Last few nights, I slept very little and not just because I had a lot of work (95% of it volunteer work) but because of thinking, reading and trying to analyze where we as a people (Homo sapiens) are going. Questions that swirl in my mind are things like have we as a people a) learned anything from the pandemic or are we going to continue down the unsustainable paths of greed, consumerism, and injury to our planet, b) the ability to switch to empathy, caring, honesty, and dignity. The answers I was getting challenged soul and mind. Vaccine apartheid is being practiced and not just in Palestine (Israeli colonizers get it, Palestinians don’t) but around the world as rich (white ruled) countries who became rich because of a history of colonization and oppression get it while developing/poor countries impoverished by the attacks of the west (like Yemen and Syria) do not.
As my readers know, my wife and I have returned to Palestine in 2008 leaving an economically comfortable life in the USA. My main reason for returning was that I had thought that we could contribute to challenging the global system from here better than from the US (both are occupied). We thought we could help young people here more than in the US. We thought we could help build an environment where young people are empowered by building institutions here (like Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University – PalestineNature.org) and teaching at universities (I taught and still teach at several universities). In retrospect I would say a) we underestimated the challenges, and b) we were right that the work here is far more important than in the USA. The two things are not incompatible. Let me explain:
1) More challenge than anticipated: The engineered mental colonization was much deeper than we thought. See published chapter about this with one young person http://www.palestinenature.org/research/B46-QumsiyehandAmr.pdf This is so pervasive in all levels of society from governments to NGOs to academia. It is pervasive from leaders to common people on the street. It holds up progress. It is not an insurmountable challenge. As discussed in that chapter, we should start with small foci, emphasize those principled who act for the good of others, those who self sacrifice, and those who lose their lives in the struggle (martyrs). Those heroes light the way for so many; they are our role models; they keep the hope alive. For others, we merely have to remind them regularly and persistently that apathy or going along with the status quo is not good even for themselves from a selfish standpoint. We all eventually die. And as Jesus said: What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Or as is known from Islam: the greater Jihad is the inner jihad to reform our own self (Hadith). Or the Golden rule found in all religions: do unto others what you like done to you (or don’t do to others what you don’t like being done to you)
2) Correct choice: The US still needs a lot of work and I hope my first trip abroad will be to the US continue trying to change its policies. But Palestine needs even more. The Palestinian factions are meeting in Cairo to try to iron out the details o the arrangements in terms of election. I disagreed with Oslo process of capitulation (the second Nakba for us – see Edward Said and my 1990s writings on this) including its delusion of a state under occupation/elections under occupation etc. Many independent voices are not happy with this. They may reluctantly vote. But if people are to run in elections, they should have a clear program which 98% of the Palestinian people would support. Below highlights key points agreed to by many people (various discussions over the past few weeks with key figures) that should/must be included in such electoral program to produce the needed societal change. But anyway, working on the ground on these things is a must for all of us.
Suggested electoral platform/program for Palestine
1) Principles in politics: Support for te Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR) including rights of refugees, rejection of discrimination based on religion (e.g. we do not support a Jewish, an Islamic, or a Christian state but states of their people). Palestinian UN recognized human rights are not negotiable. These rights include a) the right of return for refugees to their homes and lands and to be compensated for their suffering, b) the full equality to women (in all aspects of social, educational and economic rights, c) the right to education to all, d) the right to due process of law, e) the right to clean and healthy environment, d) right to food/sustenance and shelter among others per UDHR.
2) There shall be complete freedom of expression through all communication strategy. A legislative law that nullifies the so called “electronic crimes decree” and replaces it with a clear law that guarantees all people rights including freedom of speech and freedom of the press must be produced
3) There must be mechanisms created to weed out corruption, nepotism and other unethical behaviors in all levels of society. Laws and systems must be instituted that allows return of any public money and REFORM (perhaps a truth and reconciliation committee) and this must go hand in hand with reform of the judiciary and making it completely independent of executive and legislative branches. (We must weed out political appointment of judges). This way legal system is used effectively in case of reconciliation and truth committees fail to address the needs of change.
4) Government service is service for the people. a) The president, legislative council members, and national council members should serve no more than five years renewable with election for a maximum of 10 years in each position. b) Legislators shall not get salary from government nor any special benefit. c) They are serving their country on a volunteer basis. No one should serve in the government who has engaged in any corrupt practices (carrying favor, bribes etc.).
5) Society must take care of its vulnerable communities. This includes taking care of the haircap (special need) and elderly population.
6) Our environment must be protected. The legislative council shall issue laws the give incentives for a green economy and disincentives for pollution, use of disposable items (e.g. plastic).
7) We recognize that Oslo accords were a disaster for the Palestinian people and in anycase has expired in 1999 (they were interim accords for five years). We enter these elections not because we agree to the corrupt system that allowed elections for prisoners but because it provides a platform to present principled positions articulated above. We thus commit not to engage in any process that strengthens the status quo under occupation. We commit to weaken this authority and re-strengthen an independent PLO working outside of the limited power of the Oslo legislative council.