Their own worst enemy?

Scholars say Palestinian rifts could put an end to dreams of nationhood.

    Exploring if the Palestinians risked becoming their own worst enemies, from left to right, Akram Baker, Munther Dajani, Tim Sebastian, Saree Makdisi, Hind Khoury [Adrian Haddad]


    While many Arabs say Israeli occupation is an obstacle to creating an independent Palestinian state, there are some who believe that infighting and alleged corruption among Palestinian factions is hindering efforts for nationhood.


    Al Jazeera interviewed four Palestinian intellectuals who comprised the debating panel at the 29th session of the Doha Debates about the political and diplomatic challenges their people face.


    The Doha Debates, a public forum for dialogue and freedom of speech in Qatar, discussed whether the Palestinians risked becoming their own worst enemies.


    Tim Sebastian, Doha Debates Chairman said that  "it is time to look past Israel as the sole obstacle to Palestinian statehood".


    Speaking against the motion were Hind Khoury, the Palestinian ambassador to France and former minister for Jerusalem affairs, and Saree Makdisi, author of Palestine Inside Out and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.


    Speaking for the motion was Munther Dajani, a professor from Al Quds University in Jerusalem, who was joined by Akram Baker, an independent political analyst and co-founder of the Arab Western Summit of Skills.   


    "The oppressed Palestinians are being held
    responsible for their own oppression." 

    Hind Khoury, Palestinian ambassador to France


    Al Jazeera: Why do Fatah and Hamas appear unable to reach agreement on power-sharing?


    Khoury: Listen, when we criticise, we reserve our ability to develop civil society organisations, but we are like any country. We have political ailments just like everyone else.


    However, the pressure is on Palestine to be as close to perfect in solving an alliance. We have practiced democracy, but we need to do it better. We need to develop our party system, but in saying that, it's important to recognise that our problem is mainly a political one.


    We need to strengthen public institutions and civil society organisations, so that if a political authority in Palestine were to collapse, we would have a safety net.


    Has the Annapolis conference on Israeli-Palestinian dialogue borne any fruit?


    It has not borne fruit yet. Israel, however, has proven again and again that they are the only real player in the peace process.


    The region can move forward toward prosperity and stability, but Israel cannot be the only determining actor.


    If this doesn't change, how can Annapolis bear fruit?


    The Palestinians' best interest lies in their right to freedom; we need to act strategically, give this peace project a chance and a time limit, which requires work.


    And if Annapolis is 'Plan A', we need to think of a 'Plan B' so plans don't fail. This all needs to happen under the umbrella that Palestinians need to be compensated for how much they have suffered in the past 60 years.


    If Israel and Syria reached agreements over the occupied Golan Heights, will that affect Israeli- Palestinian negotiations? 


    First, it's very important that Palestine goes back to its 1947 borders, but if Israel and Syria were to reach an agreement, of course, this would be a positive step, as any positive step is needed.


    This would make it easier for Gaza to claim back its borders since there is more national consensus and a historical right to land regarding Gaza.


    But the Arab world must first learn to work in direct correlation to what they say, we have to act more strategically and diplomatically and the Arab world has the clout to achieve such an objective.


    Regardless of Arab disagreements, let's say they take one problem at a time, and since Arabs share consensus most on the Palestinian issue than any problem in the Arab world, we would know how to tackle the Palestinian issue accordingly, before a Palestinian state becomes what most people are calling nowadays, a virtual proposition. 


    How will history judge the use of suicide bombings in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


    I live in Palestine, I grew up listening to the speeches of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the late Egyptian president, on Arab nationalism, I am an Arab nationalist, I lived in Palestine and I know how angry it makes us and the deformities it has set on our people, but for us, because we have no state, it is the law of the jungle, not law of the state.


    It goes without saying that civilians should not be hurt. But suicide bombing is a force of reaction, while not helpful to the noble struggle, but then again, what revolution did not include unnecessary violence in the struggle for rights and justice?

    "The Palestinian leadership has dropped the ball
    and they lost sight of their objective."

    Akram Baker, an independent political analyst


    Al Jazeera: Has the US government been successful in its efforts to push the peace process forward ?


    Baker: The US has only worked against Palestinian national interests, serving no one but the people at the top, neocons and such.  


    George Bush, the US president, has set another benchmark for a Palestinian state for 2009, what is your view?


    Bush is a lame duck, he's counterproductive, irrelevant to the peace process.


    American influence has only exacerbated the problem.


    Has the Annapolis conference on Israeli-Palestinian dialogue borne any fruit?


    It was not meant to bear fruit. The purpose of the Annapolis conference was to give Bush a diversion from the situation he is in. Bush never made progress with the Israeli Palestinian peace process.


    Why won't Israel sit down at the negotiating table with Hamas?


    Why should they? It is a game of tactics, of delay.


    Israel wants the West Bank to be turned into Tel Aviv while Hamas reflects what the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was back in 1986. Arab leaders are sitting down, also playing the game. 


    Is the creation and expansion of illegal settlements a matter of fact for all successive Israeli governments?


    That is all they have ever been doing, but they refuse to declare borders, to stop settlements.


    Arab analysts say the boycott of the Damascus Arab Summit by several Arab leaders may have been a setback for Arab unity. How does this affect the Arab approach to the peace process and the Palestinian cause?


    There is no such thing as Arab unity, we are too diverse a people, all we have is a common language, we need to learn how to be self reliant first before talking about unity. But the only solution is one state, for Palestinians to recognize Israel on a clear and unambiguous basis. But it's simple, if Israelis end the occupation, then they end the conflict.


    It's not rocket science. This is not a religious, historical or social problem, it's a political problem. Stop the land occupation of '67 and we can all live in one state. This is what I believe will happen; this is the only thing that can happen. It's inevitable.


    Israelis think they're better than everyone else, but it's absolute hypocrisy. If being a Jew is better than being anyone else, then being a Jew is also worse than being anyone else.


    "All Palestinians have a sense of who they are
    and that is their commitment to justice."

    Saree Makdisi, author of Palestine Inside Out


    Al Jazeera: At the Arab Summit in Damascus last week, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, repeated his idea of one democratic Israeli Palestinian state. He called it "Isratine". Do you see this as a viable alternative?


    Makdisi: Well, that is the only way it can be done actually, what Gaddafi is saying is right, there has to be one state. But in reality, it is not that way; it is an outrageous reality that shows how Israel makes no attempt at accepting a one-state solution. But that is how it needs to be.


    If you look at the UN maps, you can see how much we [Palestinian lands] have shrunk over the years, they are trying to artificially delete as many non-Jews possible.


    Israel has always been a land of heterogeneity. The attempt to manufacture homogeneity is always violent, but we need one state, one man – one vote, everyone with equal rights.


    However, that is not what Zionism is about. It is exclusive for Israelis alone. 


    Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, has been effectively cut off from Israel and the West Bank, which is controlled by Fatah. Does this imply a three-state solution?


    It is simply not a viable solution, not politically, economically, or socially. It just will not work. 


    How will history judge the use of suicide bombings in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


    The way they retaliate does not particularly matter, violence is violence no matter what kind of people are victims to bombardment.


    While violence cannot solve the conflict, the violence could be resolved if Israelis assisted the right of return for Palestinians. Yet, for the Israelis, equality with the Palestinians, in their mind, can only bring destruction, and if they give in to a one-state solution, then that means they have lost the argument they've been gunning for so many year.


    The logic of equality with the Palestinians is the anti-thesis of Zionism.


    Why won't Israel sit down at the negotiating table with Hamas?


    Since the 1993 Oslo accords, the Israeli strategy has been to talk, talk, talk ... they master on empty facts, words, promises, and continue to extend each negotiations as much as possible.


    The Israelis will give excuses to buy time, while they demolish buildings and continue occupying Palestinian land.


    The Israeli tactic has always existed to add formaldehyde to the Palestinian peace process, and when you freeze the political process, you prevent negotiations.


    Roadblocks, for example, when US officials visit Israel, they ask them to limit the number of roadblocks and security checkpoints scattered throughout Gaza and the West Bank.


    However, UN figures always show that they only increase by number, and the Gaza wall is a reminder of such regression. The only way out is a one state solution, bur Israel does not want that.


    "We passed the risk of becoming our own
    enemy, in fact, we're already there."

    Munther Dajani, a dean from Al Quds University in Jerusalem


    Al Jazeera: Arab analysts say the boycott of the Damascus Arab Summit by several Arab leaders may have been a setback for Arab unity. How does this affect the Arab approach to the peace process and the Palestinian cause?


    Dajani: The Israelis have to stop their constant rhetoric of peace on the one hand and creating an Israeli state on the other.


    There is no way we will see progress in the peace process without speaking about creating a viable state on the West Bank and Gaza and with Israel accepting secure and safe borders.


    We have accepted Oslo and recognised Israel in its 1948 border, now they have to accept Palestine's 1967 borders.


    Once that is achieved, we can move forward with the details.


    This requires the Palestinian to pay a heavy price and accept Israel in 78 per cent of what was historical Palestine and for the Israelis to give up occupied territories.


    This is the recipe which is acceptable, like that expressed in the Saudi initiative made to the Israelis to push the peace process forward in 2002.


    In the Arab Summit, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, repeated his idea of one democratic Israeli Palestinian state. He called it "Isratine". Do you see this as a viable alternative?

    It's not a new idea that Jews, Christians and Muslims could live in one state. But that is an idea not accepted by Israel.


    For the time being, it has to be two separate states, but this can change if Israel creates new facts on the ground where Palestinians are part of an Israeli state.


    How are foreign influences affecting the Hamas-Fatah rapprochement? 

    The problem is how there is no consensus over a common dialogue or vision regarding the conflict, common objectives and the leadership on both sides.


    They also failed to engage the Palestinian public in order to reach established goals. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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