Palestine: ‘Statehood’ or liberation struggle?

The Palestinian grassroots, including people in exile, continues the independent organizing that earlier this year led to the historic May and June Nakba and Naksa border-crossing “Marches for Return.” In August the focus turned to an intervention into the controversy over Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to call for a vote on “statehood” at the UN in September.

In the United States, Palestinians and their allies are mobilizing for a rally outside the UN on Sept. 15 calling for support for the full panoply of Palestinian rights. While taking advantage of the media attention to Abbas’ plan, central organizers of the rally, such as the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), have made clear that the UN vote is not only inadequate but an actual danger to Palestinian rights.
USPCN called on all Palestinian and Arab community and student groups and solidarity campaigns “to reject fully and unequivocally the Statehood initiative as a distraction that unjustifiably and irresponsibly endangers Palestinian rights and institutions.” They pointed to the danger of PA usurpation of PLO prerogatives, which would lead to the abandonment of historic rights such as the right of return.
Instead, they call for a return to struggle for liberation, rejecting a bogus independence through pursuing a caricature of statehood, saying that only when liberation and return are achieved will true independence be won. “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.”
“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.
“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.  … 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 will breathe new life into our long too dormant national institutions through popular democratic mobilization. … 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. … Indeed, democratization of our movement must reach into all aspects of our political work.”
And they situate the struggle in the regional revolt: “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.”
USPCN called for attendance at the Sept. 15 rally, and for stepping up the already-launched nationwide campaign for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council, a campaign organized through the Palestinian Movement Assemblies and Community Meetings for Democratic National Representation being held around the U.S.
This focus on grassroots participation and leadership of the movement couldn’t come at a more crucial time. For while the UN events will likely lead to mass action by Palestinians around the world for genuine liberation, Israel has already warned it will meet a new intifada with mass murder.
A foretaste of that came with the regime’s murder of 19 civilians in Gaza in bombing raids after an attack on a bus carrying Israeli soldiers from a military base in Eilat. After the attacks, Palestinian doctors seeing children with hands and feet amputated reported that new, unknown weapons had been used with effects surpassing even the dreaded white phosphorus. These attacks were feared to be the opening of even greater slaughter, but at a meeting of the Zionist cabinet several officials had to admit that Israel’s increasing international isolation made such an attack difficult.
However, the regime has already warned that a mass revolt in September will be met with live fire. The Zionist army has begun training settlers in the West Bank for joint IDF-settler attacks on Palestinian protesters.
The settlers, the vast majority of whom already carry guns, received tear gas and grenades from the army, which also announced (but kept secret the exact location of) two lines in the sand: If protesting Palestinians cross the first, tear gas and other “riot control” measures will be used. If they cross the second, the Zionist army will fire “at their legs” (in IDF investigations of murders by its soldiers, the latter were always said to have aimed at Palestinians’ legs when the bullets entered the chest or head).
We can be sure too that the report of the UN Secretary General’s Commission investigating the Mavi Marmara massacre, which gave its blessing to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in complete defiance of international law and even the denunciation of the blockade by other UN bodies, will further embolden the Zionist regime. On the other hand, it will likely lead to a revival of the movement against the siege of Gaza, which has already gotten back in action around a campaign to open the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
And Palestinians have taken heart in the mass demonstrations in Egypt demanding the closing of Israeli embassies, and the replacement of Zionist flags with Palestinian ones by wall-climbing protesters in Cairo and Alexandria. We urge all supporters of Palestinian rights to mobilize Sept. 15 at the UN, and to hit the streets in solidarity with renewed Palestinian mass action and in response to every Zionist attack.
> The article above was written by Andrew Pollack, and first appeared in the September 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.