Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Notes on the Palestinian Critical Disputes

Palestinian Critical Disputes
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat chairs a meeting with Fatah executive committe and leaders of various palestinian factions 18 November 2003. HUSSEIN HUSSEIN/ PPO/ AFP.

Majed Kayali

Despite the abundance and complexity of the Palestinian political disputes, political criticism is still below the required standard. Who examines the dominant discourses, literature and thinking patterns will find a lack of critical thinking and a dominant thinking pattern produced by the prevailing political entities, Fatah and Hamas, especially after each has become an authority.

That situation was a result of reluctance or fear of the emergence of critical thinking in the Palestinian general political sphere it also involves diminishing politics and privatizing it by making it exclusive to the dominant political class, isolated from most people regardless of institutionalization and representation relations, and political participation.

That does not mean that there is no political criticism among the dominant entities because such criticism exists and is abundant. Perhaps this specific kind of criticism is unnecessary because it is just factional, superficial, harmful, and useless when it comes to finding solutions to the issues of the Palestinian arena or advancing its political thinking. Therefore, we should distinguish between the criticism that the factions produce in their inter-conflicts – by narrow factional mentalities – and the political critique made by a mentality that places the public interest above all.

Factional criticism mostly is unable to make a change. It only addresses the surface of politics and is only concerned with political appearances rather than effectiveness. And if it pursued reformation, it is only to preserve the dominant old political regime, regardless of its qualification or ability to maintain the achievements or face the new challenges.

Factional criticism, exhausting, absurd, and harmful as it is, involves many allegations, including the claim of a monopoly on truth, integrity, legitimacy and patriotism. Each political entity claims the right to monopolize all of these values.

Thus, it is tough to get a confession out of these dominant factional entities other than those claims, no matter how small they or their roles are, whether it is regarding facing the enemy or their value to their people. Nor can you get recognition from the major organizations of their responsibility for the deteriorated state that the Palestinian arena reached, at least concerning their size and role. As long as their leadership responsibilities are great, their responsibility for the current consequences is just as great.

In this regard, it is difficult, for instance, to get Fatah to admit its share of the responsibilities for the current deterioration since it signed the Oslo Agreement with all its loopholes and dangers, it removed the PLO, and marginalized the role of refugees in the national process. The same applies to its responsibility for managing the authority and the division in the Palestinian regime. From its point of view, what happened has happened because of Hamas’s policies and the objective circumstances.

That is what Hamas says, and to the same extent. It doesn’t admit responsibility for what happened, compared to the divisive and incitement policies that it deployed. And given its adoption of explosive operations that depleted the Palestinian capabilities, which made it easier for Israel to oppress the Palestinians, leading to its responsibility for the ongoing division and Its continuity. For Hamas, everything is the responsibility of Fatah.

In this case, both Fatah and Hamas consider themselves above criticism. Perhaps, this can be explained by the prevailing closed and patriarchal mentalities and the absence of disclosure and accountability because these factions were not built on representative, electoral and democratic foundations. That also explains that some Fatah supporters believe that criticism should be focused on Hamas and the fronts, some Hamas supporters believe that it should focus on Fatah and the fronts, while some of the fronts’ supporters believe that criticism should be focused on both Fatah and Hamas!

It is noteworthy that Fatah and Hamas, which turned into an authority under occupation, and without achieving complete independence, do nothing to overcome the current situation, despite their agreement on a political approach that focuses on a Palestinian state objective, and shifts towards popular resistance.

Perhaps members of the factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, realize that the complex Palestinian national process accommodates the third, fourth, fifth and sixth viewpoints, even if they intersect here or there, with this or that party, or not at all, because the majority of Palestinians today are outside the factions, and these also have their opinions, and these are the basics of politics and political action.

In addition to all the above, the leaders of the factions forget that criticizing the Palestinian experience with words is much better than criticizing it with weapons, violence, defection, and division. Criticism contributes to the development and enriches the national process and rationalizes its forms of struggle, while violence, defection and division destroy the national movement, wastes its energy and squander its achievements.

To sum it up, the current state of the Palestinian arena needs a critical changing mentality, a renewing and developing mentality, because reformation or other half measures will not succeed at this stage. That means that it has become necessary to break the narrow factional mentality that prevailed in the last phase, now that these factions have eroded, and their presence in society and the struggle against Israel has faded. However, this does not mean discarding the experience accumulated at this point or disregarding the achievements that should be preserved and built upon.

There is an excess of factional criticism, which is closer to slander and accusations. However, the state that the Palestinians are in now requires developing critical political thinking. This type of thinking is what the Palestinians need to build and restore life to their political entities and projects.



The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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