher in a New Palestinian Strategy?

2017 will be remembered as the year that the so-called ‘peace process’, at least in its American formulation, has ended. And with its demise, a political framework that has served as the foundation for US foreign policy in the Middle East has also collapsed.

The Palestinian leadership and its Arab and international allies will now embark on a new year with the difficult task of drumming up a whole new political formula that does not include the United States.

The Palestinian Authority entered 2017 with the slight hope that the US was in the process of moving away, however slightly, from its hardline pro-Israel attitude. This hope was the result of a decision made by the Barack Obama Administration in December 2016 not to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 that declared the status of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories null and void.

But the new Donald Trump Administration suffocated all optimism as soon as it took over the White House, with a promise to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing, in defiance of international law, the Holy City as Israel’s capital.

Mixed messages from President Trump made it unclear whether he would go through with his campaign and early presidency promises, or remain committed to traditional US foreign policy. The appointment of extremist politicians, the likes of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel was juxtaposed with constant references to an ‘ultimate deal’ that would involve Palestinians, Israel and Arab countries.

The American ‘regional peace’, however, amounted to nothing, and Trump eventually fulfilled his promise to Israel and its allies by signing the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.

By doing so, he has ended his country’s once-leading role in the US-espoused ‘peace process’ which advocated a ‘two-state solution’ based on a ‘land for peace formula.’

European countries had anticipated the American retreat from peace-making efforts as early as January 2017, yet it still pushed for the Paris Peace Conference on January 15. The conference brought nearly 70 countries together but, without US support and amid Israel’s rejection, it was merely a platform for rehashed language about peace, co-existence and so on.

Now that Trump has downgraded his country’s role, European powers, especially France, are likely to attempt to salvage peace talks. Such a possibility, however, is likely to prove equally fruitless since the right wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that neither freezing illegal settlements, a shared Jerusalem nor a Palestinian state are on the Israeli agenda. Without the enforcement of international law, Israel will not willingly change its position.

In fact, 2017 has been a year of unbridled Jewish settlement expansion with thousands of new housing units having been built – or are in the process of being completed – while brand new settlements are also in the offing.

Israel’s intransigence and the end of the US peace gambit has renewed interest in the Palestinian struggle, which has been cast aside for years due to regional conflicts and the Syria war. This has resulted in greater support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Modeled after the South African anti-Apartheid boycott movement, BDS calls for direct action by global civil society to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

However, the rise of BDS has also meant a strong Israeli-US push back to outlaw the Movement and to punish its supporters. Nearly two dozen US states have passed laws to criminalize BDS, while the US Congress is finalizing its own law that makes boycotting Israel an act punishable by a hefty fine and a prison term.

Challenging both the Israeli Occupation and the PA, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories continued with their Intifada, although one that lacked the mass mobilization of previous uprisings.

Hundreds of Palestinians were killed and wounded, including many children, in Israel’s efforts to suffocate any protest against its military rule.

The siege on Gaza also remained in place despite Hamas’ efforts to end it through the rewriting of its constitution and the various overtures towards Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, which dominates the PA government in Ramallah.

A unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah was signed in Cairo in October. It set an election date, and allowed for thousands of PA officials to return to Gaza to man border crossings and populate various ministries and government offices.

The nearly 2 million Palestinians in the besieged Strip, however, are yet to savor the fruit of that unity in their everyday life.

Although the reconciliation agreement was motivated by political expediency for both factions, the need for real unity among Palestinians is more urgent now than ever before, and not only because of Trump’s decision regarding Jerusalem.

The Israeli Knesset has passed, or is in the process of passing, various bills that seal the fate of Palestinians, regardless of their geographical location or political affiliation. One is the Jewish Nation-State Bill which defines Israel as the “nation home of the Jewish people” thus rendering millions of indigenous Palestinian Arabs as outcasts in their own homeland.

The “Greater Jerusalem Bill” was only shelved temporarily, despite the fact that it has the support of a majority in the Knesset. The Bill calls for the expansion of Jerusalem’s boundaries to include major illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, thus illegally annexing massive swathes of Palestinian land and reducing the Palestinian population in Jerusalem into an even smaller minority.

The Palestinian leadership must understand that the challenges at hand are far greater than its selfish need for political validation and monetary support. There is an urgent need for the revitalizing of all institutions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).  The new strategy should place Palestinians first, and must harness the energies of the Palestinian people at home or in ‘shatat’ – diaspora.

2018 promises to be a decisive year for the future of all Palestinians and it will be a difficult one. Not only did the US pull out of the ‘peace process’, it is expected to do its utmost to jeopardize any Palestinian initiative aimed at holding Israel accountable for its 50-year-old illegal military occupation.

If the Palestinian leadership fails to transition itself into a new role, it is likely to find itself in direct confrontation with the Palestinian people, who are ready to move on into a whole new type of struggle; one that is not beholden to the farce of a ‘two-state solution’, which was never truly on the agenda to begin with.

Behold a Miracle at the UN: Canada Abstains from its Usual Pro-Israeli Vote

Thank you, President Donald Trump and US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for helping end the Trudeau government’s ‘Israel no matter what’ voting pattern.

On Thursday Canada actually abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution, which “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Since taking office the Trudeau government has repeatedly isolated Canada with the US, Israel and a few tiny Pacific island states in voting against UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. Last Tuesday, for instance, Canada opposed a motion supported by 176 nations calling for Palestinian statehood. Two weeks earlier the Trudeau government also voted against a resolution on Jerusalem backed by 151 UN member states.

As RawStory pointed out, the media attention devoted to Trump and Haley’s threats against those voting in favour of the Jerusalem resolution actually drove Trudeau to abstain on Thursday instead of his usual pro-Israel vote. While Stephen Harper’s anti-Palestinian positions at the UN found support among many of the party’s base of right wing Jews, evangelical Christian Zionists and Islamophobes, the same is not true of the Liberals. Prominent Trudeau fundraisers such as serial tax evader Stephen Bronfman and the late murder suspect Barry Sherman may want Canada to side with Israel ‘no matter what’, but younger, darker skinned and progressive Liberal supporters believe Palestinians are human beings. They overwhelmingly reject the notion that a 3,000-year-old book grants Poles, Austrians, New Yorkers, etc. the right to take a city from its indigenous inhabitants or that the world should enable Russians, French, Torontonians, etc. to gather in the Middle East to fulfill Bible literalists’ interpretation of the supposed “word of God”.

The Liberal leadership understands that party supporters and the broader public are uncomfortable with Israeli expansionism and Canada isolating itself from world opinion on the matter so the more attention devoted to their UN votes the more equivocal the Liberals’ position. Hopefully the recent attention devoted to the Trudeau government’s extreme pro-Israel voting record will spur further abstentions on Palestine votes (at this point its probably too much to expect Trudeau to vote in support of international law and official Canadian policy).

Regularly abstaining at the UN on Palestine would be a step forward, but these votes are only the tip of the iceberg in Canada’s multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. The two-decade old Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement includes the occupied West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws apply. Ottawa also has a wide-ranging “border management and security” agreement with Israel, even though the two countries do not share a border. Additionally, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment has long gathered intelligence on Palestinians for Israel.

Every year, registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements. The Canada Revenue Agency allows organizations whose projects contravene international law and official Canadian policy to write tax credits for these donations.

Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

Even a large swath of Canada’s “aid” to the Palestinians – who have one-twentieth of their occupier’s per capita GDP – is explicitly designed to advance Israel’s interests. Over the past decade Ottawa has delivered over $100 million and sent military and police trainers to build a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform,” read an internal 2012 note signed by then Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. In the heavily censored note Biggs explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

Drawing on previously classified materials, Carleton Criminology Professor Jeffrey Monaghan details Canada’s role in turning Palestinian security forces in the West Bank into an effective arm of Israel’s occupation. In Security Aid: Canada and the Development Regime of Security, Monaghan describes a $1.5 million Canadian contribution to Joint Operating Centers whose “main focus … is to integrate elements of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces into Israeli command.” He writes about Canada’s “many funding initiatives to the PCP [Palestinian Civilian Police]” which “has increasingly been tasked by the Israeli Defence Forces as a lead agency to deal with public order policing, most recently during IDF bombings in Gaza and during Arab Spring demonstrations.”

Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem may well mark the end of the spurious “peace process” and Abbas’ US–Canada–Saudi–Israel backed Palestinian Authority. Hopefully, it will also be seen as a turning point in Canada’s effort to suffocate the Palestinian liberation struggle.