Making Hope: the need for a new movement for Palestinian liberation

November 18, 1998

By Ahmad Qatamesh

[Ahmad Qatamesh was the longest serving administrative detainee (imprisoned without charge or trial for five years) and was released by the Israeli government early this year. He is a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank. This article is Ahmad Qatamesh's view on the trend among Palestinians in the United States to reject party organisations for the sake of uniting all oppositionists around the common goal of defeating Oslo.]

Political parties are a step forward in our country because, if there are no parties, you will go back to representation through the family and tribal system, and this phase in history is gone. Modern society necessitates parties.

Since we are in a state of despair and loss, people start asking: what is the importance of the factions that fought out the Palestinian revolution? They did not achieve our goals in the past 30 years. Why should we believe in them?

Some say, I could choose to think independently, I could express the convictions in my heart and mind and then join with others.

This way of thinking needs to be considered more carefully. People who unite to fight a common enemy are, even if they do not admit it, following the framework of a party. To think in a "front" fashion is a party idea. Order is, by nature, party-oriented.

The Palestinian national movement was defeated and grew old — the leadership and the movement itself. When, in 1967, Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, the movement got old.

It went through a deep, deep crisis. From that crisis came the modern Palestinian revolution and the start of a 30-year struggle. Factions sprang up as a result of the '67 war. Then they were defeated. Now, a new leadership has to come forth for the modern revolution.

From old, failed things, you take the good things to build something better, just as the guerilla movement (PLO) came from the political movement of the past.

The PLO lived 30 years. Oslo happened. It is an American-Israeli project, and it was imposed on the Palestinian people. Our agenda was defeated after 30 years and theirs, through Oslo, succeeded. It is their program, not the program of the Palestinian people.

Why do we say we failed? Because we raised the slogan of ending the occupation and it's still there; we wanted a dismantling of the settlements and they are growing in number; we wanted a state of our own and none of that happened. We did not achieve even one of our objectives, so that means that we have lost.

Therefore, the solution is to restart the political movement and struggle through again. Can we do this? Yes, we can. It is possible to do this because our cause is just.

The things that have the potential to ignite us are still there: our rights, our stolen land, the occupation, the settlements. As a result, you should consider why I am asking for each party to restructure so we can build a new party for the future.

Whether we do the restructuring now or in the future, our issues are still there, and we have to tackle them through a new mechanism and leadership. For that party to continue and achieve things differently from the previous period, it has to be more revolutionary, novel, modern, up to date and evolved. It has to be better than what we had before.

We cannot build a party from a vacuum. We need to build it from what was before, but it has to be better. From the political movement we had before and from the masses we have now, there must spring a new party that is better than what we had before.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as the end or failure of ideology. America tries to impose its ideology on the world as globalisation so people may forget any other kind of ideology and follow America's. This is an imperialist ideology.

The US government tries to give the impression that they won and we should follow them because they won. This is used to suppress others from revolting against the New World Order. But there will be changes in the world that will constitute a challenge to the United States.

Arafat chose a certain ideology and a certain path through the US, and some say he will achieve his goals. He depends on the US to support him financially and every decision should be agreed to by the US. Anything he wants to do is related to the United States.

The other ideology is not to tie oneself to the US government because it will not give us the solution we need. My solution entails depending on ourselves and building a good relationship with the Arab masses and continuing the struggle without dependence on the United States.

To take it on a smaller but more detailed scale, now the Palestinian Authority is controlled by an elite group that is controlled by one man. That is an ideology itself. When we ask for a democratic society where the rule of law prevails, that is also an ideology.

One view on the street says there is no conflict with the enemy and we should worry about ourselves. The other says this is not the end of the conflict and we should continue our struggle. So there are two political movements, two ideologies.

The ideology is still there, it still exists, and it will make it easy for the party to continue and to flourish. Without it, you cannot build a party and flourish. You need ideology to back you up.

[Received through the Free Arab Voice and edited for Green Left Weekly.]

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