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Freedom for Palestine in Four Steps


"Getting their attention" requires a good public relations strategy, not car bombs.
Copyright © 2001 Stephen Abbott Communications. All Rights Reserved

Note: Since this was posted to this site on Nov. 1, 2001, the situation in Israel and in the Palestinian-controlled areas of Gaza and the West Bank has deteriorated even further. However, the program outlined here is even more relevant than it was before the latest terrorist bombings in Israel, it was, in fact, almost prophetic. It the Palestinians would take positive action even now, they could turn around the current bleak situation. (S.A., 12/14/01)

The attempt to gain a Palestinian state is failing, and may soon meet with a catastrophe because many Palestinians are holding onto some erroneous assumptions.

In all movements, it's important to understand who your audience is in order to appeal to that audience to achieve the goals of the movement.

For decades, many Palestinians have assumed that the Muslim world is the audience they must convince. Many others have thought the Israeli government is the audience, and have acted likewise. Both approaches are incorrect.

The audience that must be convinced is the audience in the West, primarily the United States. The U.S. has enormous political and economic influence in the region, and while that often leads to resentment, it should instead be seen by the Palestinians as an opportunity for achieving statehood.

The Israeli government long ago effectively seized that opportunity.

Israelis have nurtured a large network of powerful supporters that advocate their views in the halls of Congress and in the media. The state of Israel receives nearly US$4 billion each year in foreign aid from the U.S., and have put that money to good use building up their infrastructure and military might. Religious and civic groups sing their praises, and fight for Israeli causes.

But make no mistake here: there is nothing wrong or sinister about all of this aid and support. That's how it works in the United States. A movement either gets it's message out, or it fails. It convinces its audience, or it fails.

Israel has succeeded, but there is no reason why the Palestinian cause is doomed to fail. It simply needs to re-think its approach.

The good news for organized movements is this: When the American people are convinced a movement is just, the government will respond to the will of the people.

What this means for the Palestinians is that if the people are convinced that the grievances and plight of the Palestinian people are legitimate, they will respond with compassion, sympathy and positive resolve to advocate a Palestinian State, and nothing will stand in the way of its establishment.

Needless to say, the opposite approach has been taken by many Palestinians.

Americans fail to understand that there are various parties in Palestine, just as there are in Israel in in other nations. These parties have widely varying views of how to gain statehood.

On the other hand, those Palestinians who fail to grasp the correct audience are killing Israeli babies and teenagers in discoteques, further solidifying the West's belief that Palestinians want violence, while Israeli wants only "security", when in fact, both sides want security for themselves and their children.

Clearly, this situation must change if the Palestinians ever hope to gain a state of their own.

Understanding the complexities of the American people, and the hopelessness of the current situation, all Palestinian parties should adopt a program that would include these elements:

1. Non-violent Resistance on a Mass Scale - Violence has failed as a political tool, but that doesn't mean other options are not available to the Palestinians. If, a year ago, Palestinian women and children had begun carrying signs of protest and laying down in the street in front of Israeli soldiers and tanks, rather than throwing stones at them and sending car bombs into Israel, Palestine would be a state by now. Peaceful movements "sell" in America and Europe (and to an extent, even in Israel). They play to the emotions, and that is not an improper use of emotion. Using emotion and not bombs in the cause of freedom is the way to "get their attention" in the West - and the most effective way to create a tidal wave of popular opinion in favor of statehood.

2. Organize and Lobby Americans - Don't blame America or even Israel for the pro-Israeli sentiment in the U.S., blame the Palestinians for not even attempting to craft public opinion here on the same scale as the Israelis. Funds should be directed into the United States to properly lobby Congress and the media for a more balanced view of a Palestinian State. Representatives such as Hannan Ashrawi have been very effective, but she should be joined by dozens more who speak just as articulately in English about the plight of the Palestinians.

3. A Joint Declaration of Israeli and Palestinian Statehood recognition - If this announcement to the world was worded in the proper way, and simultaneously in English, Hebrew and Arabic, it would be seen as a triumph of peace in the region. It would ease tensions and lay the groundwork on which other issues can be negotiated. A viable Palestinian state must include the recognition of Israel, but such a recognition must be balanced with a reciprocal statement from Israel accepting Palestinian statehood in the near term.

4. Seek Aid and Build a State for Palestine - It has long puzzled Americans why oil-rich Arab nations have been quick to offer verbal support for Palestine, but not financial aid. While America pours billions into Israel, making it literally bloom in the desert, Palestinians face unemployment and despair. Palestinians can, even before statehood, begin building their state into something magnificent. They can build schools, roads, and even hotels to show the world they are ready for statehood. But they need the funds, and those funds must flow as easily as the rhetoric from its neighbors.

These steps will not be easy. They will take political courage and will not be accepted at first by those who prefer violence as a means of "getting their attention." But nothing breeds success like success, and this plan, when implemented, will bring success. Then, other less successful methods of attention-getting be seen for the failures they are.

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Stephen Abbott, 35, is the principal of Stephen Abbott Communications, a public relations and political consulting firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. His web site can be found at http://www.sacomm.com. He also works as a journalist for a weekly newspaper in south-central New Hampshire.


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