Articles > > HALF A CENTURY OF THE PLO

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-04-10
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

It has been almost half a century – exactly forty-five years – since the Palestinian national movement chose the PLO as its representative.
 
The refugees' right to return has not been realized, and the Palestinian people has not yet been able to exercise its right to self-determination and establish an independent state with Jerusalem as is capital. However, the national movement has undoubtedly succeeded in revitalizing the Palestinians' identity, and reinforced a sense of collective belonging among Palestinians scattered all over the world. It has placed the Palestinian question on the regional and international community's agenda and designated the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of its people. These achievements should not be underestimated, nor should they be exaggerated. Instead, they need to be maintained and developed further until freedom and liberation are secured.
 
A transitional program was approved based on a theory of gradual progression and calculations based on the balance of power. Around the time of the [1993] Oslo Accords, the 'transitional' became 'final' as a 'strategic' move. The long, bitter series of negotiations the Palestinians held with the occupation government revealed Palestinian willingness to lower the ceiling of their expectations and stakes. A 'viable' state could be the compromise between occupation and a fully independent state. The [2000] Clinton Parameters for resolving the refugee crisis became the new ceiling for Palestinian expectations instead of a minimal precondition to negotiations. Then the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative gave Israel veto rights in the section regarding refugees. Today, under the populist right-wing administration in Washington and the far-right government in Tel Aviv, the issues of Jerusalem, an independent state, sovereignty, the refugees and the June 4th [1967] border are no longer up for discussion.
 
Even the national movement's achievements, for which the Palestinian people paid a heavy price, are now under threat of being squandered. The diaspora Palestinians that first settled in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, have traversed long distances in a second displacement to distant lands. The Palestinian people in those areas where most reside fall under separate influences and dynamics that threaten the unity of the cause and its frameworks, priorities, and identity. 
 
The PLO, which used to be called 'the Palestinians' home until their homeland is liberated', no longer offers a refuge for millions of Palestinians that do not know it well, or have any practical or realistic connection to it except as an ambiguous slogan that has become increasingly associated in their minds with apathy, aging, and poor performance, if not outright corruption and insularity.
 
The rise of Hamas came with a deeper, longer, and more dangerous divide among the Palestinian people, adding insult to injury. This division causes any opportunities to restore unity and revive the national movement to be wasted and lost. The Palestinian people ends up paying the heaviest costs in its reputation, the importance of its cause, its tactical and combative power, and its ability to rally the world around its cause.
 
In my estimation, the Palestinians must think carefully, and for perhaps the first time with high levels of accountability, about restoring their condition to what it was at the very beginning. This may be only a fantasy, but I believe that in order to secure an outcome from the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, fulfilling the requirements for reviving the Palestinian national movement, restoring its youth, and revitalizing it, what is needed may be a return to what was once called 'a democratic solution to the Palestinian cause' – that of a one-state solution. 
 
This will entail waging a bitter battle against Zionism as a racist, discriminatory system in order to secure individual and collective rights to everyone under the framework of an offensive initiative rooted in rousing public opinion not only regarding Palestinian injustices, but also the justice, progress, and humanity of the Palestinian struggle and legitimate Palestinian demands. 
 
This will require a return to the beginnings. The first requirement would be to prioritize strengthening the Palestinians' solidarity in their national homeland as an issue that takes precedence over all others in order to fight the schemes to forcefully displace individuals and groups under security and economic pressures. 
 
Such a transformation requires reassessing the PA's existence, or at least redefining its functions on the path to holding the occupation government responsible for the occupation's consequences instead of allowing the occupation to persist as a 'convenient and comfortable' status quo. Such a transformation also requires reassessing many other institutions and concepts that were created and adapted to a project that has reached, or is about to reach, a dead end. 
 
There is no room here to answer all the questions surrounding the concept of 'back to the beginning'. Perhaps some will say that the best defense is a good offense, and others may say that the Palestinians have been cornered with their back to the wall, and that returning to the starting point from 45 years ago will not halt the concessions' train. 
 
Yet others may say that this would merely be jumping from the difficult mission of extracting an independent state to the impossible mission of a democratic solution to the Palestinian issue. To various degrees, all these suggestions are worthy of being taken seriously. 
 
"Therefore, I urge that this article to be viewed as an invitation to serious discussion and thinking outside the box, so that we do not continue to retread the same ideas and visions from a little less than half-a century ago.