Friday, September 23, 2011
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
Mahmoud Abbas gave a brilliant speech at the United Nations, getting rounds of applause from most of the representatives. I think it demonstrated clearly and unambiguously that the Palestinian leadership has been “unreasonably reasonable” and has instead seen the hopes of peace and of millions of Palestinians suffering for 63 years dashed on the rock of Israeli expansionist, colonial, and apartheid policies. He explained that Israel has been taking one unilateral action after another each resulting in more pain and suffering for our people. Going to the UN, he explained is putting things back where the problems started (he did not use the last two words but I do).
He said a word that I think he should defend strongly that no person or country with an iota of logic or conscience should reject the Palestinian state membership in the UN or its formation in the 22% of historic Palestine that is the West Bank and Gaza. I think he took a courageous step and gave a good performance. Now we here on the ground in Palestine hope and will push for additional follow-up steps. From our own perspective, three things are critical:
1) That he and his administration now implement quickly the reconciliation agreement signed by all Palestinian factions most notably the one about creating a representative Palestinian National Council. In his speech he said he hopes this will be done in a few weeks. We hope this will be done quickly and not any longer than four weeks.
2) That he and his administration act quickly and decisively to really promote popular unarmed resistance throughout Palestine and among Palestinians in exile. In forming a new government, the ministry that is now in charge of walls and settlements should be either a) dismantled or b) reconfigured. A new strategy to encourage real nonviolent resistance must be adopted. We must end the practice of holding a few demonstrative actions that do not disturb the occupation and that are used to enrich a few people. We must instead allow the kind of popular resistance that have been effective from our history (see my book that details challenges and opportunities learned from this history and available in Arabic and English). He also said he will pursue this.
3) The Palestinian people are waiting to see clear evidence of change; a new Palestinian Spring as Mr. Abbas called it. This requires seeing visibly what Mr. Abbas talked about: transparency, accountability, democracy, and freedom.
There were those who worried that going to the UN will raise the expectations of the Palestinian people who then may turn to despair and more if they do not see a change on the ground. I say a) it is great to raise the expectations, and b) we, the Palestinian people will never turn to despair but we will revolt if we do not see real changes and stronger steps. I share Abu Mazen’s hope that the international community steps up to the plate. But I also hope that we all go back to our people and take those steps that will ensure our freedom.
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