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Thursday, July 01, 2010

What is missing from the Palestinian Arab national movement?

PA prime minister Fayyad has been praised for his supposed groundwork in building a Palestinian Arab state, and it is clear that he is taking a page out of the Zionist playbook in saying that he will build state institutions independently so they will be ready if a state is ever declared - just like the Zionists did in the decades leading up to 1948.

However, there is a significant divergence between how the PA is acting and how Zionists acted before 1948, and these betray the difference between truly wanting to build a state and only pretending.

For one, it is unclear what institutions Fayyad and the PA are really building. There has been a lot of talk about Salam Fayyad's revolutionary program of state-building, but there doesn't seem to be too many specific examples. As Barry Rubin writes,

.. I don't see any Palestinian state-building going on. Yes, there is some improvement in the West Bank security forces, including U.S. training, but the changes are not enormous. And at any moment, these forces could launch a war on Israel or start fighting each other. Yes, there is some economic improvement happening but it's based on foreign aid money and much of it is unproductive (i.e., real estate and housing speculation). And again, it could be blown up any moment in a new Palestinian-Israeli or Fatah-Hamas war or just major instability.

...The article [raving about state-building, in the Foreign Policy site] provides not a single example of any material action being done to create strong institutions or do anything else that a state requires. Indeed, the only actual action was the passing of a resolution saying that the Palestinian Authority is building a state.
The Zionists of the 1930s and 1940s didn't rely on the world's largesse to build their institutions, and by 1947 they already had a functioning state without the state.

Another difference is that the Palestinian Arabs do not seem to be trying at all to create economic independence - rather than creating a network of private Arab benefactors, they are instead completely dependent on Western money and support. They have floated the idea of their own currency, but that would quickly turn into a joke (imagine them trying to pay Hamas' electric bills in Gaza to Israeli fuel companies with Palestinian pounds!) They get some charity from places like the UAE but where is the massive investment in their future from the rest of the Arab world, or from the Palestinian Arab "diaspora"?

Thirdly, even though there is a large degree of autonomy within the PA, there is no desire to dismantle the "refugee camps" of the West Bank (or Gaza) and integrate those members into normal society. Zionists did everything they could to integrate their new citizens into the mainstream, even as they stumbled a bit with those from Arab countries. Yet the PA is more than happy to allow UNRWA to continue to administer camps within areas they control! A people who crave independence would consider these outsiders to be an unacceptable intrusion on their sovereignty, rather than a crutch to avoid the realities of tackling real problems with real governing.

Fourthly, there is no call for Palestinian Arabs in the "diaspora" to move to Palestine - today. If an Arab Palestine is going to be a safe haven for stateless Palestinian Arabs to come to live, shouldn't there be a push for them to immigrate? (I do not know if that is allowed under existing agreements, but that is not relevant to the desire to bring in as many of the suffering people as possible, as quickly as possible.)

Arabs have been trying to turn the PalArabs into the Jews, and have been consciously usurping Zionist motifs and themes (such as the term "diaspora".) However, the comparison falls apart very quickly as we see that the Palestinian Arab leadership is behaving in the exact opposite way than the ZIonist leadership did in the years before statehood.

They are talking a good game, but they are not even close to delivering anything but hot air.