A critical moment in the Palestinian national struggle | Middle East
As the ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip took effect in the early hours of May 21, celebrations erupted throughout the Palestinian world. From their towns and occupied territories in Israel to refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries, the Palestinians took to the streets not to express relief at the end of Israel’s recent atrocities, but to affirm their restoration of unity by destroying the Israeli war machine.
This is a remarkable change. In just a few weeks, they gave new life to the struggle for self-determination, and it resonated strongly throughout the Arab world and the entire Arab world.
As recently as March, Metternich, the residence of the Trump administration, and Prince Jared of Kushner triumphantly announced, “We are witnessing the final remnants of the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict.” He casually addressed the Palestinian issue. Regarding it as “just a real estate dispute” and ridiculing its central position in the area as a “myth”, he used an F-35 fighter jet to pierce this myth effortlessly.
Kushner firmly believes that together with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he used a formula that has been hidden for more than seven years to solve the Palestinian problem: pretend that it does not exist, and it will disappear.
On one level, reality — shaped by the events of the past three decades — seems to be increasingly consistent with this arrogance.
The municipal model of Palestinian politics
For many years, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has operated as a truly representative and overwhelming national movement. If this situation began to weaken after the PLO was forced to leave Lebanon in 1982 and the subsequent internal divisions, the first uprising in the occupied territories in 1987 made up for it. The large-scale uprising produced such a strong response throughout the region, and within a few weeks the Lebanese Amal Movement and the Syrian government felt the need to end the years-long massacre of the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut.
The 1993 Oslo Agreement formed a turning point. The separatism implicit in Palestinian nationalism was formalized in an agreement to separate the Palestinian issue from the Arab-Israeli conflict. One might argue that Egypt gave up its Arab military ranks, the Arab countries’ focus on the Iran-Iraq war throughout the 1980s, the Gulf countries’ pressure on the PLO after the Kuwait crisis in 1990-1991, and its leading Fatah movement. Mas’s superiority in the occupied territories, and subsequent Syria — and Lebanon — is ready to negotiate peace with Israel alone, leaving PLO leader Yasser Arafat particularly no choice. If so, he chose the worst option.
With a light wave, the Palestinian diaspora and the Palestinians in Israel-which together make up more than half of the Palestinians in the world-were moved to the fringe of Palestinian politics. As the focus shifted from the PLO to the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA), these communities were explicitly excluded from their institutions and elections. Although the Palestinians in Israel have their own political parties, the political significance of the diaspora who disproportionately led and supported the national movement has gradually diminished. It is just a demographic reality.
A similar process is taking place in the occupied territories. As Israel began to replace cheap labor in the occupied territories with foreign workers after the first intifada, and the labor needed for its economic transformation decreased, successive governments worked hard to isolate the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip from Israel. And each other.
After the arrival of the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s, this process of geographic division accelerated exponentially and is now implemented in every territory. This policy was an important part of the Fatah-Hamas split in 2007. Many analysts pointed out that maintaining a divided Palestinian regime has become Israel’s priority.
Palestinian leaders focused on maintaining power and cultivating foreign support to support their factional struggles rather than conflicts with Israel, and the results of these efforts became more and more obvious.
Similar to the municipal government, with a few exceptions, the leaders of each Palestinian community only deal with local affairs. As a result, Hamas’s relationship with Israel has largely been reduced to seeking relief from the punitive blockade in the Gaza Strip. Arab parties in Israel are focused on the country’s increasingly brazen racism against its voters, while in Ramallah , President Mahmoud Abbas is almost entirely committed in the office. National politics at the formal and institutional level are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.
At the regional level, a similar trend has emerged. Persuaded by the paralysis of Abbas and the walls and walls of Israel, Kushner and Netanyahu finally got rid of the troublesome Palestine issue. The Arab dictator openly embraced Greater Israel to obtain special treatment from Washington. They bet that the Palestinians will no longer humiliate them with rebellion and martyrdom, and their own people will gladly hand it over to the courts to resolve the remaining “real estate disputes” and move on.
The Palestinians are accustomed to standing up at the weakest and most desperate times, and they have obviously been abandoned to a tragic fate. This is what they did in 2021. The expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jala community in East Jerusalem and the repeated attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Israeli calculations, would put the power of the country against the quarantined and impoverished. The residents of Jerusalem mobilized the Palestinians within the Green Line, first to the Holy City and then in Israel.
Different from the previous confrontation with Israel, this time Hamas launched its first strike, the reason for which ostensibly has nothing to do with the situation in the Gaza Strip. Within a few days, Palestinian demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon and at least as many Jordanians and Lebanese gathered on the border. At the same time, more and more large-scale demonstrations in support of the Palestinians broke out throughout the West Bank and the Arab world. .
In Washington, senior military officer General Mark Milley warned of “risk [of] More widespread instability… [and] If the fighting continues, there will be a series of negative consequences.” In other words, the main myth creators are Kushner, Netanyahu and their now invisible partners.
In general, the mobilization sent a clear and unmistakable message that despite efforts to the contrary, Palestine is still a national cause and an Arab cause. Perhaps it is because of the strong resonance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. More likely, a confluence of dynamics has produced a collective understanding that if rights are not defended at this time, they will be lost forever. In any case, the municipal model of Palestinian politics has been broken.
In the recent past, the 1987-1993 uprising led to Oslo, and the 2000-2004 uprising ended with Abbas in power, and the Palestinians were largely domesticated. Israel and its Western allies will now work to re-appease the Palestinians and restore a model that focuses Palestinians’ attention primarily internally and works well against their opponents.
For the Palestinians, maintaining mobilization is crucial. More importantly, they need to find a way to seize the opportunity and clearly attribute the fragmentation to the past in order to face their survival challenges again across the country. Another option is to perpetuate what is wrongly called the status quo. The status quo is not a static state of affairs, but a dynamic reality, characterized by the continuous process of deprivation without any signs of abating.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.