after school on thursday some of my students came with me to what was supposed to be a meeting to discuss plans for nabuls is to support palestinians in aqraba. there is a leftist organization here called tanweer that does various projects, many of them educational–especially educating palestinians about their history since the schools certainly are not doing that. i met these folks because when my student from aqraba went with me to meet with the student council on campus the student we met with took me downtown to meet with the people at tanweer. another friend joined us as well. i really liked this group in terms of their thinking as well as the fact that they are doing organizing work with a leftist ideology that is not affiliated with any political party (though, of course, posters of george habash and others decorate the walls). i was most impressed with the student from the student council, too. he’s a really smart guy from al ‘ain refugee camp who is studying journalism. i was a bit surprised that this is where he took me given that the majority of the student council at my university is fatah. and, actually, i said something about this at the end of that first meeting and he said, that he was, in fact, fatah. but he didn’t sound like fatah. he sounded nationalistic. he sounded leftist. and this is what surprised me. especially someone his age. more on this in a bit.
my students and i arrived at the office downtown an hour late because i had to teach my class. but we were told there would be a movie first and that the meeting would be after. somehow that schedule was inverted and they decided to show a movie second. i didn’t realize this until after the film, however. given the conversations we had the last time i had expected tanweer to show nationalistic palestinian films in arabic about palestinians. instead, they showed two films about rachel corrie that they downloaded. i had not seen them before, though the clips were not new to me. almost all was in english with no arabic subtitles (except for some clips of amy goodman speaking on mbc tv) for an audience that is not fluent in english. i was annoyed to say the least. i had had the same feeling earlier in the day: i needed to print out some papers for class and i was unable to do so in my department so i went to the public relations office. while i was waiting for my document to print i noticed that the only martyr posters on the wall were of tom hurndell and rachel corrie. this is in contradistinction to the hundreds of palestinian martyrs all over nablus–in the old city, in the refugee camps. but here at the university we seem to only recognize the ajaneb martyrs.
after the film an older palestinian man spoke about the importance of rachel corrie as a “humanitarian” and other ajaneb as “humanitarian” people who come here to palestine. this word for me has become like nails on a chalkboard. i recalled reading something by natalie abou shakra a couple of months ago when she too had an adverse reaction to this word, which captures exactly how i feel:
I extremely despise it when someone categorizes me as a journalist, or as a “humanitarian activist”… I am neither. My activism is political and social… radical. Please do not call me humanitarian. We live in the midst of the era of human rights production and matters of the sort. We witness humanitarian international law being broken daily… do you think we want to be labeled as “humanitarian”? No! My role, our role, is greater than that… much greater than that… we are a revolution, we support an armed struggle and an armed resistance for liberation… Fanonians par excellence… Hasta la Victoria Siempre! Free Palestine! Down with totalitarian Arab regimes, down with colonialism, imperialism, occupation and oppression! No negotiations are allowed after massacres, genocides and schemes of ethnic cleansing… the vocabulary and diction used in such times are extremely important…
i am here to support palestinian resistance in various forms. the use of this word “humanitarian,” to me implies that palestinians are some sort of charity case who are not capable of taking care of themselves, of fighting this battle themselves. neither of these are true. then he started talking about people in the audience who needed to go back to their countries and form associations with palestinian associations to help people here. he wanted foreigners to continue to help with their “non-violent” resistance. i turned around and realized that there were foreigners in the audience. not a lot, but they were there. and this film and this man’s speech reflected a reality that was non-existent when i was in the tanweer offices prior to this meeting. i mentioned these things when he was finished speaking. i mentioned that the families in aqraba wanted palestinians to join them. they wanted to feel solidarity with palestinians not only with foreigners, which is what i thought the meeting was about. he responded that in 2002 there was a lot of palestinian solidarity, but because of the checkpoints that has been made more difficult. too, he mentioned the conflict between fatah and hamas as contributing to the problem by dividing the people. one of the foreigners spoke up and said that the focus on rachel corrie is because she took herself out of her comfort zone and fought someone else’s fight. but, you see, this is why i don’t like going to meetings with ajaneb: because the focus becomes something else. it becomes a meeting about foreigners. if we had been talking about something useful–like getting foreigners to rent yellow-plated cars and help get palestinians from nablus to aqraba that would be one thing. but we moved away from what was supposed to be the subject of the meeting: the needs and desires of palestinians in aqraba. we could have been watching a film about palestinian resistance or other anti-colonial resistance struggles and learned from those models or examples. we could have been looking at palestinian history. but we were not. even the library at this tanweer center is named after rachel corrie. not the greatest resistance writer in palestine, ghassan kanafani.
it occurred to me that one of the issues that palestinians are facing here is related to morale. to pride. resistance to the british, to the zionists, to the lebanese army, to the jordanian army: all of this seems to have been forgotten. these are situations when palestinians–even if only for a short while–liberated themselves. yes, often with support from local people, and sometimes with support from internationals, but the sweet taste of freedom when one takes that freedom for themselves is irreplaceable. the discussion went on. one of my friends talked about non-violent resistance as new to palestinians (it’s not, but i’ll get to that in a minute). one of the women i knew in the audience who is one of the leaders in pflp in nablus spoke about the need for armed resistance and the way this sort of emphasis on nonviolence often negates the right to armed struggle. of course, i’m for both types of resistance. boycott, divestment, and sanctions is a kind of nonviolent resistance. so is writing. so is the friday prayer in aqraba that we are organizing. but we need all forms. they work together. this is what so many important anti-colonial writers say in their archive from chinua achebe to ghassan kanafani.
i want to share some excerpts from rosemary sayigh’s brilliant and important book the palestinians: from peasants to revolutionaries to get at some of these issues that came up in the meeting and that i confront frequently here. one of the main aspects of palestinian history that really seems to be lacking here is about palestinian resistance. sayigh’s work is unparalleled on this and so many other issues because it is based on oral history, because she collected these histories when people still remembered the initial phases of british-zionist colonization of their land, because she published this in 1979 when the palestinian resistance movement was still fresh. for all these reasons and so much more i think what she shares in her book is so necessary for all of us to learn from palestinian history about what has worked, where problems were, and how can this knowledge be used to work in the right direction for the liberation of palestine. too, i think that remembering what the goals of liberation were is essential because it is so very sad to consider how far away from those goals are people now seem to be. in describing various people she interviews in her work she characterizes them as: jeel falasteen, jeel an nakba, jeel al thawra, in other words by generation. had this been published later we would most certainly see jeel al intifada. but what i suspect part of the problem here is now is that we have jeel al oslo as it were. and this generation is one that has, i would argue, suffered the most with respect to internalized colonialism (an entire childhood reared only on israeli terrorist television), a childhood when normalization became acceptable to the leaders who have been blindly followed for some bizarre reason, a generation in which palestinians have become prisoners inside their bantustan jails. i think learning from the previous generations can help this generation a lot, however. for it is not as if this generation is so far removed from the others. and indeed the jeel an nakba experienced similar sorts of impotence due to the extreme trauma suffered through the dispossession and mass murder they experienced from 1947-1949. but out of that came resistance and various levels of liberation. and i hope–and why i teach what i teach–that inspiration from the same sources of the past, and learning the lessons of the past, can turn jeel al oslo into a jeel al thawra jedeed.
first, i begin with jeel falasteen with sayigh’s analysis of land sales early on in zionist colonization of palestine shows an important fellaheen success in their resistance:
Peasant landlessness started before the Mandate with single sales of large areas of land by the Ottoman Administration and by non-Palestinian owners. These sales, many of which included whole villages, confronted the peasants with their first experience of legal eviction, something which had never been part of the fellaheen fate. It is striking that their immediate, spontaneous response was violent resistance–a resistance which found, however, no echo in other segments of Palestinian society. Such large transactions–the most notorious being the sale in the early 1920s of 240,000 dunums in the fertile Vale of Esdraelon by the Beirut merchant family of Sursock–would have been impossible after the first few years of the Mandate owing to the rapid growth of nationalist sentiment. From then on, Zionist land acquisition was faced with obstacles that the founders of the movement had not anticipated.
In spite of the energy and funds deployed by the Jewish Land Purchasing Agency and its sister organizations, the proportion of Jewish-owned land rose far more slowly than their population. By 1926, only 4 percent of all land (including state land) was Jewish-owned, and it took another eight years for this figure to reach 5 per cent. By the end of 1946, the last year for which official figures exist, it had not gone beyond 6 per cent. Peasant resistance to land sales is abundantly clear in these figures. (36)
second, i think it is important to look at how sayigh characterizes the palestinian rebellion of 1936-39 and its context:
The Palestinian Rebellion of 1936-39 was the most sustained phase of militant anti-imperialist struggle in the Arab world before the Algerian War of Independence. At its peak in 1938 it had mobilized an estimated 15,000 militants around a core of from 1,000 to 1,500 full-time fighters, forcing the British to increase their occupying army from one to two divisions (about 20,000 troops). As well as the British forces, the Palestinian guerrillas faced Zionist paramilitary organizations now well beyond the embryonic stage. It has been estimated that 5,000 Palestinians wee killed and 14,000 wounded through British action, excluding victims of Zionist attack. In one year alone, 1938, 5,679 Palestinians were jailed.
Older camp Palestinians well remember the Rebellion of 1936, which they see as the parent of the Armed Struggle Revolution of 1965. Some remember taking part in it; others who were children at the time remember feeling pride if “sons” of their village were among the guerrillas. Methods of suppression included aerial bombardment, the mass dynamiting of villages suspected of helping the “rebels,” beating men with strips of prickly pear bush, and entering homes to ransack food stocks. A man who was a small child in 1939 remembers reprisals against his village:
There’s a picture stamped on my mind of all the people–men, women, and children–gathered together on the threshing floor. Later when I asked about the incident, they told me that the British had collected all the people there and blown up the whole village. I think it was in 1939. They said that some people working with the Revolution had taken shelter in the village; also a bridge leading to it had been blown up. This was enough for the British to destroy all the houses. But the people went down to the city (Acre) to get help to rebuild.
of course when one looks at policies and practices of the british occupation of palestine, one sees that many of the same are now used by the israeli terrorist colonists. most of the important resistance work was done by the fellaheen because they had the most to lose–and after they lost it and became refugees, of course the fellaheen-laja’een are those who became the leaders of resistance in the next generation. what also remains somewhat the same is this constant need to look to leaders rather than to the people. but a closer look at resistance to the british-zionist take over of palestine shows us, through sayigh’s assessment, that it was the palestinian masses who led the struggle:
It was symptomatic of the distance between the political and militant wings of the nationalist movement that when the first guerrilla leader, Sheikh Qassam, was killed soon after his call to armed struggle in 1935, none of the leading national figures attended his funeral. None of the military leaders of the 1936 Rebellion were from the ruling class. Few anecdotes give a clearer picture of the incapacity of the Palestinian traditional leaders for serious struggle than the one told by a “former intelligence officer” to the author of a study on the 1936 Rebellion. A group of bedouin gathered in Beersheba telephoned to the Mufti asking what action they should take in support of the uprising that was beginning to spread through the country in the wake of the killing of the District Commissioner for Galilee. The Mufti’s reply to them was to do whatever they thought fit, and though his reply may have been due to knowledge that his telephone was tapped, all accounts of the Rebellion and the six months’ strike that preceded it make it clear that the people of Palestine led their leadership, not vice versa. Objectively, the role of the notables was to facilitate British domination. In yielding to the pressures of pro-British Arab politicians, like Nuri Said of Iraq and Emir Abdullah of Jordan, for an end to the Rebellion, the Arab Higher Committee threw away all the lessons of political organization that they could have learnt from the uprising, in spite of its ultimate repression. Instead, naively, they accepted the British White Paper of 1939 as a real gain, though every experience they had had of British rule should have taught them that concessions made by the Administration in Palestine would be negated by Zionist pressure on the Home government. (52)
the above description of who was leading the resistance is important because we see the same with the palestinian resistance movement and the intifada. but we also see the signing of papers at the expense of the people in order to serve the israeli colonial masters (read: oslo) with those who rose to leadership positions with in the plo (read: yasir ‘arafat). these mistakes should be studied and analyzed so that they do not keep getting repeated. if people see how masses of palestinians empowered themselves in spite of their leaders then perhaps things might be different. there was a fourth important element i want to highlight with respect to resistance and that is labor organizing. sayigh quotes a peasant man who became a union organizer in haifa:
In the last years we began to think of building a political party based on the workers’ movement and to combine union work with national struggle. As a preparation, we formed a number of co-operatives, outside the workers’ union, including the tobacco farmers, fisherman and others… We intended also to form a secret organization, but there wasn’t time, for in 1947 came the Partition Plan, and what followed it, the Disaster and dispersion.
The reason we did not form a political party was that, after studying the project, we realized that its leaders would not be from the working class, but from their friends, doctors, engineers, lawyers, who would make the party work for their interests, not for the workers. so we decided to postpone until we had enough working class leaders. But the time we had was too short to form the party correctly…
The League was active in so many ways, organizing strikes, co-operatives, demonstrations. The most outstanding even in this period was the Haifa Oil Refinery strike where we hit Zionist workers and engineers who were trying to control the Refinery. Our workers in the British military camps used to write reports; in the ports of Jaffa and Haifa they kept watch on the activities of the Histadrut.
After this, the leadership of the national movement tried to incorporate the workers while suppressing their union membership. We told them that it’s our duty to participate in the national struggle, not as employees, but as representatives of the working class. There was a long struggle between the League adn other political organizations, especially between Hajj Amin and Sami Taha, who began to become a national figure after his confrontation with Aneuran Bevan, Foreign Minister of the Labour government, at a conference in London attended by the Arab regimes and the Palestinian workers’ movement, when Taha said: “Down with imperialist Britain in Palestine!”
This made Hajj Amin afraid. He saw a powerful personality opposing him, enjoying popular support from the workers, government employees and farmers in the co-operative leagues. In September 1947, Sami Taha was assassinated by criminal hands, instigated by the leadership that could not separate itself from the agent Arab regimes, and that was so afraid of struggle. (57-58)
resistance changed for jeel an nakba for a variety of reasons. sayigh quotes the story of a resistance movement leader about what happened in his village and how he resisted the best he could given the circumstances:
I was one of the people who was against evacuation and because I believed this I stayed in my village until the people left. I suggested to them staying in the fields instead of the houses because of the danger of bombardment, and then go back and face our fate, even if it was to be killed. When the Zionists occupied our village, I was one of those arrested.
One of the political errors of our leadership was that they didn’t prevent evacuation. We should have stayed. I had a rifle and a Sten gun. My father told me, “The Zionists are coming, you know what they do to girls, take your two sisters and go to Lebanon.” I said, “I prefer to shoot my sisters, and shoot you all, and keep the last bullet for myself. This would be better than leaving.” Then they took our village and I was arrested, and they left. But our leadership was outside in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. When the leaders are out they can’t tell the people to stay. (90)
it was not only men who resisted–even if that resistance meant staying on one’s land as long as possible and fighting with whatever means one might have. resistance also meant that when most refugees fled, they did not flee across the border right away; many stayed moving from one village to the next in order to return when the fighting stopped. sayigh quotes a woman from kweikat who shows how she resisted during an nakba:
I was twelve when we left our village. We went to a village called Abu Sinan. We were a family, three girls, three boys, mother, father, and grandfather, and we had nothing to eat. I used to take my younger brother and sister and creep back to get things from our home. My mother used to punish me for it, but I wasn’t afraid of the Jews. I used to go in and get soap, flour, food to eat. One time when I was carrying a heavy sack of flour I trod on an electric wire which rang an alarm bell. That’s when I fell and hurt my back. Another time the soldiers nearly caught us in our house, but we hid in the cupboard. It was our country, but we had become thieves in it!
We used to get watermelon, okra, tomatoes and corn from our village. It was our land, we had sowed it, and we wanted to harvest it. Sometimes my mtoher and my aunt used to go at night–it was about eight or ten kilometres’ walk. Once when they went, the guards saw them and shot my aunt in the head. (92-93)
even after palestinians became refugees in the early years they found ways to resist their conditions in the newly formed refugee camps as a result of the host countries and of unrwa. a palestinian refugee in trablus told sayigh about palestinians resisting towteen early on–when urnwa wanted them to accept permanent status in their host countries rather than fight for their right to return:
We felt that UNRWA had a certain policy that aimed at settling us. They wanted us to forget Palestine, so they started work projects to give us employment. This was part of the recommendation of the Clapp Report. They used to give loans to people to set them up in small businesses such as “shoe-mender or carpenter”; then they’d take away their ration cards. More dangerous was the way they tried to encourage emigration to Australia or America. They’d give a man a ticket, and take away his ration card. We opposed all this, through publications and secret meetings, night visits and diwans–these weren’t prohibited. Politically conscious people used to go to these gatherings and take part in the conversation. We opposed these projects because we felt that, living in poverty, we would stay attached to our land. (112)
not only is resistance consistent across palestinian history, but, as the above speaker makes clear, so is the level of sacrifice palestinians are willing to endure in order to claim their right of return. and in spite of that poverty one can see how palestinians in the camps saw education as an important site of resistance too:
I was among the first group of students from Nahr al-Bared school. There were 70 to 80 of us in the first tent school. There weren’t any seats or school equipment–we’d sit on the sand or bring stones from the shore to sit on. Twelve of us managed to pass the Certificat and were transferred to the House of Education in Tripoli. There we really felt the depth of the Disaster, from our living conditions and the way they treated us. There we were, in torn clothes, sitting next to sons of Tripoli who had different clothes for every season, and pocket money. They put us Palestinians in the section for orphans; that way they got our rations from UNRWA as well as aid given by different charitable organizations that used to help the refugees. In spite of all this, we had faith that there was no road but education. We used to go down into the street at night to study under the street lamps. (124)
another aspect of what was needed to build resistance, which grew under the extreme repression in the first decade and a half palestinian refugees lived in lebanon was the way that palestinians increasingly saw themselves as part of one big watan in a way that transcended family or village bonds as sayigh explains using a recollection from someone in jeel al thawra:
The Resistance Movement, the idea of the Return, have transformed a nostalgia for normality into a conscious assumption of the abnormality of struggle. In this spirit a young teacher told me of a current Israeli attack on Rashidiyyeh camp which might have killed one of his cousins, adding, “But he is no different to me than any other Palestinian.” (139)
the above sentiment seems lost to me, but it is one that needs to be cultivated and returned to. and there is much to return to in jeel al thawra on a number of different levels. for one thing if one goes to its roots and to the emergence of fatah one finds that there is much to be gained if fatah returned to its origins as sayigh describes it:
For Fateh’s leaders, the urgent need created by the 1967 defeat was to prevent the Arab governments from negotiating, from a position of weakness, an end to the Palestinian liberation struggle in return for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the June War. Their long-term hope was that Palestinian guerrilla operations would act as a spark to rekindle the broader Arab struggle against imperialist domination that had lost momentum in the narrow interests of neocolonial regimes. (149)
the need to connect the liberation of palestine to the neocolonial and imperial interests in the rest of the arab world could not be more true today. it has, unfortunately, gotten worse not better and thus these roots of resistance would benefit the entire region if people returned to it. equally important then, as now, is the way that gains by the resistance affects the mood of the entire population in a way that then supports and sustains the resistance fighters, helping them to become steadfast. after the battle of karameh in 1968 in jordan, sayigh quotes someone in the resistance in beirut describing its significance:
We saw our young men eager to go to training camps in the Ghor, and to take part in operations. They’d come back with stories of the war; so, instead of telling the old stories, people began to tell these new stories, about how our young men were fighting. the whole nature of talk changed, as if there had been a deep psychological change among our people. (158)
the above passage shows how important the mood of the people can be for the struggle. this is key. but so too is the bit about telling stories: imagine if accurate stories and histories of palestinian resistance were circulated and told the same way pop music on cell phones of jeel al oslo are circulated how different things might be here. what one also learns from the early part of the resistance struggle is how strong solidarity was among the people beyond palestinians as one important narrative from a lebanese fighter shows:
I come from the South, from a village on the border of occupied Palestine. Like the Palestinians, my family left our village in 1949 because the Zionists carried out a massacre in Hula, a village near ours, where they killed about seventy young men in a mosque. A great number of Lebanese from the border villages were forced to leave in this way, and they lived in Beirut in the same conditions as the refugees.
After the Palestinian Revolution, in 1968, we went back to our village, to live with the people there. There were daily fedayeen operations against the Zionist enemy’s settlements. This created a revolutionary tide. The masses all supported the Revolution because they saw it was the only force able to stand up and say No after the defeat of 1967.
At that time our material resources were few, and we had to rely on donations from the people. For a long time the masses were supplying all our needs, even clothes and food. On night patrol, we would knock on doors as we passed through the villages, and people would give us food and shelter…
Before everything else, there must be an everyday political relationship with the masses, to look at their problems, and help them to solve them, especially through their own consciousness….
In 1969, there were many battles between us and the Lebanese Army and that is when we saw the villagers rise against the army. I remember particularly Majdel Silm, where the army put a force estimated at brigade size around the town to besiege a group of a hundred fedayeen. The population made a demonstration against the army, protecting the fedayeen with their own bodies. This is the incident I consider the most expression of fusion between us and the masses at the that time. (164)
this kind of palestinian-lebanese unity against the state was so important and needs to be cultivated yet again. certainly because hezbollah is strong int he south some of that solidarity still exists, but hezbollah continues to be primarily committed to lebanese national interests not to the liberation of palestine with respect to its action, though not its rhetoric. but that kind of unity in palestine and among palestinians could usefully be cultivated as well. it is this kind of unity that led to palestinians liberating their refugee camps from the control of the lebanese army, one of the first major victories in lebanon and one that also has a lot to teach us on a number of levels as one resistance fighter from nahr el bared narrates:
They brought tanks and the army tried to enter the camps. That day, we can remember with pride, we brought out the few guns that we had–they were eleven. We did well at first, but then we ran out of ammunition. A rumour ran round the camp that the ammunition was finished and we tried to calm the people by telling them that rescue would come from the Resistance. But we didn’t really know whether it would come. But what was amazing was that people returned to what they had been in 1948, preferring to die rather than to live in humiliation. Women were hollering because it was the first time a gun had been seen defending the camp. It was the first battle that we didn’t lose. The children were between the fighters, collecting the empty cartridges although the bullets were like rain. It was the first time that people held knives and sticks and stood in front of their homes, ready to fight. (169)
this sort of collective action, which is sorely lacking today was extensive as a man from rashiddiyyeh refugee camp told sayigh:
It was impossible to find a person who didn’t want to invite the fedayeen and offer his home as an office. It was felt to be shameful not to be the first to give the fighters food, water, shelter. The people were ready to sacrifice everything they had for the Revolution. When we said we needed money, the women would give their gold earrings, bracelets, watches. And whatever they gave, they felt it was nothing. (175)
a fateh militant who sayigh interviewed after managing to get a degree as an engineer made an important statement about the relationship between what people do in their lives and the necessity of connecting that back to the resistance:
I thought of the things I must do to return to my country. I participated in all strikes and demonstrations on Palestinian issues. Finally, I joined one of the Resistance organizations, which represents for me the peak of my political consciousness. As an engineer, i feel there is a link between my specialization and the aims of the Revolution, so I am using my knowledge in a magazine for our fighters. There can be no separation between theory and action. (189)
one of the crucial aspects of sayigh’s work is that she focuses on the people, the masses, not the leaders. part of this is related to the fact that she took these oral histories in the early 1970s. but one of her assessments at that time is significant and must be thought about as i believe that it has a lot to do with problems that later emerged as a result of the hero worship that was nonexistent when she wrote her book:
The absence of hero-worship of the leaders of the Revolution is striking. The photos of shuhuada‘ are much more visible on the street walls of camps than those of the Resistance leaders, and people praise the latter sparingly, saying, “They live the lives of the people.” If one falls, another will take his place. It is the invincibility of the Palestinian people as a whole, not a given party or leadership, that people mean when they say, drinking coffee, ‘Revolution until victory!'” (190)
towards the end of her book, when sayigh is working towards her conclusion she offers an assessment of the resistance movement, which unfortunately does read a bit anachronistic, but is worth pondering given how things have changed in the last 30 years:
The effects of mass Palestinian struggle on the Arab scene will be slower to reveal their shape, because of the complex interplay between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces. As the Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi has argued, a Palestinian state in the West Bank would tend to stabilize the present regimes and status quo. A mini-Palestine hemmed in by Israel on one side and Jordan on the other would have little scope for playing the role of “fire under ashes” which Palestinian militants have seen as their since 1948. This would be a solution that would leave Israel’s nature as a militaristic and racist state unchanged, and all the arguments that Khalidi puts forward to convince Americans of the proposed state’s harmlessness are ones that make it unattractive for the masses. No Palestinian state could afford to become, as Jordan is, an instrument for suppressing the liberation struggle. And even if a West Bank state emerges, it will not be able to accommodate the majority of Palestinians. The dispersion will continue to exist, with all the pressures it generates towards changing the status quo.
In Lebanon, hostility to the idea of a West Bank state has been strong among camp Palestinians from the time of its first launching in 1973. They mostly came from Galilee and the coastal cities, and have no homes to return to in the West Bank. Many do not regard the West Bank as a serious proposal, but rather as a means to divide the Resistance Movement.Their opposition to it comes through pungently in comments like these:
There is not one of our people who has not sacrificed, and is not willing to sacrifice. But we must see our leadership announcing revolutionary programmes instead of flying to meet this king and that president, and working towards concessions that will humiliate our people.
We have a Revolution and the Arab states are offering us a state. A people’s war doesn’t last ten years only, it goes on until it achieves something.
These remarks reflect the attitude of the PFLP towards the PRM leadership’s adoption, since 1973, of a moderate, compromising stance towards a settlement. While there are indications that Fateh’s leaders believed in the genuineness of the West Bank state proposal when it was first put out, it is not likely that they are as ready to sell out the Revolution as the Rejection Front claims. There will have to be clear political gains from negotiation, or, as a camp mother said, “All our sons’ blood will have been shed in vain.” Not only the Rejection Front but the mass of Fateh’s following expect the leadership to reject submissive solutions, even if the alternative is to return once more clandestinely to struggle. (196-197)
and one final paragraph of note that is also a bit anachronistic, but also an important reminder about why palestinians have had to, and could benefit again, by creating a massive armed resistance struggle that is unified:
Israel offers them no choice except between non-existence or struggle. Their lack of militancy between 1948 and 1967 brought them no nearer peaceful repatriation; now their militancy is used by Israel to justify its own continuing aggression. The cycle is a familiar one in settler societies; and only when Israel is correctly analysed as a settler society will Palestinian violence be correctly understood. And only then will progress be made towards breaking the cycle. (200)
there is so much more that i could share from this amazing volume, rich with history and insight. but what i think is significant about some of these excerpts is the way in which it illustrates how important solidarity and unity is. it shows that it has existed before and i think it can happen again. it shows people talking about liberating themselves and their land as their goals, something which has not changed. it shows how the leaders do not always speak for the people and that the people are successful when they unite and that they really do not need these leaders. people need to trust themselves and their righteousness. it also shows how important solidarity and unified resistance is for group morale.
jeel al oslo need not be detached from their history and from their rights to liberate their land. but i think that there is a serious relationship between the two. knowing not just these bits and pieces, but the totality of palestinian history and its struggle for liberating every square inch of palestine can go a long way to helping palestinians unify towards this goal once again. the leaders are really irrelevant. we know from history that leaders rarely put the interests of their people first. but the new generation can make a different choice. it can make the decision to be unified, to reject the american-zionist divide and rule colonial tactic. it can unify and re-imagine resistance in a way that will achieve a goal that fits all palestinians’ needs: liberation of the land.