A group of Palestinian students have occupied the Palestinian embassy in London to demand the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) be restored “as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
“We are at the office of the PLO delegation to the United Kingdom in order to reassert our inalienable rights, and today we claim our right to democratically participate in the shaping of our destiny,” the General Union of Palestinian Students, who organized the protest, said in a statement.
“We begin a national initiative to campaign for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council on the clear understanding that only a reformed national representative institution, that includes the will of all Palestinians, those struggling in the homeland and those struggling in exile, can create a representative Palestinian platform.”
About a dozen students participated in the peaceful sit-in, which began early Thursday afternoon, The Guardian reports.
The sit-in comes after more than 1,600 confidential Palestinian documents of negotiations with Israel from 1999 to 2010 were leaked to the Arab news network Al-Jazeera.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat is said to have offered to accept the return of only a marginal amount of Palestinian refugees who fled at the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and their descendants, now numbering almost five million.
Negotiators also offered Israel almost all of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal, only to see the offer rejected as inadequate, the documents show.
The revelations could undermine Fatah, the ruling Palestinian faction, to the benefit of Hamas and other more radical groups, particularly if Fatah is seen to be acting in Israel’s interests rather than Palestinians’. The Guardian‘s Seumas Milne reports that Palestinian negotiators come off as “weak and increasingly desperate” in the leaked documents.
The General Union of Palestinian Students demanded direct elections to the Palestine National Council to be held in one year, which will include all the people of Palestine “wherever they now live – in the homeland, the shatat, in the prisons, and the camps of refuge.” The group is also calling for the PLO to reform and reactivate institutions “so that they embody the will of the Palestinian people as a whole.”
“We urge all Palestinians at this critical moment to join our call for representation, and to take up our historic responsibility in the struggle for liberation, only on the basis of popular sovereignty,” the group said. “We begin the campaign through our national institutions and our associations, in the spirit of our united love of our homeland and the principles that bind us, to restore our PLO as the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people.”