It may be happening against the backdrop of a distracted world preoccupied with combating the ravages of coronavirus, its significance passing largely unnoticed, but it is happening nevertheless.
Never before in their long history of struggle for independence — certainly not since the release of the infamous Balfour Declaration in 1917 — have Palestinian Arabs faced a challenge as daunting as the one they face at this time.
The challenge? Israel, driven by its Zionist penchant for territorial expansion, is moving to annex one-third of the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with a sliver of land, a pocket-sized remnant of their ancestral patrimony, to exercise limited “self-rule” in — thus pulling the plug on a two-state solution.
Palestinians, left on their own to fight against the occupation, need not resort to force of arms but to force of reason to win. You don’t physically fight or even express rage at an entity so ideologically demented as to practise apartheid and pursue territorial conquest in the post-colonial era
For other Arabs, the challenge is no less daunting, for should they fail to respond assertively to Israel’s annexationist plan, they would in effect be, at long last, throwing in the towel in their confrontation with a settler-colonial entity ensconced in the heartland of their world, at a time when settler-colonialism had long since been dead, buried and discredited.
The plan clearly defies international law, you say. Israel says, however, the devil with international law, with Arabs and with the rest of the world, for the US, via its secretary of state, has already declared that to annex or not to annex Palestinian occupied land “is Israel’s decision to make” (The international community, of course, begs to differ.)
Not bound by existing agreements
So far, the response by Palestinian leaders has been feeble. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced last week that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) would no longer be “bound by existing agreements” with Israel, including cooperation between its own intelligence services and those of Israel.
That raises serious questions in our minds about why Palestinian intelligence services were collaborating with those of Israel in the first place, and why the PNA is still representing Palestinians after 27 years of failing to secure the national goals of those it represented.
In short, why have these folks not lifted anchor and sailed away already, leaving the people of Palestine to determine their own destiny, in their own way. Palestinians may have limited material resources, but their cause, in the eyes of the world, packs quite a moral punch.
Palestinians, left on their own to fight against the occupation, need not resort to force of arms but to force of reason to win. You don’t physically fight or even express rage at an entity so ideologically demented as to practise apartheid and pursue territorial conquest in the post-colonial era.
Rather you mock it, and by mocking it, you rub its nose in the vomit in the racism found in its ideology, an ideology anchored in Theodor Herzl’s colonial Europe.
For consider how, during the first intifada in the late 1980s, clusters of young Palestinian activists, all over that occupied land, confronted Israeli tanks and occupation soldiers with slingshots and stones, at once mocking their very presence and making an eloquent statement about national struggle that left a more resounding impact on world consciousness than guns and bullets.
They did that propelled by and armed with that most potent weapon of all — a subjugated people’s teleological spirit of history, coupled with an oppressed people’s will-to-meaning.
And that intifada (the word was naturalised by every major language in the world) came about then precisely because, as now, Palestinians were left with a reservoir of turbulent energy, a corrosive sense of disenfranchisement, a feeling that one’s political destiny had gone fearfully awry and that people were on their own, with history-making now Everyman’s concern.
In life, we say, challenge is inevitable, but defeat is optional. And never once, over the last century, have Palestinians chosen that option.
Yet, if you’re in touch with Palestinian history, you would know that the struggle for Palestine has never been an exclusive concern of Palestinian Arabs, but of all Arabs.
What Zionist leaders are telling the Arab world today, by embarking on this latest expansionist project in Palestine, is that theirs is not a world where all men and women are created equal, but one that privileges only Jews.
And we all thought that kind of bigotedly exclusivist world died soon after colonialism died an ignominious death in the second half of the last century. Still, it’s all a challenge, direct and lethal, that we need to meet head on.
The whole world is watching. Fail to respond and the stain of it will stick on the body of your history like a tattoo.
— Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.