Palestine 2016: An Optimistic Outlook

02/14/2016 06:29 pm ET | Updated Feb 14, 2016
  • Alaa Tartir Program Director, Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network; PhD researcher, London School of Economics (LSE)
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In 2015, Palestine did not look good. According to the IMEU's Review, approximately 170 Palestinians were killed and 15,377 were injured by Israelis in 2015; Israel destroyed or dismantled 539 Palestinians homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem (with more than 11,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian structures in "Area C" of the occupied West Bank); and there were 6,800 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as of December 2015 and approximately 650,000 Jewish settlers living in the occupied territories.

Will Palestine look any better in 2016? Are there any sources of optimism and hope amid these bleak facts and the current events unfolding? Yes, I argue, despite all the odds.

A quick glance at the existing analyses indicates a worse year for Palestinians in 2016. These analyses predict an escalation of violence, the possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with negative consequences on the Palestinian people, further intra-Palestinian fragmentation in the run-up to Abbas's succession, fierce or even bloody intra-Fatah disputes, entrenchment of the Fatah-Hamas divide, continuation of the Israeli military occupation, and persistent American and European failure to put an end to the injustice and oppression.

To make things even worse, observers warn that 2016 might create a "ripe moment" for the arrival of ISIS to Palestine, especially if a "security vacuum" is created in the aftermath of the PA collapse.

Some of these predictions are plausible, but others, especially the ones coming from different local or international security apparatus and intelligence establishments, are mere speculation or unfounded and baseless predictions. These security-driven predictions are problematic as they prioritize the Israeli security needs and phobias and neglect basic Palestinian human rights and instead sustain the authoritarian trends and transformations. Hence, I argued, that instead of equating the "security vacuum" with the emergence of ISIS or a condition of chaos, it is the right moment to start tackling the real question as far as security matters are concerned: How to put an immediate end to the Israeli military occupation?

Still, the fundamental problem with all the above-mentioned dominant predictions is that they dismiss the good news that is coming from Palestine. Here is a short list of some "sources of hope and optimism" to watch for in 2016.

First and most importantly, a new and different Palestinian generation is emerging. This generation carries new visions, objectives, and tools. While a segment of this generation is revolting in the streets of Palestine, another segment (although less visible than the revolting youth) is strategizing for the struggle and operationalizing these strategies, locally and internationally.

This new transnational generation is also forming its own intellectual leadership which is crucial to any process of a positive change. Year 2016 might witness the long-awaited revival of the Palestinian political thought, although this is an ambitious goal. Undoubtedly, a new leadership is in-the-making and will emerge from this generation that is capable of addressing the root causes of the Palestinian misery, weakness and fragmentation. This is not an unattainable outcome or far-fetched objective.

This generation is not only fed-up with the Israeli occupation and its colonial policies, but also it is fed-up with the existing illegitimate and unrepresentative Palestinian leadership. They are sick and tired of the continuous failures, and they are thinking and acting to ensure that they get closer to the realization of their rights.

If this generation is "invisible" to many observers and policy-makers, a change of the lenses is urgently needed simply because over the last few year a new Palestinian leadership emerged in Israel and amongst the Palestinian civil society, for instance.

The unity of the Palestinian leadership inside Israel is another source of optimism, despite the caveats. The "coup" during the 2015 Israeli parliamentary elections transformed the threat of the Palestinian existence in Israeli politics into a new political opportunity.

The emergence of new leaders as Ayman Odeh will not pass without consequences on the Palestinian political and civil rights and the overall dynamics of the Palestinian struggle, if utilized wisely.

Indeed, observers argued that "instead of frantically trying to revive the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to represent all Palestinians...Palestinians can simply look west, to the Palestinian political parties inside Israel and already represented in the Knesset." Such move, despite its potential limitations, would potentially mean new configurations and different set of assumptions for the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

The "new" Palestinian civil society leadership that emerged over the last decade is the third element in the optimistic and hopeful outlook for justice in 2016. The unstoppable successes of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement are the prime example. The influential role of the BDS and the successes it achieved were not only because of the organic formation of the movement's leadership or because of its unifying and comprehensive principles and objectives, but also because of the sense of ownership to one of the tools for the self-determination struggle, the existing historical evidence regarding the effectiveness of such tools in ensuring justice, and the shifts and transformations in the global public opinion about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The growth of the international solidarity movement that work in harmony with the Palestinian civil society priorities and calls is an inspiring example of global collaboration for universal rights realization.

Furthermore, Palestinians have far more legal tools to realise their rights than anytime earlier. The adoption of a rights-based approach in harmony with international law as part and parcel of a new Palestinian strategy and vision is key to any alternative political program.

While it is true that this alternative political program does not exist in full, however it is not true that fresh and critical Palestinian policy voices do not exist. These policy voices, regularly marginalized - especially if they are independent- in the Palestinian national liberation movement, are a crucial element in the optimistic future outlook due to their contribution to the processes of policy shaping and making at home, in exile, and at international fora.

These policy voices put the Palestinian people's creativity, resilience, and the practice of resistance as a way of living under occupation, in the core of their thinking and analysis, which is a practice that has been missed for a while. This "methodological choice" has direct implications on the short-term and long-term outcomes and on the legitimacy of the future leadership and its strategic choices and decisions.

The materialization of these sources of hope and optimism, or some of them, in 2016 might make it a different year than what the dominant predictions expect. One question remains unanswered, however: is there any good news coming from Israel?

The opinion of individual members of Al-Shabaka's policy network do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization as a whole.

Follow Alaa Tartir on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlShabaka

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