PLO Loses Support in Diaspora
Some Palestinians, disenchanted with negotiations, see need for a new movement
THE deployment of a Palestinian police force in the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho has signaled the beginning of the implementation of limited Palestinian self-rule.Skip to next paragraph
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But for many Palestinians, particularly in the diaspora (Palestinians dispersed after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948), it signals the end of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the national liberation movement and underscores the need for a new movement.
Many in the diaspora think that the current deal will not lead to Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza and that the leadership has abandoned the diaspora by not addressing their right to return. A new movement would be aimed at getting these issues back on the Palestinian agenda.
``Once [PLO] leader Yasser Arafat gets to Jericho, he is going to depend on a new setup ... the PLO will be forgotten,'' says Edward Said, professor of comparative literature at Columbia University.
Arafat critics who charge that the Israeli-Palestinian accord signed Sept. 13 was a sellout feel their views have been confirmed by the PLO's failure to secure effective international measures to protect Palestinians following the Feb. 25 massacre of Palestinian worshipers in Hebron.
Critics say the deployment of the police force - depicted by the PLO as ``an achievement, albeit insufficient'' - is more evidence that future Palestinian authority will be subordinate to Israeli control.
``When you are talking police, you are really talking intelligence-sharing .... This is a real delegitimizer,'' says Ghada Talhami, professor of political science at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill.
The agreement confines the Palestinian police force to keeping ``order,'' without, in the view of many, giving it the power to protect Palestinians. Policing responsibility without jurisdiction cannot work, they say. Israel's Army maintains control of major roads and of security for Jewish settlers.
Many Palestinians inside and outside the PLO do not think the PLO can improve this situation in negotiations, and that PLO leaders' standing with the West hinges on their implementing the accord - even if means sacrificing their constituency.
``The PLO fate depends on the implementation of the accord,'' concedes Faisal Hourani, a Vienna-based writer long affiliated with the PLO. ``But regardless of the PLO ability or failure to implement the accord, the organization will remain a necessity to the Palestinians in the diaspora,'' he says.
Mr. Hourani assumes that while the accord might address the miminal aspirations of Palestinians in the occupied lands, there will be a need for the PLO to seek rights for the diaspora Palestinians.
Since the signing of the agreement, an increasing number of disillusioned Palestinian intellectuals have been in touch with each other to consider next steps.
These Palestinians have proposed establishing a popular congress to meet in Europe or in an Arab capital, to either launch Palestinian reforms within the PLO or to start a new movement. In recently published articles, Professor Said urges Palestinians to resist the PLO leadership and advocates the removal of Arafat.