Change or perish

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gestures during the Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah on April 30, 2018. AFP / ABBAS MOMANI

Change is not only an inevitable fact of life but also crucial as it spells the difference between survival and demise.

This fact seems to have been lost on the Palestine National Council, which decades on is still controlled by Palestinian leaders – without doubt stoic patriots – whose average age is above 70, with President Mahmoud Abbas at 83 and the PNC chairman, 85.

Moreover, until Monday the PNC, the supreme Palestinian authority, had barely met since 1996, and even then under the banner of boycotts and rifts.

In that time the U.S. has elected four presidents, and waged war against Iraq and in Afghanistan. Israel, meanwhile, has waged several wars against Gaza and Lebanon, grabbed thousands of acres of Palestinian land and precipitated the rise of dozens of settlements. Our part of the world has also witnessed the ouster of several dictators, with the map of the Middle East in a state of flux and the whole region sitting on a powder keg.

Meanwhile, the differences among Palestinians have only multiplied, with those divisions and an ongoing mini-war along the Gaza border overshadowing Monday’s meeting, whose stated goal was unity against Israel and the United States, and which came two weeks before the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It’s no secret that this aging assembly has lost contact with vital elements of the vibrant Palestinian society. A young, active, educated and connected generation has been sidelined and denied executive or influential posts, a big loss for the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause.

It is no wonder that skeptics have branded this meeting as a collective yawn and if it persists with the already known – and clearly ineffective – policies and strategies then the response can easily be predicted.

The situation of the Palestinians is already critical and their relationship with the rest of the world is doubtlessly vulnerable, allowing enemies or detractors to score strategic points.

Change is long overdue, and its slogan is hanging by a thread above the heads of the old guard. They can either welcome it or it’s going to crash down with unforeseen repercussions.

These old warriors must set aside any desire to perpetuate this legacy of stagnation, and immediately, with heartfelt intention, embrace change for the sake of all Palestine.

They must enable a new generation of Palestinians to take the reins, noting that Palestinian society does not lack those who are as nationalistic and as capable of carrying the flame as the old guard.

Change is coming. Embrace it, because history has shown that those who don’t always perish.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2018, on page 1.




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