I just read a op-ed in Al Jazeera that I had to share. I’ve long said that Fatah and Hamas are enormous obstacles to peace and that the Palestinians, like the Israelis, need a large grassroots movement, one which is wholeheartedly committed to achieving a solution to the conflict. Fellow Times of Israel blogger Fred Maroun once used the phrase “relentlessly pursue peace” to describe what Palestinian leadership ought to be doing and that struck me as clearly what is missing.
But everything I’ve read about Fatah and Hamas was that they discourage alternative voices. I myself have described Palestinians as being held hostage by their own leadership.
While I’ve read condemnation of the Palestinians Authority’s corruption and of Hamas’s dictatorial rule, I’ve not seen much from the Arab or Western press recognizing the obstacles they pose to advancing resolution.
So, you can imagine my surprise — and delight — at reading this op-ed in Al Jazeera. In A new approach to elections in Palestine, Alaa Tartir, program director for Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, described how the Palestinian people have been damaged over the last 15 years by the political forces in power. “As a result, over the decades, Palestinians have become mere observers of their plight and cause, unable to participate in political developments in their own communities. Indeed, their feeling of alienation in their homeland and estrangement from their government is a form of oppression tantamount to that inflicted by the Israeli colonial occupation. Palestinians need a government that liberates rather than enslaves them.”
Italics added. Because I never expected to see that comparison in Al Jazeera.
He proposes that if the now indefinitely postponed elections were to actually be held, that Palestinians write in “neither Fatah nor Hamas” or “no to division,” which, he contends, would send a message. I am not so sure I agree with that. Invalid ballots do not get counted. But I appreciate the sentiment.
Tartir then writes about a grassroots organization that does exist. That is, the “Generation for Democratic Renewal, a youth-led organisation founded in February this year, which focuses on rebuilding the Palestinian political system on a democratic foundation.” He posits that “their vision for an effective, legitimate and accountable Palestinian leadership, are fundamentals that the incumbent political regime in Palestine lacks. The presence of such progressive ideas could help mobilise the Palestinian electorate away from the traditional political forces.”
They cannot participate in the elections (I do not know the legal mechanisms behind that) and so are offering a virtual parliamentary list and virtual elections to demonstrate the movement’s desire to have its voices heard. (I wonder why Tartir doesn’t advise people to write them in.)
At any rate, excited at his op-ed appearing in Al Jazeera English, I went to Al Jazeera’s Arabic website to see if the same op-ed appears. Would something opining that current Palestinian power is as damaging to Palestinians as Israel ever appear in Arabic?
The answer, which I should have expected, was no.
Instead, one piece on the once-scheduled and now-deferred election spoke to the fact that if anything happens to the over 85-year-old Abbas, there is no Vice President or constitutional framework to provide a replacement. The article cites a member of Fatah’s Executive Committee as saying that the Palestinian Authority, created by Fatah, will revert to Fatah’s control in the event a vacancy for the president is created. Chaos will ensue.
In related stories too, Al Jazeera Arabic presents arguments for not postponing the elections. But it does not have share Tartir’s op-ed. It does not compare the damage caused by Palestinian leadership or that of Israel’s.
But what did I expect?
Al Shabaka is based in New York and Tartir is based in Geneva. Not in the Middle East. I myself have not seen the kind of self-criticism Palestinians need to carry out about their own leadership emanating from news sources in the Middle East. There may very well be, but I’ve only seen it coming from the West. In English.
It is a pity.
Still, I happily searched for and found Generation for Democratic Renewal’s Facebook page and will be following them. They are what the people need. I hope they continue to point out the undemocratic nature of Palestinian leadership structure. And I hope get the attention their movement deserves. In Al Jazeera. In other press in the region. And in Arabic.