What do Palestinians want, if not a State?

It is disconcerting and surprising to hear so many thoughtful Palestinians express doubt and anger about the prospect, maybe, of finally having a state of their own.

What do Palestinians want?

So many Palestinians are in jail — most detained in Israel, some detained by the PA in the West Bank, some by Hamas in Gaza. Family visits are very difficult, and humiliating. Palestinians want the prisoners released.

They want security and prosperity and freedom and dignity — just as George W. Bush said a couple of times. That means an end to the occupation.

And many if not most would, indeed, like to go back, if not to their homes, at least to their towns or regions (despite formal and informal poll results to the contrary).

They want acknowledgement of their displacement and dispossession, and they want compensation.

They want to be treated with respect, to have equal rights, to be able to move around, and to travel.

Before 1948, it was possible to have breakfast in Cairo, lunch in Jerusalem, and dinner in Damascus or Beirut.

After that, from 1948 to 1967, families and neighbors were dispersed and separated, with no ability to contact each other, and secret services watching every piece of mail, every phone call.

It was possible for those in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to travel outside then, around the Arab world, to Europe and America and everywhere — everywhere but inside Israel.

But Palestinians who had fled to Lebanon or Syria could not call their relatives in the Galilee. It was even difficult to call Gaza, when it was under Egyptian administration.

After the 1967 war, barriers disappeared, at least between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Some, who remember those days, want to go back to the 1970s and 1980s, when Palestinians could meet each other again (at least those between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean) — when they could move around the whole place, there were few restrictions so everybody could move around, get jobs with decent pay (in Israel, mostly), and have fun.

But others say they don’t want a State if the current leadership will continue to be in charge, if Ramallah continues to be a “bubble” where those with the most connections and nerve can become rich, while everybody else becomes more and more poor, and fearful of not having their minimal salaries halved or cut entirely at donor whim. They say they don’t want a police state, like all the other Arab governments. And they don’t want the Palestinian security forces to be protecting Israeli interests, and arresting Palestinian critics and dissidents.

Explaining his objections, one 16-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, Jalal Abukhater, wrote recently that “decades have gone by since the two-state solution was openly put on the table. Palestinians have wasted their time negotiating, given up much of what was once their right, and have lost far more than they have gained in negotiations with the Israeli state in recent decades. At this point, I don’t believe any kind of two-state solution is realistic to even think about. The two-state solution simply means a Jewish-only state, with a Palestinian semi-state next to it filled with illegal settlements and a wall that basically takes away natural resources and strategic lands from the Palestinians, and no Palestinian governance over East Jerusalem. I was never for the two-state solution, for a number of reasons. First, as a Palestinian, I consider a two-state solution to be a dream that is far from reality. There is no way Israel (at present) will give East Jerusalem back to the Palestinians. The wall and settlements all across the West Bank have already designated the borders of the Palestinian state, and even the West Bank is barely under Palestinian control. Finally, I am not for the two-state solution, because those who yearn for it reject the Right of Return for Palestinians. The two-state solution rejects the Palestinians right to claim back their stolen property, rejects their right to live in their hometowns in Jaffa, Haifa, Safed, Tiberias and other places”.

Jalal’s piece was picked up and published on the Israeli blogger/journalist collective, +972 magazine, here.

He also said, “I often criticize the few Israelis (those of the Zionist left) who come to the West Bank to support Palestinians struggling for their state – a state which is supposed to co-exist alongside Israel, but which will be a poor, unarmed state of Palestine alongside Israel, a nuclear-armed state with the power of mass destruction. Those Israelis who seek the two-state solution have forgotten who owned the house they live in, who owned the property their mall is built on, who owned the land of Palestine which is today referred to as Israel. Historic Palestine is a land that welcomes all faiths, all people. Israel seeks to become a Jewish-only state. Even Barack Obama has begun referring to Israel as a Jewish state in his last Middle East speech … We Palestinians lost our lands in 1948, we lost more lands in 1967, and we are currently losing whatever is left of Palestine today. The only way to not lose it all is to not give up anymore. At this point, I will accept living in one state joining Jews and Arabs together, with equal rights where, of course, the Right of Return can be applied to Palestinians, just as it has been implemented for six decades for Jews. I respect every Israeli who is ready to have me or any other Arab as his neighbor in an apartment in Tel-Aviv. I am ready to respect every Israeli who feels we are all equal and we all deserve the same equal rights in life”.

In another article he wrote this week for +972 magazine, Jalal Abukhater explained he was interested in the July 15 demonstration [see our post yesterday]– but lost interest when he found that the marchers were calling for a two-state solution: “Less than a week ago, I started reading on Twitter that there will be a large demonstration organized by Israeli Leftwing activists in Jerusalem protesting the new Boycott Bill and Israeli occupation of Palestinian Occupied Territories. I expected that activists will challenge the anti-Boycott law and chant for BDS or call for Settlement boycott as well as chanting for a Palestinian state, I was wrong. It turned out to be a march organized by Zionist leftists calling for a legitimate Palestinian state next to the state of Israel. I just lost all motives that would make me want to attend that demonstrations, but I eventually did, only as an observer and not a participant … I decided to attend this demonstration as an observer because I believed in the goodness of their short-term goals standing in solidarity with Palestinians living in threatened East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Shekh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras al-Amoud, A-Tur, and others and of course against illegal West Bank settlements. I decided to overlook the actual purpose they decided to march through the streets of Jerusalem. I simply despised the idea that many people there carried posters saying ‘Two People, Two States, One Future’ That is an oxymoron. Three quarters of the Palestinian citizens in Gaza are refugees expelled from their homes back in 1948, and similar is the case in the West Bank … Palestinians did join the march, and for the matter of fact, many Palestinians led a majority of the chants at the march. But I believe most of those Palestinians were marching for the sake of their threatened homes in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, therefore serving short-term aims of the march to put a stop to the ethnic cleansing of Arab Jerusalemites, and not to call for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. Some may call me naïve, but I assure you I am not. These views are not of mine alone, they’re shared by a majority of Palestinians and many Israelis as well”. This latest piece is posted here.

@ANimer attended a conference on the September moves (apparently in Ramallah) on Saturday, and live-Tweeted both the remarks made by some speakers, and his own reactions. At one point, he Tweeted: “palestine is not member state in the #UN we are an entity.. #WTF this should mean? We r things!”

Today, he used a special Twitter hashtag, #whyiopposeseptember, and used it with his Tweets giving some of the reasons he is annoyed by the present focus on going to the UN in September / September statehood prospects — and he started with this:
#whyIopposeSeptember because if we had a state, i will have to pay for copy rights! and start buying movies.. not gunna do that — [then, in response to a question from @karinabraham, @ANimer replied "ohh yaa, it was a joke, still dont wanna pay for movies tho :P " ... At a later point, @karinabraham asks him: "@ANimer is this a common view among palestinians, do you think?". And he replies: "@karinabraham Yes! and even more radical" ]

Then, @ANimer Tweeted:
#whyiopposeseptember because Ramallah is not the capital of #Palestine
#whyiopposeseptember because we will centralize the Palestinian economy in Ramallah and ignore the other cities!
#whyiopposeseptember because i don’t wanna apply for a Visa to visit Haifa
#whyiopposeseptember because who left Jaffa in 48 shall return to Jaffa, not to #Nablus, Not #Gaza
#whyiopposeseptember: because Palestine has other ports than the non existing #Gaza port
#whyiopposeseptember because I don’t want to beg the white man, my own independence, i would rather force my independence on them!
#whyiopposeseptember because i don’t want Palestinian state based on American-Capitalistic values
#whyiopposeseptember because how the fuck u gunna establish a state before u decolonize it… it’s simple logic!!
#whyiopposeseptember because NO one has the right to negotiate the right to return…n not even the PLO
#whyiopposeseptember because the PLO doesn’t represent Palestinian anymore to speak in their names
#whyiopposeseptember because it will a waste to tons of Palestinian blood spilled for True #Palestine

Asked at one point specifically about the results of the poll mentioned just below, @Animer replies to @karinabraham “i dunno maybe, poll doesn’t really work with palestinian.. we are never honest in them”…

A bizarre story in the Jerusalem Post today, written by Gil Hoffman, reporting on a recent poll, said that “Only one in three Palestinians (34 percent) accepts two states for two peoples as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip completed this week by American pollster Stanley Greenberg. The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, was conducted in partnership with the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Israel Project, an international nonprofit organization that provides journalists and leaders with information about the Middle East … Respondents were asked about US President Barack Obama’s statement that ‘there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people’. Just 34% said they accepted that concept, while 61% rejected it”. This is reported here.

But, that was a completely loaded question, of course.

If the question had been more simply phrased, with fewer descriptive adjectives ["Should there be two states: Palestine and Israel"], the poll results might have been completely different.

The poll described Palestinian respondents saying they believed in interpretations of religious texts that authorized the killing of Jews (an eerie parallel to a recent book written by an eminent national-religious Israeli rabbi that reportedly justifies the killing of non-Jews).

Then, after a lot of other loaded and bizarre statements, playing to the worst fears of the general public in Israel, the JPost article then states that “two-thirds preferred diplomatic engagement over violent ‘resistance’. Among Palestinians in general 65% preferred talks and 20% violence. In the West Bank it was 69-28%, and in Gaza, 59-32%. Asked whether they backed seeking a Palestinian state unilaterally in the UN, 64% said yes. The number was 57% in the West Bank and 79% in Gaza. Thirty-seven percent said the UN action would bring a Palestinian state closer, 16% said it would set back the establishment of a state, and 44% said it would make no difference”.

Then, the JPost story noted, “When asked what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top priorities should be, 83% said creating jobs. Just 4% said getting the UN to recognize a Palestinian state, and only 2% said peace talks with Israel” …

When you put it like that, what kind of answer do you expect?

Then, the JPost reported that the American pollster, Stanley Greenberg, said at a presentation of the poll results in Jerusalem last week that “the survey proved that there was a big need for public education and leadership on the Palestinian side”…

The poll results have been presented to the Israeli leadership, the JPost indicated, and “Next week, they have meetings scheduled in the White House and the Pentagon”…

But some Palestinians, though they may not be the vocal majority at the moment, do want a State.

In another article in the JPost, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who lives most of the time in Jordan, argued that on several grounds that the Palestinian leadership had made big efforts against incitement [giving, as examples, vague references to changes in Palestinian Television practices, and to alleged USAID beaming approval of the PA Ministry of Education though not specficially including its textbooks and other materials].

But, the focus of his article was on the UN and statehood strategy. He wrote that “The Palestinian leadership is more committed than ever to obtaining statehood through the United Nations General Assembly. But despite this commitment, there is worry that success in New York might not necessarily mean success in Nablus or Hebron … [And] After it has done so much to prove itself ‘worthy’ to Israel and the international community, and come out empty handed, it wouldn’t be strange if the Palestinian leadership gave up on the peace process and returned to military resistance, or simply threw the keys of the PA in the Israelis’ faces. No one would blame Abbas if he said the Palestinian leadership would no longer do Israel’s dirty work and protect it from the anger of a people under a 44-year occupation”.

Nonetheless, Kuttab argued, Abbas was courageously choosing a third way (and most definitely not a Third Intifada): “By appealing to the world community, Palestinians are changing the rules of the game as set by Israel. No longer will the rights of Palestinians continue to be held hostage to the US or its pro-Israel Congress. The entire world is now asked to make a statement concerning this conflict. Ironically it was in this same world body, the UN General Assembly, that Israel began its process toward statehood. The partition plan approved in 1947, which declared Israel and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as an international city, is now the focus of the Palestinian strategy. The Palestinian aspiration for statehood is based on the 1967 borders, which is a much smaller area than that allocated in 1947 for the Arab state”.

It was the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who proclaimed an independent Palestinian state in 1988, based on the UN partition plan approved in General Assembly Resolution 181, unfair as Arafat said it was. This proclamation was made before the Palestine National Council meeting in exile in Algiers, and the PNC also endorsed the position that this state would be established in the “1967 borders”, with East Jerusalem as its capital…

Regardless of the confusion, Ma’an News Agency reported today here that the PA is launching a “massive” diplomatic campaign, dispatching senior officials to targeted states around the globe. According to this Ma’an report, “Saeb Erekat says the campaign is aimed at achieving two goals, ‘first gaining recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, secondly gaining membership as a state in the UN’.”

This may well mean, as we reported earlier here, that the strategy will be to go to the UN General Assembly first, to upgrade the status of Palestine to non-member observer state — on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Then, to go to the UN Security Council to ask for full membership…

Confusion, criticism, resentment and acting at cross-purposes reign…

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