The Palestinian crisis: what to do?

I was pleasantly surprised to read Hani Al Masri’s November 13, 2001 article in Al Ayyam newspaper, in response to my article on November 11, 2001 about the concept of a national unity authority and the importance of working to confront the dangerous challenges encircling us [Ed.’s note: see last week’s “Arabic Press”].

Mr. Al Masri is a well-known political analyst and he has been diligent in his efforts to probe political issues pertaining to our rights and struggle. His contribution filled my heart with hope that it is possible to get out of this state of silence and indifference and confront with care, earnestness, and effectiveness the burdens of a bitter reality.

Mr. Al Masri chose to classify my position as part of what he calls the “third current,” which stands in the breach between the Palestinian Authority and the opposition, in particular the Islamic opposition. I would like to emphasize that my position has been one of independence ever since I took interest in our national cause. I have never joined any body or bloc; my opposition to Oslo [1993 Israeli-Palestinian agreements] was not a position of partisanship, but one of principle and objectivity – one probably justified by events.

My worry has always been my need to see a serious democratic transformation in Palestinian society, and that this is the most important thing we can do. I fear that without an effective democratic transformation, we cannot confront the current challenges. We still depend on external factors as we confront those challenges. Democracy basically means the rule of law, respect for human rights and conscience, and the effective handling of public funds. All this requires order and discipline, which are necessary for any achievement.

We have put forth several calls and appeals on the need to rearrange the Palestinian home. This is what Mr. Al Masri mentions in his article when he says that the process of building democracy has not gotten off the ground due to declining financial support and because of the state of chaos and indifference that prevails in Palestinian society.

In the same way, I participated in the general elections of January 1996 despite my opposition to the Oslo accords because I hoped that these elections would lead to the aspired-for democratic transformation. I deeply regret that this hope was not realized when the Palestinian Legislative Council did not assume its national responsibilities with firmness.

Matters then continued in a way that did not reflect our interests. The negotiations for implementing the Oslo accords provided a good cover for Israeli violations on the ground in the shape of its notorious strategy of settlement and creation of facts, which is the basic strategy of the Zionist movement. Our remaining at the negotiating table gave the international community an excuse for ignoring its responsibility to confront Israel’s blatant aggression against the Palestinian people and violations of international conventions.

The fact that the Palestinian Authority did not address the spontaneity of the Intifada and did not highlight the Intifada’s positive features and did not organize it to handle the Palestinian citizen’s economic troubles, [and now the possibility] of gaining nothing at the end of all this, means that the situation is ominous to the point that all this blood and sacrifice could prove for naught.

The logic of calling for a joint national unity leadership including all political factions and with the task of adopting decisions for coping with the Intifada reality is required to maintain national unity. Events have proven that this national unity leadership is important. That duty has nothing to do with the Oslo accords.

I do not agree with Mr. Al Masri that the Palestinian Authority derives some of its legitimacy from the Oslo agreements. The legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority is based on our right to self-determination. In any case, I see no reason why this issue might constitute an obstacle to establishing a national unity leadership.

I do have to admit that I am not sure if all factions on the ground concur with my insistence on a national unity leadership. Therefore, I would not disagree with Mr. Al Masri that the best alternative means is to reform the current authority. Still, I have to stress that we have called for this reform and no one listened or paid attention. Maybe Mr. Al Masri will take the responsibility of initiating and demanding once again to achieve this goal. The events of September 11 and what happened after that date may assist us in this path.

Translated by Khader Khader from Al Quds on November 18, 2001.