Good morning, President Abbas

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Over the past few weeks, and particularly the past few days, I have tried to sift through a few dozen reflections and a few hundred conversations worthy of blogging. I have tried to wrap my mind around something concrete enough to relay the experience of waking up everyday two hours from unreachable family in Gaza, or of having a three hour reunion in Tel Aviv with my favorite uncle who I have not seen in 10 years — because permits to leave the cage expire after a few hours. I have tried to take pictures, relay a landscape that I rediscover everytime I hop onto a minibus to show a visitor around.

I have tried to do all of these things and I have failed, because I just could not clear the cobwebs of work and day-to-day living out of my head long enough to sit and explain what it means to live in the diaspora and live in Palestine simultaneously. 

And then this morning, I woke up to this

“I visited Safad before once. But I want to see Safad. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there. Palestine now for me is ‘67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever…this is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel.” - Mahmoud Abbas 

The next time someone tells me any particular word I choose is too strong or harsh to describe Abbas, I am considering printing the transcript of this interview and slapping said person with it. 

There are days when I could see something like this and think up a cute little quip and write up a blog entry to  “Al-Basseleh,” The Electronic Intifada’s answer to satirical website The Onion. But, today is not one of those days.

My father is almost 80 years old and he has more than the right to visit Isdoud. I, and my siblings, have more than the right to see the grass of where a village once stood. I have the right to return and rebuild Palestine from the ground up. All of it. And so does every refugee and their descendents. 

The kids from Safad living in Shatila and Ein el-Hilweh, and all the camps of Lebanon, are not dreaming of your Ramallah, Mr. President. They are dreaming of their Safad. 

If I or they want to sign away our right of return, we will let you know. 

Don’t mistake your people’s exhaustion and frustration for surrender. Don’t mistake the young people’s re-organizing and re-acquainting themselves with their own history for lack of vision. And most importantly, do not mistake being head of a local Palestinian Authority (and yes, a defunct PLO), for a continued free pass from members of the diaspora to speak on its behalf. 

Armed or unarmed, third or fourth or fifth intifada - this is not the point.

Intifadas and identities in and of Palestine are not dictated by one man.

Our resistance and our community is the product of a conversation we have with each other, not statements to Israeli newscasters. 

Comments

thanks for that...I was equally appalled by his normalizing statements to Israeli press...he should be boycotted along with Israeli products...hell it seems he has become one!

He is one and has been one of them.........

He has absolutely no right to talk on behlf of anyone, and he only talks for himself saying that, and i will correct you by saying he's Mr. EXPIRED president.... and remember that 40% of palestinian refugees in syria are from SAFAD (not tzfat in hebrew) and i am from Safad..... he may have given up HIS right to return to safad ever .... but it's definitely my and every palestinian's right to return to our homeland...

sad but true...
thank you for your powerful words nour!

agreed 100000000%

بصراحة بعد ما قرأت كل التعليقات التي تعلقت بخطاب ابو مازن الاخير حول حدود الدولة الفلسطينية وعاصمتها القدس الشرقية, انتابني شعور بالحيرة وعدم التركيز, فمن ناحية من يتحدثون هم فلسطينيين وباالتالي يتابعون القضية الفلسطينية على الاقل ويعرفون ما يجري في فلسطين حتى لو كانو كلهم او معظمهم في الخارج,ولكنني اتعجب من تعجبكم !!!واتفاجأ من تفاجأكم!!!, هي يعني اوسلو مخبية وعملية السلام وبنودها والمبادرة العربية مخبية!!!, يعني ايش الجديد في الخطاب, يا عمي هدا الرئيس حكى يلي بقدر عليه ويلي في ايده يعمله وبكل صراحة, هدا هو السقف تاعه, هيك مقدرته...هلا بنرجع للتعليقات سوى هنا او في كل مكان, هل لديكم الافضل, هل تملكون خيار افضل, اذا كانت اجابتكم نعم وانتم على قدرها انا اقول لكم ونيابة عن ابو مازن انه سيترك الساحة لكم وسيصمت وبكل فرح وسرور...انا اتمنى عليكم وبمختلف الجنسيات ان تأتو بطريقة افضل, بحل افضل للأزمة الفلسطينية التى باتت متشتتة بين كل الدول العربية والاجنبية منذ 65 عاما, بالله عليكم ان تخرجو من خيالاتكم كلها, ولتكونوا موضوعيين ولا نضيع الحكي في التعليقات والعواطف الجياشة, بل فلتكن كلماتكم كلها اقتراحات وحلول, فلا ابو مازن ولا غيره من القيادات الفلسطينية يملك العصا السحرية ولا يملك القوة الدولية ولا الفيتو!!!, اني اتحدث اليكم بكل محبة وبكل الفة وبعين الملهوف لحل لقضيتي لقضيتنا الفلسطينية, وارجو منكم جميعا لا تهدرو وقتكم بالحديث عن الشعارات والعواطف والخيالات والاحلام, بل اغيثونا بحلولكم من اجل استرجاع الحقوق الفلسطينية وانهاء لاحتلال...سلامي لكم من رام الله المحتلة

الموضوع مش موضوع عاطفة... بدك تحكي بموضوعية؟؟ بدك تكون واقعي؟؟ حل الدولتين مش حل... وهذا الواقع... وبدون عودة اللاجئين كمان فش حل.... يعني هو كرئيس منتهية صلاحيته بيطلعلش يتنازل عن حقي... وهذا الحق معترفة في اكترية العالم... انت منهزم ومهزوم... مين انت تيجي تحكيلي انه هاي خيالات واحلام... لأ العودة بالنسبة اللي واقعية اكتر من انه
الفلسطينية يضلوا في مخيمات سوريا ولبنان والأردن
حل الدولة الواحدة كمان اكتر واقعيا... بحب احكي للناس اللي بتعتبر وعود اولمرت وعدم عودة اللاجئين "واقع" انه هذا الواقع" ما رح ينقبل في... لو عاجبك او مش عاجبك... وفي حلول وفي ناس كمان اقترحت حلول ولسا لو عباس بيحكي" باسم الشعب وبيمثله صح وبيحكي شو بده عن جد كمان بيكون واقعي اكتر....اما يتنازل عن حق العودة وعن صفد ما بيطلعله حتى لو من وجهة نظرك هاد واقع (مع انه واقعيا ما بينفع و ما رح يزبط)

nour,

there is also international law. nobody can change the right of return if the people it concerns have not agreed to give away this right.

This is simply beautiful. It was sad and shocking to read this statement..I can't believe he gave himself the right to speak for us. I am not Palestenian, but Palestine is my right too. I have the right to see it, live in it and do whatever I can do in other Arab countries. When Abbas speaks this way, he's not only betraying the Palestenians, he betraying us, the Arab Youth. And I stand by every word you said in this statement. Kudos.

There's a house Arab/Muslim/Palestinian in every U.S. town that "progressive" Zionists position as the "moderate" voice (usually those involved in interfaith dialogue) while those activists who advocate the right of return, equality and the vision of a singular democratic state with a constitution are marginalized as extremists. Our local "Poster Palestinian" accepted the city's "Peace Builder Award" in a well-attended ceremony at the synagogue, nominated by the very rabbi who had organized and written against Palestinian speaker, Ali Abunimah.

This rabbi is on J Street's rabbinical board, spearheads the "exchange of populations myth" to obstruct advocacy for the Palestinian right of return, signed along with another progressive-left rabbi the 1300--some rabbis signature letter in opposition to the recent Methodist and Presbyterian divestment initiatives, and helps the Jewish Federation in opposition to our work for BDS.

I don't blame the rabbi - he's just doing his job as he sees it. I blame the Palestinian who participates in this collaboration. These beloved uncles allow themselves to function as major obstacles in the path of human rights advocacy.

More needs to be written on this ancient tactic of empire as potential activists - especially students - need to recognize and understand the betrayal and how to navigate around it.

A refugee's Right of Return is not negotiable - it exists in law, and that's the end of the matter. My understanding is that if someone, for whatever reason, makes an agreement to give up their RoR and later they change their mind - their RoR is still completely intact. What I'm trying to say is that a refugee cannot give up their RoR; they may choose not to exercise that Right or illegally be prevented from using it but that doesn't diminish their full entitlement the RoR. The RoR belongs to an individual and is not transferable; so ex-President Abbas cannot make deals on behalf anyone else; additionally he cannot give up his RoR.

Not even the notorious bunch of Palestinian notables in the 30s (notwithstanding all their lightness and incapacity, or worse, during the British Mandate), dared sell their land as cheap as Abbas fantasizes. Is he in hope of a chair as what? Pretty disturbing the fact he’s gonna go in front of the UN, claiming he obliterates the right of return and bears in mind some 20% of the land and a smaller percentage of Palestinians for a future State. It goes without saying that he is not legitimated to sell cheap anything on behalf of the Palestinian people.

In favour of the right of return but what does 'rebuild Palestine from the ground up' mean, concretely?

Please go back and read the Oslo Agreement before making non sense comments. The president was talking about him self, can he live in Safad if he choose to!!! let us be realistic and face the facts on the ground......

Thanks Nour!

I am not a Palestenian but know about their pain as I lived and grew up under Apartheid. The Zionists took Apartheid to a new level of oppression unknown in South Africa and continue to do so under the auspices of the US. In simple terms we have Abbas, an Arab Palestinian Zionist; you can expect nothing from him except to sell his Community down the drain. The consolation I have is that no man is an Island and nothing lives for ever!