Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Palestinian Strategy

There has been a great deal of anxious speculation about what Palestinians really want, the speculation tied to the questionable mandate of a president who has not stood for election since 2005 (and his prime minister who was never elected at all), the anxiety tied to concern that, if you take these men away, a gush of pro-Hamas sentiment will be unplugged. So Israelis, and people in the West more generally, should take a close look at this impressive document from the Palestine Strategy Group, the closest thing there is in Palestine to an independent voice reflecting what the educated center is thinking.

Look, especially, at pp. 6 and 7 of the executive summary for the various strategic options open to the Palestinian leadership. Read Akiva Eldar's analysis. If the Israeli government were serious about peace, or merely about avoiding a diplomatic debacle, it would take to heart the growing power behind the non-violent struggle the Group maps out. September is upon us, and the consequences of Palestinian action in the U.N. are hard to predict. But no Israeli can say the intention behind Palestinian action is mysterious. It is all here and deserves a response.

To my mind, the key to the document can be found in the following passage, with its emphasis on a "rights-based" strategy, appealing to international law. Embedded in this is an evolving view of, among other things, the "right of return," related to the federal political structures to follow after the end of occupation. I'll have more to say about both in the weeks ahead.

From the document:

Strategic option (D): Smart resistance

Smart resistance means an intelligent, focused and flexible use of the various sub-components of the broad strategic option of national resistance in general. These include legal action against Israel in the world’s courts and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns. But the main emphasis in the PSG is on non-violent popular resistance, as demonstrated so powerfully in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions so far, and elsewhere in the Arab world. Palestinians have been pioneers in this area as in the first intifada 1987.

But now a new chapter needs to be opened because the full force of this strategic option was only partially exploited at that time. It remains a vast and largely untapped resource waiting to be fully activated in the framework of the new Palestinian liberation strategy. The PSG is in general agreement that the scope of popular resistance needs to be broadened and reactivated on all fronts, especially where youth stand to the fore.

The PSG discussed the role of armed resistance and agreed that this is an entirely legitimate tool in international law in cases of foreign occupation. Some see armed struggle as an essential, albeit partial, ‘equaliser’ to Israel’s military power without which Israel will continue to ignore Palestinian demands. Others - probably a majority - think that this is not the moment to emphasise the armed struggle, because it plays to Israel’s strength, provides Israeli right wing elements with propaganda tools to justify the use of force, and enables the nature of the conflict to be misrepresented as a military confrontation between two antagonists rather than a clear-cut case of military occupation.

There was a strong feeling in the PSG that attacks on civilians should play no part in the new national liberation strategy as they are in clear breach of international law, which is what our Palestinian strategy mainly appeals to, and only serves to alienate international opinion.