Every Palestinian living abroad must mobilise attention to the Palestinian narrative, work to confront the Israeli narrative and communicate directly with the public. This will expand the Palestinian narrative and reach a larger audience.
Written by: Ghazi Murtaja
The recent hostile situation in occupied Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip revealed a weakness in Palestinian diplomacy. Although the Palestinian issue was once again at the top of the world’s priorities, official Palestinian diplomacy abroad did not reach our expectations. Palestine has a higher number of embassies than Israel, in which it has 95 ambassadors and 103 diplomatic missions, while there are 78 Israeli embassies and 102 diplomatic missions. These figures show the extent to which the two sides focus on the external arena in order to achieve the greatest strategic gains. Palestinian diplomacy succeeded in introducing its cause to the world through relationship networking, some of which still exist today, and it was the most effective and useful front. It also contributed to the recognition of a Palestinian state as an observer member in the United Nations in 2012. However, politics tells us that history does not forgive the defects of the present, but rather increases its responsibilities. The main question that imposes itself now is: “Why did Palestinian diplomacy abroad decline to this extent? There are several reasons, the most prominent of which can be summarized as the following:
- Lack of success in selecting some ambassadors and support staff, bearing in mind that the conditions for selecting the ambassador may be complicated due to the conditions of the host country. This leads to wrong “choices,” but the first and second levels in embassies are more important than appointing the ambassador.
- The imbalance that affects the Palestinian institution in general is not only represented by the Palestinian embassies abroad, but rather affects the depth of the sole Palestinian representative (PLO). The main reason for all of this is the delay in the development process that is enforceable after the huge technological and informational leaps in the last decade, in addition to the revolutionary leaps that followed in the popular and inter-relations on the one hand, and the official relations on the other hand.
- Although we are in the era of social media, Palestinian embassies have not developed their tools and still follow the traditional methods of addressing the public.
- Palestinian embassies still depend on the delegation of their ambassadors, who are mostly the elderly.
Perhaps the incidents of the Palestinian ambassadors in Spain and Pakistan were the reason for addressing this topic in general. With all due respect for both ambassadors, who have extensive diplomatic experience, their speeches conveyed the absence of the official diplomatic system.
On the other hand, social activists and politicians were more able to express the Palestinian national issues and messages from the heart of Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah in voices and images that we were not familiar with. Activists on social media and individual/collective initiatives preserved the Palestinian narrative and provided translations in all languages. This sudden shift in the standards of popular and official diplomatic discourse and unprecedented campaigns of solidarity from parties, individuals and international alliances had impressive and clear results in strengthening the Palestinian narrative
What to do?
To address the flaws in Palestinian diplomacy, diplomatic law must be adhered to and all embassies in the world must include youth in order to address their counterparts in Arab and international societies. Since more than 50% of the world’s citizens are youth, then the same percentage should be applied to the representation of embassies worldwide. On the one hand, it will enhance diplomatic work with modern methods and tools, and on the other hand, it will promote the integration of generations and prepare diplomatic leaders to carry the message in the future.
The recent situation demonstrated the necessity of protecting the Palestinian narrative and the availability of the media in providing information, whether from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates or from the PLO’s Embassies Committee. For example, but not limited to, Israel used to issue a daily update that would be addressed to the world, while I did not read a single official Palestinian update. This is one of the issues that must be studied and appropriate treatment must be developed.
Moreover, every Palestinian living abroad must mobilise attention to the Palestinian narrative, work to confront the Israeli narrative and communicate directly with the public. This will expand the Palestinian narrative and reach a larger audience.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cares about the Palestinian diplomatic work in the world, and knows that strengthening and preserving the Palestinian narrative is an obligatory form of resistance. Therefore, launching a comprehensive process of changing and strengthening Palestinian embassies and representations all over the world has become a duty at this crucial stage. Correct political action must be protected by a diplomacy capable of confronting all other narratives. Therefore, the president must intervene in this and work to launch a comprehensive reform process at all levels in all embassies and representations in the world, starting with the Arab countries, for there is a great danger to the Palestinian narrative.