“You can hardly find a sane Palestinian who accepts monopoly and failure” — The Palestinian Popular Conference: Fourteen Million

Palestine Prisoners

Caption: Image shown during the Zoom broadcast of the Palestinian National Conference — Fourteen Million, 5 Nov 2022, while a recorded statement by Palestinian prisoners in support of the Conference was being aired. At the heart of the idea of rebuilding the PLO is to honor the sacrifices of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs.

A paradigm shift in and outside occupied Palestine from the river to the sea is now breaking out onto the Palestinian political scene. It is led by two burgeoning popular movements, the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement: Masar Badil and The National Campaign for Rebuilding the PLO.

On 5 Nov 2022, I sat for over three hours in the Zoom broadcast of the Palestinian National Conference: Fourteen Million (an event organized by The National Campaign for Rebuilding the PLO), listening to powerful, unprecedented proceedings, most notably including a disembodied statement in the voice of a Palestinian prisoner that had been transmitted dimly over the phone, statements by activists from “the interior” as well as from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and many parts of the globe. That the Conference was taking place at all was itself a minor miracle.


Caption: Views from the Zoom broadcast of the Popular Palestinian Conference — Fourteen Million 5 Nov 2022

At the end of the event, the formation of a National Steering Committee with members from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian interior, refugee camps and the diaspora was announced and the names of its members were called out.

One of this Committee’s tasks is to secure the necessary support for the ongoing intifada and to call for widespread participation in the resistance against Israel at home and also abroad on the Palestinian, Arab and international fronts. Another is to escalate efforts to shore up the steadfastness of the Gaza Strip and to break the unjust siege on it, all of which are described as having, not only Palestinian, but also Arab, individual and collective responsibility.

The word “revolutionary” is not in the title of this Campaign for rebuilding the PLO, and some people might like to see it as merely reformative of the existing order, but it is every bit as revolutionary in its conception as the Alternative Revolutionary Path: Masar Badil.

At the heart of the idea of rebuilding the PLO is to honor the sacrifices of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs. The Conference calls for an alternative to the political governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA), claiming that right democratically for all the Palestinian people, wherever they may be found. The Conference established a framework that serves the struggle for return and liberation in all its forms, away from the shackles of Oslo, away from the monopoly and corruption of the PA and its complicity with the Zionist regime.

Both the Campaign and Masar Badil rest on the power that resides in the will of the Palestinian people and is derived from their sacrifices throughout these many decades since the violent establishment of the Zionist Jewish state on Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of its people.

That power, the popular power of the Palestinian people, is precisely what scares both Israel and the PA. The reaction by these two entities to what is happening on the Palestinian resistance scene is suppression and subterfuge:

For example, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is currently under the suffocating control of the PA, falsely accused the Palestinian Popular Conference of “attempting to circumvent the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and efforts to unify the Palestinians.” An official ban was issued against the Conference on the false grounds that it is “an attempt to create a substitute for the PLO.”

For example, the Jewish News Syndicate blared out falsely that Mohammed Khatib, the E.U. coordinator for Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, is calling “for destruction of US, EU in Brussels” during the Oct. 29 “March for Return and Liberation.” Read/watch what Khatib really said: “Mohammed Khatib speaks at the March for Return and Liberation and March Highlights.”

For example, a statement allegedly signed in the name of PLO factions and national independents in the National Action Authority in Spain and released by the Palestinian embassy in Spain incited against the leaders of Masar Badil, causing one of those alleged signatories (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) to publish a refutation of the statement.

The reality is otherwise than what is falsified above. In the words of Yousef Rizqa, political analyst and professor of literature and literary criticism at the Islamic University of Gaza, “The People’s Conference emphasized the unity of the Palestinian people and the PLO’s representation of the Palestinians, but it also demanded actions that would help us get out of the state of chronic failure. These actions include holding elections for the Palestinian National Council, according to the legal period mentioned in the charter of the Conference, reforming and rehabilitating the PLO, fighting corruption, the monopoly of power, and activating the role of the people through elections … You can hardly find a sane Palestinian who accepts monopoly and failure, so whoever wants to monopolize authority must at least be successful; losers have no right to monopolize the PLO … Monopoly, corruption and failure must end with an alternative or without an alternative, and the most appropriate in our case is self-reform according to the popular will.”

Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, associate professor of Modern and Contemporary Arab History at the International Islamic University Malaysia, also sheds light upon the scope of the Conference: “The organizers of the Popular Conference sought to establish an independent nonpartisan civil society that would mobilize and absorb various forces and segments of the Palestinian people, and organize their potentials effectively so that they would engage in all aspects of public life. This would contribute to the establishment of a healthy mature environment that would help national action, Palestinian decision-making and would support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people at home. At the same time, and as mentioned by the organizers, despite the fact that the Popular Conference has a political mission, it is neither a political party, nor is it subject to quotas and partisan calculations, in addition; it does not include any factional symbols or leaders, although the Popular Conference is open to people of different affiliations to participate as individuals, without being representatives of their factions.”


Caption: @wolpalestine on Instagram: “Within Our Lifetime stands with Samidoun and the March for Return & Liberation. From Palestine to Brussels, repression breeds resistance!”

What remains to be seen now is how successful this Campaign for rebuilding the PLO will be in transferring the baton to the younger generation. Most of the speakers at the Conference were familiar old veterans of the struggle for liberation. What they ought to do, in my opinion, is take a page from Masar Badil’s practices in that regard, whose leaders, members and supporters are mostly young, under-30 Palestinians, Arabs and internationals, who form a Global Unified Front and are impassioned for Palestinian return and liberation.

Note: First published on Medium

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.


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