Embracing Israel's narrative, Mansour Abbas sheds his skin
Mansour Abbas, Palestinian-Israeli leader of the Ra’am Party, a conservative Islamist party, and a member of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition government, is proving himself to be a satisfactory tool in the Israeli government’s arsenal of assaults against the Palestinian people’s historical and collective memory.
In December, while speaking at the Globes Israel Business Conference, Abbas uttered statements that would have made the earliest Zionist leaders proud. “The State of Israel was born as a Jewish state,” Abbas remarked. “It is the decision of the people and the question is not about the identity of the state. It was born this way and will remain so.”
In his speech, there was not even the slightest recognition of the Palestinians’ trauma of ethnic cleansing as a result of Zionist colonisation. On the contrary, placing Palestinians at a subjugated level, Abbas emphasised, “The question is how to integrate Arab society into it,” with reference to the Jewish - and one should add colonial and apartheid - state.
The Jerusalem Post called Abbas “not only courageous, but credible.” A blog written for the Times of Israel states that Abbas “was saying to his own community that we need to get past old controversies, recognise the reality of the Jewish state, and move on.”
“Abbas’s approach therefore could be a liberating moment,” the blog continues.
"The "good Arab" – in this case Mansour Abbas – is willingly disseminating Israel’s colonial narrative at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians"
With such an oblivious approach, no wonder Israel is fawning over Abbas as though he were a new hero. The “good Arab” – in this case Mansour Abbas – is willingly disseminating Israel’s colonial narrative at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians, including those living in Israel. And the settler-colonial enterprise will willingly back Abbas up, while there is need.
In the end, figures such as Abbas serve a twisted purpose. For now, the current colonial agenda, based upon preserving Trump’s concessions, would benefit from a friendly Palestinian within the Knesset’s own ranks.
At the moment, Bennett is busy expanding settlement construction and objecting to the opening of the US consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians. “The government under my leadership has repeatedly clarified its position that there is no place for a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem,” Bennett recently stated.
And while Abbas argued that opening the US consulate would “balance” recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the fact remains that he has not argued politics to the contrary, thus ensuring that the Zionist narrative reigns supreme while acting as its mouthpiece.
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In some ways, and rather unfortunately, Abbas is creating a balance between Israel and the compliant Palestinian Authority, with the latter seeking out occasions such as the latest statement to portray itself as upholding the Palestinian people’s rights to liberation.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) rightly pointed out that Mansour Abbas’s statements contradict “our right to self-determination, detract from the rights of our people inside the 1948 lands and constitute a direct threat to them, while it reinforces the Zionist policy of racism in dealing with them and with their rights in their homeland."
But the PLO, through the Oslo Accords, also abandoned Palestinians living in Israel, just as it abandoned the Palestinian refugees. The “good Arab” in Israel, therefore, has his equivalent in the corrupt and donor-funded leadership in Ramallah. The only difference is that while the Palestinian Authority can shift between positions as long as it remains tethered to the two-state paradigm, Mansour Abbas is openly spouting the Zionist narrative, assimilating himself to it and attempting to create an agenda where the Jewish colonial state is preferably not contested from a Palestinian perspective.
Mansour Abbas’s illusion of coexistence should be called out for what it is – an attempt applauded by the Israeli government to impose Israel’s colonial narrative on Palestinians. He should know, however, that the Palestinian people, unlike the leadership in Ramallah, are not easily swayed away from their narrative that is held together by the trauma that created the Palestinian rupture.
If Palestinians were to adhere to Abbas’s call to accept that Israel’s existence as a Jewish state should not be questioned, it would mean abandoning their own memory of the Nakba to completely accommodate the European Jewish settler population. In much the same way that several diplomats at the UN argued in favour of the 1947 Partition Plan, which paved the way for Zionist colonisation in Palestine, accepting Abbas’s purportedly pragmatic tone would legitimise colonial supremacy over Palestinian collective memory, to the point that the latter would become non-existent.
Why should Israel’s identity not be questioned by the colonised Palestinian population, considering their existence prior to the settler-colonial enterprise? Again, parallels here may be drawn with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas forfeiting his right of return and admitting an unequivocal acceptance of Israel’s altering of Palestinian land through colonisation.
"As much as he may now bask in Zionist limelight because it serves the government’s interests to have a Palestinian deny his roots to laud assimilation, Mansour Abbas has nothing to celebrate"
Political divide among Palestinians is a serious issue exacerbated not only because of differing ideologies of factions, but also due to decades of compromise and political pragmatism – the latter generally used to depict the PA’s diplomacy against that of Hamas.
Within Israel, Palestinians are largely forgotten due to the focus on Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Mansour Abbas’s Zionist stance is an affirmation not only of oblivion, but also of accordance with the Israeli government’s repeated attempts to enforce assimilation, while still depriving Palestinians of their rights.
As Israel’s narrative remains the dominant one so far, particularly within the international community, which places much more emphasis on Israel’s “right to defend itself” than it does on the Palestinian people’s ongoing Nakba. Abbas’s betrayal, like that of other Palestinians assimilating to the Israeli narrative for personal gain and borrowed influence, is detrimental to the Palestinian people’s collective memory.
However, with the Israeli government’s backing, Abbas oversteps the limits of personal gain. Stepping into Israel’s right wing from a position of political influence clearly shows that Abbas holds no affinity towards his own history, or that he thinks nothing of political betrayal.
As much as he may now bask in Zionist limelight because it serves the government’s interests to have a Palestinian deny his roots to laud assimilation, Mansour Abbas has nothing to celebrate. A “good Arab” designated by Israel can only mean a traitor to the legitimate Palestinian struggle for liberation.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.