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September 23, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8943

Former Palestinian Authority Minister: Our Discourse Has Become Like A Broken Record, Makes Us Seem Like Peace Rejectionists

September 23, 2020
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 8943

Israel's recent peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, which, to the Palestinians' chagrin, were welcomed by many Arab countries, reflect the failure of the Palestinian diplomacy in the Arab and global arenas. The Palestinians' harsh criticism of the agreements led to unprecedented tension between them and the Gulf states, who responded by accusing the Palestinian leadership of ingratitude, corruption and the unwarranted rejection of every peace initiative over the years. Moreover, in an unprecedented move, the Arab League turned down a Palestinian proposal to condemn the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE.  

The Palestinian position was expressed in a series of harshly critical media articles against the Arab normalization with Israel and the U.S. policy in the region. Amid this criticism, the daily Al-Quds, based in East Jerusalem, published an article that took a different tone. Authored by Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian MP and  minister for Jerusalem affairs, the article stated that the Palestinian discourse and diplomacy have reinforced the rejectionist image of the Palestinian leadership in the eyes of the Arabs and the world, and have prevented the Palestinians from gaining political achievements.

Abu Zayyad wrote that the Palestinian discourse is rigid and has failed to adapt itself to the spirit of the age, and has therefore become like a "broken record" that the world can no longer listen to. He called to discard the language of curses and invective -- which was directed, for example, at the Trump administration after it moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and following its announcement of the Deal of the Century, and against the UAE and Bahrain for normalizing their relations with Israel – and to adopt instead a gentler diplomatic language that will enlist Arab support for the Palestinian cause and restore it to the top of the agenda. He stressed that this does not mean relinquishing the Palestinians' essential arguments and demands, but only clothing their message in a new garb that does not portray them as rejectionists.


Ziad Abu Zayyad (Source: Akhbarelbalad.net)

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

The Palestinians Are Accused Of Always Saying No And Never Proposing Any Alternatives To What They Reject

"The broken record most frequently heard in political circles these days is the one that says that the Palestinians – meaning their leadership – never take the initiative but only react [to developments], that the Palestinian reactions continue to be limited to a complete rejection of every offer made to them, and that they must give up this rejectionist path, take the initiative and propose an alternative to what they reject…

"It must be said that these claims or accusations against the Palestinian leadership, which have found an audience in Washington and some European capitals, originate with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Israeli propaganda machine. Some of those who have adopted these claims… have fallen prey to the Israeli propaganda, swallowed the bait and started to demand that the Palestinian leadership change its tune, take the initiative and propose an alternative to what it rejects instead of always just saying no. Most of [those who take this position] are foreign elements like the Europeans, Americans and others. [But] others are Arabs who feel [guilty over their] negligence and their failure to extend tangible help to the Palestinian people and leadership, either because they are [truly] unable [to help] or due to American pressure on them.  This propaganda against the Palestinians provides them with an excuse for their failure to support the Palestinian cause as a national Arab cause, and allows them to place the blame on the Palestinian leadership. This is the dominant position in most of the Arab countries, and the Palestinian diplomacy has failed to move these countries from their feeble positions and to restore the Palestinian cause to the top of the Arab's national security agenda. Some of these countries refrain from openly adopting positions of rushing to normalize [relations with Israel], but they [nevertheless] support this in secret and are responsible for this. Others, such as Jordan, continue to cleave to their principled positions despite the great pressures from every direction – but unfortunately they are in the minority.

"[However,] this begs the following question: Do we bear any responsibility for creating the negative image of the Palestinians' diplomatic action, which is accused of unwarranted rejectionism? Before I answer this question, I must honestly say that we have not been offered anything that we regret saying no to, and that the so-called missed opportunities were not real opportunities but [only] slippery slopes of concession whose traps we managed to avoid – whether it was the Deal of the Century or the American contacts in the region, all of which are part of the Israeli plan for consolidating the occupation, the settlements and the annexation."

The Palestinians' Discourse And Diplomacy Serve Those Who Want To Promote A Negative Image Of Them

"Despite this, it can be said that [the character of] the Palestinian diplomatic action and discourse have caused this propaganda to be spread against them and have served those who wanted and still want to promote a negative image of the Palestinian leadership, about whom Abba Eban, Israel's foreign minister in the 1970s, famously said that 'the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.' The Palestinian diplomacy lacks dynamism and the ability to adapt to changes in the methods of presenting information, [methods] that have become the most important means of marketing ideas, plans and positions, no less than commercial goods…

"To clarify, let me say that the diplomatic discourse we present to the world has become like a broken record. We keep repeating the same cliches and sayings, which the world has become accustomed to hearing from us and can no longer bear to listen to, because they have lost their impact… Everywhere and at every opportunity we repeat the mantra  of the 'two-state solution based on commitment to the international legitimacy and to the relevant UN resolutions,'  while mentioning some of these resolutions, such as UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the refugees, Resolutions 242 and 338 [on]  the 1967 [borders] and some of the resolutions regarding Jerusalem. I say with confidence that most of the people who keep mentioning these resolutions have never read them  and do not know [what they say]. This is like a record we keep playing, which gives us a sense of  security and satisfaction because it is pleasant to Palestinian ears and repeats the familiar Palestinian consensus… But the world is tired of hearing this record and wants to hear something new from us. The Israeli propaganda has taken advantage of this weariness to give us a negative image. We can remain aware of [our] truth and continue expressing our solid position, but in a new way that will please ears that want to hear something new…"

Instead Of Heaping Curses On Trump And Arab States For Their Policy Vis-à-vis Israel, We Should Have Leveraged It To Gain Achievements Of Our Own

"For example, when U.S. President Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, we hurried to reject this American decision and to demand that the American president revoke it. Does anyone who knows anything about politics really expect the American president to revoke his decision just because we demand it? Do we have the power, the ability and the leverage to make him backtrack? We also failed to notice the incentives President Trump included between the lines of his announcement, because we were dragged into [adopting] a polarized position. We failed to notice that Trump's decision stated that his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital did not define the borders of the territory that would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and that these borders would be determined in negotiations. He even added that his recognition of Jerusalem [as Israel's capital] would not affect the final-settlement negotiations about Jerusalem [itself] and that the [U.S.] consulate would continue to operate in East Jerusalem. By rejecting the American decision out of hand and racing one another to heap curses and insults upon Trump and his administration we [only] provided Netanyahu and his propaganda machine with ammunition for  inciting Trump [against us] and using [our] curses to pressure him to take measures [against us]. Consequently, he closed up the loopholes he had left in his initial declaration, and ended up saying that Jerusalem is no longer on the table… We have no choice but to examine our demand that Trump revoke his decision and wonder what he would have done had we refrained from launching a verbal attack of personal insults against him, but [rather] demanded that he recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine in return for his recognition of West Jerusalem as  Israel's capital…

"We followed the same traditional path in dealing with Israel's normalization of relations with the UAE and Bahrain. We were familiar with the positions of some of the influential countries in the Arab League, and knew that they accused us of failing to offer alternatives to the American proposals. We [also] knew that they would never support a resolution to condemn the UAE and Bahrain, out of a desire to preserve their [good] relations with these two [countries], and also because such a resolution would have angered the U.S., as well as other Arab states that want to normalize their relations [with Israel] and  are only waiting for the right time to do so. Instead of heaping curses and invective [upon all the supporters of normalization], we should have  used gentle diplomatic language, free of insults, to demand that the Arab countries dedicate all their political action to reviving and renewing the Arab peace initiative and to rebuke those who are acting to bury it. We shouldn't have launched a marathon of curses against our fellow Arabs, [a marathon] that enlisted the Arab peoples against us and gave all those who harbor hostility and hatred towards us an opportunity to declare this openly and take the mask off their faces."

We Must Adopt New Discourse That Does Not Relinquish The Essentials But Does Not Present Us As Rejectionists

"In conclusion, if we wish to act in the diplomatic arena, we must rethink the diplomatic discourse we direct at the Arabs and the world, and clothe our ideas and demands in a new garb that does not relinquish the essentials but [nevertheless] deprives our rivals of the opportunity to present us as mere rejectionists. [Conversely,] if we [wish to] wash our hands of diplomacy and take up revolutionary measures [i.e., armed resistance], they cannot be confined to speeches and bombastic statements at rallies and in the media, but must take the form of action and measures [on the ground]. This means turning the tables [on everyone] and going back to square one. I don’t think this is [really] something we want or something the leadership is capable of doing – not just in Ramallah but also in Gaza."

 

[1] Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), September 20, 2020.

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