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Part 2: Palestinian youth revolt - Any role for political parties?

Nov. 25, 2015 7:29 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2015 4:19 P.M.)
Palestinians shout slogans as they gather near the entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to protest Israel restrictions on Oct. 15, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
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 second segment of an eight-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 Jamil Hilal, an independent Palestinian sociologist and writer who has published many books and numerous articles on Palestinian society, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Middle East issues.

Democratic and progressive political parties have historically provided leadership in the struggle for freedom from oppression, especially from settler-colonial pillage and terror. Unfortunately this has not happened here since the First Intifada in the late 1980s. Not only have political parties and movements failed to embrace their responsibility, they have also acted in ways that have fragmented the Palestinian national liberation movement. Instead, the parties should have critically reviewed past progress and failings so as to rebuild a movement more attuned to new national, regional and international conditions. In short, political parties are in no position to provide a unified leadership and a coherent strategy to the present youth struggle against the colonial oppressors and to the youth’s bleak future.

As for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, all indications are that it is not forthcoming soon. The other political parties have played the role of a mediator instead of forming an alternative leadership with a program to address the intensified fragmentation, colonization and subjugation imposed on Palestinians. No historic bloc has been formed to pressure the two main opposed movements (Fatah and Hamas) to come to their senses, or, failing which, to take the responsibility of providing a new vision and leadership.

The majority of the Palestinian people are disillusioned and frustrated by the continued bickering and performance of Fatah and Hamas while more land is colonized and homes destroyed, Palestinians arbitrarily arrested, Jerusalem Israel-ized, Gazans subjected to a slow genocide, the 1948 Palestinians suffering discrimination and segregation, and refugees condemned to exile. Now unarmed youth are being assassinated in cold blood by the Israeli army and settlers while security co-ordination is shamelessly maintained.

The answer may be for each Palestinian community to establish its alternative democratic leadership and to think collectively regarding how to construct a new national movement while preserving the assets that the Palestinian struggle built in previous decades. This will not be easy, but the 1948 Palestinians seem to be on the right track and their example should be studied and where possible followed.

Of course, this is not easily implemented. Yet there seems to be a need, given the extremely vulnerable situation of most Palestinian communities, to establish local committees in villages, refugee camps, and town neighborhoods so that they can articulate their needs according to the specifics of their situation, and then to form larger associations. For example, in the West Bank, the question for a large number of communities is how to defend themselves, their land and property against the murderous attacks of the settlers; in the Gaza Strip, how to contend with the pressing problems caused by Israel’s siege and repeated deadly wars; and in Lebanon, how to empower popular committees in the refugee camps so that they form a “unified framework” to deal with the broader problems across camps.

The role of such local committees could expand as the situation demands, whether from municipalities, village councils, local branches of political parties, and local civil societies and institutions. The examples of the ongoing struggles of Higher Follow Up Committee among the 1948 Palestinians and the struggles of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement are beacons for the rest of us.

But in the real world, people sit down and find concrete solutions to the problems they face in a specific situation. Luckily, they do not wait, for people like me to tell them what to do.

This piece is part of Al-Shabaka's roundtable discussion publication. The full version was originally published on Al-Shabaka's website on November 23, 2015.

Part 1 can be found here.

The views expressed in this article are the authors and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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