‘We need a political earthquake’

As Fatah’s congress begins, young Palestinians reflect on the relevance of the PLO today.

Some younger Palestinians feel the PLO needs fresh blood [GALLO/GETTY]

As Fatah’s sixth congress gets underway in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Al Jazeera asked young Palestinians how relevant the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is to them and whether they still consider it to be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

They share their views on whether reforming the PLO could help bring an end to Palestinian infighting and what they think the future of the PLO will look like.

Raqia, librarian

We have to take into consideration that Fatah is the major party in the Palestine Liberation Organisation even when other parties like the Palestinian left were in their good times, internal problems in Fatah were greatly reflected in the PLO, so reforming Fatah will pave the way to reforming the PLO.

In depth

 Focus: Chronicling the PLO
 Pictures: The PLO’s struggle
 Inside Story: A new start for Fatah?
 Opinion: Empowering the powerless
 Video: Gaza Fatah members refused travel permits

Unfortunately, other Palestinian parties are now too weak to intervene, yet I do believe that reforming the PLO should be the fundamental priority of all factions.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had definitely a big role in marginalising the PLO, and I don’t know whether Hamas has any interest in reviving or reforming it even if it publicly declares that.

The PLO should be the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, but in its current status it is not, none of the PNA parties are working to achieve that.

Reform will only happen if there is a political will and decision yet the prospects aren’t encouraging.

I am not very optimistic about the future of the PLO … we need a political earthquake.

Wassim Abu Fasha, researcher

Limiting the Palestinian representation to one political entity or structure is a necessity.

The question is whether the PLO with its current formula is representative to people’s ambitions, hopes and interests inside Palestine and in the diaspora or not.

The reality on the ground, the history of the PLO and the Arab and international recognition have given the PLO this position, especially as it gathered the majority of Palestinian factions in addition to some independent members.

I won’t get into history, nevertheless going back to PLO’s early times and the circumstances of its founding as part of the official Arab system essentially means narrowing the margins of its independence and linking decision making with the alliances and general context in the Arab region.

However, if we put all that aside I think the weakness of the PLO and the distortion in its programme is primarily a product of the Oslo accords and the founding of the Palestinian National Authority which “intentionally or unintentionally” marginalised the role of the PLO, took over many of its responsibilities and even subjected its legitimacy to questioning in the Palestinian street.

Accordingly the discussion of the PLO’s legitimacy and its representation to the Palestinian people and their cause deserves significant consideration; from one side having a Palestinian organisation with a clear agenda and gathering the different Palestinian factions is a strategic necessity, on the other hand the current situation of the PLO with its weakness and fragility makes the reform extremely important and so is distinguishing its role from that of the PNA.

Such confusion sums up the Palestinian cause into 1967 lands and disregards the representation of the Palestinian diaspora.

The PLO became a conflicting matter, each party is trying to obtain political gains to win recognition and legitimacy.

Reforming the PLO alone will not be a driving force for solving the internal Palestinian conflict, if this reform was not reached on the basis of a national reconciliation and a holistic programme unifying references, defining roles and strategies to deal with Israeli occupation, in addition to the inclusion of other Palestinian factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad; it will not rescue the Palestinian situation, all disputed matters need to be dealt with holistically.

The PLO should represent Palestinians everywhere, to be based on democratic foundations balancing the different political ideologies of Palestinian factions and adopting a programme inspired by Arab aspirations which for years were suppressed by the ruling elites.

This programme has also to fit in the broader global struggle for freedom and justice, equality and democracy which would secure us the popular international and Arab solidarity and support.

Sami Abdo, quality engineer

Personally, I don’t think that the PLO with its current shape represents the entirety of the Palestinian people.

We have a whole new generation that grew up after the latest PLO elections (Palestinian National Council and PLO Executive Committee), not to forget that we have major Palestinian parties that emerged and refuse the previous commitments of the PLO.

I personally never elected a representative in the PLO, then how can it be legitimate if it’s not elected?

Currently, there is no body that represents Palestinian people everywhere not even the PLO, hence it can be our best choice, we have to also remember that the PLO obtained international recognition so I don’t see a problem in it continuing to follow up with Palestinians’ issues inside Palestine or the Arab countries but I don’t accept any crucial commitment it could make while it’s still with the current formula.

If reforming the PLO constitutes a free and transparent election where all Palestinians would get to vote and choose a programme that wins the trust of the majority, then I think our problems are solvable, that is because the current internal conflict is between two parties; one chose resistance until the full liberation and one chose political settlement. Evidently each party wants to impose its agenda, we therefore need to go back to the people and lets see whom will they choose.

I believe our people are fed up with negotiations and compromises and will choose to go back to resistance to ensure no more compromises and to hinder the submissive approach that characterises the PLO right now.

As for the future, I think people look forward to see change, they do not want a repetition of Hamas election’s experience and they do not want to go back to the previous approach.

We need people that are politically more liberal than Hamas is but who also care about the interest of their people, maybe this will give a push to more independent figures to take the lead.

If Fatah presented a programme that is stronger and takes into account people’s choices maybe they still have a chance. On the other hand, if Hamas came up with better strategies to confront the siege maybe it will also still have a chance.

Ayman, leftist from Ramallah

I think the PLO is still part of the Palestinian identity. The PNA is part of the PLO’s responsibilities and not the opposite, the current situation still doesn’t cancel the PLO’s legitimacy or its sole representation of the Palestinian people.

The overlap in responsibilities between the PNA and the PLO is the main problem, and to be more specific the conflict between Hamas and Fatah is a conflict over the importance and the position of the PLO in the local sphere. Everybody still recognises its role and Hamas cannot alone be the representative of the Palestinian people because the PLO is a political platform and not a single party.

I think the PLO is on a crossroad; its reform is a national duty that is vital for the protection of the Palestinian national project.

If you ask whether there is a possibility for reform, I will say of course there is. What’s important here is having the will and the political decision.

So far reform has been discussed in the context of party interests and not in the broader context of the Palestinian cause which is why I think a serious will from the different parties and the president of the PLO is able to achieve reform.

I believe the confidence in the PLO is still existing, but associating it with Fatah has reduced its popularly.

Discords always existed between the Palestinian factions; that manifested in the pull out and accession of parties in and out of the PLO throughout the decades, and the attempts of finding other substituting entities failed and always re-emphasised that the PLO is the gathering framework. Hamas is making use of this low level of confidence to manipulate people for its own gains.

The PLO should not exclusively utilise political talks, and the political agenda must not threaten our right of resistance.

Our society is diverse politically and socially and the PLO should correspond with this variety in the Palestinian society, side by side with the revival of the international alliances that support the cause of our people.

Marwa Yousef, architect

The PLO is too corrupt to represent us, so my answer is no, I don’t think it represents me as a Palestinian.

The PLO in its current form is not relevant to the cause or to the Palestinians.

The cause was sold out long ago. I don’t think they even remember what the cause is.

In my opinion the internal conflict is not a political conflict, it’s a conflict over power and money, part of the reformation will do the trick! But who will reform it?

I find that the corruption levels are too high that even to the scale of the simplest Palestinians who will find a degree of badness in them.

In the current political society, I cannot think of anyone who is suitable for such a responsibility.

The future is gloomy. I think people have to go back 60 years, remember the Nakba and all that happened and start working all over again.

If we don’t do that, things will go worse than ever!

Nadia Hajal, researcher

As a Palestinian, I do consider the PLO as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people inside Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Diaspora.

I believe that we, Palestinians, are still in a liberation phase against the Israeli occupation given the dead end tunnel of political negotiations, sign agreements and the paralysed Palestinian Authority institutions.

We need a reference and the PLO is the one.

The Israeli matrix of control – land annexation, construction of settlements, separation wall, bypass roads, control of borders, etc – create no opportunity for a viable and sovereign Palestinian Authority beyond its physical existence.

The remaining unviable and Israeli controlled 22 per cent of historical Palestine for Palestinians holds no optimism for the future. The annexation of Jordan valley makes land percentage even less.

However, I do also believe that the PLO has to refresh its blood and open its nerves to represent all spectrums of Palestinian factions who I believe should revolve around the PLO’s political agenda in affirmation to right to self-determination and right of return but consider an expansion in the methods of resistance represented in article 10 of the Palestinian National Charter to include non-violent resistance as well.

Reformed PLO should reconsider the 1988 officially endorsed two-state solution which – in my opinion – signals the starting point for the collapse of the Palestinian national project.

Source : Al Jazeera

More from News
Most Read