KARKAR: The travails of the Palestinian Authority while Palestine vanishes October 12, 2009

Abbas US and ISrael

by Sonja Karkar  -  12 October 2009

The fallout from the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to endorse the Goldstone Report’s passage through the United Nations is not just painful for the Palestinians, but also for all those who support the Palestinian cause. This is yet another wound inflicted by the Authority on the Palestinian struggle for liberation from a long and brutal Israeli military occupation.  And yet again, Israel gets a “get out of jail free” card as the Palestinians are forced to focus on their own inept and corrupt leadership.

The world was poised to call Israel to account for its war crimes in Gaza post-Christmas 2008.  The Goldstone Report meticulously documents the evidence made all the more credible because its investigations were led by a distinguished Jewish South African judge with strong loyalties to Israel.

The tide had already been turning against Israel. Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement building in the West Bank as requested by US President Obama had exposed Israel’s obstructionist behaviour towards peace efforts.    And, the boycott movement instigated by Palestinian civil society had some significant wins in recent times, so much so that Israel fears a South African-style anti-Apartheid sentiment taking hold.  Any diversion now for Israel would have to be welcome.

While the Palestinian Authority (PA) is in damage control, Israel is carrying on business as usual to further decimate Palestinian society and no one says a word. Israel is continuing its takeover of Jerusalem and the West Bank and continues with its stranglehold on Gaza while bombing areas when and where it sees fit.  In the morass of corruption, betrayal, intimidation and bravado, the weighty Goldstone Report has become a mere bagatelle likely to be buried with so many other lost opportunities to hold Israel to account.

Then again, the indomitable spirit of the Palestinian people should never be underestimated.  They have held out against impossible odds for more than 60 years and there is no reason that some 4 million people cannot do so again, especially if Diaspora Palestinians worldwide can be spurred into action.

To date, too much reliance had been placed on a leadership and party that had succumbed to the machinations of realpolitik that served only Israeli and US interests.  Running parallel though have been the very powerful nonviolent resistance and solidarity movements both at home and abroad that have been tireless in their efforts to champion the Palestinian cause.  Had there been an effective leadership rather than the sycophantic excuse for one, Israel would have been battling sympathetic public opinion all too ready to get on board a Ghandi-esque liberation movement.

No matter how many PA ministers talk about misunderstandings and miscommunications, Abbas’ intentions were already clear at the summit meeting in New York when he made no mention of the Goldstone Report even as Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu railed against it.   Abbas had a perfect opportunity to bring Israel’s war crimes to public attention then.  That aside, there are the other damning claims of Abbas urging on the Israelis to bring Hamas down in Gaza during Israel’s offensive in January; the PA’s caving into Israel’s threats of ending a mobile phone bandwidth deal that would cost the PA $US300 million in fines; and the likely loss of lucrative investments in that deal by Abbas’ son and other members of the PA.

Any or all of these reasons are grounds for dissolution of the PA because Palestinian acquiescence was certainly needed to block the passage of the Goldstone Report through the United Nations.  The hastily issued statements by PA members distancing themselves and the PA from Abbas’ decision not to endorse the report after massive public outrage, were too late to be credible.   Palestinians had already been calling for a democratically elected, properly constituted Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) that would represent all of the people both within and outside Palestine as well as all the political parties and factions.

It is not as if the Palestinians lack honourable and intelligent people who would put the good of their society before Israeli and US interests. They simply have not been allowed to rally the people or to govern. Foreign interests have been interfering in the internal Palestinian political process ever since the First Intifada broke out in 1987 and captured the world’s attention with images of stone-throwing Palestinians against the Israeli military Goliath. Israel began sowing the seeds of discontent and division amongst the Palestinian factions while the US played the role of “honest” broker in dead-end peace talks.  The Fatah-led PA was really an interim governing body with a life span of five years pending the establishment of a Palestinian state after the ill-fated Oslo peace plan was signed in 1993.   That state never happened, but the PA has nevertheless lingered on under the Fatah banner as a pseudo-government policing its own people for Israel’s “security”.

When Hamas won the first democratically held elections in January 2006 under international supervision, Western interference surfaced openly through support for Israel’s punitive sanctions that deliberately isolated Hamas in Gaza, while Fatah, despite the election results, was given international legitimacy in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.  Not only was Abbas elected President, but the Western-backed economic guru Salam Fayyad was brought in and given the Prime Ministership and the ousted Fatah strongman from Gaza, Mohammad Dahlan became the Minister for Security working hand-in-glove with US General Dayton to run Israel’s security interests rather than safeguard the security of Palestinians.

This is the cosy arrangement we have today that has criminally allowed the further erosion of Palestinian rights, loss of land, discrimination, transfer, ethnic cleansing and the slow extermination of Palestinians in Gaza.  The Goldstone Report would for the first time have put Israel in the spotlight whereby it would have provided the opportunity to hold Israel accountable for war crimes.  Abbas’ collusion with Israel and the US was intended to scuttle the report; instead the report has given substantive weight to the already thousand or so war crimes charges that are being brought against Israeli ministers and generals around the world, and more are likely to be brought if there is no official reckoning.

The great tragedy of the political fallout today is not only that the Palestinian leadership has betrayed its own people, but that Israel continues its illegal colonial enterprise without barely an official protest as PA emissaries worry about their positions in case a total clean out of the PA and PLO demands their recall.   This is the time when we should be hearing strong statements emanating from diplomatic missions that uphold the rights and interests of the Palestinian people.

If the Palestinians do not do something soon, the latest US attempts to restart peace negotiations will have the same actors negotiating without pre-conditions while Israel continues to thumb its nose at the whole world. Abbas’ call for a committee to investigate why he did not endorse the Goldstone Report is a ludicrous attempt to feign accountability when an honourable “sorry” would have at least have had some resonance.  But the truth is that Abbas and those around him are simply too tainted to earn again the trust of their people.  They are, after all, a reflection of the double-dealing Israeli and US administrations that have been leading the Palestinians into checkmate ever since their land was unjustly and immorally partitioned in 1947 and Israel was created six months later.

It is time for 10 million Palestinians worldwide to take the initiative and demand proper representation that will not kowtow to the US and Western governments for Israel’s benefit.  Once the last vestiges of already compromised Palestinian land vanishes, so too will all talk of a sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state.  The next dilemma will be what to do with a stateless Palestinian population. Will we then be looking the other way as Israel quickly moves to effect mass population transfer, ethnic cleansing and extermination?  Will we too be just as culpable as the Palestinian leadership by doing and saying nothing?

It is on all our heads – we are witnessing the final stages of a vanishing Palestine and the extinguishment of its millennia-long history, heritage and society.  This is the moment for a worldwide Palestinian liberation movement.

Sonja Karkar is the co-founder and co-convener of Australians for Palestine and founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia.   She is also the editor of the website <http://www.australiansforpalestine.com> and has had numerous articles published in online and printed journals and Australian newspapers. She can be reached at sonjakarkar@womenforpalestine.org

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