I expect the “deal of the century” to be another watermark of the fizzled attempts at fascism made by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
It will be a poorly worded, grammatically incorrect and morally obscene reiteration and entrenchment of the status quo, not just over the objections and to the exclusion of the Palestinians, but over the objections of the world community as a whole.
It is alleged that this deal will annex all the Israeli settlements on the West Bank into an Israeli borderless entity, and that it will give the Palestinians a “new Jerusalem” by erasing our history from Jerusalem and erasing Jerusalem’s history from itself.
We will get escorted by buses reminiscent of the Auschwitz era, allowing us to pray in Jerusalem only with Israeli permission.
The Israelis will annex settlements and land in the West Bank, turning our towns and villages into a series of mini-Gazas controlled by air and land by Israeli violence and subordinate to Israeli requirements of supremacy and domination.
After all of this it is also alleged, without irony, that Trump will offer us a humanitarian solution to the refugee crisis.
He plans to offer us less of what is ours in the hope that we will surrender and that we will capitulate even more.
This, Saudi Arabia, Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Israel believe will resolve the Palestinian problem.
Well, they have got one thing right about this deal of the century and that is that the Palestinians are indeed the problem of the century.
One hundred years ago British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour tried to pass another deal of the century, giving the reins of colonialism with a twist of ethnic cleansing to Zionist gangs.
We rejected it. In 1947, after 11 years of unabated Zionist violence, including the lynchings and massacres of whole towns and families and the rapes and kidnappings of our children, the UN proposed a partition plan for Palestine that gave us five times what is being offered now. We also rejected it.
In 1994, in one of the most tragic moments and greatest surrenders of our noble history, the Oslo Accords, helped by the US and Israel, hammered out a plan to separate the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) from the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the PA from the people, and the people from our land.
The Accords flooded the West Bank with money, turning our leadership from being a symbol of global resistance to oppression into tame men in suits occupying offices towering above our children.
The latter in fewer than five years took to the streets and with their blood, repeatedly over the past 20 years, rejected it.
Yet, this indignity, Trump, Kushner, various businessman, the UAE and others think is the deal of the century.
They must have missed the historic message coming from Gaza, which did not play out behind closed doors but in the open-air prison for the world to see, of the current marches for return.
They must have missed the 70 years of bravery and love and sacrifice, the epic images of our old people, in some cases 100 years old, sitting confidently and cross-legged and watching their grandchildren cut the ghetto fences while our women sang as they walked towards US-funded snipers.
For 70 years our people have lived under the yoke of Zionist violence led by a nuclear state and with its fourth-largest army in the world carrying out countless massacres backed by the greatest power on Earth.
Six million of us live under daily humiliation doled out as torture, while another seven million are incubated in refugee camps and Bantustans as European and American Zionists roam like wild animals, poisoning our crops, uprooting our trees and murdering our families. And still we have refused to surrender.
We have rejected their violence and their demands to surrender to their brute force. We are indeed the problem of the century with which they must grapple and demand and beg for recognition and legitimacy.
We are the living, breathing testament to the failure and refusal of the world to serve global morality and human welfare.
We are the reminder of the threat that is posed by systems of injustice and militarisation, of systems that choose profit for the few over the health, safety and dignity of the masses. We are the problem that refuses to allow the global elites to normalise ethnic cleansing as just a matter of business as usual.
We are the testament of the world’s failure to create a society in which all people can live as brethren, as equals in justice and dignity. And by being made the problem we have been forced to constantly seek and create the solution.
By being made the problem, our existence, our very essence is shaped and consumed with finding the solution for our condition and for our erasure and oppression.
We are obligated to find, and we naturally create and advance solutions to global malaise and malcontent. I say this neither dogmatically nor rhetorically, but in real and material ways: as we have struggled to find solutions for ourselves, we have also happened to find solutions for the world.
To free ourselves of racial and ethnic supremacy, we advance and bind ourselves to principles and movements of equality and justice.
To free ourselves of dependency and charity, we advance and bind ourselves to models and movements based on dignity and self reliance and community.
By being made the problem, we have become the boomerang effect that echoes across the world, reversing societal malcontent in an effort to stop and undo the systems of injustice that oppress us.
In the US, we see the expanding militarisation of the police against communities fighting police violence. It was our people who laid bare their bodies to demonstrate the mortal threat that is the collaboration between the US police and the Israeli forces of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
As fascism, racism and Zionism align and sink their teeth into our public spaces, it is our people who have uncloaked hasbara, Israeli public relations, and the normalisation of war crimes as threats to the fundamental right of free speech in America and its universities. As a result, it was our people who advanced and protected free speech for all Americans.
As the US, especially its young people, along with the world as a whole increasingly polarises, it is our people who are forcing the masses, members of Congress, actors and human rights organisations to choose which side to join: whether they will fill the trash bins of history and join the fascist right and make exceptions for human-rights applications, or whether they will rise to the seat of global morality, discard their exceptionalist approach to human rights and be consistent and unwavering in their calls for justice, equality and liberation for all people including the Palestinians.
In each moment and each act that has played out in the theatre of Israeli and Zionist violence, our people said, choose us, choose human rights, choose humanity, choose consistency and choose progress. We are the solution.
In fewer than 40 days without any financial or military support, our people, caged and starved in Gaza, have made more progress for the right to return and for the safety and peace of the world than the UN and those with armies and suits sitting in offices have made in the past 40 years.
From black clouds in Gaza, drenched in tear gas, surrounded by bullets, we have witnessed the emergence of a generation of heroes who practise love at the risk to their lives, who make poetry out of slingshots, who, with unwavering conviction and unshakable hope, if not hope for themselves and their children then with hope for the rest of us and for those who come after us, have entrusted us with this dream for which they died.
Our people, with bare feet, fence-cutters and one flag, our elders protecting the young, the young carrying our elders, have pushed forward our struggle for return, and, in so doing have brought the world one step closer to peace, security and stability.
Why is our return critical to peace? First, there is the essential right to human dignity and the right to re-enter and return to one’s home, which, if denied to the Palestinians, if made an exception to the Palestinians and not enforced for the Palestinians, will become a precedent not available to anyone else.
Second, no conflict in the modern world has been resolved without first resolving the methods and timeline by which refugees are repatriated. This is because without repatriation, we are left with a population straddling several countries, sitting disenfranchised like a brewing cauldron of unresolved political grievances ready to explode at any time, and all the while being exploited as a convenient excuse, as pawns and threats, by those in power in the most fragile part of the world.
Third, and of global relevance, is the fact that the material effect of the return and equality for the refugees will be to dismantle and break a critical link in the chain of institutions that serve global violence.
At the core of Israeli society and as its most important institution is the military. Israel is the most militarised society on Earth.
It justifies this centrality of the military and heavily militarised society by proclaiming its supremacy and defining the Palestinians as a threat against which it must prepare and test weapons. Then it must also sell and export these weapons to make money to build more weapons.
To sell these weapons, it must have markets, and to keep these markets open and to stoke demand, it must provoke and feed the flames of war in all potential markets, from South America to Sudan, to Lebanon and Iraq and Iran, thereby constantly increasing and manufacturing the threats it faces. It is constantly increasing regional instability to justify its cyclical escalation of militarisation.
All this is being done to justify and fund Israel’s existence as an ethno-supremacist state that requires and relies on militarism, war and the arms industry, which it helps to proliferate on a global scale.
The return, equality and liberation of the Palestinians would eliminate all justification for this obscenely militarised society. It would be a massive blow to the war industry that stokes war, not just abroad, but also in the US in schools, campuses and on the streets.
It would thus be a critical step towards both regional, and therefore global, peace to implement the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes, which would require the dismantling of all the racist and supremacist Israeli institutions that are the real regional threats against which Israel must defend itself.
It is the Palestinian return that carves out a core link in the machine of global violence and the war industry.
However, it is insufficient to refer to this return as simply a footnote. Empty references to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 194 without clear, detailed, well-articulated demands down to the details and timeline of return are nearly meaningless.
Instead, we must look at the failures of these references, and we must study law, plan for return, look at other models and projects for return, their successes and their failures, and begin the implementation ourselves.
If we look at the case of Bosnia, in order to undo population transfers and ethnic cleansing and to encourage the re-integration of society, return was conditional on restitution. In Guatemala, several factions attempted to return to their original homes and secure restitution as a result of the crimes they had suffered from.
However, the only group that managed to secure both return to its original homes and restitution was that which had several things in its favour.
First, it had a detailed plan of how it wanted to return and ensure restitution.
Second, it included this plan in its constitution.
Third, it maintained armed forces to exert pressure on anyone lobbying against the implementation of these demands.
While UN Security Council Resolution 194, which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, is important, there are equally powerful precedents to look at. Yet, even Resolution 194 says we are entitled to return, guaranteeing restitution and reparations, not return, restitution or reparations. We must make it clear that no one is authorised to waive, compromise or negotiate away our right to return.
In the Algerian War of Independence in the 1950s, the Algerian liberation movement only saw its way towards victory when it demanded the unequivocal and full liberation of all Algerian land and all Algerians.
As it put this demand at the core of its strategy, it also removed what it called the Bani Oui Oui, the “Children of the Yes Yes,” those who were afraid of losing false comforts, people who were intellectually lazy, and people who were the tools of French colonialism in Algeria.
We must also confront and challenge our own Bani Oui Oui.
If we are the problem of the global elites, let us also be the solution. Let us be as wild and insistent in our demand for dignity as Palestinian fighter Ahed Tamimi, who at 17 years old embarrassed the fourth-largest army in the world.
Let us be as brave and tenacious as fighter Mohamed Abu Thuraya, who gave his life after giving his legs to raise the Palestinian flag high as a thorn in Israel’s eye.
Let us be the solution that is not consumed by the problem, but that works to destroy systems of oppression and violence. Let us be brave and detailed in our demands for liberation and return.
Let us know that when we speak, we speak as the agents of global peace, that when we demand the return to Palestine, what we are demanding is freedom for all of the oppressed.
*The writer is a Palestinian attorney and human rights advocate based in New York. This is a version of a speech given at the Palestinian-American Community Centre in Chicago commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba on 5 May.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 May 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Let Palestinians be the solution