In a newly published Op-ed on the Guardian, journalist and writer Ben White seems to have gone into the mind of every young Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and, to the letter, recorded their thoughts and feelings about their clumsy political leadership— someone instantly told me “clumsy” is too polite a word to describe our leadership which is good for the context. Indeed, here is precisely what most of us have to say about Hamas and Fatah in our meetings whenever this subject is brought up.
White lists three fundamental problems with Palestinian political leadership which therefore make it rather a huge obstacle on the road toward liberation and the fulfillment of Palestinian rights.
- The first flaw with this leadership is what he calls a “legitimacy deficit”. That is to say, both the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza don’t have the political mandate that makes either of them an acceptable legal or political representative of the Palestinians. Their mandate is either extremely deficient or has already expired. White writes,
The first is a legitimacy deficit. Both the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas have, with the most generous interpretation, a minority mandate from the Palestinian people. The last elections of any sort took place in 2005-2006, and overdue local elections have been indefinitely postponed. And even if presidential or parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza were to take place tomorrow, they would still exclude Palestinian refugees.
What I’m saying isn’t that the acts our political leadership in Gaza or the West Bank must reflect the views of all or the majority of the population they both claim to represent, but rather the majority of the population, mostly the young people, feel they are underrepresented, in fact totally ignored, by their governments’ policies both domestically and internationally.
- The second deficit with the Palestinian political leadership, White notes, is “the lack of creativity and strategic thinking when it comes to tactics” which is completely understandable in light of the growing dissatisfaction of the people with the endless series of their political and diplomatic debacles.
[…] but the main point is a marked inability to adapt to circumstances with regard to the kind of smart resistance most appropriate for confronting Israeli colonisation. This is more than simply an issue of “violent” versus “nonviolent”
This is specifically why Palestinians feel outraged by their leadership. In Gaza, for instance, a large number of Palestinians don’t see rocket fire as the most appropriate means to resist the Israeli occupation, siege and crimes against the Palestinians, although they fundamentally refuse to see it as the main cause for their hardship. The same holds true in the West Bank as the PA continues to curb various nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations simply because they aren’t organized by themselves or don’t serve their political agenda. Moreover, several grassroots movements and global civil society groups see the overall political programmes of both leaderships as dysfunctional; therefore, they have started to seek more creative and influencial methods to resist Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, which the author refers to at the end of his article.
- This leads to the third and most disturbing fact that Palestinian leadership is holding on to power regardless of the consequences or the context they are caught up in. White explains:
This criticism applies to both Fatah and Hamas, though the former has been guilty of it for a longer period of time and with more devastating consequences. Over the past five years or so, the conflict between these two factions has frequently resembled a fight for who can occupy the Bantustan palace, rather than who can serve most effectively the unfinished Palestinian revolution.
The growing expressions of dissatisfaction, particularly from young Palestinians, have contributed to a hardening grip on power by two regimes that fear they stand to lose from an overhauled democratic system.
Placing the whole lot of deficits within its broader context, which is that of the Oslo accords, White explains how much harm they have caused to the Palestinians “shift]ing[ the discourse over Palestine – both domestically and internationally – from a discourse of rights (right of return, liberation, decolonisation and self-determination) to one of statehood and independence.”
The writer wraps up his article by enlisting a few examples of Palestinian civil society groups (like BDS movement, Stop the Wall…etc.) which could challenge the Palestinian leadership and constitute a new and more functional approach to resisting the Israeli occupation.
This op-ed again sets forth what every Palestinian who is affiliated with neither Hamas nor Fatah (in other words, the vast majority of Palestinians) feels toward their leadership. I strongly recommend you read it on its entirety.