The repression of Palestinian demonstrators protesting Israeli deputy PM Shaul Mofaz’s planned visit to the PA's headquarters in Ramallah should not have taken place at all, especially after the Arab Spring and its spirit that has spread across the region, maintains a leading Palestinian commentator. In fact, the PA’s entire path since 2009 has led to a dead-end. It is time for the Palestinian leadership to change course.
OVERHEARD DIALOGUE: “First Man: ‘These are the Facebook youth who frequent the Beit Anissa Restaurant. What do they want now after Mofaz's visit has been canceled? Why do they wish to head to the president's office?’”, writes Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian website www.badael.ps
Second Man: ‘Don't be so harsh. They are among the finest Palestinian youths who are struggling against the occupation, the settlements, the Separation Wall, and normalization. They are fighting for an end to the inter-Palestinian [Fateh-Hamas] split and for national unity. They were at the forefront in the solidarity campaigns for freeing the prisoners [on hunger strike] and backed their demands. Why should they not head to the Muqata'a to deliver their message to the president? Isn't he the president of the people? Is it not his duty to listen to the demands of every section of the people? Moreover, the visit by the criminal Mofaz was not canceled, but merely postponed.’
I heard this exchange last Saturday evening, that witnessed a demonstration that took off from the [central Ramallah] Manara area and tried hard to reach the president's office, but failed. And in fact, I noted some of the best students with advanced degrees, employees, lawyers, journalists, writers, and social and political activists amongst the demonstrators' ranks. I did not see the leader of any political faction, nor did I detect any significant presence for members of the Palestinian political factions, even those that strongly opposed Mofaz's visit.
The popular and political anger succeeded in postponing Mofaz's visit that was scheduled to take place at the Muqata'a headquarters in Ramallah on Sunday. The popular movement was a partial success and it may yet succeed fully if it is pursued with determination, without being rushed or disregarding the issue of timing, and if it is free of violence and mutual exchanges of treason and apostasy. This is because after the Arab revolutions that began in Tunisia and Egypt, the spirit of Tahrir Square hovers over Arab skies, and no one can turn history backward.
According to Mofaz's circles, it was Israeli PM Netanyahu who foiled the visit. This is true, without disregarding the importance of the Palestinian popular and political action aimed at canceling it. This is because Mofaz's anticipated arrival with nothing in his hands encouraged Abu Mazin to take the decision to postpone the visit.
What is now required is for the visit to be cancelled altogether as a prelude to abandoning the confused path taken by the leadership, at least since the beginning of 2009. That is the path announced that the negotiations would be suspended until certain demands were satisfied, but that then caved in to the slightest pressures to hold direct, indirect, exploratory or other sorts of talks or meetings via the exchange of letters.
And this is to say nothing of the meetings between President 'Abbas and [Israeli President] Shimon Peres, and [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [former Kadima Party leader] Tzipi Livni based on the claim that these were not really negotiations, but dialogues or discussions that only lower the national ceiling and focus on the crumbs and how to improve living conditions under occupation, but that lacked any political horizon that would end that occupation.
But if these are not negotiations, why are they being held? After all, they damage the credibility of the Palestinian position and make it seem as if it does not really believe in what it says. The fact is that the Palestinian leadership's position is very bad. It is unclear whether it is negotiating or not. Despite what it says and does regarding different options and alternatives, it seems to be waiting for one thing alone – the success of the efforts aimed at resuming the negotiations on the basis of the principle that 'life is negotiations.'
The same goes for the [Fateh/Hamas] reconciliation. The Palestinian leadership wants it and does not want it at the same time. It makes it conditional on foreign preconditions, will and financing. It also talks of popular resistance, but neither engages in it nor provides the bases for it. It also speaks of heading to the UN at the appropriate time, even though that time has long passed according to the timetable it has previously announced itself, because it fears having to pay the price for this option. It takes one step forwards, only to take two steps back.
The solution consists of canceling the meeting with Mofaz and not holding any such meetings, especially in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. After all, the inability to wage war now does not mean that the Palestinians should surrender. (Holding negotiations in the shadow of the current imbalance of power, after the past experience and in view of Israel’s intransigence and the feverish implementation of its schemes would be tantamount to surrender.)
In fact, preparing for war is the shortest way to achieving peace. The alternative to a war for which we are not ready and for a peace that is really surrender – as some are advocating – is to prepare for both war and negotiations, when these become necessary, from a position of strength instead of weakness where the Palestinians come across as begging for peace.
We can skirmish and maneuver, put the Palestinian house in order, and improve the requirements for our steadfastness and our presence on our homeland's soil until the time comes for war.
The solution also does not lie in claiming to allow freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate when we have seen how the demonstrators were repressed and prevented from reaching the Muqata’a by civilians carrying guns. These infiltrated the demonstrators, beat them up, detained them, and picked fights with them in an attempt to portray the matter as one of disagreements between the demonstrators.
The whole thing came across as a reenactment of the images of the [state-hired thugs] baltagiyyah in Egypt and the shabbeeha in Syria. It is the demonstrators who were being denied their rights and liberties and subject to attack. Their action is in the national interest and not in the service of foreign agendas. They do not seek to spread chaos, as claimed by the spokesman for the security agencies.
Palestine is different from the other Arab countries in being under occupation. The occupation targets everyone, and therefore all Palestinians should unite to confront it. The investigation [into the mistreatment of demonstrators] announced by the interior minister is a good move.
“But it should focus on who issued the order to the members of the security forces to attack the demonstrations and detain them," concludes Masri.