North Africa, West Asia: Opinion

Intersectionality is key for Palestinians to unlock a post-Trump future

The political status quo must be shaken up through radical, international action – otherwise the national project is doomed

Oraib Rantawi
9 March 2021, 8.15am
Palestinians wave flags while protesting Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, July 2020
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SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved

The Trump administration brought dramatic change to Palestine. There are new and irrefutable realities overshadowing the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) political ambitions and they are here to stay.

Some of the most prominent examples include settlement expansion in Jerusalem, annexation throughout the West Bank, the United States acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Even if the ‘Deal of the Century’ is no longer on the table, its shadow lingers. The PA is in a more challenging position than ever before.

There is no reason to believe Joe Biden’s presidency will signify meaningful change for Palestinians or their leadership. Instead, the PA will hedge its bets on showing good intentions and a desire for cooperation and security coordination, and for reaching a negotiated solution. It will not oppose Arab normalisation with Israel, and it will even forbid criticism of it.

Beyond the US, Arab countries no longer have patience for de facto president Mahmoud Abbas. In this climate, a resolution respecting the 1967 borders, equitable land exchanges, East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, and a just resolution for refugees are completely unavailable for the PA given the regional and international environment.

Revitalise the youth

There is also no indication that the PA is willing to propose steps to reinforce its negotiating power, either by working on reconciliation and national unity, enhancing popular resistance, continuing to push for Palestine to join international organisations, pursuing Israel legally, resisting normalisation or reinforcing boycott.

Furthermore, there is no indication that the PA will undergo real democratic change, despite its decision in January to hold general elections – a decision made largely due to external pressure and conditionality. The PA is also not willing to revive the Palestine Liberation Organization or reactivate the Palestinian diaspora. These are the cards Palestinians now have at their disposal, and the PA is not in a place to activate any of them.

Unless radical changes are made, the Palestinian political structure will inevitably collapse as a consequence of the continuation of the status quo that will likely define the next four years. And all of this will inevitably put the PA in confrontation with the Palestinian people.

But collapse can be averted if, in the next four years, Palestinians and the PA seize on opportunities for real change and prosperity. One way is through revitalised activism, especially among the youth, that recommits to rejecting injustice and oppression until the occupation ends. This energy can create new dynamics, inspiring a new Palestinian generation who can influence the Palestinian political system.

Palestinians must increasingly connect with intersectional international movements against racism and fascism to strengthen solidarity

Prosperity may also be achieved by activating the sources of power that lie outside the areas of PA control, including the Palestinian diaspora of intellectuals, academics and activists, especially in Europe and the US, but also among Palestinians in Israel.

Over the last few years, these Palestinians have launched important movements that are intersectional, connecting with the global awakening against racism, fascism and the new populist right, in which the Zionist regime is a key player. Further activating the Palestinian intellectual diaspora would add a helpful international angle to the Palestinian cause. It would restore the solidarity movement and reinforce the international resolution that Zionism is a form of racial discrimination that must be confronted.

Activating diaspora populations and revitalising activism against the Israeli occupation offer optimism about renewing the Palestinian national movement and integrating younger generations. The existing Palestinian institution does not include the third and fourth generations of the Nakba, the ones who take to the streets, and among whom exist the thinkers, activists and academics.

Beyond the Palestine diaspora, Palestinians must seize the opportunity to reconnect their cause with Arab popular movements in the region, especially since these are mostly opposed to their governments’ normalisation agreements. Palestinians must seize the opportunity to revive regional and international solidarity movements.

Change is coming

The path to prosperity is long and complex but it promises opportunities. While the PA as it currently exists would not allow for a process of renewal, legitimisation and resurrection in the Palestinian national movement, this will most likely be imposed on it either through revitalised activism against the Israeli occupation or what is happening among the Palestinian communities in Israel and in Jerusalem. To put it bluntly, the PA won’t have a choice but to accept it.

What is needed now is a broader mandate for the Palestinian people that falls outside of PA control and that answers important questions. How do we strategically define the Palestinian national project in the next phase? Are we still fighting for a two-state solution? Do we seek one country? What are the tools of struggle? What are the tools that should be used to deal with the Arab and international movements of people against racism, fascism and authoritarianism?

A glance back at the last century clearly shows that Palestinians are no strangers to popular movements or confrontations with their occupiers. There are waves of revolutionary movement in motion wherever Palestinian societies exist. We must accelerate this process to bring about reimagined collective Palestinian futures. This is of great importance and can prevent further collapses in the walls of the Palestinian national project.

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