Let us first debate amongst ourselves

by Rami Mehdawi
RAMALLAH - Ever since the Palestinian Nakba, through decades of affliction to the present day Israeli occupation, Palestinian society more often than not didn’t know what it wanted, and when it did, it didn’t know how to achieve it.

Achieving what we want will come first and foremost with self-knowledge. The problem is that who we are and what we want is not one thing, but many. Our approaches to our struggle are numerous, depending, amongst other things, on geographic location or generational perspective.

This diversity needs opportunities for dialogue. The question is how can we get the Palestinian in the refugee camps of Beirut to communicate with the Palestinian in Chile? Or the Palestinian in Gaza with the Palestinian refugee in Jordan?

One humble, albeit simple, solution for creating dialogue amongst disparate Palestinian communities is the formation of an electronic Palestinian society. The project I have founded is such an attempt. Called the “Electronic Palestinian Civil Society Institutions Forum”, it is a virtual space for dialogue, open to Palestinians wherever they may be. It is not for profit and is not affiliated with any political, intellectual or ideological party.

The forum is a space to highlight and discuss immediate urgent and strategic matters that face Palestinian society in its march towards liberty and an independent state. It is also a rich place for informal learning and education about alternative approaches to our common issues.

The forum facilitates coordination and networking and encourages a high level of cooperation by extending bridges between civil society institutions, the private sector, the Palestinian National Authority and individual Palestinians. The idea is to enhance freedom of opinion and expression and to create the appropriate environment for societal partnerships and exchanges. In this way we hope to contribute to a culture of democracy and active citizenship.

In this precarious phase of our history with our liberation and state-building project in such a fragile condition, we must carry out a critical review of the history of the Palestinian struggle and popular methods so far. Internet-based forums can become indispensable platforms for consolidating social groups in support of our national liberation project by linking Palestinians around the world, rejuvenating potential capacities, mobilising previously wasted energies, allowing for the free flow of ideas and knowledge and facilitating learning about the various approaches to the struggle.

The new electronic methods of human communication are key to helping us tackle the overwhelming task of knowing what we want as a society and consolidating our approaches to achieving it. Palestinian NGOs and international organisations operating in the West Bank and Gaza should be considering the use of new technology as a strategic priority.

Consolidating the Palestinian objective is a necessary first step in our quest for independence and peace. Only once we have achieved this, will we be fully ready to engage with those Israeli organisations which believe in the fairness of our struggle. Only then can we contribute to enhancing the Israeli peace camp for the joint purpose of overcoming extremist elements within Israeli society.

No doubt, a healthy Palestinian dialogue and the creation of a unified strategy will also bolster the Israeli peace camp’s chances of attaining political power within Israeli society. If and when such a scenario becomes realistic, we can then start to work towards a common understanding over divisive issues and restore international confidence that both our peoples can achieve peace.


* Rami Mehdawi is the Director General of the Palestinian Labour Minister’s Office and founder of the electronic Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Forum (PNGOF). He holds a Masters degree in Democracy and Human Rights.This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and is part of a special series on informal education in the Israeli-Palestinian context.

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 14 January 2009, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
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Other articles in this series

Palestinian children suffer from a lack of appropriate TV programming by Daoud Kuttab
The best of both worlds by Mike Prashker
YouTube and changing reality—The ripples of technology by Gomer Ben Moshe
The role of informal education in shaping the image of the Other by Nilly Venezia