The abysmal failure of the Palestinian leadership from both the PLO and Hamas has made Palestinian rights advocates speechless. They are not able to find a clean front to stand behind to support suffering Palestinians wherever they may be; occupied in the West Bank, under siege in Gaza, or in refugee camps in Arab countries. One Palestinian faction is shallow, weak, and corrupt; the other is cloaked in jihadist terms which can frighten the most devoted human rights advocate. Instead, these advocates have retreated to a safe place where they can focus on a segment of the population that no rational person can disagree with: Palestinian Children. Good move! But the situation is not as hopeless as it looks for the adults. There is still a chance for redemption if Mahmoud Abbas and his cohorts decide to allow some honesty in their midst. A tall order of course, but let me explain:
There is a fatal problem in Palestinian politics undermining the survival of the Palestinian struggle. Simply, it is the lack of honest self-examination and the dogmatic inability to question archaic positions even after numerous failures. Sometimes, the mere suggestion of a change can land an honest voice in the traitor box. This cult-like mentality in Palestinian politics is dangerous and is pushing the Palestinian political movement to the fringe. However, criticizing without offering an solutions, no matter how feeble, is still better than criticizing alone. So here are mine:
1. Change of the Guards: I want to present my “Thank you card” to the old guards in Palestinian politics and tell them we do appreciate their history of struggle. I also want to insist that they retire and completely step aside from the arena very soon. This includes everyone in the current PA government who is above 50 years old. We need younger, more educated, more open generation to step in immediately. We cannot open the door for this younger leadership unless the current one gives a bright green light for it. “Good Luck with that” you say? Well, if we give up on this push for management shakeup, then we have doomed our struggle to certain collapse. Change of the guards is an imperative for the re-birth of the Palestinian issue as a nagging unanswered legitimate world-class problem.
2. Far more inclusive process: I am not talking about including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the decision-making process, I am talking about including Palestinians in diaspora all over the globe, and giving them a voice and a stake in deciding the political course. Palestinians or the children of Palestinians who were born in Gaza, the West Bank, and even in Palestine prior to 1948 need to be given a way to participate. How? Here is a funny idea: Offer Palestinians living abroad a Voter ID Card. Not just to allow them to have an absentee vote in a Palestinian election, but also to give them an authentic identity certificate as part of the Palestinian international community. It is a material and psychological stand for many Palestinians who feel a sense of belonging to the struggle, but cannot participate in it. But “What Elections? We are under occupation!” Of course we are, and it is precisely why we need an election that includes as many of the 11 million of us (worldwide) as possible. This way, the much wider base of electorate can balance the narrower view of the captive voices under occupation. Their input can reflect what is possible as well as what is needed, what is doable from angles not viewable to captive eyes. An election like this will unearth talents and ideas that are impossible to discover in a muted population.
I would offer more suggestions but these two are essential to start a major overhaul of our struggle for recognition as one people with a respectable presence on the world stage. Sadly, since the Oslo accord which should have created more peaceful ways for Palestinians to engage in the struggle, has resulted in more closed and self-serving leadership that more and more Palestinians are disillusioned with. The current leadership has become a heavy burden for many advocates on the side of Palestine or just on the side of Palestinian human rights.