Written by: Adham Manasra
Let us first agree on a simplified theoretical definition of the identity of a civil state. It is a term that refers to the characteristics and conditions that any country, entity or governing system possesses. This constitutes a guarantee for the preservation and protection of all citizens, regardless of their political, regional, religious and intellectual affiliations.
From a Palestinian perspective, the call to establish a civil identity for the future state is not a luxury, an extravagance or a separate issue from the national, political and even social struggle as a whole. Rather, it is integral and fundamental to the extent that it is considered a basic requirement to enable Palestinians to establish a state they have been struggling to have for decades.
Yes, it is not an exaggeration to describe it as "urgent" if we delve deeply into the Palestinian situation as a result of accumulated political, social, economic and security crises. We realise that believing in the identity of the civil state in word and deed is the way to gradually solve all these crises.
But How Can This Be Achieved?
Yes, it is true that the dream of a Palestinian state has not yet been realised. However, this in itself serves as a double motivation to always raise the voice under the title of the civil nature of the state for every Palestinian ruling institution. Even if it is transitional up until now or with limited authority, we often disagree on its function due to a geopolitical reality imposed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians. We hope to find a way out of the situation we have been stuck in for a long time.
However, perhaps the shortest way to the state is to answer two questions: What kind of state do we want? And what is its content and form?
By providing a unified answer to these questions, the Palestinian horizons expand towards ways to enhance our narrative and our injustice in this world. We state the following: Do we know what we want? We want our state, which we have shaped its form and crystallised its identity, leading to an inclusive pluralistic governance. That is, we know that consensus on civil identity and its behaviour is the only way to thwart any plans or factors for dividing Palestinians into regional rival states based on tribe, party or region.
The Dominance of Tribalism and Regionalism
On the ground, the reality is disappointing and raises the alarm bell due to the disappearance of the concept of the civil state and its identity. This means that we lose everything. Tribal dominance tops the Palestinian scene to the extent that it feels like the actual ruler in some areas and serves as a substitute for courts and laws, alongside the dominance of party and regional centres of power in other areas.
In conclusion, the trend towards regionalism leads to having each governorate be imposed with its reality and specificity, which has generated a sense of marginalisation and exceptional exclusion among the population of each governorate.
On several occasions, the government contributed to promoting regionalism through its discourse. Here, we recall the discourse practised during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. The "dangerous" discourse in the midst of the epidemic included implicit and explicit implications that classified regions and social categories in the West Bank according to the standard of "more conscious than others" or that "some are more rebellious against the law." The goal is to evade responsibility from the authority and solely assign it to the citizen.
Therefore, there are principles that must be present in the civil state that we have been struggling to obtain for decades. They cannot be mentioned only in Palestinian laws and constitutions or emphasised in the corridors of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's Central Council in a consumer and propaganda context.
Civil Peace and Social Justice
Since one of the conditions of a civil state is achieving social peace, tolerance and equality in rights and duties among all citizens, the growing demand for rights-based conflicts between unions, associations and the government is accompanied by a speech devoid of trust in anything. This is an indicator of the absence of social justice, which in itself is a violation of the most important principles of the civil state, guaranteeing that no individual in the state is subject to a violation of their rights by another individual or party. There is always a higher authority, which is the authority of the state, that individuals turn to when their rights are violated. The problem here is that people have lost hope and trust in anybody that represents them because of their inability to support them in obtaining their rights.
In conclusion, unless Palestinians realise the importance of struggling for the civil identity of the state in meaning and practice, the distance between them and achieving the dream of a state will be longer. This is if they do not lose the opportunity to achieve the dream itself, which means achieving the alternative represented by the most dangerous option, namely "tribal and regional dukedoms." Furthermore, national crises and social injustice become entrenched in a manner that cannot be easily addressed.
Truly, we still have an opportunity. Let us take the initiative to invest in it. We fear that it may be the last chance and then it will be too late.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.