Liberation and Return are the Demands of the Palestinian People: A note of caution to our people and our allies

By US Palestinian Community Network.  In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has intensified diplomatic efforts to declare statehood at the United Nations. Wasting no avenue, the PA has been seeking to mobilize popular forces in Palestine and in the shatat (diaspora) behind this initiative.  Students, community associations, solidarity campaigns, and organizers, across the US, have all been called upon to “make Palestine the 194th state.”

While the call sounds attractive, many community members wonder what to make of it. Will this initiative bring Palestine closer to liberation? Will it help Palestinians achieve their right to return?  Some have remarked that, if nothing else, it will not hurt.

The US Palestinian Community Network, a grassroots community-led network of democratically elected chapters across the US, asserts that such initiatives, in fact, do hurt. They are not benign exercises, but can cause great damage to achievements made through the hard, brutal, struggle of generations of Palestinians.

As has been recently revealed, this initiative in no way protects nor advances our inalienable, and internationally recognized, rights—fundamental of which are our right to return to the homes and properties from which we were forcibly expelled, our right to self-determination, and our right to resist the settler colonial regime that has occupied our land for more than 63 years. The Palestinian people, wherever they are, hold these rights. They are non-negotiable. No one can barter them away for false promises of “peace” and “stability.” The cynical irony of turning a UN resolution enshrining our right to return under international law (UNGA Res. 194) into a rhetorical ploy should give anyone pause.  That it is being advanced at a time when the PA does not even have the political mandate of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza through Palestinian Legislative Council elections must also give us pause.

Our inalienable rights give us the foundational principles with which we seek liberation and return. When these two things are achieved, it is then that we will achieve independence. Not before, and not without the mandate of the entirety of the Palestinian people. Indeed, it is in struggle and the emboldening of our emancipatory spirit that we free ourselves. Resistance is our first independence.

But, the question remains. Who protects our inalienable rights? Who speaks in the name of the Palestinian people?

In our long Palestinian revolutionary struggle, no matter where we lived, we fought for our right to determine our own destiny; pave a path to freedom that would be of our own design, our own democratic will. In 1968, we rescued the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Arab regimes, and through a generation of struggle and sacrifice, transformed it into the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, recognized by the Arab League and by the United Nations.

Through the PLO, and its countless popular committees, associations, unions, and camp formations, many (though not all) Palestinians had a voice within their movement.  Indeed, it is that popular democratic mobilization that gave the PLO its legitimacy. And in its continued role as legitimate representative, the PLO, and only the PLO, has the legal mandate to advance the political will of the Palestinian people.

Any diplomatic initiatives, including the initiative at the United Nations this September, must therefore preserve the status of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people at the United Nations and protect and advance our inalienable rights. The current Statehood initiative does neither, and is therefore an unacceptable threat to the Palestinian national movement.

We say this knowing full well that, in the last few decades, the PLO has been decimated by corruption, ineptitude, collaboration, and betrayal. It must be reclaimed, cleaned, revived and rebuilt. It is we, the Palestinian people, across the shatat and in the homeland, who will do it.  It is ours. We will not allow it to be stolen from us. The PLO must expand to truly represent all Palestinians, inside Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, in the camps, and across the shatat. It is we who give it legitimacy; it is we who give political mandate to our leadership; it is we who will breathe new life into our long too dormant national institutions through popular democratic mobilization.

In the mean time, we hold the current occupants of PLO positions ultimately responsible for protecting the PLO’s role as the representative of the Palestinian people. A failure to do so must have consequences.

We call on all Palestinian and Arab community associations, societies and committees, student organizations, solidarity campaigns, to reject fully and unequivocally the Statehood initiative as a distraction that unjustifiably and irresponsibly endangers Palestinian rights and institutions.

We need not be concerned that to do so would be to stand with the interests of the US or Israel.  Lack of US and Israeli support for the statehood initiative is a red herring, meant to distract us from the continued support that both have provided for an Authority and “peace process” that daily cost the Palestinian people their liberty, self-determination and lives.

However, such an initiative nonetheless has potential to positively impact our struggle.  It clarifies for us that we must return to a framework we once had, but one that has been thwarted by decades of endless and cynical negotiations, diplomatic stunts, and “peace deals.” We must return to a framework of genuine struggle and a cohesive and coherent strategy built upon our inalienable rights.

The first step in such a strategy must be an escalated focus on Palestinian mobilization for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO.  It is the PNC that holds the mechanism by which Palestinians can collectively determine the strategy the PLO must execute in our name. Its democratization is key to cohering us, bringing back to us our collective force. Indeed, democratization of our movement must reach into all aspects of our political work, in each of our community associations, as well as all our student, labor and popular formations.

We therefore call on all Palestinians across the United States to participate in strengthening the campaign for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council by participating in Palestinian Movement Assemblies and Community Meetings for Democratic National Representation. Held throughout the summer, these meetings will continue through the fall and throughout the country.  They will grow as the campaign grows, building a critical mass for our demand for democratic representation. You can find more information and when a PMA will be taking place near you here.

Organize an assembly, community meeting, or town hall in your area. USPCN will be with you every step of the way, with support, guidance and coordination.  We can only demand of our struggle what we put into it. We are indivisible from the Palestinian people. We must activate and elevate our role in the shatat for our common liberation and return.

To students, solidarity campaigns and allies, we caution you against this distraction of resources, time, and energy. The path for solidarity and mutual struggle is clear. We must continue the work of building our common struggles for all forms of emancipation and liberation. We must continue to isolate Zionism, and strengthen the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the United States by getting involved in the growing campaigns across the country. We must return to international institutions with our inalienable rights intact, and utilize all legal instruments, vigorously, to challenge Israel’s impunity for its continued and unceasing crimes in Gaza. We must support the legal campaigns against Israeli war criminals, shame them, hound them, and try them at the International Criminal Court for their continued crimes against our humanity.

And we must also take to the streets. Let us all rally at the United Nations on September 15 (more info). The march will take place on Thursday, September 15 in New York City, with a 4:30 gathering in Times Square followed by a 5:30 march to Grand Central and the United Nations. We demand the United Nations hear our voice. We are the people of Palestine, we are the allies of Palestine, and we will be heard by the General Assembly.

To our beautiful brave Arab people, from Tripoli to Cairo to Homs to Sana’a to Amman to Manama, we salute you and stand with you. In devoting ourselves to our liberation, we honor your sacrifices and struggle for our Palestine and for our Arab future. Stand with us, open the gates and crossings that besiege us, and rest assured: we will not stop until the banner of freedom flutters above the skies of our Jerusalem.

Until liberation and return.

US Palestinian Community Network
August 27, 2011