The PA doesn’t represent me; why should I trust its statehood bid?

8 September 2011

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Will the PA’s statehood bid be a victory or setback for Palestinians’ historic rights?

(Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Here comes September. The long-awaited month has finally arrived and brought with it controversy over the ramifications of the Palestinian Authority’s proposal for statehood at the United Nations.

The following is just a simple attempt from an average Palestinian to reason the justifications behind the PA’s unreasonable step.

To claim that an average Palestinian would take the time to think through the political and legal implications of such a move would be misleading. An average Palestinian might in fact be the least interested in whether a state would be declared in September. Yet he or she will be the one will be the one whose life will be most profoundly impacted by any hasty act of folly by the PA. This has been demonstrated by a long history of disappointing actions by the PA.

This is not to dismiss Palestinian public political awareness. Palestinians are the ones who live with the consequences of any step or measure suggested or implemented by the PA. Therefore, they would definitely have more pressing priorities than to think of the consequences. They would instead be preoccupied with the struggle to survive the consequences of yet another foolish action by their wise government.

I will not claim to be objective. I oppose the PA’s statehood initiative. But despite the debate over the UN bid and despite the PA’s embarrassing record, it dawned on me that maybe this time I was being unjust to the PA, and maybe there’s a shadow of a chance that the PA would do something in the interest of the Palestinians. After all, how unjust and foolish could they be?

I am a refugee. Who will represent me?

Among the debates among the public about whether this bid would endanger the Palestinians was the discussion over representation. Who would represent the Palestinians? And who exactly would this state represent?

Less than half the Palestinian population live in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the territories to be declared as the Palestinian state. What will happen to the other millions who live outside this terrotiory?

If the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians both in historic Palestine and in the diaspora, would be replaced with the Palestinian state contained within the borders of 1967, then what is the destiny of millions of Palestinian refugees living outside those borders? Would they be also part of the State of Palestine? Would this declaration affect their inalienable right of return?

The PLO has been representing the Palestinian people, internationally and within the United Nations since 1965, acting in the name of all Palestinians, whether in Palestine or displaced. The PLO is already recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the UN. Why is there a need to replace the PLO with another authority which is not representative of more than half the Palestinian population?

Half of Palestinians “disenfranchised”

According to a recent analysis by Guy Goodwin-Gill, professor of law at Oxford University, the Palestinian refugees “constitute more than half of the people of Palestine and if they are ‘disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only prejudice their entitlement to equal representation, contrary to the will of the General Assembly, but also their ability to vocalize their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of return.”

Let’s assume that the statehood bid would not lead to such a deadlock as Francis Boyle, a former legal advisor to the PLO, predicted in his response to Goodwin’s memorandum.

What would be the destiny of the refugees of 1948 living within the borders of the coming Palestinian state, particularly in the more than twenty refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank?

Going back home would not be a legitimate option considering that what lies beyond the 1967 boundary line would be recognized as a sovereign Jewish state upon which they have no claims of land or ownership. A return to their homes within the Jewish state would be impossible. Their right of return would consequently be dropped.

For those refugees, would the September state offer any compensation? Would it grant them full citizenship? The result of the quest for a new state could be that their “temporary” camps turn into neighborhoods of a new state. They would also have to endure worsening poverty after the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) reduces or even cuts off the aid upon which thousands of refugee families survive.

Who will represent me? I did not vote for the PA

For almost two decades, the PA has been assuming that it represents the Palestinian people based on the Oslo accords.

The PA, however, falls short on the questions of genuine democratic representation.

The last democratic elections for the PA took place more than five years ago. The refusal by the US and Europe to respect the results of that election has led to the severe fragmentation of both Gaza and the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with two governments, neither of which is representative of the total interests and will of the Palestinian people. It is no wonder that young Palestinians, unable to practice their fundamental democratic right to vote, and all too aware of the follies of the PA, are shouting very fiercely against the PA or even calling for its dissolution.

This of course delegitimizes any further step the PA takes on behalf of the Palestinian people, for it is not the real representative of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, let alone the already disenfranchised population of Palestinians outside those territories.

The prospective consequences of the statehood bid are not promising but instead rather risky. Palestinians, of course, are not to blame for distrusting their fragmented leadership after a series of shocking revelations about how the Palestinian cause is being dealt with in negotiation rooms and how much this leadership is ready to offer or concede.

The fact that the new state is offering no reform of the Palestinian leadership tells how unpromising such a move is. One cannot but imagine the forthcoming state as offering nothing more to the Palestinians than further fragmentation. A state that offers no relief from the current situation on the ground, that is led by the same leadership, that fails to uphold the rights of the Palestinians, sounds like the very definition of insanity.

Sameeha Elwan is a 23-year-old Palestinian blogger and an English literature graduate from the Islamic University of Gaza. She will be pursuing my MA in Cultural and Post-colonial studies at Durham University in October and blogs at www.sameeha88.wordpress.com and tweets from Sameeha88.

Comments

You have raised a very tough and good question. But who can represent the Palestinians? What is left from the PLO, is basically the Fatah in the West Bank, right? But due to corrupt politicians, only a few may still may trust them. Hamas openly intends to destroy Israel which is a legitimate state after all. So Hamas can not represent the people in the UN which basically must protect legitimate states. Many refugees live in Jordan which has signed a peace treaty with Israel. So who could represent the Palestinian refugees in Jordan or in other countries? It is a tough challenge to make all peeple happy, those of Gaza and West Bank, those of the refugees and those of Israel. But all voices should be definitely represented and heard. Otherwise, I can't see how there could be a peaceful solution respected by the majority. As far as it looks like, it won't be possible to create a state of Palestine within the boundaries of 1948.

Israel is the modern-day Rhodesia and SHOULD be abolished. ANYONE who support this colonialist settler body has NO right to say a word about Palestine.
MS, go and cozy with your "legitimate" racist buddies and let Palestinians alone. you have NO voice in who should represent them, you represent ONLY the aparteid Zionists and their criminal "state"

Lidia,
Your response to MS' comment is passionate, and I can respect that. However, I do not think he was taking sides. He was weighing the points of contention when it comes to the issue, and was merely troubleshooting. I am a big supporter of Palestinian self-determination and state. However, we must also realize that the issues at hand are not as simple as most think. I wholeheartedly reject the legitimacy of Israel's settlements, as well as their actions since forming their "homeland." But there is a large Israeli population that rejects Israel's policies, a population that also risks their own safety to support and lobby for the rights of Palestinians. They see the mass injustices, the marginalization. Another angle would be that of the PA. Though Palestinians DO want their own state and government, the one in place right now is not the right one to have when taking this grand step of approaching the UN for statehood. The Oslo Accords are a perfect example of how the PLA, claiming to represent the Palestinians, gave up demands all too easily in turn for political boosters. The PA today executes similar practices. I guess what I'm ultimately saying is that, YES, Palestinians deserve their own state...but they need to get their affairs in order first. A NEW representative government, a plan for the repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and some level of cooperation with Israel. Yes it pains me to say that last part, but if Palestine becomes a state in the same manner with which Israel has acted, there will only be a continuation of unrest in the region. Someone needs to hold Israel accountable and slap them with reprecussions for their blatant violations of international law, but without a change in tactic, we'll continue down the same road.

So I'll say the same to you one more time without "passion"
1) Israel is a settler apartied colonial state. So
2) anyone who talks about it being "legitimate" is taking sides - i.e. the Zionist side.
3) Zionism means that Jews from all over the world have more rights to Palestine than Palestinians.
4) So, he was for dispossession of Palestinians. It pissed me off, I admit it.
You, on the other hand, are of the same opinion. You speak about "settlements" as if TA is not build on the place of Palestinian villages. And you are very mistaken. The absolute majority of Jews in Israel (I suppose about 99,9%) are Zionists (see what does Z means). So, they agree maximum to grant Palestinians some bantustans. Of course, Zionist rulers are not going to do even this.

So, the question is really simple - are you for full rights of Palestinians - including the Right of return, or not? I am and I know it means the end of aparteid Israel.
If you do not admit it, all your bragging about how nice are you regarding Palestinians means nothing.

As long as aparteid Israel exist, Palestinians could not be asked "to get their affairs in order first". PA is but a puppets of USA/Zionism, and only way to Palestinians to stop it is to first stop Israel from being a puppetmaster - i.e stop it from being a Zionist state.

As a matter of fact your post is very condescending - not only regarding me - I do not give a damn, but regarding Palestinians. If you cannot see it by yourself, too bad. I suppose you usually ask raped women to first get their affairs in order before "deserving" to be free of rape.

Lidia,
I find your response to be riddled with inaccuracies and highly inflammatory assumptions based on a very narrow scope of knowledge on the subject. Just because one does not take a hard line, unflinching view on Palestinian statehood does not make them a supporter of Zionism or colonial practices. You said you would write without emotion, yet your entire response is emotionally charged with little to benefit the average reader of such an article. You champion the Palestinian cause as if it is some holy position to be taken and your view is more righteous than those who wish to be more pragmatic regarding issues that are clearly more nuanced than "99.9% of Israelis are Zionist." Why would you want the PA to be in control of the future state of Palestine given its clear allegiance to Israel and the US? They will inherit the state...do we want Abbas to continue in his post if he does not have Palestinian interests at heart? Why risk entrenching the conflict further after the bid passes or fails? Third intifada or Israeli annexation of the territories? More bloodshed for principles? Yes we know the Palestinian state would be nothing more than a block of Swiss cheese perforated by Israeli settlements. My comment in no way suggested that Israel wasn't built on Palestinian land. This fact is undeniable, but you are reading into comments to see what you wish to see, which seems to be the worst. I would submit that you want to see people like me as 'pro-Israel' if we don't firmly agree with the type of neo-lachrymose pinings on the suffering of the Palestinian people which serve no purpose in the cause of the Palestinian people. Those who are firmly 'pro-Palestine' don't need to hear such charged language as yours because they already support the cause. The average person needs to hear 'pro-PEACE' statements coming from a rational and well-thought place so they may be educated. Being obnoxious does not serve any cause other than self-affirmation. Cooler heads prevail.

1) 99,9% is a fact. If you do not like to admit it, too bad, but to close one's eyes is not a good response
2) I am sorry you cannot get my position - I was never for Abbas ruling free Palestine, exactly because Palestinians, as far as I know, are not for it. Abbas "rule" on behalf of Zionist occupation is supported by USA and Zionists, by the way, while his term in office are long past due.
3) "Practical" means to see a reality. Reality is such that so-called "2state" is impossible. Even if Zionists agree to let Palestinians have bantustans, it is a way to nowhere - or, in short, to the finishing of Nakba. But Zionists are not going to do even this. They want to go on with their colonization while USA is supporting so-called "peace process".

If you agree with the facts, why do you still support the bankrupt policy? Because of your "average person"? Who is it? A Zionist Jew? Or an American who could not give a damn about some "dirty Arabs". What "pro-Peace" you are talking about? Peace without justice is impossible. It is not my "emotions", it is a hard fact.

And what education one need to support anti-colonial struggle of Palestinians? Anyone could find all one need if one wants it. If not, all your "PEACE" talk would in wain.

To tell the truth, all truth is the only way to "educate". Telling half-truth is a disservice. And I still see your ordering occupied Palestinians " to get their affairs in order first" before deserving their freedom as obscene.

Dear Sameeha,
Found your article thanks to electronic intifada. I'm a Dutch woman, interested in Gaza. Iwas wondering how you might feel and think. You gave an excellent answer. Please do not think that no-one in Europe cares about your situation. Mass-media information is - to say the least - not very accurate; it is a tough job working for a Dutch government that respects international law and human rights. It is as sad as that!
With respect and best wishes, Fennie