September 14, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 573

Palestinian Liberal Columnist On: The Palestinian 'All or Nothing' Policy

September 14, 2003
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 573

To mark the 106th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, the liberal Palestinian writer Tawfiq Abu Bakr published an article criticizing the years long Palestinian "all or nothing" policy. This policy, he said, had brought the Palestinians to their current situation. In the article, which appeared on September 3, 2003 in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, Abu Bakr argued that the Palestinian policy stands in sharp contrast to the pragmatic Zionist policy that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. According to Abu Bakr, the Palestinians should have followed the Zionist model instead of wasting time with misleading visions and should now seek a two-state solution as a prelude to one, unified, large democratic state. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

The Zionists Never Demanded the Impossible

"August 29, 1897 is the date of the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. This congress signified the birth of political Zionism, which attained [its vision of] a state within 50 years from the day it was founded.

"At that congress, Herzl said: 'We will establish the state within the next five decades.' [These words] were no more than an optimistic prophecy that might have turned into a nightmare or might not have borne fruit had it not been for the right policy implemented by the [Zionists], and the wrong policy implemented by us. [The Zionists] exploited every possible chance to transform the history of the five decades prior to the establishment of the state into a series of opportunities from which they extracted everything possible. The Zionists never demanded the impossible, and never placed ideology at the head of their list of priorities, but rather adopted a pragmatic policy in all their alliances. The leading faction in the Zionist movement, headed by David Ben Gurion, decided to act to [establish] a Jewish state on any of the falsely claimed promised land they could plunder.

"Those who called themselves the revisionist faction, led by of Jabotinsky, and then by Menahem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and others who inherited it, accused [ Ben Gurion and his supporters] of being submissive, of walking with their heads low, settling for little and relinquishing the dream of 'the return to Zion,' according to which a state would be established on the entire [territory] of the promised land. This accusation is identical, down to the very words, to the one directed to this very day by Palestinian extremists at Palestinian moderates.

"Had this [revisionist Zionist] faction won out – I wish it did – the State of Israel would have never been established, because they would have insisted on an 'all or nothing' policy when it was impossible to realize all the goals at once. They sacrificed the impossible for the possible. As Ben Gurion said in 1937: 'I want a state, any state, even if it's the size of a tablecloth.'"

We Burnt Our Chances in Cold Blood

"Our leadership at that time enabled [the Zionists] to succeed at every opportunity through political means, with its 'all or nothing' policy, by rejecting every proposal for compromise, rejecting proposals to give it a state on most of the land of Palestine (since it was a period in which the Jews in Palestine were merely offered autonomy).

"[But] we kicked them in the shins. Our pure-minded leadership [kicked] the shins of the White Paper of 1939 that prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine for five years. [It should be noted] that Jewish immigration was the source of the disease and the only human basis for the establishment of their state. We rejected everything. At that time, we destroyed all possible chances. The disaster was that we burned [our chances] in cold blood… Had [the Zionists] had a leadership like this, they would have never established a state, nor half a state.

"I write this now because I am optimistic about the current Palestinian leadership, since it decided in 1974 – at the 12th [Palestinian] National Council – to relinquish the 'all or nothing' policy, to struggle for what was possible and not sell it for the impossible. The Palestinian leadership has adhered to this policy for a long time, and arrived at many accomplishments: It got back part of the land, began the stage of building a national entity, and has made much progress."

When a State Became an Option in 2000, We Reverted to 'All or Nothing'

"[Yet] when a state became a definite option following the Clinton initiative in late 2000, and when the moment of truth arrived, we reverted to the 'all or nothing' policy. We kicked away all our words over the past three decades, and we went back to square one: the very beginning. This is the disaster that led to the [current] disaster, which is evident in every alleyway and every street of our land.

"I write these words now because I have heard Palestinian officials, some of them from the PLO, from among those who exploited their appearance on the satellite channels, crowing like roosters until the last star disappeared that Israel is an aging state and will live no longer than [only] 10 more years while we are still in the spring of our youth.

"It is difficult to find a greater and more deeply rooted culture of self-deception than that in our Arab and Palestinian arena; a culture of daydreams in the height of a burning summer. People cling stubbornly to rosy dreams and delude themselves that these are the facts because they have failed to realize all their dreams."

Schizophrenia is an Extremely Common Ailment in Our Land

"Schizophrenia is an extremely common ailment in our land that strikes our confused youth. [Its symptom] is that the individual has two images: one real and one imaginary. The nations and the peoples, like the individuals and to the same extent, escape at moments of weakness into daydreams. Instead of investing in serious and diligent work, they create new facts that tip the scales gradually, and sell false dreams about the imminent collapse of the enemy…

"In the days leading up to the war of June 1967, our media spoke of the 'cowards' [Israelis] who would run from the battlefield with the outbreak of fighting when faced with [our] heroic lions. When an Israeli officer caught me during the 'Tank-Trip War' or the 'Deluxe War,' as they called it, he asked me: 'Is it really proven that we are cowards?' Afterwards, I listened to our radio speaking about the flight of the cowards – of their success in grabbing an area three times bigger than the area of their state and with minimal means. This self-deception continues to this [very] day.

"I cannot, on the birthday of the Zionist policy, write that the plan of the Zionist Congress in Basel was fully realized, since two thirds of the Jews in the world live outside Israel while the main goal [of political Zionism] was and remains the ingathering of all the Jews of the world in Palestine. But this is not the whole story. In the heart of our land, [the Zionists] established a state armed from head to toe with all types of weaponry, and yet have not attained security for their people.

"This is the main point of my words: If this is so, there is no solution but to attain a balance of interests without clinging to a balance of power… There is no way around living together in two countries – a situation that will take decades and will be a prelude to shared life in one democratic state, in accordance with our motto in the PLO in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Everyone must arrive at this realization today rather than tomorrow. If not, blood will be spilled on the land of the prophets for decades to come – and in the end we will reach the same solution: living together when neither of the sides can neutralize the other. "Why not stop the waterfalls of blood and bring hope to both our peoples? Why do we glorify death lovers and not the lovers of life? This is the big question. A great challenge faces us all."

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), September 3, 2003.

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