Palestine's Independence Day is not something to be celebrated

Palestine's Independence Day is not something to be celebrated
3 min read
15 Nov, 2017
Yasser Arafat declared independence in 1988 only to give up Palestinian sovereignty in the Oslo Accords of 1993, writes Diana Alghoul.
29 years after Palestine's declaration of independence Palestinians still suffer [Getty]

With Palestine marking its 29th year of independence, there is little to be happy about.

Declared by then Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on November 15, 1988, after Jordan withdrew from the West Bank and it fell under Palestinian sovereignty, this day represents the very hallmarks notorious to Arafat's leadership, which allowed him to sustain his political career.

Arafat declared Palestine as a state in 1988, only to give up the most fundamental forms of sovereignty which allow for a fully functioning state to exist less than half a decade later, at the expense of Palestinian civilians.

When Arafat declared independence, he did so during the First Intifada. Just under a year before the declaration of independence, Palestinians in Gaza began the famous uprising.

The word sumood, Arabic for steadfastness became one quickly associated with Palestinians and them making it clear that they will stop at nothing for their freedom, independence and self-autonomy.

A form of passionate energy was realised among Palestinians, hoping that this uprising will make a difference to their statehood, and despite the fact that the Intifada was mainly targeting the Israeli occupation, when the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) took control of the West Bank from late King Hussein in July 1988, Palestinians were overjoyed at this perceived "step forward".

Read also: Nostaligia undone: rethinking the legacy of Yasser Arafat

It could be argued that Palestine's declaration of independence was one of the driving factors which led to the completion of the Oslo Accords and the beginning of "peace" between Israel and Palestine. In all fairness, this argument does hold weight.

But the State of Palestine was not recognised, nor even mentioned in the Oslo Accords; a fundamental document currently being used to shape the future of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, which Arafat himself signed.

The lack of autonomy the government in Ramallah has also exasperated inter-Palestinian conflict. In April, Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas wanted to cut electricity supplies to the already besieged Gaza in a bid to put pressure on the Hamas leadership.

He did this through cutting payments to Israel's national electricity company Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and was only able to execute his plan with IEC's co-operation.

Apartheid, illegal Israeli settlements, an occupation and the besiegement of nearly two million people while having their rights and freedoms suppressed by the governments in Tel Aviv and Ramallah have left little hope for the ever-deteriorating situation.

Nearly 30 years on, Palestine's declaration of independence must be viewed critically and within the context of the failures of the Ramallah government to secure Palestinian rights and Palestine's sovereignty. Arafat's populist symbolisms of the 20th century must not be celebrated, but critically analysed in their context, effects and reality.

Follow Diana Alghoul on Twitter: @superknafeh