Along with several other bloggers and activists in the Gaza Strip, I was recently invited to take part in a short video about young Palestinians’ reaction to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid to have the United Nations admit a Palestinian “state” as a full member of the international body this September.
As each participant was being assigned a role in the video, an argument erupted among the four of us over who should speak in favor of the Palestinian Authority’s move. We discovered, to the producer’s amazement, we were all flatly against it.
This might have just been a coincidence. Only a few days earlier, however, I was awoken up by my new wild ringtone. As I answered my phone, I was asked by a journalist from Germany’s Deutsche Welle television to give an interview on the same issue. As I arrived at the arranged meeting place, another blogger was already giving her answers to the interviewer. She was unequivocally critical of the PA’s “disastrous history” and its “unending series of flops.” She argued that UN recognition of a Palestinian state would be just one more chapter in that sad history.
Of course it is hard to generalize from two incidents but they do offer some insight that a large segment of Palestinians believe they have been entirely and overtly marginalized by the PA’s unconcealed monopoly of Palestinian political decision-making.
Still, this does not mean that the PA’s move does not have any support in Gaza — there are Palestinians who support the PA and they are numerous.
Critics of the PA’s UN bid would say that none of these supporters is truly able to appreciate that their unrealized dreams of living in a long-awaited free and independent Palestinian state are not being advanced by the PA’s little-debated UN move. Some Palestinians may be convinced by the rhetoric of PA officials and believe that potential UN admission is a highly symbolic move and a step forward on the road toward independence. But some younger observers in Gaza are much more skeptical.
Fed up with ignored UN votes
Fidaa Abu Assi, a 22-year-old blogger and English literature graduate in Gaza, believes there is nothing symbolic in going to the UN and securing recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. She is “fed up” with the unimplemented UN resolutions and symbolic moves taken by the PA on her behalf.
“Some Palestinians would rejoice at the thought of finally having a recognized Palestinian state,” she argues in a blog post. “In essence, however, the whole initiative seems pointless, or rather, insidiously dangerous.” Bewildered, she asks, “How could they [the UN] recognize a state that doesn’t even exist? And, wait, hadn’t the PLO already proclaimed a Palestinian state in 1988 on the basis of UN General Assembly Resolution 181?” (“‘No’ to UN Recognition, ‘Yes’ to US Veto,” 22 July 2011).
Abu Assi’s view reflects the sentiments of a generation that does not seek more UN resolutions and international declarations. Not even a declaration of a state. A state itself is rather what we desire. A state that we can touch, see and live in. We long for the reunification of the more than 11 million Palestinians living in the world. We want to see facts on the ground and tangible results. We crave for the land which has been relentlessly ripped apart in flagrant violation of dozens of resolutions already passed — and then promptly ignored — by the very same UN to which the PA now turns.
“We would forget, wouldn’t we?”
In an open letter to a refugee living in the Palestinian diaspora, Sameeha Elwan, a 23-year-old blogger and English teaching assistant at the Islamic University of Gaza, pours out her scorn on the PA, and any declaration of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders that excludes the right of Palestinian refugees to return (“To My Dear Stateless Palestinian,” 6 August 2011).
“My mother would no longer be a refugee,” Elwan writes. “She would have to give up every dream of going back to Aqer [a large Palestinian village nine kilometers to the south east of Ramla in present-day Israel]. My grandmother would stop telling us of her tales of the lost village near Gaza from which they fled in 1948. She would forget this history. It is no longer hers. She would have to stop telling the story every now and then. She’d eventually die; we would eventually forget, wouldn’t we?”
Some bloggers have displayed a deep understanding of the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and of its implications for the future of the Palestinians not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also those living inside Israel.
One state: the only real solution
Rana Baker, a 19-year-old blogger and student of business administration also at the Islamic University of Gaza, argues that to be able to comprehend the risk of the UN declaration of a Palestinian state, this issue should be placed in its rightful context: the debate over a two-state solution. “In fact, the Palestinian street is divided into two: those who are for one state and those for the UN September recognition of two states,” Baker writes, adding “I’m for one state” (“I Turn On the Fan and Sit to Write,” 8 August 2011).
Baker too warns that the PA “statehood” bid may be most threatening to Palestinians in the diaspora. “What about more than 5 million Palestinian refugees who dream to return to their lands?” she asks, “The Palestinian Authority does not have the right to take decisions on their behalf. If they were given the right to vote, they would have voted against this bid. This is definite.”
Behind these criticisms lie doubts that many Palestinians have about the upcoming move to declare a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. Some tend to question the functionality of a state in the besieged Gaza Strip and the heavily colonized West Bank, a state totally dependent on foreign aid.
Others reasonably cast doubt on the credibility of the UN to secure the viability of this state, if recognized, and safeguard it against Israel’s expansionist policy. Some call it a blatant concession that terminates the right of return of Palestinian refugees all over the world. And some view it as yet one more act of treason by the PA — a move that would involve turning our backs on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in dire conditions and facing constant discrimination inside the apartheid State of Israel.
As varied as the reasons might be to oppose the PA bid, they all stem from a firm belief that universal rights, real liberation and return, not “statehood” at any price, must be at the heart of our demands and struggle. Any solution must fully restore the rights of all segments of the Palestinian people — those living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, those inside Israel, and the refugees waiting to return.
And its also clear that increasingly, many young Palestinians believe that these rights can only be achieved in a one-state solution that puts an end to Israeli apartheid and guarantees equality and justice for all.
Mohammed Rabah Suliman is a 21 year old Palestinian student and blogger from Gaza. Mohammed is an English literature graduate and will undertake graduate studies at the London School of Economics this September. He blogs at Gaza Diaries of Peace and War, and can be followed on Twitter @imPalestine.