Palestinian foreign policy stymied by in-fighting

Are the Palestinian people moving toward government, or are they clinging to the memories of a fading revolution that was more successful?

This is a question that must be answered before Palestinians can activate an American Palestinian movement to help educate Americans about the realities of the Middle East rather than the myths so successfully manufactured by Israel.

Palestinian efforts are stymied by the dual conflicts that continue to exist between the old guard led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the new guard of the Palestine National Authority (PNA).

The PLO was founded by individuals who rose to leadership through conflicts that successfully forced the world to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people that were ceased by Israel in 1948 and repressed in 1967.

It is unDemocratic and consists of the old boy’s network of revolutionaries and disciples of the late Yasser Arafat. It’s chief spokesman is Farouk Kadoumi, also known as Abu Lutf, who is super-glued to the post of Foreign Minister.

The PNA, in contrast, is Democratically elected. Arafat was the first elected president and he was been succeeded after his death by Mahmoud Abbas in elections held this past January.

Abbas named Nasser al-Qidwa, an Arafat cousin and the former Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, as the PNA’s foreign minister in a reshuffle of his cabinet.

Abu Lutf has greater power outside of Palestine, where he has vowed never to step foot while it remains under “Zionist” occupation, while al-Qidwa has free reign in the Palestinian territories where foreign policy is restricted to media reports and public emotion.

While being an articulate and able spokesman of the Palestinian cause, Abu Lutf is ineffective as a foreign minister. The world has only one super power, the United States. And the United States, working closely with Israeli, aggressively manages its foreign policy with respect to Israel.

In an ideal world, Palestine would have an effective foreign policy strategy managed by an ambassador skilled in maneuvering the American political landscape.

But Abu Lutf’s clumsy foreign policy ineffectiveness is driven by the fact the he is marginalized by the United States and Israel. His sole purpose is to protect his post while “lecturing” like a professor without tenure to small groups of Palestinian loyalists in the United States and abroad.

That’s not to say that Abu Lutf is not a Palestinian hero who earned his stripes and medals of honor in the early days when the revolution went head-to-head in combat with Israel and won.

As one of Arafat’s strategists, he deserves much credit for the many victories that were achieved in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although he is sometimes compared to the charismatic and late Palestinian intellectual and writer, Edward Said, Abu Lutf is not nearly his equal. Abu Lutf lacks Said’s charisma and has an even narrower audience that he frequents than the privileged circles that Said would address with his wonderfully stuffy writings that few people other than activists, academics, Palestinians and Israelis ever bothered to read.

Certainly no average Americans who need to hear the Palestinian narrative ever read any of Edward Said’s brilliant but heavily footnoted dissertations. And even few Americans have even heard of Abu Lutf, and that’s not a good thing for any foreign minister.

The problem is that Palestinians have been oppressed so long that they don’t know how to react when given freedom. Instead of using the freedoms that exist in the United States to build and implement an effective foreign policy strategy to win over American support, most Palestinians find themselves doing what comes naturally, expending all their energies to protect their small successes.

In Palestinian politics, crumbs look like cake. Every Palestinian is his own advocate. There are several Palestinian organizations in the United States but not one is effective, has a grass roots constituency essential to building a strategic communications and political movement to change American attitudes.

Rather than support existing institutions and bringing them together as one strong voice, Palestinians spend most of their time undermining each other as if Americans care about the fate of those groups.

The victims of this Palestinian political tragedy are the Palestinians themselves who continue to live under a continued occupation that is brutal and repressive.

They’re helpless to bring the bickering of their American Palestinian activists to an end. Every Palestinian has an untested answer to the challenge but none is capable of acting.

In that disorder, Abu Lutf reigns supreme and Israel remains unfettered in imposing its unilateral decisions confiscating more land, expanding settlements, undermining long term peace and ignoring the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.

The divisiveness of Palestinian American politics remains unthreatened and thereby ineffective, causing the government of Palestine to be weaker when it should be far stronger. The real foreign minister, al-Qidwa, has a powerless voice.

The only thing Palestinians seem to succeed in is in not succeeding at all.