Palestinians form new faction in Lebanon

The National Body for the Protection of Permanent Rights opposes negotiations but will not take up arms.

azmi bishara talks 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
azmi bishara talks 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A group of ten Palestinian figures announced the formation of a new Palestinian faction in Beirut on Wednesday.
The organization, The National Body for the Protection of Permanent Rights, aims to preserve the rights of the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora, including those living in refugee camps.
“The living condition of the Palestinian people has reached boiling point because of Israeli political obstinacy, and the American support of this,” Bilal Al-Hassan, a Palestinian journalist, writer and co-founder of the organization said at the launching ceremony. “This situation will now be translated into action and advancement.”
The exact nature of the movement’s policies remains unclear but leaders of the organization plan to meet in May to “decide on its actions democratically.”
The movement, which is declaredly independent, opposes negotiations and supports resistance against the Israeli occupation but insists armed combat is “not its objective”.
 “There are martyrdom factions for this purpose that engage in resistance and we give them our blessing,” Al-Hassan told the London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
“By establishing a Zionist entity on Palestinian land, [the Zionists] are targeting Arabs,” the movement’s manifesto says. “Resisting the occupation in all its forms is an obligation, not just a right. Any talks about a just and permanent peace which is based on recovering parts of the land that were occupied in 1967 or even all of it would effectively accomplish the Israeli aim of this war which is to garner acceptance of Israel’s existence and legitimacy, without solving the Palestinian issue and without granting them their rights.”
“Achieving peace between the Arab and non-Arab nations and individuals can be done regardless of their sectarian roots and religious inclinations but peace is not obtainable with the occupation,” it continues. “The Oslo approach is a second nakba [catastrophe], but the difference is that this nakba was furnished by the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
So far, 70 Palestinian figures have signed the movement’s manifesto.
Ali Hweidi, director of the Palestinian Organization for the Right of Return (Thabit) an organization which assists Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, said his organization supported the new initiative.
“Thabit supports this body because it is preserving Palestinian rights,” he told The Media Line.  “This body is a reflection of many years of the Palestinian situation, especially after the Oslo [Accords] in 1993.”
“They’re calling for preserving Palestinian rights, the right of return and for no more settlements in the Palestinian territories,” he said. “At the same time they want a reconstruction of the PLO.  This is the voice of the Palestinians on the ground inside the camps,” he said referring to over 400,000 Palestinian refugees currently living in camps in Lebanon.
Some have questioned whether the initiatives will indeed serve the Palestinian people.
“We have more than 40 secular parties within the Palestinian political spectrum,” Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian university professor who established Wasatia, a Palestinian movement advocating moderation to achieve coexistence and development, told The Media Line.
“So the question is whether you want one more, or whether you want to bring together most of those small parties under one umbrella to unify efforts,” he said. “What we don’t need is more fragmentation within Palestinian society. If there will be a coalition that will call for unity and will bring hundreds of divided groups, then it will be helpful to promote the Palestinian cause. Otherwise it will cause division.”
Dajani said the Oslo process had its flaws, but warned against dismissing it completely and going back to the drawing board.
“We need to learn from the past,” he said. “I don’t think that establishing a party in Lebanon calling for no negotiations reflects the reality on the ground. If you don’t want to negotiate, how can you accomplish your goals?”
There is a party here that is occupying our land and you have two options,” Dajani explained. “Either you use the military approach, which has failed and will not work, or you take the diplomatic approach. If you take the diplomatic approach how can you achieve goals without negotiating with the other side?”
The new movement was formed on the backdrop of halted talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Negotiations broke off when the term of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ended and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas added the condition of a total freeze on Israeli building in post-1967 communities. Despite a 10-month building freeze offered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas maintained that the condition requires an unlimited and absolute freeze that includes East Jerusalem.
Analysts suggest that the stalemate in negotiations is fueling sentiments of frustration among Palestinians with regards to any future solution. The internal Palestinian dispute between Fatah and Hamas is also impeding any movement on the ground.
The founders of the organization include Bayyan Al-Hout, Muhammad Abu Meizar, Munir Shafiq, Salah Al-Dabagh, Bilal Al-Hassan and former Arab Israeli lawmaker Azmi Bishara. 
Bishara is a Palestinian Christian who headed the Arab Balad party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. His resignation in 2007 came against the backdrop of alleged criminal charges including espionage and treason.