Part 1: Palestinian youth revolt – Any role for political parties?

A Palestinian youth hurls a stone at Israeli forces on Dec. 20, 2013 in the northern West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum

By: Al-Shabaka

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.The following is the first segment of a five-part publication on the current absence of authentic Palestinian national leadership and the current youth uprising against Israel’s prolonged military occupation and denial of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).The segment is authored by Jamal Juma’, a founding member of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange and the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network.For nearly two months, Palestinians have waited for the political parties to shoulder their role in leading and guiding the uprising. Clearly, they are neither able nor willing to do so. There are several reasons for their inaction. For one thing, party leaders are reluctant to pay the price of leading and framing popular resistance, whether this price is extracted by the Israeli occupation authorities in the form of arrests, prosecution and targeting of organizations – especially as the parties operate openly and their organizational structures are weak. Nor do they want to lose the privileges they enjoy as members of the PLO, both in terms of financial benefits and political status.Moreover, the various parties cannot act without the consent of the Palestinian Authority (PA) security apparatus and that of its leading faction, Fatah: They are currently too weak to change the status quo. President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds all the power, believes that the uprising accomplished its mission by refocusing attention on the Palestinian cause and stimulating the international community and is betting on new initiatives to resume the negotiations with Israel. Indeed, Abbas has announced in unequivocal terms that he does not want an uprising.Given the weakness of their current composition and organizational structures, these parties cannot provide a political, organizational and economic framework capable of leading a long-term uprising that would drain the Israeli occupation’s resources and energies. A successful uprising would require a comprehensive vision to achieve clear and attainable objectives by mobilizing local, regional and international opportunities and relationships.As for the Islamic forces, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they have also taken the same position of inaction. They too do not want to pay the price and give Israel an opportunity to launch an offensive against the Gaza Strip. They also fear that the uprising could be exploited to improve the terms of negotiations for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and PA.There are several factors in favor of creating a space for a new national or local leadership. Even if it subsides, the current uprising has raised the question the current leadership’s eligibility and has legitimized the search for alternatives. It has also united the Palestinian people inside the Green Line, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. Ironically, the political forces are the ones who remain divided. The Palestinians in the Diaspora have also acted albeit in a limited way, and have helped to organize demonstrations. The actions on the ground are seeding an emerging leadership that can be nurtured, although it is scattered and localized.On the negative side, however, it is clear that the PA will not allow a new leadership to emerge, and will spare no effort to thwart it, even if this requires coordination with the Israeli occupation – with which it is coordinating anyway. In addition, the existing grassroots movements are weak, while intellectuals play a weak role in Palestinian political life and are unable to support popular forces. As for the Palestinian diaspora, it has little influence on decision-making.The challenge is to build on the positive factors and minimize the negative ones: Note that any serious movement to create an alternative leadership would have to work below the radar to some extent.To begin with, it is important to provide a space safe from political domination, a space in which it would be possible to support those popular forces that have a political vision and capacity to mobilize, such as trade unions, farmers’ organizations, women’s federations, and of course youth groups, so that they can work alongside the uprising.It is also important to tap the potential of the Palestinian Diaspora, especially among the youth, and to organize working groups that could communicate and coordinate with enlightened national figures who believe in the important role the Diaspora has to play in both Palestinian decision-making and in supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people.Indeed, it is vital to invest in meaningful coordination between the homeland and the Diaspora. We must rebuild the trust between us and revive our self-confidence and confidence in our ability to affect change. In the final analysis, we must have absolute faith in our people and in their ability to sacrifice and advance and we must believe, beyond any doubt, that we will prevail.

(Source / 24.11.2015)

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