47th Anniversary of the Palestinian Revolution: From Landless Revolution to Circumscribed Authority
By: Jamal Kanj* for Intifada-palestine.com
January 1, 1965 was the official start of the contemporary Palestinian revolution. On a Friday night December 31, 1964, small group of fighters attacked an Israeli military target, leaving behind the first martyr on the long march towards recognizing the usurped rights of Palestinian refugees.
The first military operation of Fatah, or “Conquest in English” was in the making for at least a decade before the official spark on January 1, 1965. Interestingly enough though, the main founders of Fatah were working professionals living in Arabian Gulf Countries, including Yasser Arafat and current Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, among others.
In 1965, Fatah’s project represented a paradigm shift in reframing the Palestinian story from hapless refugees to revolutionary fighters feared and respected by friends and foes alike. After 17 years of waiting in abject refugee camps, the new leadership envisaged a direct and independent Palestinian role in shaping the nature and the future of the Arab Israeli conflict. Short years later, Fatah succeeded in turning a penniless, landless movement into a strong, vibrant and global revolutionary symbol.
In a public communiqué six years earlier, the nascent Fatah declared “Life in the tent has become as miserable as death… We, the sons of the catastrophe, are no longer willing to live this dirty, despicable life, this life which has destroyed our cultural, moral and political existence and destroyed our human dignity.”
Following the Israeli attack and disastrous Arab defeat of 1967 and the occupation of all of Palestine, other Palestinian political groups, who earlier repudiated Fatah’s approach and foresaw their fight for the liberation of Palestine as part of a larger pan Arab emancipation, abjured their theory and joined the battle for Palestine.
In late 1967, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), emerged from the womb of the Pan Arab Nationalist Movement (ANA), primarily a Palestinian party established in 1951 by the late Dr. George Habash. Later, at least two other smaller organizations were instigated or sponsored by Arab regimes, like Syria and Iraq.
Palestinian refugee camps in the diaspora, towns and villages under Israeli occupation became readily recruitment breeding grounds for the new organizations. Being at the vanguard of the modern Palestinian armed struggle, Fatah became the most prominent organization dominating Palestinian Politics for years to come.
In addition to their armed mission, and to fulfill acute community needs in refugee camps, the new organizations established medical clinics, social services, sport and youth centers. Ideologically, the groups were mixture of Pan Arab groups, internationalist, secular and nationalist organizations.
Considering the elevated level of sectarian politics dominating Arab and Palestinian environment today, none of the rebel organizations had any direct religious affiliation or sectarian propensity; to the contrary, at least two became Marxist inclined.
The first major direct confrontation between Fatah rebels and Israeli forces took place in the Jordanian village of Karama on March 21, 1968. The battle resulted in a symbolic victory forcing the Israeli army to retreat leaving behind destroyed military gear. The Karama battle became a turning point in Fatah’s evolution receiving official Arab approbation and wide public affirmation. Financial support poured in and its membership grew exponentially.
In 1969, Arafat became to head of the Palestine Liberation organization, an umbrella group, presiding over a national council representing a wide range of Palestinian civilian and rebel organizations.
By 1974, the PLO was recognized as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” enjoying a permanent observer status at the UN General Assembly and established diplomatic relations with over 100 countries, more than Israel did.
Despite major setbacks in 1970 conflict in Jordan, the Lebanese civil war in the mid-seventies, internal divisions and the forced evacuation from Beirut 1982, the PLO remained the undisputed power to account for in the Arab Israeli conflict. Its late leader, Arafat, proved to be an adroit political survival leading the PLO from an exiled liberation movement to a new home based Palestinian Authority in 1994.
From Landless revolution to circumscribed Authority
For almost 20 of its 47 years life, Fatah led PLO in endless protracted peace negotiation marathons with its sworn enemy, Israel. Yet, it is not any much closer today to realizing the rights of Palestinian refugees than on January 1, 1965.
While negotiation with Israel is at standstill, Israel persists on violating UN resolutions and all peace accords by building more illegal Jewish only settlements on the same land designated for the future Palestinian state.
Concomitantly, the occupation has created two separate unequal communities: ensconced illegal Jewish only settlements with dedicated infrastructure road systems and services; and Native Palestinian community whose movement is hindered by a web of impinging military check points and is inadequately served by a powerless Palestinian Authority.
After 20 years of failed negotiations, the Palestinian leadership had limited its options by placing all their “eggs” in the negotiation basket. They don’t have the military power to challenge Israel, and with a timid emblematic official Arab support, Palestinians can’t muster the diplomatic clout to achieve just peace in an unfavorable balance of power environment.
In order not become an apathetic docile observer to Israel’s land expropriations for the benefit of Jewish only settlements, and its lackadaisical attitude towards the peace process. The Palestinian Authority must consider calculated bold initiatives to counter Israel’s temporizing subterfuge intended to change the demographics for the remaining 22 per cent of historical Palestine.
Peace must be reciprocal necessity for both Palestinians and Israelis. Israel should not enjoy de facto peace while Palestinians are denied their rudimentary rights of living normal human life. Israel economy must not prosper while stifling the Palestinian economy. Israel must not be able to continue maintaining an iniquitous occupation with impunity.
Since the signed Oslo Peace Accord, Israel’s only fully implemented part was to turn over public obligations to the Palestinian Authority; hence, making the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the least costly military occupation ever. While Israel retained complete control over land, water and absolute military fiat, the Palestinian Authority had become, unwillingly, an occupation “service provider” taxed with performing tiresome municipal public services, at its own expense.
The Palestinian Authority must work harder to restore the unity government. This is essential to undercut claims that Palestine was not ready for statehood; ironically, by the same powers which instigated the division in the first place when they rejected the results of Palestinian democracy.
A united Palestinian government must then seriously reassess the peace process. While negotiations could not continue with no end in sight, stalemate should not become the inert alternative either.
In addition to its international diplomatic efforts, the Palestinian unity government must promote and coordinate current haphazard isolated civil protests throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem. Protestations against the separation wall, perverse military checkpoints, demolishing of Palestinian homes, and quotidian expansion or building of new illegal Jewish only settlements, must become part of an organized collective civil disobedience movement to paralyze the Israeli occupation and disrupt the life of illegal settlers.
The blooming Arab spring is an opportune moment to expose US and Europe’s fallacious affection towards Arab democracy as they cosset the most anti-democratic racialist system in this region.
A united Palestinian Authority must initiate a new Palestinian spring to force Israel to choose between: being a Jewish only democracy, becoming a bi-national state, or give up on subjugating the Palestinian people and their land.
*Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab World issues and the author of “Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America”, Garnet Publishing, UK. Jamal’s articles can be read at www.jamalkanj.com, his email address is email@example.com
If you liked this article, please consider making a donation to Intifada Palestine by clicking on the following PayPal link. Thank you!