Where is the Palestinian Left in the ongoing debate about the future of the country? In the fourth installment of our series on Palestinian politics, Nassar Ibrahim analyses the role of the various factions – and explains, why they have to grisp their historical chance now, or will become obsolete.
The status of Palestine is witnessing a severe crisis on different levels. It is manifesting itself in primarily the continuation of international and internal division despite all attempts for reconciliation, the continuation of the blockade on Gaza, the cessation of the peace process in light of Israeli intransigence and the pertinacity of settlement expansion, particularly in Occupied Jerusalem and continued assaults against the Palestinian People. Furthermore, there is an economic crisis coming with an increase in unemployment and poverty rates and major and strategic transformations in the Middle East and subsequent changes in the power balance.
This status and its different aspects pose a series of questions and challenges for Palestinian political forces, mainly the absence of a national strategy that balances the tasks of national liberation and termination of the occupation on one hand and social development tasks and meeting the economic and social rights and needs of the Palestinian people on another hand.
Two basic dynamics
These severe challenges unveil the inability and marginality of the Palestinian left. In spite of its history in national struggle and sacrifices, we see today a Palestinian left that is absent from action and initiatives, such that the Palestinian left is unable to impact the situation and strictly respond to the liquidation of Palestinian national rights process, mainly induced by two basic dynamics:
First: oppressive and racist social, economic and political policies of Israelagainst the Palestinian people.
Second: the state of division and accompanying political and social polarization between Fatah and Hamas, consequently relapsing in the concept of Palestinian national political unity, as well as socially and geographically; in addition we see a disruption in the institutions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian National Authority.
Proceeding from these facts, the approach and evaluation of the role of the Palestinian Left in particular and Palestinian political forces in general by the Palestinian people does not reside in elections, such that the important question in this case is not whether to participate in the elections or not, because the Palestinian people have experienced elections more than once and discovered that the challenges they are facing will not be solved by holding elections, such that the majority of Palestinians are now convinced that the democratic process and interpreting it exclusively as legislative council elections is a major scam. This became clear to the Palestinian people for a simple reason, when they perceived the control that donor countries exercise on the political proceedings in Palestine by controlling international aid in accordance with their conditions. This was in the case in the 2006 legislative council elections won by Hamas, when the United States of America, Israel and Western countries boycotted the new Palestinian government and imposed an economic blockade against the Palestinian people, to be later followed by the continuing siege on Gaza in 2007, the “Cast Lead” assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008 and the “Pillar of Defense” assault in 2012.
A big set of questions
The main question facing Palestinian Leftist Forces (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestinian People’s Party and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) at this stage is not the question of elections. Before addressing this question the Palestinian left needs to address a bigger set of questions before depleting its remaining energy in attempting to solve the elections questions problem. These include:
Do Palestinian Leftist Forces have the ability and will to revitalize themselves? Are they able to develop a unifying strategy for the Palestinian left to address the economic, social and political questions facing the Palestinian people? Are they able to present themselves as a political, social and cultural force that is able to break the devastating polarization equation between Hamas with their social and cultural choices, approaching political Islam that is facing a crisis itself in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey, on one hand and Fatah with its neoliberal political, social and economic choices on the other?
Addressing these questions and many more will determine the future and role of the Palestinian Left. This Palestinian Left will not salvage itself by holding Fatah and Hamas responsible for the situation in Palestine; indeed, the weakness, stampede and lack of taking initiative is the main reason behind the marginalization of the role of the Palestinian Left, which is supposed to be a reformation force that amends the imbalance in the Palestinian equation.
A historical chance for the Palestinian Left
Now is the historical moment for the Palestinian Left to depart from its state of marginalization and dormancy to take action and initiative, such that if it doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity it will certainly vanish from the scene of events and history. The Palestinian people are observing, suffering sacrificing, while at the same time they are following the events not only in the Arab region but also on the international level, realizing deep down inside that its different political forces lack the ability to deal with the historic moment.
That’s why this is the right moment for the Palestinian Left to reestablish itself, since the two major parties in Palestine are sustaining a severe crisis, and their choices drove the Palestinian people and its rights towards the edge. Hamas is living a true crisis in light of the failure of Political Islam in Egypt and Syria; on another hand, Fatah is sustaining a political crisis in light of its political failure in reaching a solution with Israel, in addition to the failure of its economic choice in linking with the World Bank and adopting the policy of open markets. For these reasons, this is the right moment for the Palestinian Left to present its new project and strategy; however, this depends on its ability to present a holistic and deep perception to the political transformations taking place in the region and globally, and their implications on the Palestinian cause, and its ability to revitalize its social and cultural project that defends the rights of the majority of the Palestinian people, including the poor, workers and middle class that pay for the choices of fundamentalist and neoliberal regimes.
The conclusion is that without perceiving Palestinian experiences and the Palestinian status, the question of elections remains worthless, such that there are numerous political, social, cultural and resistance questions that need to be addressed. The concern of the Palestinian Left with the elections before addressing these questions means that it did not learn its history lesson and the reality, leading to one of the most important conditions of being a leftist party.
Nassar Ibrahim works for the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI). All views expressed in this article are his and not necessarily shared by the Alsharq-team.
Read in the first part of our series Tamara Tamimis plea for Fatah. In the second part, Mohammed Ayoub Najjar explains the support for Hamas amongst young Palestinians. In the third part, why elections won’t do any good for Palestine in the first place.