[Marxism] "Learning from Arafat's Legacy," by Nadia Hijab
l.willms at jpberlin.de
Sat Nov 6 13:58:00 MST 2004
## Nachricht vom 04.11.04 weitergeleitet durch Lüko Willms
Interesting article on Arafat and the Palestinian liberation
Let us return to politics after the frenzy of the US election is
over. They do not merit the attention given to them.
Interesting, that this article has been spread by Gershon Baskin on
behalf of IPCRI (www.ipcri.org); he is forwarding quite a number of
## Ursprung : /MISC/ACTIVISM/PROGRESSIVE
## Ersteller: gershon at ipcri.org
## ------ Ende Vorbemerkung des Weiterleiters ------------------
## -------Es folgt der Text der weitergeleiteten Nachricht -----
From: Sasha Ross [mailto:sross at palestinecenter.org] On Behalf Of The Palestine
Sent: Monday, November 01, 2004 20:10
To: The Palestine Center
Subject: "Learning from Arafat's Legacy," by Nadia Hijab
>From time to time, The Palestine Center will bring to your attention an
article we believe will enhance public awareness and understanding of the
developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This opinion piece by
the Palestine Center Executive Director Nadia Hijab appeared in today's 1
November 2004 issue of The Daily Star (Lebanon).
Learning from Arafat's legacy
By Nadia Hijab
Special to The Daily Star
The sudden deterioration in the health of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat
reminded the world that he has his place in history in spite of the many
attempts by Israel - and especially by present Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon - to marginalize him in hopes of destroying the Palestinian national
Whether or not Arafat survives to lead another day, it is worth drawing the
lessons of his legacy for the new course he or his successors must chart if
the Palestinian people are to realize their human rights.
He's had successes. The most memorable was ending two decades of Palestinian
invisibility after the UN partitioned Palestine and created Israel in 1948.
After the guerrillas transformed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
into an independent body in 1968, it forged a unified Palestinian people from
the despair of dispossession, exile and occupation.
The constraints on Palestinian action quickly emerged. A people struggling for
justice within the post-World War II state system posed nearly as much of a
threat to Arab states as they did to Israel. Still, 1970-1982 were perhaps
Arafat's finest years, keeping the struggle alive, avoiding the specter of
civil war, and generating worldwide support - at one stage more states
recognized the PLO than they did Israel.
Arafat's modus operandi evolved in the environment in which he had to work. He
is often accused of saying one thing at home and another abroad. But this
ignores perhaps his most significant achievement. Between 1968 and 1988,
through hints and asides, Arafat managed to convince his people that the
liberation of all of Palestine was not a realistic goal, and that two states
should be the objective of the struggle.
He is criticized for managing by corruption, although not accused of himself
The PLO began to lose its way when the first intifada broke out in December
1987, and the years since have been marked by a disastrous lack of vision and
strategy, and an inability to learn from hindsight. One lesson surely is that
the first intifada should have been supported until the occupation ended, with
the slogan of "not one soldier, not one settler." Instead, Palestinian leaders
embarked on the first of many futile rounds of negotiations with Israel about
how to end the occupation.
A reading of the voluminous Oslo agreements produced between 1993 and 1999
shows how Israel tied up scarce Palestinian resources in the web of
negotiations - a plethora of committees, a string of deadlines toward
deadlines. The leadership's main role was to provide security for the
occupiers while the number of settlers doubled to 400,000.
The PLO demonstrated a bewildering naiveti of the kind Arafat never showed in
dealing with his own Palestinian or Arab people.
The newly installed Palestinian Authority might have done better to stop the
minute the first settlement was expanded or "thickened," and show up Israel as
responsible for the breakdown of peace.
Instead, even today, the Palestinian leadership's rallying cry is to urge the
world to pressure Israel to return to the negotiating table. How does a
dispossessed, fragmented, occupied people - its institutions are in tatters,
its world demarcated by roadblocks and the separation barrier, its children
starving - negotiate with the sixth strongest military power in the world?
What sources of power can such a people bring to bear? These questions are
No one can deny Arafat's remarkable determination in the face of adversity
(his refusal to leave his compound since 2002 being just one example). But PLO
leadership since 1988 has been too little, too late. When the Camp David talks
broke down in 2000, the United States and Israel had a clear field to attack
the Palestinian leader for not accepting their "generous offer." Only a year
later did an Op-Ed in The New York Times set out Arafat's side.
When the first suicide bombing took place - after 27 years of occupation - the
PLO waited several months before speaking out against attacks on civilians.
This allowed Israel to reframe its own high-tech attacks on Palestinian
civilians, illegal assassinations, land confiscations, indeed the whole
illegal occupation itself, as necessary for its security.
The diverse sources of power the Palestinians had been able to bring to bear -
the diplomatic power in different capitals, the international grassroots
movement of the 1980's, outreach to the media - were allowed to dissipate
after Oslo. Fortunately, some diplomatic posts are still functioning well
enough to have made a powerful Palestinian case at the International Court of
Justice. And the international grassroots movement of support has been
regrouping after a decade's dispersal.
Perhaps the most important problem is the inability to articulate the
Palestinian cause in a way that mobilizes Palestinians and their international
supporters. Everyone knows what the Palestinians are fighting against, but
what are they fighting for? As a result, Palestinian supporters do not gain
Yet the ability to articulate the cause is crucial. The Palestinian struggle
with Israel is, above all, a battle of principles. For all Israel's military
ability, it has no power against international law: rights to freedom and
self-determination; equality of citizens before the law; inadmissibility of
the acquisition of territory by war. These are among the basic tenets of the
state system established after World War II. Israel cannot be part of the
state system and simultaneously undermine it. This is why the ICJ - whose 15
judges are described as conservative and rarely able to agree - were so
unanimous in support of the Palestinian case. Any other decision would have
shredded the principles on which the whole post-War world was constructed.
It is not too late to chart a new course, based on the principles of
international law so recently restated by the ICJ. Indeed, any leadership that
wants to secure Palestinian rights must do so, considering these parameters.
* Israel - under both Labor and Likkud governments - has violated the
agreements intended to end the occupation, from Oslo to the "road map," and
can no longer be trusted as a partner for peace. The leadership will only
return to the negotiating table once the occupation is ended. Ending the
occupation is non-negotiable.
* A leadership whose every move depends on the will of the occupying power
cannot be held accountable for good government by its people or for security
by its neighbors. Local leaders should guide Palestinian life, and national
leaders work to liberate the people from occupation and towards
* After the occupation is ended and the parties return to the negotiating
table, the leadership should say it is no longer willing to consider a state
based on the 1967 borders (the 1949 armistice lines) as at Oslo, because the
borders proposed in the 1947 UN Partition Plan are more realistic given
Palestinian demographic trends.
* Discussions around Jerusalem - not the withdrawal from East Jerusalem,
which should be non-negotiable - but its status as the capital of Palestine as
well as Israel or an international city should also be based on the UN
* The Palestinian people must be able to exercise their right to
self-determination, as called for most recently by the ICJ. Ending the
occupation is a separate issue from the right to self-determination and right
of return. Whether the nine million Palestinians live in a single state with
Israelis, in two states, in the countries where they now live, or any other
configuration, is a matter for self-determination.
* The rights of all citizens in Israel to enjoy equality and freedom from
discrimination must be upheld: the over one million Arab Christian and Muslim
citizens of Israel must enjoy the same rights as its Jewish citizens.
The power of these arguments is unassailable, as evidenced in the ruling of
the ICJ and the growing movement for sanctions. The people of Israel yearn for
peace and security, the people of Palestine for freedom and
self-determination. Both are possible only by respecting the international
rule of law.
Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of The Palestine Center, a Washington,
D.C.-based think tank, wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR. The views
expressed here are her own.
Copyright (c) 2004 The Daily Star
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