Modes of Palestinian Resistance and Gimmickry
For too long, Palestinian resistance leaders allowed enemies of the Palestinian revolution to dictate the terms, slogans and modes of resistance. Hajj Amin Husseini first trusted the British (until they kicked him out of Palestine) and then trusted the Arab regimes who foiled the 1936-1939 rebellion and succeeded (together with the Zionists) in turning it into a Palestinian civil war (after 1937).
After Husseini, Ahmad Shuqayri trusted first the Saudi government before turning his loyalty to Egypt’s Nasser, who worried about the regional political consequences of an independent Palestinian revolution.
But the biggest damage that has been done to the Palestinian resistance movement has been inflicted by Yasser Arafat. This is a man who led the Palestinian national movement right after the defeat of the Arab armies in 1967, when Arab revolutionary aspirations were sky-high and when Arab youth, from the Maghreb to the Mashriq, were turning in droves to volunteer at military training camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Arafat surrendered the cause to the Saudi government in return for large sums of money, which helped fund a vast PLO bureaucracy and helped co-opt other PLO and Lebanese organizations to undermine their revolutionary potential. Declassified US diplomatic cables show that King Faisal was funding Fatah in order to impose US terms on the Palestinian national movement and to control Arafat on behalf of the American-Zionist alliance.
Arafat became famous for allowing the US and other Western countries to dictate his own terminology and his own methods of operations. It is now an established fact that Arafat humiliatingly and embarrassingly read from a faxed US diplomatic statement in order to obtain a weak US political recognition for the PLO, which came at an exorbitant price for the whole Palestinian national movement.
The Palestinians are the primary victims of Zionism, and yet they have always been recipients of unfriendly advice from the enemies of the Palestinians. Ironically, while the US and Europe were primarily responsible for the crime of the creation of the state of Israel and for the crime of its continuation, occupations, and aggression, they were never shy in dispensing unsolicited advice to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians, unlike any other people under occupation, were told to adhere strictly to non-violent struggle in order to obtain “international public support.” Unwisely, the Palestinian national movement stuck to non-violent struggle from 1948 until the mid-1960s when Israel was imposing its will by brute force and when it was expanding its territory violently. Arab regimes and their Western allies conspired to prevent and later delay the creation of an armed Palestinian revolution.
And as soon as the Palestinian armed revolution began, Western governments lectured the Palestinians. They were repeatedly told that armed action would only bring about hostility from the rest of the world, when the reverse was true. The launch of Palestinian armed struggle in the mid-1960s brought about international recognition and support. The word
Palestinian did not appear once in the text of the UNSC 242.
Just as Israel has been peddling the racist colonial dictum that force is the only language that the Arabs understand (it was the message Fouad Ajami and Bernard Lewis delivered to George W. Bush personally on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003), Palestinians were expected to welcome and enjoy Zionist violence. Palestinians were told that the morality of their cause would be tarnished by any violent act, even the pelting of stones or tomatoes.
Western governments and people were able to sympathize with the armed struggles of Latin American and African groups, but not with Palestinians. In fact, even the elementary form of peaceful struggle known as boycott was treated by the US government as an illegal act that is tantamount to anti-Semitism (this while the US casually economically strangles countries that dare to defy US will around the world). Through their leadership, the Palestinians often foolishly allowed Western governments to deceive them and to give Israel breaks.
In Arab dealings with Israel, it has become clear that it is Israel that does not understand a language other than force. It withdrew without conditions from Lebanon under the protracted armed resistance began by Lebanese and Palestinian communists and concluded by Hezbollah and its allies.
Resistance to occupation can and should take many shapes. The original charter of the PLO (in 1964 and 1968, before Arafat humiliatingly allowed Bill Clinton to amend the charter on behalf of Israel) considered armed struggle the main method of liberation. But even George Habash and Wadi Haddad did not disregard other forms of struggle provided they complement and not replace armed struggle.
So Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is now crucial in complementing the Palestinian revolution, but it alone can’t and won’t liberate Palestine. But there are useful methods of peaceful resistance, like BDS, and then there are gimmicks that are performed as a spectacle for Western TV cameras, which don’t advance the march of Palestinian liberation.