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Why the Palestinian diaspora must become politically engaged
By Alan Hart
The following is the text of an address I delivered yesterday to a conference in London organized by the Palestine Return Centre on the subject of Britain’s Legacy in Palestine, which included a session on how to reverse the catastrophic consequences of the legacy. I was aware that what I was going to say would be uncomfortable listening for some in the audience, but almost all thanked for saying what has to be said.
I wasn’t here for the morning session so I’d like to start with my own very brief comment on the Balfour Declaration.
Without it I think there would have been no Israel. What I mean is that without the spurious legitimacy the declaration gave Zionism to get organized, it would not have been well enough established on the ground in Palestine to take advantage of the Nazi holocaust and use it to justify everything it would do, including establishing a state by terrorism and ethnic cleansing.
So I think it can be said without fear of contradiction that Britain was the godfather of the monster Zionism is. But there’s more to Britain’s Palestine legacy than that. The “Palestine problem” created by Britain is the cancer at the heart of international affairs which could consume us all if it is not cured,
As some of you know, for telling the truth about the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, I have the honour of being red-flagged by both Zionism and therefore the mainstream media which is terrified of offending it, and the authoritarian Arab regimes. They are at one with Zionism in wanting and needing the truth of history to be suppressed. They don’t want the world to know, for example, that despite much stupid rhetoric to the contrary, they never had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine. It was, in fact, the security services of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon that made the first attempt to strangle at birth the authentic Palestine liberation movement led by Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad and a handful of others.
To signpost the way to the essence of what I want to say today, I’ll tell you a short, true, chilling story.
Three years ago one of the major figures of an Arab Gulf state, a royal, was here in London and it was suggested that I should meet with him. He was aware that I knew his father, who was assassinated. We met and talked for nearly an hour in private.
In the course of the conversation I made two very frank statements. The first was this:
“Nothing is going to change in the Arab world until your regimes are more frightened of their own masses than they are of Zionism and America.”
He replied, “You’re right.”
My second statement was this:
“If tomorrow Israel exterminated the occupied and oppressed Palestinians in the hope of closing the Palestine file for ever, most if not all of your leaders would clap their hands in approval behind closed doors.”
He replied, “You’re right.”
And how about this…,, When in 1982 Sharon was making his final plans for invading Lebanon all the way to Beirut for the purpose of exterminating the entire PLO leadership and destroying the organization’s infrastructure, the Gulf Arab leaders, who knew what Sharon was about to do, met in secret, without any advisers present, to agree a message to President Reagan. The message they sent was to the effect that when Sharon put his plans into action, they would not intervene or make any problems for U.S. How do we know that? One of the Gulf leaders who was present at the secret meeting, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, told Arafat; and he told me. The Sultan said to Arafat: “YOU WILL ASK FOR OUR HELP AND IT WILL NOT COME. BE CAREFUL.”
A truth illustrated is that apart from the time when Saudi Arabia’s great King Feisal fought and won a political battle with Henry Kissinger to get Arafat to the UN to make his Gun & Olive Branch speech, the Palestinians have always been on their own – I mean without effective support for their struggle from the major powers and other governments.
And that’s why I say nothing in this world is more worthy of respect and admiration than the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of the Palestinians who are occupied and oppressed by the Zionist monster.
It’s because the occupied and oppressed Palestinians are on their own, without effective leadership and facing the real danger of a final Zionist ethnic cleansing, that I am here today, to say in the most explicit way possible, that it’s time for the Palestinian diaspora to put its act together and become politically engaged. If it does not, there is a very real prospect that it will be charged with complicity by default in a final Zionist ethnic cleansing.
So here’s THE question: How could the Palestinian diaspora put its act together and for what purpose?
First let us put some flesh on the bone of the term Palestinian diaspora – what actually is it or, more to the point, where are the Palestinians of it? The list country by country, listed in terms of the numbers of Palestinians in them, beginning with the country with the biggest number of Palestinians and ending with the country with the smallest number, is the following:
Jordan; Israel; Syria; Chile; Lebanon; Saudi Arabia; Egypt; the United States of America; Honduras; Venezuela; the United Arab Emirates; Germany; Mexico; Qatar; Kuwait; El Salvador; Brazil; Iraq; Yemen; Canada; Australia; Libya; Denmark; the United Kingdom; Sweden; Peru; Columbia; Spain; Pakistan; the Netherlands; Greece; Norway; France; Guatemala; Austria; Switzerland; Turkey; and India.
Once upon a time the highest decision-making body on the Palestinian side was the PNC, the Palestine National Council. It was effectively a Palestinian parliament-in-exile. Its members were elected or nominated by Palestinian communities in many countries of the diaspora. Highest decision-making meant that even Chairman Arafat was answerable to it. Policy had to be approved by it. In other words the PNC was a manifestation of Palestinian democracy in action.
And that, I’ll add in passing, is why the Arab regimes loathed it. The message they got from the composition of the PNC and the way it worked was that a Palestinian state would be democratic; and that, they feared, would subvert their own authoritarian order. They knew that what the Palestinians would have in a state of their own, something approaching real democracy, was what their own citizens would want and demand when they saw it working in Palestine. And that, in turn, was why most if not all Arab regimes would have celebrated behind closed doors if Sharon had succeeded in closing the Palestine file for ever.
Under the in-Palestine leadership of “President” Abbas, a man I regard as more of a collaborator with Zionism than not, the PNC has been sidelined almost out of existence.
It follows, or so it seems to me, that the way for the Palestinian diaspora to start to become seriously engaged politically is by organizing and mobilizing to demand that the PNC be brought back to life, re-structured and re-invigorated by fresh elections to it in every country where Palestinians are.
That would enable the Palestinians to speak to power with one credible voice.
Next question… Given that the prime role of a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC would be to determine Palestinian policy as well as representing it, what should that one voice say? In other words, what should Palestinian policy be?
In my view that’s a question which does not require much discussion and debate. Though not yet formally buried so far as Western governments and the mainstream media are concerned, the two-state solution has long been dead… killed by Israel’s on-going colonization – the continuing theft of more and more Palestinian land and water and what amounts, all up, to on-going ethnic cleansing by stealth and slowly.
That being so, there are in my view only two possible end-game scenarios. There will either be a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine or One State – one state with complete justice for the Palestinians and equal rights and security for all. (In verbal parenthesis I’ll add that “complete justice for the Palestinians” means that all who wanted to return, would return, preferably in a phased and managed or controlled way).
So One State for all would be the policy determined and represented by a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC.
Next question… Could it, One State for all, ever become a reality?
As things are there’s a case for saying “NO”. But in my view much could depend on how successful the Palestinian advocates of it were in convincing the Western world, Americans in particular and Jewish Americans especially, that the wellbeing and security of all Jews currently in Israel-Palestine and who wanted to stay in the de-Zionized One State would be guaranteed.
If I was advising a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC on how best to present its One State policy message, I would say, “Be visionary and inspirational.” And I would illustrate what I meant by quoting a few lines from what I say in my book – these lines:
The Jews, generally speaking, are the intellectual elite of the Western civilization. The Palestinians, generally speaking, are the intellectual elite of the Arab world. What they could do together IN PEACE AND PARTNERSHIP is the stuff that real dreams are made of. They could change the region for the better and, by so doing, give new hope and inspiration to the whole world.
To sum up so far… What I am suggesting is that the prospects for the One State solution becoming a reality would be improved if the presentation and selling of the case for it emphasized that the wellbeing and security of its Jewish citizens would be absolutely guaranteed, assuming only that they accepted with good grace their new status as EQUALS and not MASTERS.
If the case for the One State solution was made in the positive way I have indicated by the Palestinians speaking with one voice through a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC, parliament-in-exile, there is some evidence for believing – perhaps I should saying for hoping – that a significant number of the Jews of the world, possibly even a majority of them, could and would embrace it, the One State concept. If they did it would be easier – perhaps I should say less difficult – for an American president and European leaders to embrace it.
Before I summarize what the evidence is, I must say in passing that I do NOT use the term “Jewish diaspora” to describe the Jews of the world.
As I explained in a recent post on my web site www.alanhart.net, I stopped using that terminology after my very dear friend Ilan Pappe explained to me why it was inappropriate and wrong.
Diaspora means, is the consequence of, the movement, migration or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral home. The term “Jewish diaspora” implies that all the Jews of it are from the same established or ancestral home, and that is nonsense.
The Jews of the world are from MANY established or ancestral homelands, and almost all if not all of those who went to Palestine to give life to Zionism’s colonial enterprise had no biological connection whatsoever to the ancient Hebrews. The notion, still popular with the mainstream Western media, that at the root of the conflict there are two peoples each with a valid claim to the same land does not bear serious and honest examination. It’s more Zionist propaganda nonsense.
So what’s the evidence for believing, or at least hoping, that many Jews of the world, European and American Jews in particular, could come around to embracing the One State solution if it was presented in the positive way I have indicated?
It, the evidence, is in the fact that a still smallish but growing number of eminent Jews, in America especially, are speaking out – condemning Israeli actions and policies which, they say, are not only THE obstacle to peace, but are taking Israel down the road to “self-destruction”. (Even some of Netanyahu’s political opponents in Israel are saying that). If the image of Israel as a pariah state hell bent on suicide enters the minds of more and more Jews, and if reason prevails, there must be at least the possibility that many of them will come to something like this conclusion…
If One State is the ONLY way to guarantee the wellbeing of those Jews now living in Israel-Palestine and who want to stay in One State, that has to be the solution.
As I said a moment ago, it bears repeating, if a significant number of American and European Jews did come to such a conclusion. that would make it easier (or less difficult) for an American president and European leaders to put the One State solution on their agendas.
Now back to the real diaspora – the Palestinian one.
I am aware of some of the reasons why the vast majority of diaspora Palestinians are not seriously and significantly engaged politically to build on the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of their occupied and oppressed brothers and sisters.
One reason is that they are simply pre-occupied with the challenge of managing their own lives in the countries of which they are citizens. And related to that is the fact that the monster of Islamophobia is on the prowl throughout Europe and across North America. That makes many diaspora Palestinians (and other Arabs) fear that if they did become engaged politically, Zionism would see to it that they were smeared and demonized. They don’t want that kind of hassle, not least because they fear that smearing and demonization could result in them losing their jobs.
Wealthy diaspora Palestinians do contribute to Palestinian charities to help relieve the suffering of the occupied and oppressed, but they do not fund political engagement. Why not? They fear that if they did they would provoke Zionism’s wrath. Those who live in Europe and America fear that if that happened, their businesses would be damaged, possibly even destroyed. And those who live in the Arab Gulf States fear that provoking Zionism’s wrath would put at risk their relationships with the Arab regimes in the countries of which they are citizens.
Another part of the explanation of why the Palestinian diaspora isn’t seriously and significantly engaged politically is this. Many diaspora Palestinians under 30 or thereabouts don’t have enough understanding of their own history. (There’s a case for saying how could they be well informed when they live in countries in which the mainstream media peddles Zionism’s version of history? But that doesn’t change the fact that many are not as well informed as they need to be). I’ll give you just one example to make the point.
One of my good Palestinian friends here in London is a lady in her early 30’s. She’s very bright and she was in banking. She had a quite senior position and led a team that warned her masters that the bank was heading for disaster. (She was not surprised when her masters didn’t listen). A couple of years ago I had a conversation with this lady in my home. During it I made the case for diaspora engagement to bring a re-structured and re-invigorated PNC into being. She interrupted me to say – “What’s the PNC?”
I think that makes my point… She did go on to say that her ignorance of her own peoples’ history was truly shocking.
What that illustrates for me is that not nearly enough Palestinians (and other Arabs) understand WHY they must be much better informed if they are to play their necessary part in unmasking and defeating the Zionist monster. The reason (why they must be better informed) can be simply stated.
Zionism makes its case mainly by ASSERTION. It rarely produces evidence to back its version of events. In other words, things were what they were, and are what they are, because Zionism says so.
The problem is that you can’t take Zionism on and expose its propaganda for the nonsense it is by simple COUNTER-ASSERTION. It’s not enough to say “Zionism is wrong.” You have to be able to say, “Zionism is wrong because, because, because.”
Two quick examples:
A documented truth of history is that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab military force. There has never, ever, been the prospect of Israel’s Jews being “driven into the sea.” But to make the case and win it, you have to know all the relevant supporting facts.
Another documented truth of history, the consequence of Arafat’s pragmatic leadership and PNC endorsement of it, is that most Palestinians were ready 33 years ago, repeat 33 years ago, for unthinkable compromise and peace with Israel on terms which any rational government and people in the Zionist (not Jewish) state would have accepted with relief. That’s the proof that Zionism is not remotely interested in peace on any terms most Palestinians could just about accept. But to make that case and win it, you have to know all the relevant supporting facts.
It follows, surely, that if the Palestinian diaspora is to become seriously and significantly engaged politically, many Palestinians must be better informed about the details of their own history than they currently are. (In passing I’ll mention that there is something that could assist them to be better informed without too much effort. It’s a book written by a chap called Alan Hart with the title ZIONISM: THE REAL ENEMY OF THE JEWS, an easily readable, three-volume epic in its updated American edition. It’s about much more than its title suggests. It’s a complete re-write of the whole history of the making and sustaining of the conflict, exposing Zionist propaganda for the nonsense it is, and replacing it with the documented truth of history… Commercial break over!)
In my view the reasons why the Palestinian diaspora is not seriously and significantly engaged politically are understandable, even worthy of some sympathy; but they are only one side of the balance sheet. On the other is the very real prospect of a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine. So on this platform today, at an event organized by the institution committed to the Palestinian right of return, I have a question for the Palestinian diaspora.
If there is a final Zionist ethnic cleansing, and if when it happened you had not become engaged politically, working for a solution that might have averted it, you will be accused of complicity by default in Zionism’s Final Solution. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WANT ON YOUR CONSCIENCE?
I also want to say I believe that it’s not only the Palestinian diaspora that must put its act together. I think all pro-Palestinian activist groups everywhere need to do the same.
At the risk of being red-flagged by them as well as by Zionism and the authoritarian Arab regimes, I say that with few exceptions pro-Palestinian activist groups of all faiths and none everywhere are each and all doing their own little things in splendid isolation and, as a consequence, are like flies to be swatted away by Zionism.
Some will say that’s an unfair characterization because pro-Palestinian activist groups are assisting the process of isolating Israel. That’s true but only to a point. The main reason why Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, and why what we are witnessing today is a rising, global tide of anti-Israelism, is the actions and policies of its own leaders.
If that was not so, I think the pro-Palestinian activist movement would have very little to show for its efforts. That has to be true in my view because the situation of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians is worse today than it’s ever been.
In that context, the question to be asked and answered is this:
How could the activist groups of all faiths and none who campaign for justice for the Palestinians be more effective in their efforts? Put another way, what could THEY do to improve the prospects of the Palestinians actually getting some justice?
My suggestion is that they should take time out to consider why, really, Zionism has triumphed to date.
In my analysis Zionism’s success is due only about 30 percent to its own efforts – its awesome ability to sell lies as truth. The other 70 percent of Zionism’s success is due to the Arab including Palestinian failure to expose those lies and have them replaced in the Western understanding with truth.
I am perhaps exaggerating to make a point, but the proof that what I have just said is more or less true is the fact that very many if not most citizens of the Western nations, Americans especially, still believe Zionism’s version of history.
In this version, upon which the first and still existing draft of Western or Judeo-Christian history was constructed, Israel is the victim, in danger of annihilation and without a credible Palestinian partner for peace.
It’s fair and right to ask if the prospects for peace with justice for the Palestinians would really be improved if the citizens of the Western nations, Americans especially, were aware that everything they have been conditioned by Zionism to believe is propaganda nonsense.
I think the answer to that question is an unqualified “Yes”.
If the peoples of the Western nations were aware of the truth of history as it relates to the initial ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the many initiatives for peace Israel has rejected over the years, there would exist constituencies of understanding that would give leaders and governments the freedom they have never had to take on the Zionist monster.
As I put it in my book and for example, no American president is ever going to be free to confront the Zionist monster unless and until the Zionist lobby’s many stooges in Congress are more frightened of offending their voters than they are of offending the Zionist lobby. And that day won’t come unless and until enough Americans are informed enough to be able to say to those seeking their votes something like, “We won’t vote for you if you continue to peddle Zionism’s propaganda lies.”
So, to the question how could and should pro-Palestinian activist groups everywhere put their act together, my answer is this.
They should agree to make common cause for the specific purpose of educating the citizens of nations about the truth of history. By definition that means they would have to reach beyond their own constituencies of the already converted. They could make common, cause by creating one international oversight and co-ordinating committee with strategic vision. What I am saying in other words is that what has always been needed, and is needed more than ever today, is a truly effective pro-Palestinian lobby – a lobby for peace based on justice for the Palestinians with equal rights and security for all – to compete with AIPAC in America and its clones in Europe.
That would require a serious extra commitment of time and effort and resources. And that’s something I urge pro-Palestinian activist groups everywhere and, if I may say so, wealthy Palestinians, to think about.
I’ll close with a confession.
I sometimes find myself wondering if it’s not already too late and that Palestine is a LOST CAUSE. On reflection I think it isn’t, but I fear it could be unless the Palestinian diaspora becomes seriously engaged politically, and all the activist groups committed to justice for the Palestinians put their act together, too.
Finally, as a verbal footnote I want to add this. Coming up from the country by train today I read an article by Ramzy Baroud, the editor of the Palestine Chronicle. It was headlined Prisoners’ Intifada Shames Palestine’s Leaders. That’s a cue for me to express my opinion that there’s a major initiative the occupied and oppressed Palestinians themselves should take.
They should demand the dissolution of the PA and hand full responsibility for the occupation back to Israel. That would impose significant financial and security burdens on Greater Israel but, more important, it would improve the prospects for calling and holding Zionism to account for its crimes.
Some might say “President” Abbas has pre-empted the need to dissolve the PA by his success in getting the UN General Assembly to recognize the State of Palestine. My response to that would be – let’s be serious. The state recognized does not exist and the recognition has not changed anything on the ground. There’s even a case for saying that Israel’s response punishment has made things even worse for the occupied and oppressed Palestinians.
Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Vol. 1: The False Messiah, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com.