- Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi says Palestinians want freedom and the right to self-determination
- The U.S. is wrong to block statehood bid, says former Palestinian presidential candidate
- Barghouthi: Israel was never prepared to negotiate in good faith
I have lived my entire adult life under Israeli military occupation. I snatch an approximation of freedom only when I travel and even then I know I am not truly free because my homeland remains controlled by a foreign power.
This week Palestinians will apply for United Nations membership in an attempt to secure freedom and statehood. Notably, it is the self-proclaimed democratic leader of the world, the United States of America under President Barack Obama, which will veto our aspirations. The vast majority of the world's states and people stand with us. The United States and Israel are only isolating themselves in this year of the Arab Spring by rebuffing the hopes of Palestinians.
The objections of the Obama administration and U.S. Congress are a bitter pill. It is morally wrong-headed to tell Palestinians repeatedly -- as has been done for a score of years since negotiations began in 1991 in Madrid -- to wait. Alternatively, we are told to wait and to negotiate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But he has made clear over his career -- and his Knesset allies have too -- that he has no interest in a viable Palestinian state. To expect us to continue to do what has failed for two decades is to assume insanity on our part.
I believe the Israeli government fails to apprehend its current position rationally. This is a splendid chance for it to endorse the two-state solution and back the Palestinian effort at the United Nations. Its obstinacy suggests to me that we may not achieve a meaningful Palestinian state. But we will not accept Bantustans (black homelands set aside in white-ruled South Africa), segregation and apartheid. Rather than accept such an injustice we will eventually demand equal rights in one democratic state.
Obama and Netanyahu fail to recognize that we have no intention of returning year after year to the United Nations to grovel for our rights. Palestinians have repeatedly noted that eventually we will give up on the two-state solution and pursue equal rights for all. Increasingly, Palestinian leaders are pushed in this direction by young Palestinians disillusioned by failed negotiations and inspired by the success of Americans emerging from the racist outlook of the Jim Crow South (racial segregation in the southern United States).
Most of the world will recognize us on paper, but Israel has the power to prevent the recognition from having any meaning on the ground. On this point, the United States is right that our U.N. effort will bring no tangible change on the ground. Yet this move can spark a new unified Palestinian strategy that makes the cost of Israeli occupation and apartheid larger than the benefits. This can be achieved by using the methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-violence combined with strong international solidarity and sanctions of the Apartheid system can effect real change.
Most people in Palestine are not interested in the legal complications and the diplomatic maneuvers at the United Nations. They want to know whether the occupation will end and when. Can they move freely without checkpoints or not? Is free trade with the world pending or will they continue to be hostages to the Israeli economy? Will they receive their salary or will the Israeli government illegally withhold our own tax revenue?
In short, people want freedom and an end to the longest occupation in modern history and one of the worst forms of apartheid ever. Twenty more years of negotiations will not appeal to them and they will not abide a lack of strategic vision from the Palestinian leadership.
September 2011 should be a turning point for the Palestinian cause. Our new momentum can change once and for all the rules of the game. We seek not just U.N. recognition, but an improved position the next day. Internally, national reconciliation and Palestinian unity are top priorities. The call for elections for the Palestinian National Council, parliament and presidency, where all Palestinians will be represented, are goals we must soon achieve.
The hysterical Israeli reaction against the United Nations bid only shows that Israel was never prepared to negotiate in good faith. With the same hostility used to repress our people demonstrating in Bil'in and Nabi Saleh, Israel has tried to stop Palestinians from reaching out to the rest of the world.
Israeli officials know that Palestine will gain dramatically in the days ahead and that our advances will de-legitimize the Israeli occupation in the eyes of the world. They also know that their culture of impunity is being challenged by a new regional reality that no longer tolerates oppression.
A new Middle East is blossoming with the strength and brilliance that freedom and democracy sow. Across the region, people are taking charge of their destiny and writing a new one free of despotism, humiliation, and exploitation. Palestine is not a regional exception, but an integral part of the cries of freedom emanating from the Middle East.