As 2014 winds down, we Palestinians look back on one of the worst years in our history and worry that 2015 will be worse. This year witnessed the most brutal attack on the besieged and embargoed Gaza Strip, with Israeli forces killing more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 550 children. Israel’s massive 50-day long bombing campaign highlighted the international community’s utter failure to prevent and stop an armed attack against a defenceless, refugee population, as Israel continued to defy international law. Months later, Gaza remains in rubble with more than 20,000 houses, schools, clinics, mosques and even hospitals in ruins while Israel continues to block entry into Gaza of desperately-needed construction materials, despite billions of dollars pledged by the international community to clean up Israel’s destruction.
And while European countries line up to pass resolutions recognising the “state of Palestine” to demonstrate their support for Palestinians, the desperately-needed support — of boycotting, divesting from, sanctioning and ostracising Israel — remains elusive. Instead, Israel continues to terrorise Palestinians with its army and armed squatters, to expand Jews-only colonies and to enact measures further oppressing Palestinians living under Israeli rule.
Despite increased Israeli aggression and oppression of the Palestinians, including the wanton destruction brought upon the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) continues to behave as though nothing has happened, evidently preferring to continue acting as Israel’s security subcontractor and providing Tel Aviv with intelligence on Palestinians resisting its military rule. While issuing the same toothless “threats” that the PNA will cut off security cooperation or that the PNA will dissolve itself, its leadership continues to abide obediently by US and Israeli diktats, contrary to the interests of the oppressed people it purports to represent.
January will mark Mahmoud Abbas’s 10th year in office, although he was elected only for a single four-year term. Despite the fact that his term, along with that of the legislative council, expired six years ago, and despite years of Palestinian struggle for the right to determine our leaders, both Fatah and Hamas continue to proffer empty excuses for the lack of fresh elections in Palestine. Instead, they continue to rule over Palestinians in an authoritarian manner while maintaining the sham of a “democracy”. This authoritarian manner of rule is problematic and the lack of vision and leadership to liberate Palestine is catastrophic.
With the Israeli elections approaching in March, the right-wing force is widely expected, once again, to prevail; a right-wing force that includes people who proudly live on stolen land and others who cheerfully boast of having killed Palestinians. This outcome will be unsurprising: Given that Israel has faced no sanctions for its illegal behaviour, whether expelling Palestinians from our homeland, desecrating holy sites, building Jews-only colonies on stolen Palestinian land or slaughtering children. This continuing shift to the right is inevitable when rather than sanctioning Israel for its ethnic cleansing and continued denial of Palestinian freedom, the world continues to applaud it, evidently fearing a barrage of baseless accusations of anti-Semitism, should it dare to condemn illegal Israeli behaviour. Indeed, it is this inaction that has for long allowed Israel to continue to deny or make excuses for its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland and the nearly 48-year military occupation.
Rather than label this right-wing reality for what it is and demand that the world impose sanctions on a government that continues to believe in the denial of freedom for Palestinians, the PNA will continue on its path of “sacred” security coordination with Israel, refusal to support Palestinian popular resistance (indeed, it will suppress it) and will continue to treat Israel as a “partner” rather than an enemy of peace.
Take, for example, the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. This movement has gained widespread support worldwide, with trade unions, universities and professional associations voicing support for holding Israel accountable. Increasing numbers of corporations and artists also refuse to do business in apartheid Israel. And yet, despite international grass roots support, the PNA has refused to undertake any measures to hold Israel accountable — whether at the International Criminal Court or by supporting the BDS movement. Instead, the PNA continues to press for further United Nations resolutions designed to give the appearance of confronting Israel while, in reality, it is just buying time in the belief that a final-term US President Barack Obama will, at last, find his conscience and press for Israeli oppression to end.
But Palestinian freedom will not come through toothless UN resolutions, nor by hoping that the US, Israel’s staunchest ally, will miraculously deign to act against its intransigence. Instead, the PNA should invest all of its efforts to demand Israeli accountability and to ostracise Israel from the world community. Just as South African apartheid was condemned and ostracised through efforts made by the South African liberation movement, the PNA, too, should undertake similar measures. Palestinians need a movement that genuinely advocates our national liberation, which will hold Israel accountable and will press for sanctions on Israel, not a government that will continue to serve Israeli and US interests. Should the PNA continue with its “business as usual” approach, Palestinians may indeed witness a 2015 far worse than 2014.
Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.