An Empty Building with a Tattered Flag: Palestinians Have No Voice in Washington

WASHINGTON In January of 2021 Reuters reported on “U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan to work to reopen the Palestinians’ diplomatic mission in Washington.” The office was closed down by then-President Donald Trump almost 25 years to the day after the signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House. The report mentions some of the legal and political hurdles that stand in the way of this plan, many of which were put in place during the Trump administration precisely for the purpose of preventing the mission’s reopening.

No diplomatic status

The Reuters piece referred to the office as a “diplomatic mission;” however, no one in that office enjoyed diplomatic status; it was the PLO office in Washington and not a diplomatic mission. The PLO did not enjoy diplomatic status and although some referred to the head of the mission as “Mr. Ambassador,” he was not an ambassador. Sad to say, the role of the head of the PLO office was in fact little more than that of a punching bag for the television networks.

Since placing the blame for the violence in Palestine squarely on Israel, where it belongs, is not done in the corporate media, every time CNN or one of the other networks needed a Palestinian to blame for Israel’s brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians the PLO representative would be called on. The role also included traveling and speaking at events as the representative of the Palestinian people.

No Palestinian representation

The problem is that the person filling the role of PLO representative in Washington does not represent the Palestinian people. He, or in some cases she, represents the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority does not represent the Palestinian people either.

The Palestinian Authority and its representatives do not represent the millions of Palestinian people who live in the Naqab or Lyd, the Galilee or Jerusalem. Nor does the PA represent the millions of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip or those who live in the Palestinian refugee camps spread across the Arab World. The heads of the PLO missions are representatives of the PLO, which represents the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which represents no one but themselves.

Financial and legal hurdles

According to the Reuters report, “under an anti-terror amendment passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump in 2019, the Palestinians would become liable for $655.5 million in financial penalties against them in U.S. courts if they open an office in the United States.”

This enormous sum of money comes from lawsuits by 11 American families who sought to hold the PA and PLO liable for armed resistance acts between 2002 and 2004 in which several Americans were also killed. It should be noted that in 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider awarding those claims, upholding a lower court ruling that there was no jurisdiction for attacks outside the U.S.

But that is not all. Palestinian political prisoners are referred to by Israel and Zionists around the world as “terrorists.” They receive a stipend from the Palestinian authority so that their families can survive. As the Reuters report correctly states, the Taylor Force Act, passed by Congress in 2018, restricts aid to the Palestinian Authority until it agrees to stop payments to the families of people jailed by Israel. The Act specifically reads:

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.

This is flawed in several ways. First of all, it is ridiculous to assert that a Palestinian, or any individual for that matter, would be incentivized to risk dying or risk imprisonment and torture by Israel just so that their family could receive the miserly allowance from the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the issue of prisoners is one that is dear to the Palestinian people. Palestinians deeply appreciate the enormous sacrifice the prisoners pay. Ending the payments to the families, who often have no other source of income, is plain cruelty.

A flag

A photo of the building on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, which used to house the PLO office, was also included in the Reuters piece.

What is a flag but a piece of colored cloth? The answer to that has to do with the circumstances surrounding the flag. The flag of Israel, for example, represents violence, racism, tyranny, oppression, and apartheid. The Palestinian flag represents resistance to all of that. In the photo in the Reuters piece the Palestinian flag is hanging on the building. However, that was three or four years ago.

Today, the building is empty, and the flag, which still hangs, is in tatters. Was it forgotten or maybe left there by design? Either way, it represents the state of the Palestinian reality. The piece of cloth that still hangs from the building used to have the Palestinian colors and is now a tattered piece of cloth no one cares about. It is symbolic of the situation in Palestine and of how Palestine is viewed in Washington.

The PLO Office in Washington has been closed since 2018.

No one currently represents Palestinian interests in the U.S. capital. There is no discussion on the rights of the millions of Palestinian refugees languishing in camps; there is no discussion on the rights of thousands of Palestinians shot and injured by Israel and left disabled; there is no discussion of the families whose loved ones are dead or injured and have no means of livelihood; there is no discussion on the rights of countless thousands of Palestinians who were tortured by Israel, spent years in Israeli prisons and were left permanently disabled. Finally, there is no serious demand that the United States end its support and impose harsh sanctions on Israel. Sadly, bringing back a representative of the Palestinian Authority will not change that.

Feature photo | The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Nov. 18, 2017. Alex Brandon | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.


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