The cynicism displayed by Mahmoud Abbas’ recent visit to Washington, DC can only be appreciated when considering the incredible acts of self sacrifice taken by Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails who at the time of writing this, have been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks. Abbas and Trump were disengaged, Spicer all the experts and pundits spewed their usual nonsense about peace and how Palestinians need to end terrorism (what terrorism?) which only goes to show the reckless disregard with which people treat Palestine and its people.
It was reported that during his meeting with Trump, “Mr. Abbas… repeated the conditions the Palestinians have insisted on for years — the creation of an independent Palestinian state based on borders that existed before the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital; the right of return for refugees; and freedom for prisoners in Israeli cells. That formulation has been a nonstarter for Israel which itself has shown no sign of backing off its own fixed positions.” This is according to the New York Times which also reported that “Echoing Israel’s position, Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Abbas to discourage Palestinian instigation against Israelis. “There cannot be lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violence and hate,” Mr. Trump said. This is a strange demand indeed since the cause for Palestinians hating Israel is Israel’s brutality. No amount of incitement will result in the kind of hate Israel creates each time a child is beaten, or shot by soldiers, each time Gaza is bombed, each time a family has to stand in line for hours at a checkpoint and is tormented by soldiers. Indeed it is not the Palestinians who are to blame for hatred of Israel, it is Israel itself.
According the NYT, Trump did not publicly mention Palestinian financial payments to the families of convicted terrorists, but his spokesman, Sean Spicer, said Mr. Trump raised the issue privately.” In a piece about this visit in Israel’s daily, Haaretz it was emphasized that “Spicer added that Trump raised with Abbas the issue of payments to families of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails, and asked the Palestinian leader to resolve it.” The insistence by Israel that the families of Palestinian prisoners suffer economic strangulation was discussed here and it should come as no surprise that Israel has got the US demanding this of Abbas. Once again, we see reckless, indeed criminal disregard for the lives of Palestinian political prisoners and their families.
No dead horse has ever been beaten with more vigor than the so-called Israeli Palestinian Peace Talks. As Ghassan Kanafani so brilliantly stated in this interview from 1970. When asked why his organization, the PFLP won’t engage in peace talks with Israelis he paused for a while then looked up at the reporter and said, “You don’t mean exactly peace talks, you mean capitulation.” Then he added, that for Palestinians, negotiating with Israel is like “negotiations between the sword and the neck.” And indeed when twenty three years later the PLO did engage in talks with the Israeli government in what yielded the Oslo Accords, the result was capitulation. The Palestinians had given up the struggle and got nothing in return.
The man leading the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike currently going on is Marwan Barghouti who was as enthusiastic as anyone about negotiating with Israel for a free independent Palestinian state. In fact, Barghouti himself was deeply involved in the negotiations. However, having gone through the humiliating process of negotiations with Israel, he realized, as Ghassan Kanafani had predicted, that the more Palestinians were negotiating, the deeper the Israeli sword was cutting into the Palestinian neck. Barghouti, considered by many to be the Palestinian equivalent of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, is serving several life sentences in an Israeli prison because he had realized that only resistance can bring Palestinians the freedom they deserve.
Because of the total disregard for the lives of Palestinians, Israel is getting financial and military support from the world while the Palestinians heroically fight and get very little support. But this is because there is a paradigm in which Palestinians always need to be grateful for whatever little crumbs they get and Israel always 0calls all the shots. Sadly, Mahmoud Abbas made very little demands during his visit to Washington. He did not call on Washington to support the call for BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, against Israel. He did not demand that Israel immediately and unconditionally lift the siege on Gaza and though he did demand that the prisoners be freed, there was no clear sense that he was demanding, it was more like he was politely begging.
Juxtaposing Abbas’ meeting in Washington with the prisoners’ hunger strike provides a clear picture of who is truly fighting for Palestinian rights. As these brave men continue with their self-sacrifice one is reminded of the hunger strike of Bobby Sands and the ten IRA volunteers who the British government let die. Their short lives and painful struggle is documented in the book “Ten Men Dead,” by David Beresford. Anyone wishing to understand what hunger strike entails will do well to read it.
The illegitimate regime that has been occupying Palestine for sixty-nine years, Israel, must be dismantled and a democracy with equal rights must be established in its place. Otherwise the criminal disregard for Palestinian lives will go on uninterrupted.