Palestine: something has changed
A wise man once told me that in campaigning, what matters is the dynamic you create, the momentum you build.
You can spend forever mapping what might happen next: you can ponder every possible response from every potential protagonist. You can look at your critical path – your route to success – your road map. But the best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry. Events happen, facts change, your roads are blocked and your maps ripped up.
And so, sometimes, you don’t plan every step. You create a dynamic. You build momentum. You move forward not because you know where you will find yourself next but because this forces there to be a next.
And it seems to me that this is what Mahmoud Abbas has done. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? But yesterday, he stood in the pulpit of the world and told us: “We have one goal: to be”.
The people of Palestine will surely be denied that goal, for now. President Obama has already said he will veto the request for statehood. But perhaps that doesn’t matter. Because while the facts on the ground haven’t changed, one thing has. The United States of America may not be with us. And they may hold a trump card. But the states of the world have spoken: the Palestinian people deserve their freedom.
And this freedom was never going to be easy. If all that was needed to secure it was a moving speech to the UN, they would have been a fully recognised state decades ago. This liberty will not be forged or smashed solely from a vote or a veto in New York. It is something that Palestinians struggle for every day. As Abbas explained:
“Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall… reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.”
These things too build momentum: they are momentum. But as people gathered yesterday in Ramallah to watch their president assert their rights and receive his standing ovation they saw the balance tilt further in their favour.
Who knows where the movement to secure basic rights for the people of Palestine will go next? Ask any Palestinian and you will get a new and different theory. But whatever happens, the people of Gaza will one day see an end to murderous bombing. The check points which choke Nablus will one day be dismantled. The children of Hebron will one day not live in fear of being assaulted on their way to school by adult settlers and the farmers of Bethlehem will one day be able to sleep at night without fear that their olive trees will be burnt by Israeli terrorists.
Who knows how these victories will have been secured? If political prisoners are freed, and people no longer arbitrarily marched to the torture chambers without right to trial or appeal, if the students of Birzeit can study in peace, if people of East Jerusalem can forget the fear of acid attacks, who knows where the path to this place will have passed? Will it run through one state, or two? Will it be negotiated with Israel, or come at the end of decades more conflict? I have my theories. But we can’t be sure.
We do however know this: things will have moved forwards. And so President Abbas knows this: he must keep pushing. And securing the overwhelming support of the international community is a step. A big step.
He said something else – surely recognised by the newly onlooking governments of South Sudan and of Libya: “The loss of hope is the most ferocious enemy of peace and despair is the strongest ally of extremism.” And similarly, hope is surely the fuel of struggle.
And so as Palestine stands on the global stage and demands its statehood, and as America vetoes this simple request, no one knows what will happen next? But Abbas has tugged to conscience of the world, and moved us forwards. The momentum is with the Palestinians. Something has changed. And that has to be good.