In 2005 I had a telephone interview for a job at the Arab-American University in Jenin. It was possibly the strangest interview I have ever had, because although we both tried to focus on the job requirements and my teaching methods, there were questions from both of us that tended to have little or nothing to do with either. For instance, there was me naively asking if it is possible just to jump into a car and drive down, or is it up, to Ramallah and there was the interviewer asking me how I would deal with students arriving late at class, angry, frustrated and depressed, after being held up at an Israeli checkpoint. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was quickly made aware of the fact that a normal life in the West Bank is not possible and with that came the realisation that while, Arafat got absolutely nothing at Oslo, the Israelis got, even more control over the occupied territories and they had their scapegoat, their policeman and their “negotiating” partner. Not only did Arafat not negotiate to get the best deal for the Palestinians living on the West Bank in Gaza, he also didn’t negotiate on behalf those living in the diaspora. Unfortunately, with normal life not being possible in Gaza and the West Bank where are the educated, worldly-wise, efficient Palestinians, who can represent all Palestinians, going to come from?
Edward Said, in his book ‘The End of The Peace Process’, quite rightly points to the diaspora, to Beruit, Damascus, Amman, Cairo, the United States and anywhere else where Palestinians find themselves, as places where the Palestinians should be organising and making themselves heard.(1) Certainly, it is absurd to believe that Abbas and Fatah or even Fatah and Hammas can represent all Palestinians and, since 1990, Fatah, in particular have made a mockery of all the principle motivating factors of Palestinian political life, include the UN Resolutions, 181, 242 and 338. Yes, Hammas must be brought into any negotiations with Israel but equally, if not more important, it is time for the Palestinians in the diaspora to have a voice for how can a group of people who represent only a small minority of Palestinians and who are dependent for their political existence on the enemy, speak for all Palestinians? Moreover, struggling just to survive in Gaza, Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, East Jerusalem and elsewhere, subject to Israeli bombs, settler violence, humiliation at every turn, while being largely closed off from the outside world, these people don’t have and cannot afford the luxury of cultivating their intellects to equip themselves with the tools necessary to win the battle. That was something I began to realise during that interview in 2005.
In 2006, while working in with Palestinians near Tripoli in the Lebanon, I stumbled on some very clear thinking, articulate Palestinians, Palestinians who could relativise and put their tragedy into a context that the global community can understand, and it is time for them and others in the diaspora, such as Ali Abunimah and Rashid Khalidi, to organise. Furthermore, the United States, as we all know, is a very dishonest, a very bias, broker and wouldn’t it be wonderful to send people like Finkelstein and Pappe in with a Palestinian negotiating team to make public the sham for what it is and then, and only then, can we move onto some final stage negotiations. Organistaion is needed though and with that organisation a common position to take to the negotiating table.
1 Edward Said, ‘The End of the Peace Process’, 2001, p23
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