Washington, 1993. The Zionist project scored its second most important victory by securing what Edward Said memorably described as “Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles”, namely the first Oslo Agreement. This “capitulation” created Israel’s bantustan chief, the Palestinian Authority, while simultaneously suspending most of the Palestinian people’s rights.
The Palestinian struggle for liberation was tamed, and while the colonies began to eat at the geographical viability of a sovereign state, Israel’s masterful co-opting of Palestinian elites gave rise to a more insidious cancer – the economic neo-colonisation of Palestine. The PLO, intent on protecting their elitist position of privilege, sold the Palestinian people a dummy. And, largely, they bought it.
As the years rattled by, Israel’s ever-energetic colonisation program ploughed on with impunity provided free of charge by the senior partner of the US-Israel alliance. And year by year, the Palestinian ‘resistance’ became tamer, and more ineffectual.
Anyone who has spent time in Palestine or has Palestinian friends knows their warmth as a people; their charisma, their kindness and their charm. So if and when I am critical of Palestinians as a people, as I will be in this article, it comes from a place of respect, frustration and concern.
Let’s begin with a pinch of honesty; the Palestinian cause is very fashionable in the west, especially amongst left-leaning clicktivists. Its popularity does not square with its severity on the scale of global injustices. It doesn’t. Supporters of the Zionist regime would undoubtedly claim that this is driven by antisemitism, and in some cases it is, certainly. But in my experience, most of the time it is driven by a romanticised notion of the Palestinian struggle.
One of my constant complaints about western activists (and yes, I’m generalising) is that they all-too-often put Palestinians and their quest for liberation on a pedestal, and see them and it as being beyond criticism. This can, as I’ve seen recently, extend as far as supporting the murder of Israeli civilians from the cosy comfort of a sleepy European village, or shouting loudly for a third intifada – in short, baying for blood.
Imagine for a moment that neither Palestinians nor their struggle were beyond criticism, what criticism would you level?
In terms of what we’re seeing right now, we could criticise those Palestinians who are murdering or conspiring to murder Israeli civilians, sure. But since this violence is a symptom of the suppression of the Palestinian right to self determination, we need to look a little deeper.
From a holistic perspective, are Palestinians as a people doing a good job at resisting their oppressor? No. Unequivocally, no. In fact I think they are doing a terrible job. When people are being controlled on this scale, it is prudent to first examine the established systems of power and control, beginning with the Palestinian Authority. The PA is the single biggest limiting factor in the efficacy of the Palestinian resistance and represents the economic neo-colonisation of Palestine, here’s why:
The PA is an organisation which runs part of the occupation for Israel and it does this under the insipid term, “security cooperation”. This keeps down both the social and economic costs of the occupation for Israel – it’s much cheaper to have indigenous collaborators running the occupation than to have Israeli soldiers do it. Essentially, the PA lets Israel occupy Palestine on the cheap.
Approximately two thirds of the PA’s self generated revenue is collected by Israel, and transferred to the PA if it behaves and plays the game according to Israeli rules. This is a very easy system of control for Israel to employ and costs the Zionist regime nothing.
This system of control is bolstered further by the international donors (primarily the US and EU) who donate billions of dollars to Palestine via the PA. Again, these donations come with many strings designed to keep the Palestinians in check. There are numerous components to this, but the employment aid is key. As the President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn put it – “Peace will only be assured in that area if you can get jobs for those people.” – in other words, if they are busy working, they won’t be busy resisting their oppressors.
This international aid has been used many times to subjugate the will of the Palestinian people to the ambitions of the US-Israel alliance and their backers. For example, when the democratic will of the Palestinian people resulted in Hamas winning the 2006 legislative elections, the contempt for Palestinian self-determination was again laid bare as international donors all but turned off the taps. Why? To voice their frustration over Hamas’ refusal to accept the terms laid down by foreign powers, namely the so-called “Quartet”.
The aid was again used as a tool to keep the Palestinian political elites divided in 2011 when Fateh and Hamas were threatening to form a unity government. Naturally, the US-Israel alliance would not allow for such democratic expressions of autonomy.
Palestinians have allowed these structures to take hold in their country. Whilst most of the population have accepted them out of fear, desperation and poverty, the political and capitalist elites have done so purely to cement their own positions of power and privilege. International aid is the single biggest driving force in the Palestinian economy, and the single most effective form of non-violent control. Palestinians are suckling at the teat of occupation, and have become dependent on the very structures used to oppress them. This renders resistance useless.
This isn’t the case across the board, naturally. The embers of principled, intelligent resistance still glow brightly. There are many Individuals in Palestine and the diaspora, grass roots and intelligentsia, who recognise the poisonous nature of these systems of control in much the same way as did the late Edward Said. Alrowwad Theater, in Aida, for example – refuses to compromise on its message, teaching children to cling to their rights in the face of Israeli oppression – and in doing so, forgoes much needed funding. The embers of principled, intelligent resistance are there. They need oxygen. Instead they are smothered by uncritical support for the more popular and, it has to be said, less effective modes of resistance.
If this is the criticism levelled, what would a remedy look like? Well, there are no easy remedies. The only remedy is to disband the PA and force Israel to run its own occupation at its own (social and economic) cost and accept the hardship as the price of resisting occupation. The simple act of doing this would likely cause such instability as to force Israel to call up reservists to police the West Bank, at considerable cost to the Israeli economy.
Attacking the Israeli economy via BDS is slow and cumbersome at best, and is, in my mind, counterproductive insomuch as it feeds the siege mentality and hardens nationalistic sentiment. Causing mobilisation of reservists is unsettling, abrupt, and acutely expensive, yet this isn’t looked at as an option.
Ultimately, this is a question for Palestinians, but if history was to give us any pointers, I believe they would boil down to this:
Dissolve the systems of control.
Do not collaborate.
Engage in mass, nonviolent resistance.