Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
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