In the US and Canada there have been calls for national meetings to formulate umbrella organizations that would speak on behalf of all Palestinians living there. But why now, and who is involved? Two things need to be pointed out before we answer these questions. First, for the most part the front line organizations like SPHR and Al-Awda are defined as "solidarity groups" although they are founded and led by Palestinians and even the majority of their membership is Palestinian. Second, these groups are not affiliated with any of the "old country" feuds or factions because their membership is mostly young and never belonged to these factions. This is relevant because some actors have insisted that these incipient national organizations be centered on these old and largely irrelevant factional identities. Others are insisting that only Palestinians be allowed to participate, which opened the discussion of who is a Palestinian. These issues are being purposefully exaggerated in order to exclude solidarity groups and/or give more voting power for failed "community groups." The constant talk of blood quantum ("only your mother is Palestinian!") is also designed as psychological pressure against the young students to make it uncomfortable to be in those meetings.The myth of the "moderate Palestinians" takes another hit.
Why is all this happening now? When the day comes for Abbas to sign on the line -- giving up Palestinian rights -- he needs a Diaspora leadership that is in line with his decisions. In Canada, almost all Palestinian advocacy and community groups have been involved in these efforts, but our tried, tested and failed "elite" are trying very hard to take the helm once again -- if not by democracy then by any means necessary. Since these discussions started last year, some of the steadfast individuals have received physical threats and even death threats. And things have not got serious yet.
In the past two years in Europe, Palestinians were able to form an umbrella group that actually challenged the Abbas line, and tried to challenge the ban on the elected Hamas government. It may be no coincidence that now the old "elite" in Canada are receiving backing from Abbas and his entourage. Since last year there has been a rash of Fatah visits to Canada and the US where the primary goal is meeting with prospective allies here to prepare them for seats in a revived (but Abbas controlled) PLO. In recent months, Fatah has sent senior representatives to rally the support of Palestinians in Canada late last year and this summer following the events in Gaza and promised rewards to potential allies.
Palestinians in the Diaspora need to learn the lesson from Gaza and Lebanon. Although all Palestinians desire unity, it is impossible with those who are actively collaborating with the Israeli agenda and seeking to undermine the Palestinian movement for liberation. We cannot allow those who hijacked Palestinian institutions in Palestine in order to serve Israel to do the same in the Diaspora.
...It will be an enormous challenge, but it is one we have to meet to make clear there is no mandate and no possibility for Abbas, or any other would-be collaborator, to sign away Palestinian rights. Judging from the emerging agenda of the US-planned "peace conference" in November, it may be now or never for us to act.
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