Middle East

Who has a project to take Palestinian politics forward?

The decision by the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is affiliated with the United Arab List of parliamentarians, to freeze its membership in the settler, apartheid coalition government was received with great scepticism among Palestinians on both sides of the Green (1949 Armistice) Line. Many people believe that the move is not enough; indeed, that it is meaningless and has no impact on the Israeli government’s violence in Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, and in Jerusalem in general. The organisation was mocked because its decision was a result of the embarrassment caused by the steadfastness of Jerusalemites in confronting the occupation security forces.

Moreover, many sceptics did not take the criticism by the leaders of the rival Joint List of Knesset members seriously regarding the decision to freeze membership of the coalition government. They still recall the recommendation of war criminal Benny Gantz and, before that, some of the leaders’ attempts to integrate the Joint List into a Zionist “Israeli democratic pole”.

While it is true that representatives of the Joint List in the Knesset have not abandoned their commitment to resolving the Palestinian issue, Palestinian identity and the collective rights of the Palestinians in Israel, some have had to engage in harsher discourse in order to separate themselves from the Islamic Movement approach.

Given this collapse, confusion and decline, the voice of the third current represented by the National Democratic Assembly has, for roughly two decades, subsided against that of the Zionist core of the apartheid settlement state. Sami Abu Shehadeh MK has recently been trying to restore some of this political and intellectual identity that generated a major national and secular trend during that period and trying to attract prominent Palestinian academics and intellectuals within Israel. However, this attempt may lack the means needed for expansion and perhaps even survival because of the power of the Joint Lists’ other complexities, as well as for personal reasons regarding the current partisan leadership and the declining party situation resulting from this.

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The question that arises is simple: who possesses an alternative project to what is being circulated within the quarrels between the Southern Islamic Movement and the Joint List, in order to confront this cliché manipulation of politics between two poles that have reduced “politics” to what happens within the Knesset’s corridors and restrictions?

What, for example, is the fate of the National Democratic Assembly project, which hasn’t been completed; or, to be more accurate, hasn’t succeeded in moving from challenging the Jewishness of the occupation state and implementing a national and democratic discourse, to reorganising our people within Israel in true representative institutions that express their will, enable them to build and learn, and establish a self-dependent economy? Can we restore this project?

Meanwhile, the “self-made society” project proposed by the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement faced the same fate, again because of short-sightedness within and Israeli state aggressions towards it.

This does not mean that everything related to these projects is a complete failure, as they may well have made some priceless practical and moral achievements. We have laid the foundations for a legacy, albeit based on the different intellectual, political and societal ideologies of each political trend; current and future generations will certainly be inspired by them while building upon such foundations for their future.

The national democratic current has the potential, if not the ability at the moment, to rise up and renew its political and intellectual identity, because there is a great need for it. Moreover, because the political thought it produced is growing and developing qualitatively and quantitatively, manifested in independent academic institutions that embrace groups of academic youths who are restoring colonial and post-colonial studies and theories and using them in terms of the Zionist settlement reality. Hundreds of youths who received a political upbringing and took part in organisational and popular struggles, still maintain its ideas and approaches. Some of them have added much to it through their academic studies and self-education, surpassing many leaders in their knowledge and awareness, despite being outside party ranks or suspending their activity.

In my opinion, if a new opportunity or initiative arises, many of them will be at the forefront of the resultant activism. It is usual for those who have grown up with the experience of a national struggle to become more sensitive and resistant to the national and moral decline, and are thus more willing to resume national and civil society duties when the situations and conditions arise.

This is not limited to partisan motivations, despite the importance of organised action and the impossibility of societies doing without it, especially under the conditions experienced daily by our people. It is also motivated by pride in our homeland and the interests of the people, who long for a better life and a guaranteed future for their children in a free homeland that is not subject to political horse-trading and immorality.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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