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A New Generation for Palestine
by Amer Zahr
September 15th, 2015 (7 Comments)
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The generation of our fathers and mothers preserved and protected the one thing Israel has tried for 70 years to destroy. They spoke to us about Palestine. From them, we learned the names of our hometowns (and everyone else’s). We heard their stories of displacement, dispossession, and suffering. And we have honored their sacrifices by continuing to keep those stories alive, whether through art, activism, or just casual conversation. They were models of hard work, survival, and endurance. They were stubborn. They kept our narrative alive. Despite Israel’s best efforts, they didn’t forget. In fact, Palestinians are notoriously bad at forgetting. This applies as equally to my grandmother (who always remembered to tell me how she endured in 1948) as it does to my mother (who always remembers to tell me how I’m single in 2015).

In short, our parents taught us how to be Palestinian. And for that, my generation can never be grateful enough.

But when it comes to helping us realize any national aspirations, any semblance of self-determination, and any tangible results to better the lives of our people, their efforts have been fruitless. In this respect, there can be no doubt that they have failed.

Sure, we can continue to say that Israel is too strong, that it distorts the narrative, that it flouts international law, and so on. And all of that may be true. But our failure comes not from the strength, deceit, and aggression of our adversary. It comes directly from the political and strategic choices our current generation of "leadership" has made. The delay in our justice is their doing. They muddled the discourse and strayed from our true objectives.

Let me say that I do not necessarily question the motives and intentions of our forbears. But their failure is stark. It is time for fresh thought, clean voices, and innovative strategies. We need a new generation for Palestine, a generation that liberates itself from the botched strategies of our ancestors, moving ahead with novel approaches that are more likely to get us real results.

Now, I know I'm just a comedian, and I'm sorry for the shortage of jokes in this post, but just about every Palestinian is a political animal. We can't help it.  Also, since I’ve complained, let me put forward what some of our new strategies should be.

First, we need to fully abandon the Oslo process and announce to the world that it was a huge mistake. It has to be a public, loud divorce. We need to kick her out of the house and let everyone know that we are back on the market.  Oslo has done nothing for Palestinian life on the ground other than prolong the occupation, expand settlement building, and create a few underhanded millionaires.

Second, we must strip the Palestinian Authority of any authorization to speak on our behalf. The corruption and perversion of the PA, the PLO, and the PNC, make it impossible to use these institutions for good any longer. Israel has morphed these bodies into collaborators. It has, in essence, turned them into pro-Zionist parties. I will give my “leaders” the benefit of the doubt and imagine that they thought “playing the game” might pan out. And maybe they thought that after building their villas in the hills of Ramallah, they might be able to get back to the important business of liberating us. If they did actually assume as much, they were wrong. Maybe they should have seen it coming, or maybe they shouldn’t have. At this point, it doesn’t matter. The PA has become the subcontractor of the occupation, shielding Israel from criticism, and deflecting the discourse. It is no longer worthy of any respect, confidence, or deference.

Third, we must abandon our drive for an independent Palestinian state and transform our discourse into one that universally demands one democratic state in all of Palestine. Asking for a state on 22% of our homeland not only falls short of any modicum of justice, it also fragments Palestinians into four groups: those who live in Israel, those who live in Jerusalem, those who live in the West Bank, and those who live in Gaza. Finally, the call for a “Palestinian state” legitimizes the Zionist ideal of a “Jewish state.” A one-state platform would unite Palestinians, giving all of us full democratic rights in every corner of our homeland, and it would tell the world that we reject notions of ethnic, cultural, and religious supremacy, whether it be our own or someone else’s.

Fourth, we must change our discourse from one of statehood to one of universal civil and human rights. Borders, interim agreements, and negotiations are way too much for most bystanders to understand. Palestinians around the world, who find themselves as ambassadors (willingly or not), have a very hard time trying to explain all of this. Simply explaining that we demand Israel grant us our civil, political and human rights is a much easier story to tell.

Fifth, we must utilize all legal avenues at our disposal. This means suing Israel every day in any court that will allow it. Every Palestinian walking the earth has some sort of legal grievance with the Jewish state, and it is time we start airing them. The PLO has failed terribly in this regard, threatening legal action every now and then, only pulling back when Israel or the United States threaten to withhold funds or access. Whether in the International Criminal Court or FIFA, our “leaders” have done little but embarrass us in legal forums around the world.

That is my current (but definitely incomplete) list of how I think we need to change our Palestinian movement in order to move forward. Having a palatable political objective is paramount. Equal rights for all Palestinians in all of Palestine must be our mantra moving forward. Of course, this starts with convincing the world that Israel cannot continue to be legitimized as long as it preaches Jewish supremacy. But as long as we are mired in meaningless negotiations, futile stately aspirations, and corrupt leadership, we will remain spinning our wheels.

So, to our predecessors, please step aside. The new generation is here. And we can handle the work.

 

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (7)
  1. Go for it Palestinians. Netanyahu is the latest of a long line of Israeli leaders who have ensured that there can never be a separate State for Palestinians. Most of them have established “facts on the ground.” Netanyahu has come right said it. So there is and will be one State in Palestine and it needs to give equal citizenship to all of the people it rules.

    • Halina Minadeo ... September 15th, 2015 - 21:55

      Yes, Rais, that is the sad truth. 22% is nothing, the divided areas are hermetic ghettoes. I have a presentiment though that leaders like Mr Binyamin Mileikowsky will stall and drag their feet indefinitely.

  2. Halina Minadeo ... September 15th, 2015 - 21:57

    Very sad, very realistic. I do have a question. If there is one contiguous state, what would it be called? Palesrael? Israpal? Palisrastan? What a predicament!

  3. Powerful Amer, very powerful. All too often the Palestinians are their own worst enemy. You briefly touched upon that fact that far too many of the so called leadership have been coopted into the Israeli intelligence gathering mechanism. Whether it be for money, status or exclusive freedoms they have allowed the deadly tentacles of the Mossad to infiltrate Palestinian society at every level. These people must be called out! There is an organization of freedom fighter in Lebanon that has set an example of impenetrability that has Israel dumbfounded. Palestinians would do well to follow that example.

  4. So Palestinians are going to live in equality and peace alongside infidels, something that has never happened in all 21 of the other Arab states? Pull the other one. You Arabs love apartheid as long as you’re the ones on top. No one is fooled by this.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with you and for many years have been promoting a one state solution, open for Moslems, christians and Jews.
    I am of the old generation you speak about having celebrated my 80th birthday this August.
    Having been born in Palestine, I learned firsthand my dispossession from my homeland and my rights as a Palestinian! I did not learn it from my ancestors and I taught it to future generations. I worked tirelessly within the American community to promote awareness and higher consciousness about the plight of Palestinians.
    Besides your outline of what needs to be done, I believe we need to continue to gain support from Americans and those Jews with conscience and press our public officials to break the bonds of addiction to supporting Israel.
    Thank you for your foresight, honesty and courage to state the obvious!
    We need more of the younger generations like you to step forward and carry the banner.
    You might want to share with your readers the link to my story telling about my involvement with the FBI and my promotion of Palestine.
    http://www.yusif.org

  6. Suzy Touma Christenson ... September 20th, 2015 - 02:14

    Alas no one listens to common sense when it
    comes to Palestine. As a Palestinian of similar
    background, I fully endorse your four points and more!

    I believe we should abolish any mention of
    Religion in our Constitution and instead declare
    our commitment to the UDHR. I’m a devout Christian but I believe religion must remain
    in the private domain, an intimate relationship
    between God and man.

    We must break away from the darkness surrounding Palestine in the rest of the Arab world and inside Palestine by the PA & Hamas.


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