Palestinians should have gone to Manama to make their case

We should have spoken to the world in Manama without hesitation or fear. We should continue to defend our country, our people and our rights in any forum, country or time.
Monday 01/07/2019
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as he meets with the foreign media in Ramallah, in the Israel-occupied West Bank June 23. (Reuters)
Blocked ears. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as he meets with the foreign media in Ramallah, in the Israel-occupied West Bank June 23. (Reuters)

Which is better for Palestinians: For our leaders to declare their absolute rejection of the US-sponsored economic conference in Bahrain and hide in their offices in Ramallah or Gaza or to send their representatives right into the heart of the fray, where the conspiracy is shaping, side by side with their Arab and Muslim brothers and the influential countries of the world that are supportive of their legitimate goals and of international resolutions?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rejected the American initiative from his office in the Palestinian territories, could have done the same thing at the meeting in Manama. By not going there, he may have ended up causing a crisis with his Arab and international allies and might have diminished their ability to reject the American initiative, since the people concerned were absent from the arena.

A quick look at the list of directors, speakers and participants at the economic conference reveals how diverse and highly qualified they were. Many were from countries that cannot be described as supportive of US and Israeli policies. They came from Russia, Turkey, EU countries, Nigeria, the World Bank and Arab countries. So, how could the Palestinians afford not to send one of their own speakers to point out the injustice, occupation and suffering our people have endured?

Carrying out Palestinians' duty to defend their interests and legitimate rights in Manama would not necessarily have meant expressing approval for the US plan.

We have all heard the rosy statements about the economic aid and material support that will accompany or follow a US-backed Palestinian-Israeli agreement. We have also heard extraordinary affirmations of how all the financial and economic problems facing the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Palestinian society at large in the Palestinian territories and in buffer zones with neighbouring Arab countries are going to be miraculously solved.

Those statements bore messages that the Palestinians were dying to hear, given the difficult and harsh situation created by the occupying Israeli forces on the rest of the Palestinian land controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Those pleasant statements, however, conveniently omitted the price that Palestinians would have to pay for those objectives. That price has already been mentioned elsewhere, but neither the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas can afford to pay it.

Even more gravely, those flowery statements purposely omitted the consequences or the sanctions that will be imposed on the Palestinians if they cannot or do not cooperate and accept the conditions of the deal, conditions that they cannot accept in any case. That is the ominous disaster looming ahead.

It goes against common sense and fairness to think for a second that Abbas will agree to give up the rest of his ancestral land for a port, a road or jobs. How can you force or entice him to accept that? How can you force or entice Hamas leaders, or any Palestinian or Arab citizen and Arab government for that matter, to accept that?

It is no secret that the United States will follow up its first batch of seductive discourse with a series of sanctions meant to topple the Palestinian Authority from the inside by halting aid to the Palestinian community, working to abolish the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and basically preventing any kind of assistance to the Palestinian government and towns. They have done it before.

I do not think that there is any disagreement over what the United States and Israel can do to the Palestinians. The real question is what we Palestinians ought to be doing given this scenario.

Our people’s perseverance in their struggle depends on the support of our allies, be they our Arab and Muslim brothers or the international community that supports the rights of the Palestinian people. We should have reached out to these allies.

We should have spoken to the world in Manama without hesitation or fear. We should continue to defend our country, our people and our rights in any forum, country at any time.

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Marwan Kanafani was an adviser to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.