This is an analytical paper which summarizes the different positions that were expressed in the political dialogue which the Arab Thought Forum held on 13 November 2001 under the title Palestinian Factions and New Political Changes . The participants included Marwan Bargothi, Hasan Yusif, Salih Ra fat, Qais Abedul Karim, Abdel Rahman Malouh, Wasil Abu Yusif, Ahmad Majdalani, Salim Hamdan and Ahmad Yaqub. The facilitator of the session was Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh and Nasr Yaqub took the minutes.
The assassination of Rahabam Zaivi represented a violation of the forbidden and maybe it broke the rules of the game; the Palestinian side has never thought of breaking them since getting rid of one of the Israeli ministers was the first action of its type since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The convening of the meeting for dialogue by the Arab Thought Forum is based on the fact that this stage is a continuous state of conflicts and not one single instance. Thus it requires a deep and enlightened thinking on three domains: how to confront the Israeli arrogant policy, the nature of this confrontation and the Palestinian internal situation. Consequently, a dialogue on these three areas aims at pointing out the borderlines of the Do s and Don ts in each domain; it also hopes to come out with some kind of general guidelines in addressing the raised issues.
The question that has to be asked and confronted is: What are the rules of the game that the Palestinians are using in dealing with the Israelis . Another sub-question is raised: Who agrees with these rules and who violates and breaks these rules In order to address this question, the Uprising which broke out against the occupation under the pretext that a settlement is not feasible is in fact an expression of the continuous Israeli violations of all rules of the political game since the signing of the Oslo Accords. It came at a time when the Israelis are going ahead with the policy of killings and assassinations, confiscation and usurp of natural resources, building of settlements and imposing concessions on the Palestinian side.
Higher Palestinian Interest
When addressing the issue of open confrontation with the Israelis, some depend on the concept of the Higher Interest of the Palestinian people and sometimes the activities and the forms of confrontation and the degree of violence used are categorized to give some kind of lawfulness or unlawfulness to some forms of struggle or to ban some activities if they were very intense since they would influence the implementation of the Palestinian national project and disrupt the fulfillment of national aims by giving Israel the excuse to disassociate itself from previously signed agreements. In addition, we should not forget the many Palestinian sacrifices and losses that will be paid without any political gain but these activities will be very destructive and embarrassing to the position of the Palestinian Authority instead. There is also another point of view, which believes that the official Palestinian leadership has the right to define and outline the higher and strategic interest of all the Palestinian people, and it is the only party authorized to use appropriate tactics at different stages.
On the other hand, there is another view that contradicts this approach and states that it is not valid to create a resemblance between the leadership and the higher interest; it even believes that such perspective is wrong and incorrect in light of the fact that there are other political factions and parties and the Palestinian public that have to be consulted. The Palestinian interest is not confined to any party or side nor is it allowed to any party to claim the right to determine the Palestinian interests especially when the higher interests are being strengthened by Palestinian blood. No one has the right to state that this has come at the wrong time for this operation or that. In fact, it is of vital importance to leave the choice of resistance open to military wings of different factions until these factions decide by themselves the nature of responses to the Israeli violations of the rules of the game.
Between these two positions, there is a third view that insists on the need to determine the higher Palestinian interest which is embodied in the establishment of the Palestinian state, return of refugees, Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the unity of the Palestinian people and the termination of occupation. This third view goes on in its analysis and states that it is essential to go beyond the discussion of the Palestinian higher interest and who has the right to determine its elements and disclose its contents and only engage in a discussion that concentrates on the way how to achieve these objectives and aspirations.
At this turning point we reach at the same cross roads. The end and resistance of occupation are the main aims, but the limitations of this resistance and agreement on the political, uprising and armed activities and what is permissible and what is not allowed are the bone of contention between different sides. In spite of the fact that it is true to accept that the uprising is an expression of resistance of occupation, it is a sure reflection of the lack of conviction for the majority of the Palestinian people in having a political settlement since the signing of Oslo accord until 28 September2000. Nevertheless, the uprising as a legitimate right of the Palestinian people in resisting occupation does not mean the implementation of vague, floating and aimless mechanisms, movements and activities. Opting for all means like armed operations inside the 1948 occupied Palestinian land and targeting Israeli civilians are not like boycotting Israeli goods, abiding by international legitimate resolutions or obtaining Arab and Islamic support and holding fast to refugee questions and different constants, variables and mechanisms.
In general, the statement about the militarization of the current Uprising carries a big error since it is unknown whether a party had taken a decision to militarize the uprising. After 34 days from the outbreak of the Uprising and until 1November2000 not one single shot was fired by the Palestinian side while more than 87 martyrs died and 2800 persons were injured. Furthermore, the talk of the street has found its way in serious questions and doubts regarding the absence of a military action against Israeli suppression and the insults to the Palestinian soldiers for not responding, not joining the crowds in the confrontations, not protecting the Palestinian people and not inflicting losses in the Israeli side.
To conclude this general review, it is understood that there was an overwhelming feeling in the street that it is essential to involve and introduce armed struggle in the battlefield. The party that has more weapons than other parties has responded to the public call and was interested in waging this war. This party is Fatah Faction i.e. the Authority party. Because of that, this party did not have any internal considerations that dictate on it the need to deal with weapons in caution nor with the conditions that lead to its involvement in the battlefield. It is worth mentioning that the negative manifestations within this framework that accompanied this spontaneous action required a series of announcements, releases, contacts and dealings on part of the National and Islamic forces to reduce the phenomena of shooting form residential areas or during demonstrations and marches. Anyhow, it was very clear that the balance of military force was completely in favour of the Israeli side exactly as it was very important to rationalize resistance operations, choice of appropriate tactics and the type of weapon used in the fierce confrontations. It was also clear that a strategic decision to introduce weapons in the battlefield was absent. In fact, the use of weapon was introduced in a spontaneous and unplanned manner even in a chaotic manner then it was relatively rationalized.
It can also be concluded that condemning the militarization of the uprising and calling it wrong after thirteen months of struggle is an expression of defeatist position. It is a call to raise the white flag. Consequently, a critical review of the use of weapons in uprising for the sake of condemnation and rejection is leading us towards a world of fancy and away from the reality we are living in.
In a complex and complicated situation like this, a question is thrown at the table: How can the national unity continue in this situation Some state that a national unity is a state that is actually and practically existent
in the Palestinian arena. As a result, the question that has to be asked is: How can we rebuild or reproduce this national unity at this very critical stage in the Arab Zionist struggle especially at a time when the Palestinian arena is living two big and deep dilemmas which depend in their essence on creating internal crises instead of gaining an internal unanimous agreement and a unified Palestinian strategy. Having internal crises is an internal conflict. The best example is shown when a settler is killed. This incident instead of causing a crisis for the Zionist entity will turn into an internal Palestinian problem between the Authority and the different factions. Moreover, the dualism in the political address which is expressed in two different addresses; one is the official address of the Authority and the other is the National and Islamic Forces address with its entire spectrum. This situation will lead to an explosion of the national unity. The more important example on this dualism in address is the use of the concept of cease fire which is stated in the official address of the Authority and eventually influences national unity.
In order to reach the level of national unity, its requirements have to be met. On top of these requirements is the availability of a certain framework that guarantees the participation in decision taking, freedom of expression in political issues in particular. This will eventually lead to the end of political arrest and freeing the Palestinian society from all of its other implications. It is of vital importance to emphasize that it is completely forbidden that decisions are taken on individual bases. As for military operations, faction wings, unification of decision and the presence of some form of control and supervision on these operations, some call for a need to establish some form of a collective leadership for all wings and function as one body to coordinate between the different wings. By the same token, the Palestinian response to the Israeli suppressive actions should not be subject to the considerations and estimations of each wing but it should be subject to one framework to decide on the suitable form of response. Thus a kind of coordination and harmony will take place as regards military operations giving no chance for mistakes or embarrassment in the Palestinian arena. Also, the do s and dont s will not be confused, the forbidden will not be violated or the rules of the game will not be broken.
Moreover, there is a third opinion that states that a national unity does not necessarily mean an agreement or unanimity in views. It only means an agreement on broad political guidelines among the different factions and forces. At this stage, the agreement on the aim to terminate settlements, occupation, return of refugees and the fight of the Israeli aggression is very obvious and correct. It is also important to admit that the Palestinian arena is currently undergoing one labour after the other whether as signs of agreement or disagreement, yet differences of opinions should not be denied. It is allowed and desired to have such diversity of opinions. But the things that traps, hinders, hampers and embarrasses national unity are many issues like the issues of political arrests which have been actually carried out ,and this is the worrying part, for the sake of resisting the occupation. This in return will have its negative implications on the responses of the entire Palestinian public.
We can detect three main attitudes which have emerged among Palestinians in the context of the Uprising whether it was admitted that the assassination of Zaivi was a turning point or not. These are as follows:
- An attitude, which seeks to please the Israeli people under the pretext of reaching the people and supporting the Israeli peace camp.
- An attitude with a defeatist view in front of the arrogant and systematic policy of Sharon to undermine and stop the uprising.
- An attitude that works to foil Sharon s policy like what the Palestinian people did with his predecessors.
Defeating Sharon and foiling his plans are the most difficult options although they achieve the best gains for the Palestinian people. There is a need for great efforts to be exerted in a well studied and prepared manner to rule out the first and the second options or let us say at least to deter them.
* Mr.Ahmad Sa adat, the General Secretary of Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine was unable to attend , so he sent his written interventions on the three domains of the meeting. The intervention appears on a different section in this issue.