AIC: Palestinian state in September? Prospects and roles of local, international activists 27Apr11 April 28, 2011

Alternative Information Centre -  27 April 2011

Palestinian activists Lubna Massarwa, Murad Jadallah and Muhammed Mustafa, with Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh serving as moderator, discussed the roles of local activists, youth movements and the international community in such a scenario. During the discussion, the activists focused onthe weak role of the Palestinian Authority and the possible consequences of recognition of Palestinian independence including for Israelis and the international community.

“The PA is thinking that the UN declaration of a Palestinian state could be the basic solution, the end of the occupation. But it’s not true. How can Palestine be an independent state if Israel doesn’t recognize it? Israel doesn’t have official borders. So how is it possible to build a new state without borders?” said Murad Jadallah, legal research from Addameer: Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Organisation and activist in the Independent Youth Movement of Herac.

“After September, the UN could decide to leave all the problems in Palestinian hands and not intervene anymore, without solving the vital problem of the refugees,” Jadallah stated.

All the speakers agreed that with recognition of the Palestinian state, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would turn into a border conflict, like numerous other conflicts around the world.

“For a long time the PA hasn’t dealt with the right of return. Almost 1,200,000 Palestinians are refugees inside the Green Line, said Lubna Massarwa, activist of the Free Gaza Movement and community organizer. “The potential recognition of our independence is tightly connected to the refugees of the Nakba. The PA has to tell us how it wants to solve this vital problem.”

Muhammed Mustafa, activist in the Independent Youth Movement and a researcher at Paris IV University (La Sorbonne), explained that the UN declaration could be a catastrophe for the Palestinian people: “This kind of decision is a comfortable way for the international community to abandon the Palestinian cause. Even if Palestine becomes an official member of the United Nations, there is no chance to end the occupation.”

The three speakers agreed that the PA is too weak to protect the Palestinian people.

“We are frustrated by the corruption inside the Palestinian Authority. The PA is protecting the Israeli occupation,” Lubna Massarwa said. “Salam Fayyad was imposed on the Palestinian people and he is destroying our popular resistance. I think that a possible solution would be the creation of a Palestinian Council instead of the PA, which is able to release the political prisoners in Israeli jails, to end the occupation and to materialize the right of return.”

Murad Jadallah added, “After the Oslo agreement, the PA wasn’t able to protect Palestinian lands: the settlements are still increasing, the construction of the Wall is eating village lands beside the Green Line and tens of thousands of Palestinian residents are now refugees.”

Muhammed Mustafa later focused on the important issue of an independent and strong Palestinian economy in order to build a sovereign state. “Salam Fayyad is just talking about security and infrastructures, but Palestine doesn’t have its own national manufacturing industry. Import and export are controlled by Israel. We don’t have an economy based on concrete and independent production.”

Several participants in the event asked what kind of solution is proposed by the youth movement in order to strengthen a potential Palestinian state. “The re-foundation of the PLO in order to represent Palestinians all over the world: in Palestine, in Israel and abroad,” said moderator Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh.

The importance of activism and youth movements in pressuring political authorities was particularly highlighted.  Since the demonstrations of 15 March, the Palestinian youth movement has grown. Students and young Palestinian people have been involved in this movement which works through two main channels: internet and grassroot actions.

As far as the web is concerned, blogs and Facebook pages have been created, such as the blog Palestine for us, or the groups 15th of March Palestinian Youth Movement and Sawt al-Manara on Facebook.  They aim at establishing a network among the youth in the main West Bank cities to achieve unity. The blog Palestine for us contains the statement of principles which constitute the base of the 15th of March movement: the national unity, the reconciliation, the end of the division between Hamas and Fatah, the illegitimacy of imprisoning people based on their political beliefs and the establishment of new electoral procedures that guarantee equal representation of Palestinians all around the world.

On the other hand, Palestinian youth have decided to take local and grassroot actions to inform the Palestinians about their plans and their requests. The most visible example was the establishment of a sit-in tent, called the tent of unity in the main squares of Ramallah and Bethlehem.  Tarek Zboun, a 22 year Palestinian, is one of the most active people in this movement: he is the administrator of the principle Facebook pages in Bethlehem area and he has always slept in the tent. Tarek told the AIC that “the main problem we are facing deals with the fact that Palestinian people in Bethlehem don’t believe in our project and the fragmentation between Palestinian political parties is stronger than our project of unity. Moreover it’s surprising that the number of foreigners visiting our tent is much higher than the number of Palestinians”. At the same time some problems occurred between the youth of the Unity Tent and the Palestinian Authority because the PA tried to prevent them from gaining the support of the Palestinian people and from spreading their message.  One week ago they decided to stop the project of the tent in Bethlehem because it was too tiring and the number of people involved was decreasing daily.

What’s the future? Why don’t the Palestinians listen to the message of this new youth movement?

The same question was asked yesterday evening by a young Palestinian girl during the discussion at the AIC Cafè.

“This is a new movement and so far all the new ideas have taken some time before being supported” Massarwa responded. “We have to be patient and to continue. I am sure that something new will happen in the near future and I think that a lot of Palestinians will adhere to our message. We will keep going on, this is the start of a new important movement for Palestine”.

And Professor Qumsiyeh replied, and ended the conference by arguing that he is sure that in the next six to ten months, there will be a new uprising in Palestine. “I studied the history of the past uprisings and I can claim that this will be a crucial year for Palestine”.

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