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The Annapolis Conference: A View from Palestine

By: 
Jamal Juma’
Date Published: 
January 01, 2008

In November, the Bush administration brought together leaders from the Palestinian Authority and Israel to a conference in Annapolis, Maryland billed as the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Annapolis Conference like other insincere attempts by the US at bringing peace to the Middle East was dismissed immediately by most Arabs (despite the attendance of representatives from Arab governments) and especially the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. In Palestine, demonstrations against the Annapolis Conference brought thousands into the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus, and Gaza in defiance of the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to silence the peoples’ voice, representing a crucial moment for Palestine. Our demonstration, which was supported by the Popular Committees of the Refugee Camps and over one hundred and fifty civil society organizations, called for the upholding of the fundamental principles of our struggle: the right of the refugees to return, the right to Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right to our land. We were refusing the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as this would legitimize a zionist ideology of colonialism, racism and ethnic cleansing, and effectively exonerate Israel from the crimes since that state’s establishment in 1948 and waiving the right of return. Such recognition would justify and reinforce the Israeli system of apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Palestine that we are fighting for is one which upholds the fundamental principles of our national rights and equality, and which respects the democratic right of the people to express their views in protest on the streets. The Palestinian Authority has shown that they do not share this vision. During the Annapolis Conference protests in Palestine they attempted to prevent the people from asserting their rights, first by banning demonstrations and then by attacking us with tear gas, batons and military jeeps. The departure of the occupation from our land and the right of the refugees to return is non-negotiable, as is the question of Jerusalem. For the oppressed and occupied, ongoing struggle and resistance using all necessary means is not only our right, it is our obligation in front of all those that have sacrificed before us and the future generation that has the right to live in freedom. It is our only tool to ensure that “negotiations” talk about how to achieve our rights and not how to abandon them step by step. Yet for the first time in the sixty years of our struggle, those who claim to represent us at a national level are no longer talking about resistance to the attacks of the occupiers. Instead, they are disingenuously opening up negotiations relying on the US, the Occupation’s most ardent backer, to act as an “honest broker.” Those actions taken during the conference were important in themselves as an expression of the voices raised against Annapolis, but also because by defying the ban on demonstrations, the popular committees, representatives of civil society and political parties threw down a powerful challenge to the Palestinian leadership—as the pressure for normalization grows, so the grassroots anti-normalization movement is growing. In the last month, the One Voice initiative, an attempt to coerce Palestinians into denying their own rights while recognizing their occupiers, was defeated by grassroots activists. Last week, Ramallah hosted a conference strategizing to beat the Occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions. Palestinians from within the green line voiced their powerful opposition to recognition of a Jewish state on their lands in a unanimous decision made by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the senior representative body of ‘48 Palestinians (Palestinians living inside what is now Israel). The demonstrations against the conference were not an isolated protest; they were part of a wide popular movement against concessions on basic principles, and against an apparent acceptance on the part of the Palestinian leadership of the isolation of Palestinians within the Green Line, Gaza, the West Bank, and Palestinians in the diaspora from each other. At the Cyprus conference in October, Palestinians from the ‘48 lands called Palestinians from all over their homeland and the diaspora together to build unified strategies and follow up mechanisms, as a powerful counterpoint to Israeli Bantustanization. In Annapolis, the Palestinian Authority did not raise the issue of Palestinians within the Green Line, nor the right of return, nor the criminal siege of Gaza. The wall caging Palestinians in the West Bank into ghettos was not on the agenda. Those appointed to rule the West Bank Bantustans showed that they were not even representing the Palestinians there when they brutally repressed our protests. In this so-called “peace process,” only a tiny portion of Palestinians are represented—they are laying the ground for an outcome that the Palestinian people cannot and will not accept. The so-called “peace process” demands not only that the Palestinian Authority clamp down on armed resistance—it is also becoming clear that it will require the repression of all of us who reject the abandonment of our rights. The Palestinian people that are confronting the Israeli Occupation day after day have not been consulted or informed about the negotiations; they only are to feel the batons when they disagree and call out for their rights. Tuesday was a testing ground whether the Palestinian Authority will be able to make the Palestinian people swallow a second Oslo, further compromising our rights. The gulf between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people is becoming increasingly obvious. Indeed the whole range of Palestinian political and social forces joined in condemning the repression of the Annapolis Conference protests. The choice for the Palestinian Authority is clear: either to go along with the dictates of the US and the Occupation; or to radically alter their course, to return to the people and remember that they are leaders of the Palestinian national struggle. The grassroots movement against normalization with the occupiers will continue to grow. Resistance will continue as the Palestinian people assert their fundamental rights. About the Author Jamal Juma’ is Excutive Director of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (www.stopthewall.org).