The following is from the website of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine:
On the third anniversary of the departure of Al-Hakim, we see arising now across the Arab world a new Arab popular movement, demanding an end to tyranny and corruption and the establishment of democracy, human rights and economic justice. These popular upsurges are shaking the ground in the Arab world and posing a new and powerful challenge to U.S. imperialism, Zionism, and the Arab regimes which have enabled them by trampling upon their own people for decades. Throughout his life, Al-Hakim maintained his conviction that the Arab masses were capable of making great and revolutionary change, as we are witnessing today, and which has already achieved great results in Tunisia.
Below we present excerpts from Comrade Dr. George Habash’s 2000 article “Palestine: Between Dreams and Reality,” available at the link in its entirety, and more relevant than ever. Eleven years later, we are witnessing the inevitable and great changes, the “sweeping popular revival” he discussed with the potential to confront our enemies and achieve victory for our Arab nation.
“Globalism looks upon the Arab nation as a field for experimentation. In fact it was the first experimental field for globalism which not only seeks the submission of political regimes and leaderships, but the attraction of social and institutional forces whose activities penetrate to the popular bedrock in order to link up with them in their daily bread and in the laws of the market that tyrannize them. The aim is for them to completely forget greater concerns and causes — freedom, dependency, the homeland, social ethics — in order to turn the individual person into a commodity, competing with others just to improve his market price, lusting stupidly after his own egotism.
The Middle East settlement process begun at the Madrid Conference in 1991 is like a bulldozer that globalism uses to sweep away all obstacles as it sets about normalizing Arab relations with the Zionists and remaking Arab society, economy, politics, and culture to conform with American calculations and Israeli expansionism.
Nevertheless, Palestinian demography is a thorn in the gullet, something hard to swallow for the Zionists. Palestinians were transformed from rude tribes in the 1930s into an unsettling element in the 1960s, then into a people who resisted and launched an uprising in the 1980s as the Jewish historian Baruch Kimmerling has written.
The Oslo Agreement of 1993 aimed at corralling and taming the Palestinian upsurge, breaking the back of its patriotic enterprise, and splitting the people apart. The people had to taste despair and feel vanquished. Defeatism and individual egotism spread.
The maximum results that can be expected from Oslo have become totally clear. It is an ethnic segregation of the Palestinians, confining them to narrow enclaves, cut off from the outside, with starvation avoided only by reliance on foreign aid and work in Jewish projects. This arrangement is calculated to facilitate the continued gobbling up of Palestinian land as agreed by the two big political parties, the Likud and Labour. They have been the executors of the colonization program in the West Bank and Gaza since Yigal Allon, through Yitshak Rabin, and up to Ehud Barak, which has swallowed more than 75 percent of the land, according to the writings of the Israeli researcher Benvenisti. All this comes after East Jerusalem was annexed “legally” by order of the Knesset in 1981, and annexed practically by giving predominance to the Jewish population over the Palestinians in the city where nearly 170,000 Jews now live as compared with the 160,000 Palestinians, who are distributed on islands surrounded by settlement enclosures.
“Oslo prepared the way for the Wadi Arabah Agreement,” as Peres declared, (referring to Israel’s 1994 peace treaty with Jordan signed at Wadi Arabah). The Israelis aspire to use the Palestinian compradors as a bridge to Arab markets.
In the framework of the emerging Middle Eastern Order, the opportunities multiply of using those compradors. The casino built in Jericho is an example, one center to be followed by others.
This raises the question: why did the Palestine Authority’s leadership get entangled in the Madrid – Oslo processes in the first place? Was it to liberate the homeland or was it to secure its narrow elitist and cliquish interests by frittering away the homeland? If not, what is the meaning of the recognition of Israel, that is, of the Zionist program, on 78 percent of the whole of Palestine? For the first time the Palestinian leadership since al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni has committed such a shameful act. What is the meaning of their signature on the Oslo Accords with no declaration that the occupied lands are Palestinian lands and that the settlers will be evicted from them? What is the meaning of the fact that Oslo made no mention of the well waters that Israel appropriates to the tune of $400 million annually? Is it not noteworthy that they signed a political agreement without referring to the 1948 disaster that drove out the Palestinians, about the theft of their homeland, about the right of the refugees to return to their homes, and such like issues?
Many questions and black blotches can be traced to the state of defeat that afflicts the Palestinian forces. defeat and the agedness of its apparatus. We are not speaking here about a defeat of the patriotic enterprise, for that goes on and will be carried on by coming generations and by the justice of our cause.
No matter how hard the official propagandists may try to convince us of the contrary, they cannot make one believe that people are pleased with the political solution and with the continuation of the occupation, the institutionalization of corruption, the militarization of the society, etc. On the contrary, criticisms are mounting day after day.
These criticisms could be transformed at an opportune time into revolutionary practice according to the principle “a single spark can start a prairie fire” or a popular explosion attended by the question of change.
Indeed the reasons and drives that lead to the outbreak of the revolution several decades ago are still there: a people + a stolen homeland + displaced refugees + growing consciousness, knowledge, and skills + a hot, furious passion. Besides, there is a cancerous, colonialist, tyrannical occupation that is driving out the Palestinians and has nearly destroyed everything living and beautiful.
The country’s leadership might be caked in rust, but the spirit of the masses is fine. It is in full readiness and it is just awaiting the appropriate moment to act. The uprising over the tunnels around the Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem, and the marches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1948 disaster were just an indication of this active spirit that lay beyond the little peephole view of the leadership — whether they deserted, or hid, or were overcome with hesitation and held back. This spirit can be seen in the active forces and it also envelops the masses. Within the 1948 borders, more than a million Palestinians refuse be integrated into the Jewish state because of their different identities and because of the racism of their enemy. The march of half a century has shown that it is impossible to eliminate the racist nature of the Zionist entity’s state or to achieve equality of its residents. Calls for such things amount to daydreams. The national identity of more than a million Palestinians has risen to the level of a national political demand and is not merely a question of individual civil rights. The declining number of Palestinians who vote for Zionist
parties and who participate in the elections to the Knesset is only an indication of that fact.
[..T]he Palestinian and Arab struggle is one interwoven struggle in confrontation with the Imperialist-Zionist alliance.
The official Arab regimes have been tireless in scaring the masses and emptying their rejection (of settlement with the Zionists) of any content. At the same time the regimes roll out the red carpet for foreign companies, foreign capital, and the western cultural assault, in order to prevent the rise of resistance and national revival. Only rarely will a regime find itself in the same trench as the masses. Yet the tune that the regimes sing over and over again to justify their denial of freedoms, their obstruction of the winds of democracy, their hunting down of alternative ideas and their torture of alternative thinkers is always that the state of war with Israel demands this.
So the Arab defeats repeat themselves again and again while Israel wins one victory after another.
Plans laid out purely on the level of individual Arab states have lost their progressive character and have failed to attain any major achievement in more than two decades. Not one modern Arab state has been formed that enjoys technological and economic development providing the people job opportunities and a reasonable living standard without massive unemployment, deep indebtedness, and unlimited dependency. Not one Arab state has enjoyed an active civil society, genuine legislative authorities, a competent, independent judicial structure, and a peaceful transfer of authority from one leader to the next. The worst thing is the failure to attain true independence and true sovereignty.
The Palestine Liberation Organization burst forth as a critique and negation of these regimes, but it wasn’t long before it became a carbon copy of them. After leaving Beirut (in 1982) the factors of destruction, corruption and special privileges increased in spite of the fact that the PLO lacked its own territory and its own market. Despite the serious defects in the political system of the PLO, its rampant bureaucracy, and its swollen army of idle employees, the establishment of the Palestine Authority has constituted a step backwards from that, because of the political claims that drove it, because of the careerist attraction of becoming an employee of the Authority, because of the rampant anarchy and administrative and financial corruption and the increasing number of security agencies. In fact, there are now nine security agencies and they account for half of the employees of the government sector. This all led to the gutting and destruction of the organizing body that unites the Palestinian people and claims the leadership of their historic practice (the National Charter, the Framework, the Program, and the militant line). As a result, the enemy’s plan has had some success in breaking up the unity of the people, a people who lack the protection of one economic market, or a consensual political project, or a cultural project, etc. Instead every day the frustrations of their lives increase.
What has befallen us compels us to say that the Arabs will have no future, nor any liberation, nor emancipation, nor development without a revivalist, pan-Arab project that imposes steps towards unity and activities aimed at unity that transcend their structural dissimilarities and local state structures, regardless whether they are bourgeois or popular in character. Indeed it is no longer a secret that the Arab League has been seized by impotence and bankruptcy, and that Arab solidarity has been broken up. In addition we have seen the break up of the Congress of the Arab People and the weakness of the forms that took its place. All this allows the regimes to perfect their role in blunting the spearhead of wide sections of the intelligentsia who are usually the standard bearers of revolutionary and emancipatory political projects.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the Arab left demonstrated that it has not yet been weaned, and it dwindled and fell apart. On the other hand, the fall of the Shah and the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran signaled a stormy upsurge in the power of both the militant and traditional branches of the Islamic movement.
Arab society is gravely ill. The dominant forces, relations, and ideas have grown old, while the alternative forces of revolution have failed to be born. This is a stage of impotence and defeat. But to the extent that the society is sick, its political, economic, social, and cultural contradictions sharpen and the demands of the social savior that is drawing the way out grow more insistent. This is especially true since the great intellectual currents (the national bourgeois, the leftist, and the Islamic) as well as the broad popular current that seeks its honor and the honor of its homeland, have become more receptive to the idea of reaching common denominators. Indeed there are cultural, social, and national denominators that will bring the currents together for the coming decades in this stage of the New World Order, globalism, and Israeli expansion, while each current continues to accept the other, competing over issues on which they differ without ruining the opportunities for them to meet and cooperate.
The decline that the Arab Nation is living through is preparing the way for a sweeping popular revival. A thing gives rise to its opposite. What globalism is planning for — a center that produces and a consuming periphery, an America that thinks and a world that repeats — whether it is called the “Americanization of the world” as Alexander Haig saw it, or the “globalism of the world under American leadership” as Zbigniew Brzezinski called it, or “American capitalism as the last stage in history” as Francis Fukuyama wrote, or the “struggle between cultures that impels the west to destroy the east and its legacy and to deny its right to specificity” as Samuel Huntington suggested — all of this is but the prologue to a great enterprise.
The only ones that globalism can bribe and corrupt are a minority of those executives in political authority and in institutions who derive benefits from and chase after lucrative positions. This is true even though the capitalist west accords special importance to breaking through to the Arab intellectuals now that its has assured itself that the cosmopolitan parasitic strata are in a stable orbit around it. It seeks to impose “normalization” on the Arab mentality so that Arabs see America as their master and see Israeli expansionism as a good neighbor. The capitalist west has an extensive array of non-governmental organizations at its disposal, most of them dependent on official funding, and it also uses the public relations, academic and cultural mouthpieces that are fed on the crumbs of globalism to facilitate its domination over the centers of civil society in the third world.
Politics and culture merge together and intermingle. They are like two sides of a coin. If the relationship between them is spoiled, practical activity will be spoiled. The cultural figure dreams of historical Palestine, of Jaffa oranges and the walls of Akka. He smells the fragrance of the memories of generations past. He dreams of Arab unity, of the age of Arab revival in the time of Umar and al-Mu`tasim. He calls up the radicalism of Ali and Abu Dharr, the integrity of Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, the rebelliousness of John the Baptist, and the visions of Muhammad Ali and Abd al-Nasir. He dreams of the end of all acts of plunder.
The political person goes wild over these dreams. If he abandons them he falls into the hell of the last judgment.
Our Arab-Palestinian reality needs no long description: division, dependence, backwardness, the collapse of most forms of the official regime, the increasing gravity of the issue of livelihood, the regression of culture. For all that, however, there are points of light.
One very important one is the popular feeling, the popular consciousness that reviles normalization with Israel and reviles those among the political-economic elites and, to a lesser extent, among the cultural elite who advocate normalization.
Another important point of light is the healthy activity of Hizb Allah in south Lebanon.
Another is the accumulation of education, the original accumulation related to capital accumulation.
The percentage of discontented people is increasing — people who call for free thought, expression, and elections.
The growth of urbanization, whereby now 40 million Arabs live in cities, a figure tens of times more than at the beginning of the century, despite the eastern and rural character of these cities. If the rage of these tremendous human blocs ever explodes and they rise up, they will pulverize anyone who blocks the way to the attainment of their freedom and hopes.
A partial exposure of the towering arrogance of the upper classes and a partial removal of the veil that they use to cover up their exploitation and their theft has also occurred.
All of this makes for a mixed and uncertain picture. But the dynamics of its rising contradictions are pushing towards one thing: change.
The traditional forces of the past that lead the society for centuries have had long enough. So have the right-wing bourgeois forces that lead the society for decades. Nothing remains except the popular forces that have not yet lead, have not yet taken the wheel. Today the popular forces are obstructed and divided, but they are the answer to the question of change. They are the subject and means for change.
Anyone who reviews the experience of Japan in the second half of the last century and the capitalist development it attained, and the Chinese experience of the first half of the present century and the development it brought with it in the interests of the popular forces, sees good grounds for hope and can wipe away any tinge of pessimism.
The current Arab situation is extremely bad; but it contains tremendous potentials. The popular forces need only seize political command with their mass, democratic, patriotic options for vast gates to open up before the prospect of development and revival.
The settlement arrangements aimed at extending Camp David in all directions are in the final analysis incapable of uprooting the elements that drive the conflict.
Egypt the Great Example
The Egyptian regime signed the Camp David peace agreement in 1978. That regime has remained even though the head of the regime departed. But peace with the people, with the civil society, with the popular organizations, with the culture figures, has not advanced. What is the volume of trade with Israel? Where is the peace that was supposed to bring every Egyptian family a house and a garden? Has the Israeli plan to isolate Egypt from its Arab surroundings come to an end?
The ones who signed the peace and normalized relations were only limited circles of the comprador bourgeoisie and the parasitic bureaucracy — a Trojan horse, you might say — but they were not strong enough to tear up the roots of the conflict. In fact they clearly exposed the connection between the social issue and the national issue.
Those who caved in and surrendered, who fulfilled America’s desires are the ones who grow wealthy by consuming the people’s food.
Israel complains about the “cold peace” and the dearth of Egyptian tourists. The Egyptian regime complains about Israel’s regional ambitions, its monopoly on nuclear arms, and its slowness in implementing its agreements with the Palestinian Authority. Yet both sides are spending more and more on armaments.
Will such a settlement last if the level of Egyptian popular pressure rises? Here we are dealing with Camp David and the return of Sinai. What do you think the situation will be like as regards the Palestinian front where the occupation forces have redeployed on 6 percent to 7 percent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, that is the equivalent of 2 percent of the whole of Mandate Palestine? Even if it became 10 percent and 100,000 more Palestinians returned home, would the minimum level of Palestinian demands — land, the right of return, development, repair of injured honor — be met? No way.
Therefore renewal of the conflict is inevitable as the dream of Palestine intersects with the dream of Arab unity, the Palestinian patriotic struggle with the Arab national struggle, the goals of national liberation with the goals of social change and democracy.
We cannot but acknowledge the victory won at this stage by the American and Israeli alliance with the signing of the Camp David – Oslo – Wadi Arabah series of agreements that actually signify more than their literal texts. This victory could not have occurred were it not for the condition of the Arab-Palestinian subjective factor, and more specifically of the individualist class nature of the political leaderships and regimes that negotiated and submitted, in contrast to the situation that obtained when the Vietnamese laid down their conditions, for example. Instead, and over a period of decades, the mouths of our peoples have been gagged, and their activity crippled as though the homeland were the private property of rulers who lacked any social connection with their subjects.
The power of the opposing imperialist-Zionist camp and its submissive and reactionary Arab henchmen follows from that factor automatically. In addition, of course, the Zionist enterprise has proven its skill in forging a permanent and organic alliance with the imperialist centers, beginning with the stage of Jewish immigration and settlements, through the stage of building an industrial base, an army and an administrative structure, through the proclamation of the state and its concentration on agriculture for a time and on industry at another time, up to the period of the information and technological revolution and with it the broadening of the service sector, and at all times building up the strength and aggressive strategic doctrine of the army (in contrast to its name the “Israeli Defense Force”).
The collapse of the former Soviet Union, a friend of the Arabs, encouraged Jewish immigration to Israel to the tune of 800,000 people, a third of whom had university degrees. It also gave America the opportunity to go it alone as the only pole in the world with its noxious, aggressive policy against the Palestinians and the other Arabs.
Such a view must not obscure the other side of the picture. There have been outstanding bright points in the Arab struggle: the 1936 Revolution, the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the battle of Port Sa`id, the launch of the Palestinian guerrilla operations, the heroism of the Arab soldiers in the October 1973 war who debunked the legend of the invincible Israeli army, the steadfastness of Beirut in 1982, the popular intifada in Palestine, the heroic resistance in south Lebanon, the people’s refusal to surrender, and the refusal of some Arab official circles to submit and join the American settlement.
Nevertheless, we must note that the Zionist enterprise has not carried out all its phases and has not yet eliminated all the obstacles from its path. Its dreams of economic expansion and seizure of water resources, the slogan of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, as depicted on the Israeli flag, the in-gathering of more of the world’s Jews — these are issues at the top of Israel’s agenda.
On the other hand, the Zionist enterprise has not been able to overcome Palestinian demography nor to stamp out the fire of resistance. All the plans to resettle and compensate the refugees have failed to drive out their longing and historic memory of home. To say nothing of the Syrian insistence upon the return of the Golan Heights and Lebanon’s insistence upon the return of its occupied south.
The train of future events is booby-trapped. The plans of globalism will lead to the ruin and destruction of the Arabs if they do not rise up and unite. That fact, in turn, means an inevitable collision with the existence and plans of Israel, and clears the way for the continuation of the historic battle.
Israel is an entity that refuses to assimilate. It is chauvinist and racist; it excludes the other and yet it does not even solve the Jewish question, for it has driven the Jews into four wars already. The very map of Israel completely betrays its alien nature, foreign to the fabric and history of the region. Its supremacy kindles aggressive and arrogant tendencies within itself. Confronting Israel requires:
A. Deep study and exploitation of its contradictions. The most important conclusion here is that the national contradiction, not the class contradiction, is the decisive factor in the struggle, despite the internal class differences and the overtones of low-intensity class contradictions. The same can be said of other contradictions too which are also secondary — such as that between Eastern and Western Jews, or that between fundamentalists and secularists.
B. The need of our Arab nation for vanguards who bring together local patriotism with Arab nationalism, national liberation with social liberation, political affairs with cultural affairs, theoretical matters with intellectual and scientific pursuits, the elite with the masses, without being limited to one aspect of the struggle at the expense of the others. And in any case there must be a leadership that is up to the historical level.
C. A solid connection between tactics and strategy, for opportunism and negligence stem from giving precedence to the tactical, immediate good over the strategic and programmatic.
D. Forging the struggles of the Palestinian groups into one popular current with general aims and specific aims so that our people can forge one struggle and one fist with general and specific aims.
A democratic state in historic Palestine without national, ethnic, religious, or sexual discrimination in a broader Arab framework — this is the greatest common aim for our people and the radical solution to both the Palestine question and the Jewish question, and therefore for eliminating the factors of hate and war.
The steps on the ladder to our attainment of that goal begin with the withdrawal of the occupation from the territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of undiminished Palestinian sovereignty, the return of nearly four million refugees, the consecration of the Palestinian identity inside the 1948 borders in a form chosen by the will of the people, and resistance to Zionist racism. All of this demands that we separate ourselves from the current settlement, and resume the protracted march of liberation.
And finally we come to the question: Have we got closer to or further away from Palestine?
My answer is that the struggle is open-ended and that politics is not measured in years but in changes. Israel’s military victories reached their peak with the invasion of Beirut. But that was only a signal for its retreat and withdrawal to the border zone in south Lebanon. This is a palpable fact, not ideological rhetoric.
When we look at the achievements of other nations, there is no doubt that the Arabs’ situation at the end of the century is worse than it was in 1948, in spite of the factors of modernization and modernism they have built up. Yet this is the dark that gets blackest just before daybreak.
It is hard to imagine that the Arab social forces will not put up resistance to the mounting hostile attacks. Indeed the question of the future consists in how to gain mastery over the ways to power, resistance, and revival. By their revival the Arabs will be applying all their pressure on the imperialist center to finish off Israeli expansionism…”