Palestinians overwhelmingly reject the Palestinian Authority — which has refused to hold elections and constantly sided with Israeli forces, jailing and torturing rather than protecting its own people — and have long sought an alternative. Now, Masar Badil claims to be the solution.
OCCUPIED PALESTINE — “We are building a campaign against the Palestinian Authority” and will “mobilize our people in the refugee camps” from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, to all corners of the globe, says a newly launched Palestinian revolutionary movement that supports all forms of resistance against Israel in order to liberate Palestine “from the river to the sea.”
On November 2, a revolutionary Palestinian movement called ‘Masar Badil’ (The Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path) officially announced its launch following conferences convened in Madrid, Sao Paulo, and Beirut. The movement vows to build on the cause of Palestine’s national liberation within the Palestinian diaspora and to provide an alternative to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which currently operates out of Ramallah in the West Bank. A major component of their work will be to unite Palestinians in the refugee camps of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, seeking to build the strength of these communities.
In late August, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank began taking to the streets, calling for the fall of the Palestinian Authority, which has ruled over them for decades, after the brutal murder of popular PA critic Nizar Banat. The demonstrations frightened the PA as well as its Israeli allies, threatening to pose serious problems for Israel’s relatively stable security situation in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority, a representative body which was created as a result of the Oslo Accords — signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel — currently rules over the most heavily populated cities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Per the agreements made between the two sides, Oslo had established that three areas would be designated for different levels of control in the occupied Palestinian territories: Area A, where the PA would have both civil and security control; Area B, where Israel controls security and the PA has civil control; and Area C, where Israel has full control. Area C currently covers approximately 63% of the territory. However, this plan was supposed to last only five years, before control was gradually ceded to the PA and eventually a Palestinian State inaugurated on roughly a quarter of historic Palestine.
Israel, however, continues to ignore its obligations under Oslo and Tel Aviv now rejects the notion of a Palestinian State. While many Palestinians expected the PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to fight for their rights, most now see it as doing the very opposite. All elections since 2006, when Hamas beat the ruling Fatah Party in a landslide, have been canceled by Abbas. The PA — which is funded by the UK, EU, and the U.S. — also uses its security forces to collaborate with Israel in the oppression of the Palestinians. Strategically, the Oslo areas gave Israel control in most of the agricultural and open lands, which is where all their illegal settlements are located; and, in turn, the PA forces would rule over the major population centers, such as Ramallah, Nablus and Al-Khalil, among others.
After facing the PA’s perpetual postponement of democratic processes; its refusal to protect Palestinians from Israeli forces; and instead its jailing, torturing, and handing over of its citizens who take action against Israel, through what is called ‘Security Coordination,’ the Palestinian people have come to a position of overwhelming rejection of the Palestinian Authority’s rule and have long sought an alternative. Masar Badil claims to be the movement finally to provide the solution.
A Palestinian revolutionary alternative to Oslo futility
Notable international representatives who appeared for the launch of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path (PARP) Movement in Madrid included: Bolivia’s Nardi Suxo, Venezuela’s Mauricio Rodriguez, and Eumelio Caballero Rodríguez of Cuba, who all attended the PARP Movement’s cultural event. They were joined by representatives from grassroots groups across Europe and from the United States who pledged to work with the PARP.
The attendees of the conference also met with representatives from a range of resistance movements across the world at the headquarters of the Spanish Communist Party, discussing various projects and resulting in the formation of a Boycott Committee, Return Committee and Youth Committee. Additionally, in a letter of support, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) pledged its support for the PARP. Luis Jalandoni, the chief international representative of the NDFP, stated the following:
Let us join hands as we struggle to liberate ourselves from the clutches of U.S. imperialism, overthrow the oppressive and exploitative ruling system, and carry forward with determination our struggle for national and social liberation.”
“We are working to build a Palestinian revolutionary alternative to the Oslo process and the futile so-called peace process,” says Khaled Barakat, the Coordinator of the Preparatory Committee of the PARP Movement. Barakat says that the PARP will begin to “organize with our communities in the refugee camps in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria, and across the globe.” He continued:
One of the positions that came out of our conference is to immediately set up a campaign against the Palestinian Authority and the self-rule government in the West Bank, in order to bring this government down and form revolutionary councils and committees in Palestine.”
When I asked Barakat about some of the aspects that make the Masar Badil different as an alternative revolutionary movement, he responded:
Ninety percent, so the vast majority, of the three committees that convened — in Beirut, Madrid and Sao Paulo — were youths and they are assuming their responsibilities, the younger generations participating is very important for us. We also value, whether it be in leadership or other roles, the participation of Palestinian women and put an emphasis on their playing a central role in decision-making, and we believe that this will push our movement into becoming much stronger.
“We do not recognize the PA as a legitimate entity; it doesn’t have any constitutional legitimacy, it doesn’t have revolutionary legitimacy, nor does it have any legal legitimacy,” says the PARP.
Putting the Palestinian Authority on edge
To find out more about the positions of Masar Badil on the PA, I also spoke to a founding member of the PARP Movement, Mohammed Khatib, who participated in the group’s launch and is additionally the European Coordinator for Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network, Samidoun. Khatib says, “I do believe that any step, any work, against the Oslo Agreements and against the Madrid Conference, is against the Palestinian Authority and against the Zionist Entity.” Khatib further states that one of the major missions of the PARP Movement is to “focus on the Palestinian diaspora, on reorganizing our people in the diaspora and re-establishing our institutions in the diaspora and re-establishing our national liberation movement in the diaspora,” which he believes means taking down the PA. Khatib continued:
Sixty percent of the Palestinian people live in the diaspora, as migrants and refugees, so we are the ones with the interest to go back to Palestine and to dismantle this Zionist Entity and also everyone who is cooperating with the Zionist Entity inside of Palestine — especially the PA, who are doing security coordination with the occupation [by Israel] against our people.”
He also says that opposition to the PA comes from the attacks carried out against Palestinians by the forces of PA President Abbas, including “giving up on our political prisoners, shutting off funds and salaries of the families of our martyrs.” He continued:
What the Palestinian Authority is doing today is besieging the resistance, not only inside the West Bank; they are also participating, with the Zionist Entity and the Egyptian Regime, in the siege placed against the Gaza Strip.”
Khatib stresses that all the work that the Masar Badil is doing is to create an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, not to the Palestinian National Liberation Movement:
We are an essential part of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. All the organizations and associations that are part of the Masar Badil, are part of the National Liberation Movement, so we are not an alternative to anyone who is participating in or practicing resistance against the Zionist Entity. Instead, what we are trying to do is to create a mass movement, a popular movement, that can help to create a supportive environment around the Palestinian resistance.”
The PARP Movement, Khatib told me,
…calls on all the resistance and Palestinian political Parties — Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and everyone who participates and practices armed resistance, especially in Gaza and elsewhere inside Palestine — to work on creating a national democratic Palestinian front where all the resistance will work together to achieve the one program, which is the liberation of all Palestine from the river to the sea and to drop the two-state solution.
Our one and only aim is liberating all of Palestine, so we believe that all of our actions against the Zionist Entity and the Arab Reactionary Regimes are de-facto an effort against the Palestinian Authority. The PA does not represent anyone in our land today; they are there only because they take funds from the EU, U.S., and the Zionist Entity. How can the PA take money from Israel to protect our people? Of course, this is not the case; instead, the PA is a hand of the Zionist Occupation.”
As one of the first journalists to cover the movement’s first public press conference on November 2, I asked Barakat what the PA thinks about the launch of the PARP movement, to which he replied:
We know that the Palestinian Authority is nervous, particularly Fateh. They are nervous because of the establishment of the Masar Badil… last night they [the PA] forged a statement in Spanish and Arabic and they signed three [Palestinian] factions onto it; the statement was a fabrication designed to make it look like Palestinian Parties are rejecting Masar Badil and we believe it to be the work of the PA’s intelligence agents. In fact, one hour ago the PFLP, who were falsely connected to the statement, issued their own statement stating that they had nothing to do with this statement and it was a forgery by the PA.”
Barakat says that the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence network has been consistently attempting to distort the image of the Masar Badil and has caused many problems, including in Beirut, for the PARP’s conference there. He told me:
The PA is nervous because they know what they have done and what they are doing now; …they are attacking our people not just physically, but also our student movements in Palestine and our intellectuals. Critics of theirs, like Nizar Banat, were killed at the hands of the Palestinian security forces.”
I was also informed that Palestinian Authority representatives in Beirut had allegedly been making problems for the Masar Badil, spreading misinformation about the group and its intentions prior to the conference in the Lebanese capital. In response to threats put out, through back channels, the conference required the presence of a security detail for fear of violence being carried out against them and it was believed that the PA had something to do with this, but I was informed that there was no way we could know whether or not it was their doing.
After convening three separate conferences, from October 30 to November 2, Masar Badil announced its official declaration and list of 10 key positions, agreed upon by consensus of “The General Preparatory Committee” during the conference’s Plenary Session.
A movement to take on the PA “is finally here”
As one of its first actions, the PARP Movement has received the signatures of at least 91 Palestinian and international musicians, including that of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, to a statement urging artists to boycott Israel’s annual Oud Festival. The statement reads:
The oud, as the quintessential stringed instrument of Palestinian and Arab world music culture, is being appropriated by a Zionist state whose history is based on the erasure and theft of indigenous livelihoods. As the Israeli ‘Jerusalem Municipality’ re-launches its musical PR projects with the easing of certain coronavirus restrictions, Palestinians in Jerusalem are fighting tooth and nail against the accelerating land-grab of Sheikh Jarrah and swathes of the land east of their city. Palestinian performing artists are attacked or imprisoned, while broader communities of the displaced face the terror of aerial destruction of their cultural centers and systematic underdevelopment of their means of production.”
The movement to boycott the festival falls in line with the overall stance of the PARP movement, which rejects any form of normalization with Israel.
As an attendee of the conference myself, I was able to read through all documents outlining the movement’s long-term visions and goals — including creating a Palestinian students network, labor union network, and networks for everything from Palestinian youth institutions and movements to popular committees and Palestinian Cultural Centers. This in addition to founding an institution that sponsors sports clubs; providing support financially for fishermen and farmers in the Gaza Strip; and establishing a foundation that deals with art, cinema, theater, and the fields of creativity and the arts. Even child care and kindergartens, as well as institutions for research and strategic studies, were mentioned. This is important to note, as it demonstrates the long-term scope that the movement has.
As a result of the discussions at the conference, Barakat says,
…we made a decision to establish two youth centers, one in Berlin and another in Athens; the reason we made that decision is that this is where the majority of newly arrived Palestinians in Europe are residing. In Athens in particular, the Palestinian youth in the thousands now are living in poverty, so we seek to organize our youths, our women, and our students; that’s our goal and we have a five-year plan to do this.”
I then asked what the relations between the Palestinian resistance parties were with the PARP movement, to which Khaled responded:
As far as the forces of the resistance — like Hamas, the PFLP, Islamic Jihad — the relationship is good and we hope that we can strengthen this relationship with the Palestinian resistance movement, because we consider ourselves an integral part of the resistance movement, not just on the Palestinian level but on the Arab level.”
The Masar Badil movement also states its intention to fight all imperialist forces, in addition to the reactionary Arab regimes and Israel — with members mentioning the Islamic Republic of Iran as being targeted by imperialist powers, and condemning the sanctions against the people of Iran, which they say comes regardless of any potential reservations from within the group regarding some Iranian policies. The movement sees itself as part of a camp that is confronting imperialism, Zionism and reactionary regimes in the Global South, and hence works with international groups, organizations, and movements in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Philippines, South America, and elsewhere.
The first demonstration that the group staged took place through the streets of Madrid and featured chants against the Palestinian Authority and in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, national liberation, and the likes of Ahmed Sa’adat, George Abdullah, and Ghassan Kanafani.
Although the movement has just begun, the momentum is building and their revolutionary visions to build the strength of the Palestinian diaspora, mobilizing it once again in the struggle against Israel, could make a huge impact on the course of the national liberation movement. If the Palestinians of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria become a strong force, it could pose real problems for Israel. At the very least, a movement designed with its founding intention being to take on the Palestinian Authority is finally here — and that is big news.
Feature photo | Demonstration supporting the launch of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path (PARP) Movement. November 1, 2021. Photo | Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and hosts the show ‘Palestine Files’. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47