No place for arms as we prepare a Palestinian state

09/09/2011

Source : The Daily Star

by Abdullah Abu Rahme

We who live in the West Bank village of Bilin represent just one part of a coordinated plan for what happens later this month, when Palestinians will seek statehood at the United Nations.

I have been named coordinator of activities for what has been named the Palestinian Campaign for the 140th State, meaning the 140th member-state of the United Nations. This means I will be coordinating between all the governorates and the various committees that have been established to rally around this cause. There is also a committee that is seeking to raise the funds that are needed for the media effort in support of this project, and a committee that coordinates between the governorates and is in contact with the Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

We have one program in the coming period: to carry out marches and activities throughout the first weeks of September, and to hold one major demonstration on Sept. 21, which will correspond with the opening of the annual United Nations session in New York.

These steps are intended to show that the public stands with the Palestine Liberation Organization in its United Nations bid, and that we as a people support complete recognition of Palestine at the United Nations. It is true that after Sept. 21 and the start of the U.N. session, we are not going to see the state of Palestine magically appear. But this is a first step toward freedom, and it is very important at this stage. The recognition of Palestinian statehood is what will allow us to reach independence and freedom in the future and rid ourselves of all aspects of Israel’s occupation of our territory.

We hope that there is no veto of the resolution when it is put before the Security Council, if that path is chosen by the Palestinian leadership, and instead, that countries will be willing to stand up and say that we also have rights to statehood. We are asking the international community to rid us of this occupation, perhaps through the wielding of sanctions, but also by preventing investment in the occupation or boycotting what is produced by the Israeli settlements.

If the Security Council does take up the matter of Palestinian statehood and there is a veto, we will nevertheless not abandon our efforts. We will seek to become an observer country at the United Nations. This will give the Palestinians access to numerous organizations, such as the International Criminal Court at The Hague, UNESCO and other bodies. In that way we can fight the occupation and its settlements in court. Either way, this step will have positive outcomes for the Palestinian people.

Our experience in Bilin has taught us the great force of people power. In Bilin, Israel was building its separation wall on our land, and we needed to stop its construction. We in Bilin went out to face the occupation, but we also held nonviolent demonstrations in the village itself. However, our coming popular movement is being directed at the United Nations. Israel is trying to box Palestinians into resorting to violence, so that it will be able to transform the “battleground” and the balance of power. Israel wants to say that there is insecurity in the region and that the Palestinians are not ready for a state.

Because of this, the decision was made to have demonstrations in the center of the cities, as has taken place in Arab countries, such as in Tahrir Square and in Tunis, rather than to face the occupation on the edges of Palestinian-controlled areas. If occupation forces don’t allow this and enter the center of the cities, then the demonstrations will continue, without a doubt. But even if the Israeli military enters Palestinian cities, we will remain peaceful. We will not fall back on armed confrontation. There will be all kinds of people there: religious leaders, the elderly, youths and students. This will be a peaceful public expression and there will be no place for arms.

Still, we don’t know what the forces of occupation are planning – they could come to us, they could use violence, they could use terrorism, as they did by shelling Gaza repeatedly recently, to turn attention from the initiative at the United Nations. We are ready for this and in the coming days, our focus will be on peaceful action.

Abdullah Abu Rahme is an activist from the West Bank village of Bilin. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons.org, an online newsletter that publishes contending views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 09, 2011, on page 7.