|Institut für Palästinakunde|
- IPK -
It came as no surprise, yet remained profoundly disappointing, when President Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely “postponed” the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled to begin this month in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The official reason, delivered by the president last Thursday in a room full of elderly male officials, was Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to participate in the vote, showing its continued rejection of any Palestinian political activity in the city.
Although the exclusion of Jerusalem is indeed a serious obstacle, many Palestinians were under no illusions over the bigger causes at play. The ruling Fatah party had split into three factions ahead of the election; prominent political prisoner Marwan Barghouti had cast his hat in for the presidency; and the Palestinian public’s excitement, with 93 percent of voters registered and 36 lists running, showed an eagerness for drastic change.
In short, Abbas was terrified he was going to lose.
The decision demonstrates yet again the archaic, corrupt, and authoritarian mindset of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, which for three decades has operated as a middle manager of Israel’s colonial rule. That failure is made even starker by the fact that this past month, while the Palestinian Authority has insisted on maintaining its regressive path and undermining its people’s liberties, many groups abroad have been pushing the envelope of mainstream international discourse to bolster the defense of Palestinian rights.
Last Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a landmark report charging Israel with the crimes of apartheid and persecution against all Palestinians between the river and the sea. A week prior, the Carnegie Endowment and USMEP think tanks challenged U.S. policymakers to abandon their state-centric paradigm and adopt a “rights-based approach” instead. The week before that, during its annual conference, the lobby group J Street hosted debates not only around the idea of conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel, but of pursuing confederation as a model for resolving the conflict.
These are all declarative acts, but they serve as major signposts of where the international conversation on Israel-Palestine is heading. The engine of this progress lies not with the political elites sitting in the Muqata’a, but with the countless Palestinian activists, scholars, and organizations that have asserted their ideas, despite the relentless attempts to stifle them — including by their own politicians.
As more establishment groups join this growing movement and echo what Palestinian civil society has long been advocating, it is incumbent upon them to make sure that, with every document and at every forum, they give credit where credit is due. And with the right support, Palestinians can ensure that their leadership reflects the foresight and ingenuity that their society has to offer.
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