Asad Ghanem's University of Haifa webpage:
8 Jun 2010 12:21 PM
By Sarah Harlan
Washington - The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee held their annual convention in Washington, DC June 4-6. Keynoted by Attorney General Eric Holder, the convention focused its early sessions on the civil rights reality for Arab Americans and US foreign policy challenges in the Middle East, saving a panel on Palestine for last.
The Palestine panel was not heavily-attended, though perhaps it should have been. The panel demonstrated that, while the US is in business with the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, Palestinians do not fall in lockstep behind it or him.
Held in a half-empty ballroom at the Wardman Park Marriott on a Sunday morning, the Palestine panel - "17 years after Oslo, What's next?" - began innocently enough with the PLO Ambassador to the United States Maen Rashid Areikat giving a thorough analysis of the perks and pitfalls of the Oslo Accords between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel. He was followed by former UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd's discussion of the UN refugee administrative and development body. The final speaker was an impassioned Dr. Asa'd Ghanem from the University of Haifa.
AbuZayd impressed the importance of refugees in the Palestinian question, but her assessment of UNRWA successes was overshadowed by Dr. Ghanem's condemnation of the Palestinian status quo led by Abbas in the Fatah-heavy West Bank government.
Ambassador Areikat spent the most time on Oslo proper. He assessed the shortcomings of the agreement and its implementation, saying the Palestinians should have demanded Israel recognize a Palestinian state rather than the PLO and that deferring "final status" issues to a later date was a mistake. Oslo was meant to be a "transitional" document, Areikat said, but it has become intractable. Oslo was meant to be a gesture of good will on both sides, but between 1993 and 1996, settlement construction doubled in the West Bank.
Oslo was a hard lesson learned, Areikat said, but defended the lesson as valuable.
And what is the endgame, the Palestinian envoy asked - to end the occupation that has been in place since 1967.
Dr. Ghanem established his stance counter to the PLO and Palestinian national status quo immediately, saying:
"The occupation started in '48, not '67."
From there, the University of Haifa professor of political science took a fairly pro-Hamas stance to Areikat's default pro-Fatah stance, and the room appeared divided between Abbas-government supporters and those more skeptical of the Palestinian Authority.
Ghanem was unapologetic in his assertions about politics within and without Palestine. Regarding the flotilla attack the Monday before, Ghanem said this proves Israel is not interested in peace. The upside however, he said, is that Israel has been tarnished in the eyes of the international community, and this is thanks to the resistance efforts of Hamas.
Palestinian internal politics are at their lowest point since 1948, Dr. Ghanem insisted. After Yasser Arafat's death, the Palestinian national movement has reached a "multi-layer, multi-dimensional failure," he said.
He accused the PLO, as many have, of forsaking the refugees. "The PLO was created to help refugees return to their homeland, not the West Bank," Ghanem insisted. He picked apart the Palestinian national anatomy, united (on paper) by the Palestinian Authority.
The West Bank and Gaza can hardly be called united, he said. And Jerusalem - the PA has abandoned the Jerusalemites as much as it has the Palestinians living inside Israel, Dr. Ghanem intoned. The refugees, in the camps and in the diaspora, have been sold up the river as well, he said, to bolster the West Bank. By not incorporating the refugees into the Palestinian national future, Ghanem said, the PA has been complicit in the "total violation" of refugees' right to self-determination.
Attacking the PA eventually led to an attack on the sitting leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen).
President Abbas makes decisions about the future of Palestine without the Palestinians, he said. "My voice as a Palestinian in the West Bank, in Gaza, inside the Green Line, in the refugee camps, in America doesn't count to Abu Mazen!" he cried, his voice in crescendo.
Palestine can't move forward without better leadership, Ghanem said. He also recognized Hamas as the rightful winner in the 2006 elections that would split the government.
Dr. Ghanem was also vocal about the inevitability of the one-state solution, calling for Palestinians to rally for democracy rather than a state aside Israel that they will never be granted. "Israel does not, cannot, will not make peace with the Palestinians," Ghanem said. The cornerstone of Palestinian national policy right now is the two-state solution, backed by the West and parented largely by political independent Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Calling for a binational state was another blow by Ghanem to the PLO status quo.
Palestinians are divided politically and geographically today, no more evident than in a Marriott ballroom last Sunday. And while political unity is part of the puzzle, it is not the last piece. The conflict is still about land, claimed by two narratives. Karen AbuZayd ended her address with a passage from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's refugee epic, "Counterpoint (For Edward W. Said)":
I cannot meet loss head on. Like the beggar, I stayed at the door. Am I going to ask strangers who sleep in my bed for permission to spend five minutes in my own home? Will I bow respectfully to the people that occupy my dream of childhood? Will they ask: who is this stranger who lacks discretion? Will I be able just to speak of peace and war among victims and the victims of victims, avoiding superfluous words and asides? Will they tell me that two dreams cannot share a bed?
Palestinian Voices Call for Unity, But Not Compromise
Jerome Socolovsky 07 June 2010
Israel's blockade of Gaza has become the focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following the killing of nine activists who tried to break the blockade. With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas scheduled to meet with President Obama Wednesday, a group of prominent Palestinians met in Washington to talk about the underlying crisis in the Mideast peace process.
The Palestinians took part in a discussion sponsored by the American-Arab, Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Political Science Professor Asad Ghanem accused the Palestinian government in the West Bank of clinging in vain to the deal negotiated 17 years ago with Israel in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.
"So it is time for the Palestinian leadership to take a political decision that Oslo is over," said Asad Ghanem. " It is over!
Ghanem is a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel. He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was not interested in the welfare of all Palestinians.
Ghanem suggested that Abbas - who is also known as Abu Mazen - is planning to declare a Palestinian state without insisting that Palestinan refugees be allowed to return to Israel, and ignoring other issues of importance to Palestinians outside the West Bank.
"If you sign with Abu Mazen, an agreement about the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we as Palestinians in Israel will continue the struggle," he said. "This is our right! This is the right of the refugees!"
Ghanem said efforts to find a two-state solution - the goal of the Oslo accords - will not work. The land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea should be a secular state for Jews and Palestinians, he said.
Ghanem's harshest words were calling Abu Mazen a "subcontractor", implementing Israel's security interests in the West Bank.
That drew an angry response from the chief of the Palestinian mission to the United States, Maen Rashid Areikat. He said the Palestinian authority is implementing security for the benefit of Palestinians in the West Bank, and suggested that Ghanem preferred the violent methods like Hamas's rocket attacks from Gaza.
"Do we always need to struggle by blowing up people in busses, and restaurants, and firing these primitive missiles, that they are only causing retaliation," said Maen Rashid Areikat. "Cannot we oppose the Israeli occupation like we are doing now, the nonviolent demonstrations that you see every day?"
Areikat defended the Oslo accords. He said they were meant to be a first step toward resolving the more difficult issues.
After the panel was over, Ghanem said Palestinians need a new leadership that represents those in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and abroad.
"What I am proposing is an election, to replace the current leadership of Hamas, and Abu Mazen, and this is the time to rethink, democratically, how we can choose our leadership," said Ghanem.
Areikat rejected that out of hand.
"The call for the establishment of an alternative leadership is really really dangerous," he said. "We have struggled many years to recognize the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
He said calling for an alternative leadership now is tantamount to ending the Palestinian national struggle.