To help Palestine, no need to follow leaders

An astute reader of the Ibishblog writes to me, ?So I read the piece about divestment, and it sounds like the only solution you are proposing for everyone is to line up behind the PA, which might be very hard for many to swallow given their reputation.? Good point. Of course I don’t mean that at all, but I can understand how a quick reading of my posting on boycotts might give people the wrong impression. My point, which I think is absolutely accurate, is that a tactic of economic, social and cultural pressure such as boycotts and sanctions in a situation such as the Palestinian-Israeli dynamic is only likely to be effective as part and parcel of a broader political strategy. In this context, the broader political strategy must be ultimately aimed at securing a diplomatic solution, since no other practical option presents itself, and this requires at least consistency with national political strategy. Without this basic level of consistency, how would any leverage produced by boycotts and sanctions be translated into national-level political results?

However, I would never suggest that everyone has to support the PLO or the PA, or any Palestinian organization or party in order to aid Palestinians and their society. On the economic front, the opportunities are particularly broad ranging. Were people to channel their energies into economic development, creating businesses, social support, education and health care initiatives, infrastructure development, the arts, sports or anything at all that is constructive in the occupied Palestinian territories, I have no doubt their efforts would be highly effective in the aggregate and in the long run in affecting the situation for the positive. Moreover, all of this type of effort would have the added impact of not only being politically helpful, but also directly and immediately improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians. And, it would not be at all inconsistent with the imperative of transforming the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic into a win-win equation in which what is good for Palestinians does not threaten Israel and vice versa.

Most people concerned with the issue on both sides are used to thinking in zero-sum terms about how to defeat the enemy. Many supporters of Palestine are therefore accustomed to searching for creative ways of fighting back against Israel, rather than focusing on positive measures that would aid Palestine and the Palestinians (although, of course, some people do attempt both approaches simultaneously). However, I think it’s obvious that now is the time for Palestinians to focus on building the institutions and infrastructure that can allow them to function in an independent state. There is much that can be done to build Palestinian society, including independent businesses, organizations and civil society, without following the lead of any political organization or faction.

Obviously, I’m not asking anyone to line up behind the PA, follow any leaders, or anything of the kind. There are any number of useful and constructive things that individuals and organizations can do to support Palestinians and their national rights without looking towards any leadership whatsoever. Indeed, it will probably be the case that most of the most useful things done for Palestine outside of Palestine will be done in exactly this manner: without considering the opinion of any Palestinian political parties or politicians.