I read Jonathon Zasloff’s recent post regarding the People’s Voice plan with some dismay. Its not just that I disagree with the plan on several fronts (specifically demilitarizing Palestine, a unilateral move that effectively strips the future country of sovereignty and ignores the fact that its neighbor is a military superpower), what really bothers me is that anyone can envision or support a political future for Abbas. If one thing is clear in the aftermath of the Gaza slaughter, it is that Mahmoud Abbas’s career is effectively over, and the degree to which it is not is only a measure of continued American and Israeli undemocratic influence on the political representation of Palestinians. I’ve pasted my email to him below, but before that I also have some comments on his latest piece, “Parole the Palestinian Refugees.“
This post deals with the population of Palestinian refugees in countries neighboring Israel/Palestine. Mostly this is about Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who have lived as second class citizens and suffered from attacks both by Israelis (their occupation fo Southern Lebanon lasted until 2000) and the Lebaneses (the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, enabled by the IDF, was carried out by Lebanese Christian Phalangists).
Claiming that the US should actively participate in the peace process by “providing a home for thousands of Palestinian refugees” strikes me as manipulative and opportunistic. It is aimed to curry favor with the Palestinian disapora by alleviating the ongoing pain of refugees in a totally indirect manner. But it also helps Israel by removing the legal right of return for those Palestinian refugees who end up in the US. This move would also further isolate Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Fundamentally, this plan shows disregard for the emotions and humanity of Palestinian refugees. Yes they want to live under better physical conditions, but that doesn’t mean that sweeping them under the rug is appropriate, or even that they would accept it. It only means that the illegal actions that created their situation need to be remedied fairly, in a process that actually considers their desires. While many would jump at the chance to emigrate to the US (even cultural isolation and losing the last shred of hope for a return to your homeland is better than nothing), I’m sure that if you simply asked them what remedy they desired, they would put US citizenship far below returning to their homelands (or even to the occupied territories), if they even thought of it at all. And that’s why the claim that “this would be a humanitarian step of the highest order” really rings false to me. It reminds me of the kind of thinking that Western Europe and the United States engaged in after World War 2 when dealing with the issue of Jewish refugees (oh lets just send them here, or there, just Not In My Back-Yard). The humanitarian thing to do would be to fix their problem in a manner that reflects their desires and entails equal compromise on both sides. The fact is that you can’t just move Palestinians around on a map like you would pawns in a chess game, and you can’t assume that peace can be achieved without listening to the Palestinian side, and legitimately considering what they want. They don’t want to go to the US, they want to go home.
Anyways, what I wrote to him about the People’s Voice accord (and politicians running on it to jumpstart peace talks) is after the jump.
1. My main sticking point with the plan is the idea of demilitarizing Palestine. This seems to echo the failed US idea of insisting that other countries not gain nuclear weapons while sitting on the world’s largest stockpile. It hasn’t stopped other countries from turning indignant and bitter, and it certainly hasn’t stopped them from trying and succeeding anyways. I don’t see that general pattern failing when it comes to a demilitarization of Palestine, especially if their security is entrusted to precisely the countries and world bodies that have failed them since the British Mandate. Military power is a critical part of true sovereignty, and Palestine would deserve that as much as Israel does.