By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
As the Israelis and their allies celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli state, while boasting of the US Embassy transfer to Jerusalem; hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured into the Gaza Strip (GS) border with the 1948 occupied territories—not deterred by the bitter Nakbah anniversary—to participate in the marches of return.
Although tens were killed and thousands were wounded, still these people wanted to emphasize that the nation is still alive, determined to continue all forms of resistance, and to prove to the Zionist project that “the game” is not over.
Seventy years have passed since the Nakbah, where the Palestine issue was marred by failures and crowned with successes, having its ups and downs, but the struggle did not stop, and the case was not closed.
This article attempts to provide a brief and intensive account of the biggest failures and successes in the history of the Palestine issue. We will begin with failures, as we continue to live the zenith of the Israeli power, and where the state of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians is at its nadir.
Key Failures and Negative Indicators
First: The 1948 war catastrophe; when the Arabs and Palestinians failed in their struggle with the Zionist movement. In 1947, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 calling for the partition of Mandatory Palestine, granting the Jews 55% of the land (although the ownership of Jews, most of which was acquired under British occupation, was about 6%).
The war has led the Zionists to control 77% of Palestine (20,770 km2), 57% of the Palestinian people were displaced (around 800 thousand out of 1.4 million); and the Zionists succeeded in entrenching the entity they created “Israel.”
Second: The 1967 war catastrophe, when the Arab regimes failed to defend what’s left of Palestine. The Israelis occupied the West Bank (WB) and GS, in addition to the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. 330 thousand Palestinian were displaced, some of whom were able to return.
Third: The Arab and Islamic failure to face the Zionist project, the decline of Arab and Islamic aspect of the Palestinian issue; and its transformation over time into a Palestinians’ only issue. Moreover, the Arab states of the strategic environment surrounding occupied Palestine have prevented cross-border resistance, and they also prevented their own people from actively participating in the liberation of Palestine.
Fourth: The growth of the Zionist project, which became deeply rooted and increasingly strong, forging strong international Zionist lobbies, while enjoying an international cover to support its survival, especially from major powers, and mainly from the US. Israel acts as a state above the law, becoming the police of the region, succeeding in building a modern army that is based on a system of effective military industries, and on unconventional weapons involving more than 200 nuclear bombs.
From 1948 and until the end of 2017, Israel has succeeded in bringing 3.23 million Jews, where now 46% of the Jews in the world live in Israel (around 6.56 million). The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita rose to about $40 thousand a year, mirroring Western European countries.
Fifth: The weakness and failure of the Palestinian political system, especially in the past 25 years. The weakening of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whose institutions became weak and helpless, and the organization itself became almost like a “department” in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The PLO has failed to include “all” Palestinian movements and factions, especially resistance forces, within its members, for a broad section of these—not less the half the Palestinian population—is not represented in the organization. The PLO has failed considerably in dealing with Palestinians abroad, and in making their role more effective, despite the fact that these represent around half the Palestinian population.
In addition, Palestinians live schism and a conflict between pro-peace process and pro-resistance movements. The Palestinian political system suffers the dilemma of vision, leadership, institutional structure, and that of defining priorities, tracks and programs.
Sixth: The Palestinian leadership, which for a quarter of century betted on the 1993 Oslo Accords, failed to establish the two-state solution. It was unable to transform its self-rule authority into an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty over the land occupied in 1967.
At the same time, Israel “managed” the peace process, and has used it as a cover for Judaizing the land and holy sites, and multiplying the numbers of Jews from 280 thousand in 1993 to more than 800 thousand settler in early 2018.
It has used the PA as an authority that serves the purposes of the occupation, and succeeded in reshaping the Israeli occupation into a “clean” or “five-star” colonization!!
Seventh: Israel has normalized its relations with some Arab countries, and forged peace agreements with them. Other Arab and Muslim countries made quasi-official political communications with Israel, and others have normalized their relations and made economic exchange—both over and under the counter.
In addition, the weak Arab countries consider Israel a potential ally in their regional conflicts, and that having relations with it would appease the “American Master.”
Eighth: Despite the UN resolution confirming the right of return of Palestinian refugees, which was repeated more than 130 times, they were not returned to their land and homes.
Ninth: And this is, may be, the most important one: No project for unification and revival succeeded in the geo-strategic vicinity of Palestine. A one that would face the challenges of the Zionist Project, and unleashes the potentials of Arab and Muslim creative people to advance in various fields. A plan that transcends national mindsets and sectarian and ethnic ideologies, and imposes itself on the international community.
After all these failures, are there any successes or indicators that give hope in this environment of targeting and vulnerability ?!
Key Successes and Positive Indicators
First: The success in keeping the Palestine issue alive for the past 100 years, the central issue in the Arab and Muslim world, and international central issue… Every time attempts to marginalize and disregard it are made… it would impose itself once again, where it would reveal each time the ugly Israeli face of “oppressing” the Palestinians people, and the hypocrisy of the international community and its great powers.
Second: The Palestinian people are holding their ground at home. Despite the fact that half the Palestinians live in exile and diaspora, 6.5 million Palestinian live in historic Palestine. In early 2018, they exceeded the number of Jews in Palestine, i.e., after more than 120 years since the Zionist project inception, and after 70 years since the establishment of Israel. Palestinians steadfastness in their land is still considered by the Zionist project an existential threat to Israel, despite all forms of occupation, oppression and suffering.
Third: Israel has failed to become a normal state in the region, where it is still considered a strange entity. All sorts of popular normalization have also failed, and normalization is limited to the official level of some Arab regimes. Israel’s survival depends on the support of oppressive regimes and international cover… a situation that cannot be guaranteed in the long term.
Fourth: The Palestine issue is deeply entrenched in the Arab, Islamic, and humanitarian conscience, for it is a right and just cause. All international and Israeli attempts (and the attempts of their allies in the region) to isolate and distort it have failed.
Fifth: Palestinian resistance has continued and developed throughout the past hundred years. A non-stop struggle: The uprisings of Mawsim al-Nabi Musa 1920, Jaffa 1921, and al-Buraq 1929, the Intifadah of 1933, Sheikh Ezzedeen Al-Qassam declaring Jihad 1935, the Palestinian Revolt 1936–1939, and the 1948 Palestine War. Then in 1965, Fatah formed its military wing, al-‘Asifah (The Storm), and in late 1960s and early 1970s there was the armed Palestinian struggle.
Then came the Intifadah 1987–1993, al-Aqsa Intifadah 2000–2005, the GS wars 2008–2009, 2012 and 2014…, the Jerusalem Intifadah 2015–2017, and now the marches of return 2018. It is a non-stop struggle. It is a steadfastness that made the occupation withdraw from GS in 2005.
Despite the GS siege and the PA security coordination with Israel, resistance has grown and developed its qualitative potentials. It will most probably have, in the medium term, potentials and capabilities that would worry Israel and add new dynamics to the conflict.
Israel was forced by the resistance to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000, and failed in its war against Lebanon in 2006. The resistance imposed an equation on Israel making it no longer able and unwilling to expand in Lebanon.
In general, the geo-strategic vicinity of Palestine holds great future challenges to Israel.
Sixth: Despite the current “miserable” situation of the Palestinian political system, the Palestinian people have maintained their national identity for the last 100 years. They formed institutions that represent them and express their aspirations, starting with the Palestine Arab Congress 1919–1934, then the Arab Higher Committee 1936–1946, the Arab Higher Executive 1946–1964, and the PLO since 1964.
The Palestinians organized their structures, institutions, factions and trade unions with a unifying spirit, transcending the geographical boundaries imposed on them. Most of these had extensions at home and abroad, and all Palestinians were united under the banner of Jerusalem, Palestine, the cause, common concerns and aspirations.
Seventh: Palestinians abroad succeeded in preserving their Palestinian identity for the past 70 years, despite their being in the diaspora and despite the fact that the majority now consists of the third and fourth generation of Nakbah. 75% of Palestinians abroad still live in the vicinity of Palestine (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon).
All Palestinians remain committed to their right of return to their homes, villages and towns from which they were expelled. The Palestinians abroad also play a major role in leading the Palestinian national action and in establishing most of its active factions. They led the PLO for 30 years, 1964–1994, and during the pre-1987 Intifadah period, major armed resistance was outside Palestine.
Now, Palestinians abroad are actively complementing the work of their brethren inside Palestine, through political, media, charity, cultural, and other activities. This is featured in the expanding events of the institutions of return and refugee rights, and the launching of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad.
Eighth: Jerusalem and Palestine are still the cause that unites Arabs and Muslims, no matter what differences they have. Demonstrations supporting Palestine continue to be held from Tangier to Jakarta. The nation’s compass is still pointing to Palestine despite attempts to derail it.
Many politicians still deal with the Palestine issue (or use it) as a means to raise their popularity. The equation: “Palestine and Jerusalem raise those who raise them and lower and expose those who fail them,” still holds.
The current scene of the Palestine issue in the midst of a miserable Palestinian, Arab, Islamic and international conditions, may seem painful and frustrating. However, we must read this scene within the frame of the march of history, the law of tadafu‘ (mutual checking), and within the structuring-restructuring dynamics taking place in the geo-strategic vicinity of Palestine. It must be also read while taking into consideration the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the resistance, the hidden potentials of the nation, and the Zionist project crisis.
All this indicates that even if the nation now is in the trough of the wave, that does not negate the fact that there are available elements ready to kick-start a new wave bigger and more effective than the previous ones.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 31/5/2018