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Some others clueless while Palestinians continue to support diplomatic and political efforts

October 25, 2016

Today, Haaretz vaguely published, “Haaretz has learned that Fatah activists, especially among the generation identified with the West Bank leadership and supporters of Marwan Barghouti, are trying to promote moves on a diplomatic and political level.”(1) That was in the context of a Fatah convention that Palestinians in different locations outside the West Bank are struggling to make travel arrangements for thanks to the American/I$raeli colonial apparatus in Palestine. Anyone paying attention could have anticipated this coverage of “diplomatic and political” struggle of Barghouti freedom supporters. And, a couple days earlier, the Times of Israel was saying “the highly popular Marwan Barghouti” is “considered a possible successor to Abbas for the PA presidency, despite his incarceration in Israeli jail on multiple murder and terrorism convictions.”(2)

Meanwhile, many in the West still could not even bring themselves to pretend to support Marwan Barghouti’s release from I$raeli prison and avoided mentioning Barghouti at all. Barghouti’s release is one thing Palestinians, Third World states, European elites, Israelis, and other interested parties, may have to work on without waiting for the AmeriKKKan population to become enlightened. The response of activists to reactionary papers’ talking about Barghouti should be to prepare the public for Barghouti’s release more than those papers do, not be silent or worse than the Zionists.

There was a seeming effort recently in I$raeli and U.$. media to make illegally-imprisoned Barghouti, a leader in the Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s-2000s against a brutal occupation globally recognized as illegal, look less popular than Barghouti actually was.(3) In thinking about this, maybe an issue is that some are influenced too much by what’s going on in Amerikan politics. Whoever wins the amerikan presidential election will be disliked by a majority of amerikans. The candidates in the United $tates each have both ardent and reluctant supporters, in large numbers, with strongly negative views of at least one other candidate. Popularity in that parasitic, settler aggressor entity called a country seems to require others’ being demonized. Amerikans have much in common as citizens of the #1 exploiter, oppressor and aggressor on the planet, but to an extent it reflects the nature of exploiter politics, or elections anywhere in an international exploitive system, to have so much division. Popularity isn’t just relative to everybody else in a nation, though. With enough time to go until an election day that may not even be set, it is possible to have a few individuals who are all wildly popular, none of whom are preferred by more than a small plurality. Using either a divisive election or Arafat’s landslide victory in 1996 over Samiha Khalil, for example, as a reference point could be misleading in more than one way.

That shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to understand. To be popular doesn’t mean one’s supporters/fans have to view everyone else unfavorably. There are ways to win a contest that don’t involve trashing competitors, let alone their supporters. And it doesn’t have to mean that a majority prefers an individual in answers to some survey question. There may be important differences, but people who all have some popularity may be too indistinguishable for one of them to beat, by a large margin, all of the others in answers to some open-ended question with many possible answers. That could be a bad thing if it represents a lack of discernment among voters or non-voters, or if a nation specifically needs an individual rather than a party to lead them, but it could be a good thing when there is no one individual who is so exceptionally capable or attractive in a party, even one not guided by an atheist science. In saying that, the focus is on nations with proletarian majorities like Palestine, not nations with majorities who are bourgeois or petty-bourgeois. “Don’t vote” is a good idea for the united $tates, and trying to get a First World country or majority to follow a particular party makes as little sense as doing the same with an individual. But it doesn’t mean the united $tates is closer to revolution than other countries – on the contrary, u.$. hegemony will be ended through international struggle with little help from people in the united $nakes – and nobody should be using “revolution” or Palestinians’ election and political difficulties as an excuse to not support potential presidential candidate Marwan Barghouti’s release when Barghouti’s freedom is a matter of Palestinian self-determination in general. At the same time, what might seem like a bad thing in pursuing an election victory – not a whole lot of perceived difference between prospective nominees belonging to one party or another – could actually be a good thing from the point of view of democracy, political development, or unity. In any case, there may not be a conflict between Marwan Barghouti supporters and Ismail Haniyeh supporters to the extent some have suggested.

The media is dominated too much by a simplistic narrative of Palestinian division to not mention these things or at least the amerikan role in Palestinians’ political difficulties including election and reconciliation difficulties. The role of the outsider is to oppose chauvinism and imperialist domination and support maximum freedom of movement for the oppressed.

When there is little progress, trusting in a political process could be idolatrous for Palestinians after a point. Palestinians for many years tried doing things through the PA. They made some progress internationally, but settlement in the West Bank advanced with the world watching and knowing its illegality, disheartening those who mistakenly saw no two-state solution apart from a narrow range of tactics and a prominent role for the amerikans who were always the Great Satan – the overconfident, arrogant deceiver. Palestinians tried elections, though under colonial conditions and with limited choices including in 1996. The violence of the initially and mostly non-violent First Intifada arguably, if paradoxically, supported the two-state solution, but Palestinians have also tried non-violence independent of the PA, during the two most prominent uprisings before the knife outburst and non-violent protest wave that started a year ago in response to I$raeli violence. The non-violence was ruthlessly repressed. Some Palestinians may have good reasons to say they won’t vote for somebody to replace Abbas as head of the PA, or to say they don’t trust in any one individual in the context of PA presidency, which State of Palestine presidency overlaps with now at this time. Many Palestinians are unsure about the need for the PA to begin with. Although, it could be true both that having only a small plurality of Palestinians prefer em in certain surveys may not mean Barghouti lacks sufficient popularity to be an effective president, and that – in different ways – some of the most important questions right now are not about the qualifications and differences of particular individuals.

Whether Marwan Barghouti is especially capable and desirable for the presidency or not, Barghouti should be free. Barghouti should be free if for no other reason than to legitimize a Hamas victory if that is what Palestinian self-determination would lead to, or the election of somebody viewed as more supportive of the two-state solution. At the same time, the victory of Barghouti emself in a presidential race could be helpful for a variety of reasons that have less to do with Barghouti’s qualities and views as an individual than might be supposed.

There was a question about whether the two 2016 youth surveys of the Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre(4), which indicated a narrow Barghouti lead with presidential preferability split between many individuals, oversampled students and didn’t correct for this using any weighting technique to make the survey more representative. If the results were in fact skewed toward students, it may have partly explained Barghouti’s seemingly low preferability. Students may or may not prefer Barghouti more than “laborers” or “housewives” do, for example. In the JMCC youth survey at the end of September, 39.9% of survey-takers were students by the JMCC’s own count. As a matter of being truthful and complete, after reading several relevant documents(5), it doesn’t look like there was any significant oversampling of students. Apparently, there are enough Palestinian youth either still in basic education, or enrolled in some course, to add to those enrolled in secondary or higher education and bring the total to around 40% of 15-29 youth.

An-Najah National University center poll

Older Palestinians remember national unity figure Marwan Barghouti as a leader in both the al-Aqsa Intifada and the First Intifada, as a supporter of the two-state solution, and as somebody who came to support the peace process – narrowly and then broadly defined – critically. Barghouti was accused of terrorism, like Nelson Mandela was though the struggles connected to them were arguably much different. Barghouti is still in prison with no general or presidential election on the horizon. Palestinians may prefer popular Barghouti, among numerous possibilities, less than one might expect. But when it comes to specific proposals and ideas, Palestinians exhibit views more complex than simple opposition to diplomacy, political measures, or the two-state solution. The Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University released an October 13-15 poll of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.(6) 76% supported “a proposal submitted by the PA for a UN resolution on the Israeli settlements and the terror caused by Israeli settlers.” 75% supported “providing international protection for the Palestinian people who have been under occupation since 1967.” 75% supported “a call from [Mahmoud Abbas] on Britain to accept the historical, legal, political, material, and moral responsibilities relating to the consequences of Belfour Declaration including offering an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes and injustice committed against them.”(7) In other words, large majorities of Palestinians support much of what Palestinian diplomats, struggling against the amerikans, are doing now while steering away from the I$raeli one-state solution that is both impracticable and undermines Palestinian statehood. Palestinian efforts in the diplomatic sphere are not exclusive of other efforts as some have alleged or insinuated while themselves chasing after stubborn amerikkkans in a way that does have a harmful effect. The frequent suggestion that diplomacy, even diplomacy that isn’t direct negotiations with Israel, takes away from other efforts ignores that many Palestinians view a variety of measures or prospective efforts as complementary.

Though a majority thought the initiative would fail, a majority (55.9%) of respondents in the Gaza Strip (59.6%) and the West Bank (53.8%) supported “the French Initiative which calls for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East.” 12.4% gave an answer that fell in the category “no opinion/I do not know.” It’s called struggle for a reason. A significant majority may support an action even if success is unlikely. A large plurality (49%) supported “the Russian call on President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister to meet in Moscow to reactivate the peace process.” 43.4% rejected. 7.5% answered “no opinion/I do not know.” The French initiative involves the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative; the Russian call involves direct talks many think would be unhelpful or premature at least while certain circumstances remain in place. Majorities did oppose certain two-state outcomes – specifically as a “final solution” – but 78.6% rejected (“no”) “the creation of a binational state for both Arabs and Jews as a final solution for the Palestinian cause.” 90.5% thought that Fatah and Hamas “should speed up implementing the national reconciliation agreement” “under the current circumstances.” This was all less than two weeks ago.

74.9% supported “boycotting Israeli goods and products” though a majority, 54.1%, expected “the campaign of boycotting Israeli goods and products in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” to fail in some sense, 47.2% in the Gaza Strip and 58.1% in the West Bank. A large plurality answered “I buy products according to quality regardless of their source.” In the previous Palestinian public opinion poll by the same center in early May, only 38% knew enough about “the Paris Economic Agreement” (the Paris Protocol) to have an opinion and rejected it.(8) 24.6% answered under “no opinion/I do not know.” 37.8% answered that they supported the Paris Protocol, concerningly. The Protocol is the colonial agreement in which I$rael controls trade between the rest of the world and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Supporting some boycott against Israeli products while buying Israeli products, or supporting the Paris Protocol, could have different meanings. In other contexts, it is evident that some boycott supporters who support a boycott against Israel, but not against the united $tates, also support the I$raeli one-state solution.

In October, a large plurality (46.1%) supported “the creation of a confederation with Jordan on the basis of two independent states with strong institutional relations,” 35.8% in the Gaza Strip and 52.1% in the West Bank. 12.6% answered “no opinion/I do not know.” It seems a majority would support that so-called Jordanian option if more did have an opinion or were informed. This is interesting in that most calls for the confederation involve a Palestinian state existing alongside an Israeli state in the first place. That is the case though support for a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation may be related to dissatisfaction with two-state solution efforts, and premature discussion of confederation may be counterproductive within seeking a sovereign Palestinian state.

There may have been an increase from five months prior. 42.3% of respondents to the previous survey by the same center in May, which also had an approximate 3% margin of error, supported “the creation of a confederation with Jordan on the basis of two independent states with strong institutional relations.” Then, only 24.4% of Gaza Strip respondents supported the confederation while 52.6% in the West Bank did. So, barring too much error, it may be that support for the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation idea decreased slightly in the West Bank and increased in the Gaza Strip. People in the Gaza Strip have reasons, some obvious, for being skeptical. And, as is often said, raising the confederation idea now can hurt Palestinians’ statehood and sovereignty struggles. If there is a big reason to oppose raising the confederation idea now, it is that Palestine is still struggling for independence as a state existing temporarily next to the amerikan-I$raeli settler entity.

Regretfully, the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies didn’t ask any question this time about Marwan Barghouti, whose incarceration/freedom is related to both Palestinian self-determination and the two-state solution. In May, the Center did ask three questions. A large majority (74.2%) of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (68.2%) and the West Bank (77.6%) supported “nominating Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize.” 14.6% rejected. The answers of 11.2% were classified “no opinion/I do not know.” A majority, 62.3%, of respondents expected Barghouti to win the prize. That didn’t happen, but a majority (56.0%) in the Gaza Strip (54.4%) and the West Bank (56.9%) believed Barghouti’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize would have a “positive” “effect on the Palestinian cause.” Some did believe the effect would be negative, only 6.7%.

Whatever majorities of Palestinians want or don’t want now, some non-Palestinians will interpret polls in ways favorable to their interests, pursue a destructive course instead of actually facilitating what Palestine is trying to do internationally, and make calls for Palestinian or activist “unity” that by their own admission have little or nothing to do with supporting Palestinians in terms of where they are heading in international struggle. In the case of some of those claiming to be more radical than all two-state solution supporters, pro-amerikan sentiments are standing in the way of progress. So is ignorance about global class structure and the forms, locations, scopes and objects of class struggle particular to the present era. ◊

• “Oppose the United Snakes, truly unite for Palestine,” 2016 October.
• “Free Marwan Barghouti, oppose the United $nakes,” 2016 October.

1. “Fatah concerned Israel may torpedo its party convention in Ramallah,” 2016 October 25.
2. “Fatah MP booted from party over perceived overtures to Abbas rival,” 2016 October 23.
3. “NPR joins JPost in using the youth question to undermine the struggle to free Palestinian “Mandela” Marwan Barghouti,” 2016 October.
“New JMCC poll shows pluralities of Palestinian youth prefer Marwan Barghouti and the two-state solution; PSR poll shows unfavorable Palestinian views of the United $tates,” 2016 October.
4. “Poll No. 88 - Sept 2016 - Youth poll on Politics, Education & The Future,” 2016 October 9.
“Youth Poll - April 2016 - Politics, Social Media and Conservatism,” 2016 April 24.
5. “Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) : On the Eve of International Youth Day, 12/8/2014,” 2014 August 12.
“Palestinian Youth Survey, 2015.”
“Estimated Population in the Palestinian Territory Mid-Year by Governorate,1997-2016.”
“Number of Students in Schools by Region, Supervising Authority, Stage and Sex, 2015/2016.”
6. “Results of Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 53,” 2016 October 17.
“‘46% of Palestinians support Jordanian-Palestinian confederation based on two states’,” 2016 October 20.
7. See: “Sending the right signal: Abbas, BDS, and diplomacy,” 2016 September.

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