Sep 22nd 2009

A New Path of Palestinian Resistance

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Despite the continuing horrors visited upon Palestinians, their deep political divide, relentless Israeli settlement expansion and more, there are glimmers of hope in the Palestinian skies. What I am referring to here, are not external developments like ongoing U.S.-led efforts to rekindle Israeli-Palestinian peace talks or growing European impatience with Israeli occupation policies. As important as these may be, more significant are the developments occurring within Palestinian society, all of which, if combined and strengthened, point in the direction of empowerment and self-liberating resistance.

Specifically, I am speaking about the recently completed Fatah Conference, the two-year plan, "Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State," announced by interim Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and the weekly demonstrations at the wall near the village of Bilin.

While critics point to its flaws, the fact that the Fatah conference was organized, at all, on the land of Palestine, is significant. It is true that it was held under occupation, but the reality is that Fatah used the space created by recent events and international pressure to organize, in spite of the occupation, and to elect a new leadership committed to ending the occupation. The sessions of the conference were heated and deliberative and, while not perfect, they were democratic. As such, its very occurrence was an act of resistance, defying a generation-long effort by the occupation to deny Palestinians their national identity and their right to organize as an independent people.

The two year plan, laid out by Prime Minister Fayyad, must also be viewed, through this same lens, as an act of resistance. As Fayyad correctly noted, Palestinians have the capacity and the need, despite the persistence of a hostile occupation, to build independent institutions, the creation of which are prerequisites of statehood. Creating accountable and transparent structures that educate the young, provide security and needed social services, foster economic growth, and organize daily life, are, in themselves, acts of resistance. They empower and self-liberate Palestinians, while denying the occupiers the control they have sought to impose.

Complementing these efforts are the weekly demonstrations at Bilin. By organizing non-violent resistance against the wall, the groups involved provide a clear example of the power of popular mobilization. That these efforts have won support is important, but they must be further strengthened, and adopted by a broad spectrum of Palestinian society, including Fatah, enabling them to become a mass expression of resistance. This will not only enhance empowerment, it will also provide needed leverage and support to the Palestinian Authority's negotiating posture.

What is distressing, of course, is that those who claim to be the "standard bearers of true resistance" have stepped up their criticism of these efforts, accusing them of abandoning Palestinian rights. Their criticisms are wrong, based, as they are, on a distorted understanding of resistance. These critics have, in fact, made a fetish of violence and, therefore, can only see resistance through the distorted lens of the application of violence. But resistance means much more than bombs and rockets, and, in fact, often times violence can be antithetical to true resistance.

In its proper sense, resistance is the strategic application of tactics, designed to counter oppression, progressively leading to liberation. As a strategy that utilizes tactics, resistance assesses the effectiveness of tactics that are available. Those that have failed, strengthening the hold of oppression, are rejected, while those that empower people, moving them forward toward liberation, are embraced and developed. Tactics are never ends in themselves. If they do not serve the strategic goal of liberation, they are cast off as counter-productive.

That is why I have long argued that the path of violent resistance leads to a dead end, while the path of non-violent resistance through direct action, institution building, and the development of popular political organization provide a promising alternative. It is important to keep in mind these are tactics, and are not sufficient, in themselves, nor are they ends in themselves. To bear fruit, they must be strengthened, combined, and used in tandem as part of a broader strategy, whose end is to establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just and comprehensive resolution of the issue of refugees.

One other critical element, internal to Palestinian society, must also be considered here, and that is the deep fissure that has divided the West Bank and Gaza into hostile camps. Reconciliation is an absolute necessity, since no real progress toward statehood can be made as long as the Palestinian house is divided. But, for reconciliation to occur, whether through mediation efforts still underway in Cairo, or otherwise, the leadership of Hamas must understand the disaster that its failed approach to resistance has wrought. Israel can rightly be condemned for its barbaric assaults and its inhumane blockade of Gaza (as well as its acquisitive, humiliating and deadly policies in the West Bank and Jerusalem). But Hamas refuses to recognize not only the futility, but outright stupidity, and pathological destructiveness, of its ways. To paraphrase, my friend, the late Twefiq Zayyad, "you may claim the right to armed struggle, but when you consistently use it so badly, you forfeit that right". Given recent, and not so recent, history, Zayyad's words ring true.

The time has, therefore, come to recognize that a new path forward must be found. If it is not, than no matter what external players do and don't do, the Palestinian reality will not appreciably change.

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More Current Affairs

Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "