Tonight I am confused.
I have been in Gaza for five days now and I am having difficulty understanding the 8-day war and the subsequent ceasefire. Let me explain the difficulty I am having. The Israeli Offensive Forces insist they protect civilians in Gaza, only targeting terrorists. They have several methods to protect innocent civilians. One method is to call the civilians on the phone, another method is to drop leaflets telling them to flee for their lives, as an attack is imminent. During the latest offensive, Israeli dropped leaflets in the rural areas telling people to flee to the city. In Gaza City, leaflets were dropped warning people to flee to the rural areas. A new, ingenious method they use to protect civilians is to drop ‘loud, non-lethal bombs’ on a home as a warning for the inhabitants as to what will come. They even have a name for this warning. They call it ‘roof tapping’. Then anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes pass before they bomb the house from F-16’s. These bombs are very large and very lethal. The homes I have seen today have been completely flattened, and the houses around the target are also rendered uninhabitable.
The ‘non-lethal bombs’ penetrate rooftops and can travel through four stories. Children or other civilians sitting under these bombs lose limbs, suffer head trauma, shrapnel wounds, and other injuries. The idea behind these warnings is that inhabitants will flee their homes once they are warned. If elders, small children, newborns, or disabled people are in the home, this can be a difficult endeavor. If a child suffers an amputation, fleeing will take a little more precious time. But lets ignore these complications as they just muddy the waters. I am amazed at the generosity of the Israeli occupiers. You see, they are the “Most moral army in the world,” everyone knows this. The generals and politicians have been saying this for decades!
But this is my consternation. If you are so bent on protecting civilians and killing ‘terrorists’ why warn civilians to leave? Do they think the terrorists, who everyone knows hide behind civilians, will remain behind after the warning?
An even more confounding question remains. Why flatten an empty home?
After the most recent ceasefire agreement, it was stated that farmers would be able to reach their lands in the buffer zone that Israel established after they so generously abandoned their illegal settlements in Gaza. The farmers were thrilled that they would be able to farm on the 300-meter swath of land known as the buffer zone- better known here in Gaza as the no go zone, because if they dared try to access this land they were immediately targeted by Israeli snipers, but I digress.
On Wednesday we accompanied farmers to the buffer zone in Johr el Deek. It was amazing! We walked right up to the razor wire barrier! We watched as 2 Israeli jeeps approached the fence. I was smiling as they got out of their jeeps, but my smile was erased as they lifted their weapons and fired toward us. Of course, they didn’t shoot us, the ceasefire was in effect for an entire week! I was confused though, as they lobbed tear gas canisters at us, and continued firing over our heads as we retreated. Perhaps the soldiers were as confused as I was about the details of the agreement. After all, unfettered access to the land is a little vague. Perhaps the farmers misunderstood.
The fishermen faced a similar dilemma. After the ceasefire was announced, the fishermen were told that Israel, in it’s magnanimity, would allow the fishermen to fish in Gazan waters up to 6 nautical miles from the shore. This was double (yes double!) the limit that has been in effect for the past 6 years. The fishermen were happy. They would have an opportunity to provide for their families. Never mind that the Oslo Accords stated fishermen would have access to 20 nautical miles of the sea. That was way back in 1993. Who could expect agreements so old to be respected now?
The fishermen I spoke with said they had access to the 6-mile limit for two whole days. Two days of fishing without risking their lives to feed their kids! It was great. So I was astonished to learn that on Wednesday, exactly one week after the ceasefire agreement, numerous fishing boats, in waters from 3 nautical miles to 6 nautical miles came under heavy attack by the Israeli Navy. One boat was sunk, 3 boats had their engines destroyed by gunfire, one trawler was confiscated and 9 fishermen were arrested. Of course, the Israeli officers made sure the fishermen stripped and jumped into the sea before they sunk the boat. They were safely in custody on the Israeli gunboat before the Israeli Navy blasted the fishing boat to smithereens.
The fishermen received no warnings. Of course everyone realizes that cell phones don’t work so far from shore and dropping leaflets would be impractical as most of the leaflets would fall into the water. And even I know ‘roof tapping’ at sea would be way too dangerous, as the possibility of harming the civilian fishermen would be high.
The best approach is to simply start firing from hundreds of meters away as the gunboats accelerate toward the fishing trawlers. This gives the fishermen at least 3 minutes to pull up their nets and escape back to port. I am not certain what changed on the third day for these fishermen, but few fish were caught.
We also visited the homes of 2 children who were killed. One was 15 year old, Hassan Jamal Nasser. The other child was 9-year old Fares al-Basyouni. Both were killed in their homes as they slept.
The father of Fares stands near where the shrapnel penetrated his home and decapitated his son
Shrapnel that penetrated the wall decapitated Fares. His father described the horrific scene. ‘We didn’t hear the bombs. We woke to the sound of windows shattering and the house shaking. The house was full of smoke. My daughters and sons were screaming as I moved from room to room to find them.’ Fare’s lifeless torso landed on top of his 14-year old brother, who ran screaming from the house into the night.
I thought this was impossible- didn’t they receive the warnings? Hassan’s cousin Mohammed confirmed leaflets fell from the sky 20 minutes after the attack. So, you see, they were warned.
One thing is certain. Israel has a right to defend itself. President Obama said, ‘There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.’ I agree with this wholeheartedly, who can deny it? I also understand that Israel has to teach its enemies a lesson from time to time, and I imagine the sooner the better. They certainly don’t want the people of Gaza to imagine what it must be like to be free, this would only encourage the terrorists.
So you see my dilemma. What I read in the corporate media and what I hear from my government and Israeli politicians doesn’t quite square with the eyewitness accounts on the ground. Maybe the IOF can drop some leaflets and set me straight.
Johnny Barber Co-coordinates Voices For Creative Nonviolence All photo credits: Johnny Barber
- Gaza man dies after being shot by Israeli troops in Rafah (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army Kidnaps 21 Palestinians In West Bank, Gaza (imemc.org)
- In new violation of ceasefire agreement, Israeli forces arrest 14 fishermen and confiscate 3 fishing boats: number of arrested fishermen increases to 29 and confiscated boats to 9 (palsolidarity.org)
The horrendous reality of the Palestinian communities inside Israel—in places like Akka, Haifa, Nazareth, Yaffa, and the Negev—is not about being regulated to sit in the back of the bus; they could only wish for such blatant racism. Here, the racism is multilayered, ideological, well-camouflaged, state-sponsored, and non-stop. Anyone who thinks that resolving the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would bring peace to the region would be well-advised to peel away the veneer of democratic façade, one that covers an Israeli plan with only one goal in mind: completing the campaign of ethnically cleansing Palestinians that started with the creation of the State of Israel.
Last week, on a beautiful fall day, I sat in a friend’s living room in a village at the northern tip of Israel, adjacent to the Lebanese border, in the part of Israel called the Galilee. This is where the Palestinian citizens of Israel are concentrated. Five generations of Palestinians were sitting in the room. As expected in Palestinian society, within no time, politics was the focus of the discussion. But this political discussion had a different twist from what most of those following this conflict are accustomed. The issues had to do with the Palestinian citizens of Israel and how the Israeli government systematically and structurally discriminates against them.
Bilateral negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, better known as the infamous Oslo Peace Process, began with a slogan (and accompanying actions on the ground) of Gaza and Jericho First. The idea was that the Palestinian Authority, which the Oslo Accords created, would start by being set up in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank city of Jericho, a sort of pilot phase before subsequently deploying to all of the Palestinian areas defined in the Accords. The standing joke at the time was that what Israel, the military occupying power, really meant was Gaza and Jericho Only!
With 20 years of a never-ending “peace process,” Israeli misdirection diverted the world’s attention, including the Palestinian leadership’s, away from the discriminatory workings within Israel itself. As the parties quibbled over who violated the Oslo Agreement first and most, Israel never stopped strangling the Palestinian towns and villages inside it. More recently, even some of the mainstream, international research outfits, such as International Crisis Group (ICG), were forced to take note. Their March 2012 report titled, “Back to Basics: Israel’s Arab Minority and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” stated:
“World attention remains fixed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but a distinct, albeit related, conflict smoulders within Israel itself. It might be no less perilous. Jewish-Arab domestic relations have deteriorated steadily for a decade. More and more, the Jewish majority views the Palestinian minority as subversive, disloyal and – due to its birth rates – a demographic threat. Palestinian citizens are politically marginalised, economically underprivileged, ever more unwilling to accept systemic inequality and ever more willing to confront the status quo.”
That’s researcher-talk for “A slow and calculated campaign of displacing an entire population in broad daylight—world, take note.”
As one travels northward in Israel, a stark reality cannot be ignored. Israel is empty. Most of the lands which comprise the State of Israel, as it is recognized worldwide, are empty of any population. The sad irony is that less than one hour’s drive north of where we were sitting, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, who, since 1948, have been prohibited by Israel from returning to their homes, dwell in squalid refugee camps, waiting for international law and UN resolutions calling for their return home to be respected. Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, a Palestinian researcher with the Palestine Land Society, and a refugee himself, has extensively documented this phenomenon of empty lands in Israel, lands that Palestinian refugees call home. The undeniable fact is that allowing Palestinian refugees to return home would disrupt very little on the ground in Israel. It would, however, threaten the very basis of its existence as an exclusively Jewish state and create a demographic majority of Palestinians—a normal expectation, given that they were the majority in 1948 prior to being expelled.
Another startling realization, when traveling around the Palestinian farming villages in the Galilee, is that the hilltops are dotted with gated, Jewish Israeli communities and Israeli government-declared nature reserves, all creating a physical barrier to the natural growth of the indigenous Palestinian communities. Added to these physical obstructions to Palestinian development, Israeli law provides for another platform, a legal one, whereby hundreds of Israeli communities can keep out Palestinians on cultural grounds. Coming from the occupied territory of the West Bank, these physical obstacles and legal tools looked to me much like the illegal, Jewish-only settlements that surround every Palestinian city. The physical location of both types of these residential colonies is not random, but rather a sharp demographic weapon to interrupt and stunt the growth of the Palestinian communities.
While hearing the tribulations of Palestinian communities in Israel, I was reminded of another jarring fact: Israel detains and arrests Palestinians for their thoughts. One of the persons I was with, a 64-year-old man, was released a few years back after spending two years without charges in an Israeli prison. On my way home, I stopped in Haifa and, while speaking to a new business acquaintance there, he reminded me of another case: Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Christian citizen of Israel and the director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, who, like so many others, is imprisoned in Israeli jails after an unfair trial aimed at striking fear into an entire minority community in Israel. Also, just as in the areas under military occupation, Israel tends an army of collaborators within the Palestinian communities to do their bidding for them.
I wanted to engage more, but had to head back home to the West Bank.
Now that I’m a Palestinian ID holder, which means I have West Bank residency status issued by the Israeli occupation authorities, I can’t be in Israel as a tourist. My U.S. citizenship—my only one—is useless now that I am classified as a West Bank Palestinian in the Israeli government’s eyes. Israel is the only place on earth where I can’t be an American! Thus, my Israeli military-issued permit, which allows me to enter Israel, restricts my movement so that I have to be back by 10 in the evening to what I call my cage, also known as the metropolitan area of Ramallah.
What is now clear to me, and wasn’t when I first arrived here shortly after Oslo, is that the system of command and control, which oppresses over four million Palestinians under military occupation, is strikingly similar to the system which controls over one million Muslim and Christian Palestinians inside Israel.
The Israel goal is to erase Palestinian collective memory, limit Palestinian education, squeeze Palestinian living space, and strangle any serious notion of Palestinian economic enterprise. But Palestinians are not going anywhere. This was confirmed when I asked a law student from this Galilaean village where he plans to be in five years. Without hesitation, he said, “Here, in my village, and not for the next five years, but for the next 10 and 20 and 100 years.”
After hours of deep discussion in that quiet Palestinian village, tucked away in the velvet-like green hills of the Galilee, a Palestinian researcher, who was quiet for most of the time, spoke in a calm, definitive voice. He said that everything we were discussing, in terms of how much harm Israel is doing to Palestinians living in Israel and under military occupation, is true, but in the village, the numbers speak volumes. Over the past 64 years, since Israel’s creation, and despite all of its attempts to force the Palestinians off the land, the population has increased as per official Israeli statistics. As long as the Palestinians exist on this land, he asserted, their rights are bound to be realized.
All the way home, I could not get out of my mind a new political slogan that would reveal the extent of the Palestinian tragedy, The Galilee First. Instead of managing the conflict as if the only contentious issue is about those of us living under Israeli military occupation, the international community, and Palestinian leadership as well, should call for the world to witness the reality of Palestinians inside Israel. If Israel is bent on discriminating against one fifth of its own citizens, what should we expect of it in the occupied territories, areas that are not internationally recognized as Israel? Indeed, the next time I’m asked what I think the solution to this conflict is, my answer will be ready: Let’s start with full equal rights for Palestinians inside Israel. In other words, The Galilee First if Israel is serious about peace and truly desires historic reconciliation with the Palestinians.
- Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant from Youngstown, Ohio, living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He frequently provides independent commentary on Palestine and serves as a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and blogs at http://www.epalestine.com.
Much has been said and written about the Oslo Accords and the Geneva initiative. The signatories claim that these much debated documents in principle opened up new possibilities for ‘cooperation’ between what has for so long seemed to be irreconcilable positions.
Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin, the signatories of the Geneva Initiative, for example, believe that “the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the establishment of two-states.” And, in what sounds like a warning, the latter adds that the window for a two-state solution will not be available indefinitely and Israel will be forced to deal with the “demographic threat” imposed on it by the Palestinians in historic Palestine.
This article, on the contrary, maintains that the two-state solution under present conditions denies the possibility of real coexistence based on equality. This is because both the Geneva document and the Oslo accords accept the Zionist consensus and, for the first time in the history of the conflict, seek to legitimize Israel as a Jewish state in historic Palestine.
In both of these documents, therefore, Israel would appear to have been confirmed as the “state of all the Jews” and never “the state of all of its citizens”. The logic of separation implicit in these documents implies some fundamental contradictions and begs certain serious questions.
The Accord and the Initiative have legitimated apartheid. Both documents include a language that is, euphemistically, reminiscent of the series of laws known collectively as the Group Areas Act which forced the relocation of millions of non-white South Africans into racially-specific ghettos. It was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas.
Like in Apartheid South Africa, where the most developed areas were reserved for the white people, and 84 percent of the available land was granted to the same racial group, who made up only 15 percent of the total population, in Palestine even the 22 percent of the historic land on which an ‘independent state’ is supposed to be declared is, according to the Oslo accords, “disputed”.
In the South African case, the 16 percent of remaining land was then occupied by 80 percent of the population. But contrary to the Palestinian case, that was never given legitimacy by the leadership of the indigenous population.
How can you call for the implementation of Security Council resolutions asserting the right of return of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees to their lands in Israel, and at the same time maintain the exclusively Jewish nature of the state? To be fair, this contradiction also appears in the literature of the Palestinian Resistance Movement. Both Hamas and the PLO also fail to answer this question. Moreover, how does this solution solve the problem of racism and cultural oppression of the marginalized Palestinian citizens of Israel?
Furthermore, is the establishment of an independent state as the solution to the Palestinian problem even possible?
No Israeli position supports full statehood
The argument of Beilin and Abed Rabbo, and even that of the leadership of the PA, is that only negotiations can solve the problem. For ten years negotiations have not moved the Israeli position at all; the Camp David negotiations reached the impasse predicted by both the Palestinian left and the ant-Zionist Israeli left. Ehud Barak’s red lines in 1999, are now very well-known, and Netanyahu’s platform leads to nothing more than a canton for native Palestinians.
Of course Avigdor Lieberman’s advocacy of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine has won him more seats in the Knesset. Add to this the fact that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not mentioned in any of the clauses of the Oslo agreement, thus leaving the matter to be determined by the balance of power in the region. This balance tilts in favor of Israel, which rejects the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, in spite of its recognition of the PLO.
No Israeli party, neither Labor nor Likud, is ready to accept a Palestinian state as the expression of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination as defined by international law.
The Labor Party is prepared to negotiate with the Palestinians in order to give them an advanced form of self-rule that will be called a state, and through which the Palestinians will be enabled to possess certain selected features of ‘independence,’ such as a Palestinian flag, a national anthem, and a police force. Nothing more. This was Barak’s ‘generous’ offer in Camp David.
The Likud Party, on the other hand, is not prepared to give the Palestinians even these semblances of self-rule. Their vision of the future is rather that the Palestinians should be allowed to run their own affairs under strict and binding Israeli control.
Turning the blame
And lately, in a bizarre, ironic twist, Palestinians have been blamed for killing the two-state solution. Right-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris has given up on finding a solution to “the conflict… mainly due to the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of a solution of two states for two peoples.”
This is not unlike saying that blacks of South Africa are to blame for killing the Bantusan system. And they should be punished. “In the end, both sides of the Palestinian movement, the fundamentalists led by Hamas and the secular bloc led by Fatah, are interested in Muslim rule over all of Palestine, with no Jewish state and no partition.” And Palestinian leadership, according to Morris, “has no desire or intention of reaching a solution of two states for two peoples.”
The two- state solution is dead because “the Palestinian leadership and people will not be satisfied with 20 percent of the territory of Palestine. A state composed of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem will not satisfy them,” Morris says.
And when asked about the right of return, Morris claims that it “essentially requires the destruction of the Jewish state… the Palestinian discourse and the Palestinian objectives have not changed, and their actions, i.e. terror…”. It is Palestinians that are to blame because “[the] demonization is not equal on the two sides. In the Israeli education system, in general, there is no demonization of the Arab, [whereas,] there, the Jews are completely demonized. The Palestinian authorities are busy deeply implanting the demonization. The Palestinian people think we can be made extinct. We don’t think that about the Palestinians.”
The problem for Morris is that “[aside] from revenge, the Palestinians have absolute faith in the justice of their side, which derives in part from religious faith. What God commands, and what his interpreters on Earth say that God commands, is the definite truth. While the Jews are much more skeptical about this sort of interpretation, the Palestinians feel that justice is on their side and that God doesn’t want the Holy Land to be shared with another people….”. Edward Said and Frantz Fanon must be turning in their graves.
But facts on the ground tell another story. Settlement activity in the West Bank continues, as does the confiscation of land and the opening of zigzag roads to service the settlements. Notably, the number of Jewish settlers has risen from 193,000, when the Oslo Accords were signed, to 600,000. No Israeli government has ever been willing to commit itself to the complete evacuation of settlers from the West Bank.
Yet this is a basic pre-condition for the creation of an ‘independent Palestinian state’ impossible in light of Israel’s commitment to the settlers. In order to guarantee the security of the settlements and ensure their future development, Israel is bound to control the greater part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, in any future contingency it is certain that Israel will invoke its security needs to justify tightening its control over the Jordan Valley, thus, again, rendering the project of an independent Palestinian state impossible.
Jerusalem has suffered and is still suffering from the continuation of settlement activity, the building and expansion of Jewish neighborhoods, the confiscation of Jerusalem IDs, ethnic cleansing, and the policy of ‘facts on the ground’ which leave no room for future Palestinian control over the city.
In addition, Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are experiencing increasing difficulties especially in places like Lebanon and Syria, and are waiting for the day to return to Palestine and to be compensated for their confiscated property. This is a right guaranteed by UN resolution 194.
Meanwhile the Palestinian community in Israel is prevented from coexisting on an equal footing with Israeli Jews. Israel’s state policy against its Palestinian citizens amounts to Apartheid as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and ratified by United Nations General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. Needless to say, the PA does not represent either of those two large segments of the Palestinian people.
Defending a two-state solution is, therefore, an insult to the memory of those who fought for equality and justice not only in Palestine, but also in the American South and South Africa.
Thus we come to the inevitable conclusion that a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is, for the reasons mentioned above, unattainable. The question, therefore, is whether there is an alternative solution?
One alternative increasingly to be found in the writings and pronouncements of certain Palestinian intellectuals and activists is the idea of a secular-democratic state in Mandate Palestine in which all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion, race or sex.
A secular, democratic state is one inhabited by its citizens and governed on the basis of equality and parity both between the individuals as citizens and between groups which have cultural identities. Inherent in such an arrangement is the condition that the groups living there are enabled to coexist and to develop on an equal basis.
This is summed up in Nelson Mandela’s last words at the end of his four hour statement to the court at the Rivonia Trial: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
This system is proposed here as a long-term solution that will need much nurturing, following the political demise of the project of an ‘independent Palestinian state’ as a result of the Oslo Accords, the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the occupation of the West Bank. The establishment of four Bantusans in South Africa was considered by the International Community to constitute a racist solution that could not and should not be entertained.
In order to bring that inhumane solution to an end, the Apartheid regime was boycotted academically, culturally, diplomatically and economically until it succumbed and crumbled into pieces. Nothing remains of the old ethnically cleansed South Africa or the impoverished Bantusans it had created; not the red carpets, nor the national anthems, or the security apparatuses.
This is what racist solutions come to; a corner in the dustbin of history — a museum for the gaze of new generations.
Haidar Eid is an independent political commentator and professor in the department of English literature at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
- The Lede Blog: Mitt Romney’s No-State Solution (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Palestinians need a one-state solution | Ghada Karmi (guardian.co.uk)
- notes on Palestine’s preventable water and food crises (altahrir.wordpress.com)
[revised from an earlier version in 2009]
Today, there is no excuse for not knowing the truth about Palestine. Even taking the disinformation spread in mainstream media, there are enough glimpses one gets of an oppressed people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem that should compel us to ask questions. This has been considerably aided by the internet. Where once Israel could manipulate the media narrative, now millions can see videos and read witness accounts of Israel’s occupation in all its terrifying ugliness. Global initiatives, like the daring Free Gaza flotillas, force the mainstream media to report this news, however fleetingly. Consequently, people want to see for themselves what is happening in Palestine and come back with stories that have shaken them to the very core of their being.
Stories of endless queues of people at checkpoints waiting for permission from armed soldiers who decide if they should pass; devastated families making sense of the rubble that was once their homes as Israeli bulldozers move on to the next calculated demolition; heartbroken farmers grieving over their centuries-old uprooted olive trees and scorched earth orchards; already traumatised children wondering if the next missile or bomb will this time wipe out their families or friends; terrified citizens waiting for the sound of army squads coming to arrest who knows who in the early hours of the morning; and the shadow of that rapacious Wall darkening the landscape even as it closes off the world to the Palestinians it imprisons.
And these are only the obvious signs of Israel’s apartheid plans as it moves to cement an exclusively Jewish state in a land that is home to almost an equal number of Palestinians and millions more in exile waiting to return home.
The alarm bells should be ringing when this information filters through, and yet there is a wall of silence while our political leaders declare undying fealty to Israel or cavalierly wear it as a badge of honour or indulge in junkets to Israel. And those bells should be all the more alarming, when documented reports of Israel’s war crimes by human rights groups and official enquiries are virulently attacked and then ignored.
But the world lacks courage. People are terrified of being labelled anti-Semitic. Even Palestinians, who are themselves Semites, are often afraid of being further shunned and disadvantaged in countries that give them refuge. Not only do people fear repercussions, but speaking the truth or even just hearing it has a way of taking people out of their comfort zones. They fear their troubled consciences may require them to act and so they bury their heads deeper into the sand where they hope even the sounds of silence might be extinguished.
This then is the challenge for advocates the world over. How does one talk Palestine to power if one cannot even talk Palestine to the people who are in fear of the powerful?
In the face of Zionist saturation media and the new “Brand Israel” campaigns, many people wanting to advocate for Palestine might feel defeated, but time and again we see that the individual talking truth to power can be enormously effective.
The now deceased scholar and public intellectual Edward Said, showed more than anyone else that individuals can make a difference in the public defence of Palestine. He particularly saw the intellectual’s voice as having “resonance”. In fact, it is so powerful that intellectuals have been subjected to all kinds of vicious campaigns against their persons and positions for speaking up for Palestine, just as Said was himself.
Of course, one does not need to be an intellectual. Said’s words can just as aptly apply to any one of us. He said avoidance was “reprehensible” and described it as,
“that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming too controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is . . . to remain within the responsible mainstream . . .”
As an intellectual, Said had his academic record, his professional standing, his research and his publications to give weight to his pronouncements, but it took no less courage than it would for anyone else to challenge the accepted paradigm. The challenge arises out of knowing the truth; the courage arises out of a commitment to principle in the face of collective condemnation. This is just as true against the Zionist barrage of lies as it is against convenient explanations mounted by those who accommodate the powers that be for their own ends.
In 1993 when almost everyone else thought the handshakes on the White House steps would seal the negotiated Oslo Accords and at long last give the Palestinians their freedom and bring peace to the region, Edward Said saw that these accords would merely provide the cover for Israel to pursue its colonial expansionism and consolidate its occupation of Palestine. However, he knew to criticise Oslo meant in effect taking a position against ‘hope’ and ‘peace’. His decision to do so also flew in the face of the Palestinian revolutionary leadership that had bartered for statehood.
Although Said was denounced for his views, he was not prepared to buy into the deception that he knew would leave the Palestinians with neither hope nor peace. And just as he predicted, each fruitless year of peacemaking finally exposed the horrible reality of Oslo as Palestinians found themselves the victims of Israel’s matrix of control, a term used to describe the situation by the Israeli activist Dr Jeff Halper in 1999. And this domination of one people over another without any intention of addressing the injustices of the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, has undeniably reduced Israel to an Apartheid state.
The Palestinians have nothing left worth calling a state and they are facing an existential threat on all fronts. Yet, intellectuals are still talking about a two state solution in lock step with the politicians, a mantra that is repeated uncritically, even mendaciously, in the mainstream media. Media pundits argue that it is Israel facing an existential threat, but it is becoming evident every day, that against Israel, which is armed to the teeth with nuclear and conventional weaponry, the Palestinians do not stand a chance. They have never had an army and have no acceptable means to fight off their own ongoing dispossession and occupation of their homeland. It is no wonder the two state solution became the panacea to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
This pandering to an idea for twenty long years has been undermined by the furious sounds of drills and hammers reverberating in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the catastrophic societal ruptures engineered in Gaza. Now those sounds are muffled by the rhetoric of “economic peace”, “institution-building”, “democracy”, “internal security” and “statehood”. These words must be challenged at every opportunity, for they are not only words, but dangerous concepts when isolated from truth on the ground.
It is no use talking about “economic peace” if you fail to understand that industrial estates built for Palestinian workers are intended to provide Israel with slave labour and cheap goods. It is useless to support “institution-building” when Israel continues to undermine and obstruct those programs already struggling to service Palestinian society. It is a lie to speak of “democracy” when fair elections in 2006 had Israel and the world denying Hamas the right to govern. It is a charade to accept “internal security” when arming and training Palestinians to police their own people covers for Israel’s and America’s divide and conquer scheme. It is hollow to speak of “statehood” when Israel keeps stealing land and building illegal settlements that deprive the Palestinians of their homes and livelihoods while herding them into isolated and walled-in ghettoes.
Regrettably, Edward Said was proved right.
Now, it is our turn to speak the truth and act fearlessly, regardless of the censure we are likely to encounter. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is believed to have said that truth passes through three stages: “first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Today, we are at the third stage: the 11 million Palestinians, whether living under occupation, as second-class citizens in Israel, as stateless refugees or others in the Diaspora, are the living truth. That is Israel’s Achilles’ heel and Israel knows it.
The Palestinians are no longer the humble shepherds and farmers that Zionist forces terrorised into fleeing to make way for the Jewish state of Israel. A new generation wants justice and it is demanding it eloquently, non-violently and strategically. Their message: no normal relations with Israel while it oppresses Palestinians, denies their rights and violates international law. And boycotts, divestment and sanctions are the legitimate tools for challenging a state that claims exceptionalism and which perpetrates extreme and criminal actions to ensure that status.
People, of course, are always tempted to opt for the path of least resistance, especially when they simply cannot empathise with those who have been so successfully misrepresented and demonised by the Western media. However, the world is changing, and slowly people are realising that they too are vulnerable as Western societies begin to crumble under the weight of government power, which is burgeoning out of control without any checks or balances. Universal human rights and principles of international humanitarian law that once were the mainstay of our democracies have been cast aside in the stampede to fight the “war on terror” and few have been brave enough to challenge the current system.
It is indeed possible for all of us to “squeeze out of reality some of its potentialities”, the stuff that University of Melbourne Professor Ghassan Hage says is found in those utopic moments that come from challenging our own thoughts, fears and biases. In that space lies the untapped power we seek to speak the truth without fear or favour. In that space lies the potential for political change. In that space, there will always be those who resist and speak Palestine to power.
 Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual. London: Vintage, 1994, p74
 Jeff Halper, “The 94 Percent Solution: The Matrix of Control”, Fall 2000, Middle East Report 216
 Ghassan Hage, “The Real, the Potential and the Political”, an essay presented at the 2004 Res Artis Conference, Sydney, 10-16 August 2004
- US threatens to cut all aid to Palestinian Authority (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- What Really Lies behind Israel’s ‘No Occupation’ Report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli school books write out Palestinian, Arab story (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Israel occupying Palestine is against Christianity’ (thehindu.com)
- The Palestinians Must Just Be (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Palestinian village of Susiya faces demolition orders for all of its 50 buildings after years of relative calm. The decision was contested with official and physical protests.
On the June 12 Israeli authorities told the villagers of Susya, a Palestinian village in the south Hebron hills, that the hamlet will be completely demolished, says news agency Ma’an. The demolition orders were preceded a week earlier by the prohibition of new construction in the village. The demolition is on behalf of a petition presented by a settler group who would like to exploit the village for itself.
The orders, which include the demolition of homes, a social center, a solar generator, and a health clinic, resulted in an official condemnation from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nearly 200 international protesters went to Susiya on June 22 to support the residents and contest the planned demolitions, reports the Palestinian News Network. Israeli forces stopped the demonstrators’ march using stun grenades and tear gas.
Demolition is nothing new Susiya, the village is neighbored by an Israeli settlement built on village lands. Israel declared the area an archeological site in the 1980s. In 1986 most of the Palesitian villagers were forced to the outskirts of their land. In 1999 the entire village was evacuated by the Israeli military before some residents were granted a temporary permission to return by the Israeli High Court.
Susiya is, under the Oslo Accords of 1993, defined as “Area C” and is in full Israeli control. During the last decade Israel has used this authority to expand settlements near Susiya and throughout Area C at the expense of Palestinians, who often see their villages and lands gradually and forcefully taken over.
Israel has ignored all domestic and international calls to stop the expansion of settlements despite having been found in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and various other binding international legal agreements in hundreds of cases.
- Susiya: Another Casualty of Israeli Occupation? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces order Hebron village demolished after settler case (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s decision to demolish a Palestinian village in Hebron (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are likely to visit a West Bank tomb in the coming year, after a Jerusalem court awarded two rabbis legal and administrative control over it in contravention of international law.
Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus is in the part of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords assigned to full Palestinian control.
Consequently, the Israel Defense Forces officially have no jurisdiction in the area and any Israeli involvement there is illegal.
However Israeli court judge Rabbi Haim Rosenthal ruled that rabbis Shlomo Ben-Shimon and Mordechai Gross, who head the settler organization Shechem Ehad (One Nablus), are the “representatives entitled to appear, legally and publicly, before any court or institution on matters connected to” the tomb, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The court granted the two rabbis sole control over the area for the next 18 months, after which it will review the decision.
Currently over 20,000 Jews visit the tomb a year, as it is open from midnight to 4am once a month, but the decision could see that number increase to hundreds of thousands.
In their application, the two rabbis argued that the 20,000 limit “doesn’t at all satisfy the enormous demand.”
The court had previously refused the request, and the decision will be seen as yet another abuse of Palestinian autonomy.
The decision is likely to enrage Palestinians who already suffer an ongoing occupation of the West Bank.
Netanel Shnir, another key figure in Shechem Ehad, was quoted in November 2010 as saying that the ultimate goal of the group was to get Jews to return to Nablus “to settle there and inherit the land.”
Israel continues to encourage the development of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, despite condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, and rights groups.
The Jewish state refuses to accept Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank, maintaining an illegal occupation in the area while upholding a siege on Gaza.
- Jewish settlers attack village, block Nablus road (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The current leaders of the West Bank Palestinians are physically, politically and financially taken hostages by the Oslo agreements that they negotiated, signed and promoted. Oslo City was the venue of the secret Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace agreement.’ Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat signed the agreement’s ‘Declaration of Principles’ on the lawns of the White House, hosted by US President Clinton on Sep 13, 1993. Arafat who sold Oslo to his people as ‘the peace of the brave’ was jailed in his Ramallah headquarters and he allegedly was executed by his Israeli Oslo partners after fulfilling his role in recognizing the State of Israel.
The Palestinian Oslo negotiators promised their people that Oslo was a plan to create an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza while some senior PLO members rejected the agreements and many Palestinian intellectuals and foreign observers concluded that Oslo would lead the Palestinians to nowhere. Edward Said, Palestine’s most prominent intellectual, criticized the agreement because it had not addressed the refugees and Jerusalem questions. Edward Said was ridiculed by members of the Oslo team and his books were banned in the West Bank and Gaza by orders from Arafat as a retaliation measure.
It was a common knowledge that Israel had absolutely no intention of conceding Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugee right of return, but the two issues were shelved by Oslo agreements until the so-called “final status talks” which was nothing but a fig leaf to surrender to Israel the most important issues. The UN Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948 affirmed the right of Palestinian refugees who had fled or had been expelled during the war to return to their homes. Resolution 194, a direct application of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was adopted by the United Nations unanimously in 1948. After signing Oslo agreements, the US Administration under President Clinton that was the main sponsor of Oslo argued at the UN, that past UN resolutions on Palestine were “obsolete and anachronistic” after the signing of Oslo.
The American journalist Tomas Friedman who is known for his pro-Israel writings described Arafat’s letter to Rabin recognizing Israel as a humiliation for Arafat and the PLO and an Israeli decisive victory over the Palestinian national movement. He wrote that the letter was “not a statement of recognition. It is a letter of surrender, a type-written white flag in which the PLO chairman renounced every political position on Israel he has held since the PLO’s foundation in 1964.” Arafat’s letter to Rabin promised to assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance with Oslo agreements; prevent violations and discipline violators; and declared inoperative all the articles in the Palestinian Covenant which denied Israel’s right to exist.
The Israeli journalist Danny Rubenstein predicted at the time of Oslo signing and the establishment of the Palestine Authority (PA) that the “autonomy” which the Israelis accepted for the Palestinians was the autonomy “of a POW camp, where the prisoners are autonomous to cook their meals without interference and to organize cultural events.”
On August 8, 1995, the Financial Times was dismayed that the unfair pattern of water seizure by Israel had not been changed years after Oslo agreements: “Nothing symbolizes the inequality of water consumption more than the fresh green lawns, irrigated flower beds, blooming gardens and swimming pools of Jewish settlements in the West Bank”, while nearby Palestinian villages were denied the right to drill wells.
After giving Oslo team the benefit of the doubt, the Palestinian leader, Haidar Abdel-Shafi concluded that Oslo agreements and the PA would fail the Palestinian national cause. For those who do not know, Haidar Abdel-Shafi was the head of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington that was boycotted by Israel for insisting on having a commitment by Israel to withdraw from East Jerusalem and dismantling the settlements as part of any acceptable interim agreements. Israel chose to negotiate with Oslo team which agreed to Israel’s demand to leave Jerusalem, the refugees and the settlements issues until the “final status talk” of the negotiations.
The Oslo agreements partitioned the occupied lands into zones where the Palestinian Authority is allowed to have different administrative and security powers. Besides the towns and malls and highways built on Palestinian lands in the West Bank and Jerusalem for Jews only, there are many other visible failures of Oslo agreements. Oslo gave Israel the power to divide the Palestinians into groups with different gradation of legal statuses and different security regimes depending on where they live. There are the Israeli Palestinians, Jerusalem Palestinians, Palestinians who reside between the apartheid wall and the green line, Palestinians in zone A or B or C, Gaza Strip Palestinians, the 1948 refugees, the 1967 refugees and the Palestinians who came with Arafat from Tunisia.
The Oslo team in the West Bank still believes the Palestinian issue is a border dispute between two states, but the facts on the ground suggest the Palestinians’ struggle today is existential. The Israelis including the left have adopted the theology of the rabbis that calls for Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians to be based on “Jewish history”, Jewish ethnicity and Jewish religion. The Israelis perceive the settlements, especially in Jerusalem, as an integral part of their national heritage closely tied to the Jews “glorious past.” Some Israelis liken the Palestinians to the biblical Philistines or Amalek, a nation that, in the Torah, “God Commands” the Israelites to “expunge!!” Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba settlement wrote in 2009: “We must cleanse the country of Arabs and resettle them where they came from, if necessary by paying.” Due to the military training indoctrination and religious beliefs, the attitude of the Israeli young generation toward the Palestinians is more radical than their parents.
The news from Israel suggests the right-wing government is popular and if a new parliamentary election takes place today, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party will be a winner. As long as the majority of the Israeli people support the ethno-security regime and do not pay the cost of occupation, the status quo in the occupied lands will continue. Due to its success in ruling the West Bank Palestinian population through the proxy of the Palestinian Authority that is financed by the donor countries and the siege of Gaza, Israel does not feel a need for making any concession to the Palestinians as long as the Oslo team controls the Palestinian population. The Israelis believe they can manage the conflict until the Palestinians are ready to settle the conflict on Israel’s own terms.
The Israeli architect of Oslo, Yossi Beilin, wrote a letter dated April 4, 2012 to his Palestinian Oslo partner, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the president of the Palestinian Authority. The letter stated that the Oslo agreements were based on “the Beilin-Abu Mazen talks” and described the agreements as “a process that promised to lead to a partition of the land in a few years [not the withdrawal from the occupied lands] ……and a fitting symbolic and economic resolution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees [not according to the UN resolution 194].” Beilin reminded Abbas that the PA was an interim phase of the agreement and “One simply cannot continue with an interim agreement for more than 20 years.” Beilin’s letter suggests that if the PA is not dissolved after two decades of signing the Oslo agreements the territory administered by the PA will become the de facto Palestinian state.
The Oslo team has failed to deliver on its promises to establish an independent Palestinian state. Under Oslo team leadership, the vast majority of the Palestinians in the occupied lands are poor, living on donors’ handouts, fearing the confiscation of their land, subjected to ethnic cleansing, family separation and home demolition. They experience daily humiliation creeping for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to them by the Israelis. The Palestinians are living under military rule in disconnected enclaves, surrounded by sprawling massive Jewish settlements, Jewish only roads, and the separation wall; or they are living in the besieged Gaza and millions are left homeless without citizenship in refugee camps.
Due to their failed policies, the Oslo team has disqualified themselves politically and legally from leading their people. Time has come to declare the Oslo “peace process” over and allow a new leadership that thinks differently to step in. The new team should reject imposing Jewish hegemonic conceptions on the millions of Palestinians as individuals or groups. They should demand equality within the framework of one state over all historical Palestine.
- Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
- Time for a change! (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff Halper (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- What Marwan Barghouti Really Means to Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
GAZA — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) detained five Palestinian fishermen to the west of Gaza harbor on Sunday morning, fishermen syndicate chairman said.
Nizar Ayash told the PIC that Israeli navy boats intercepted the fishing boat of the Shurafi family less than two nautical miles off the Gaza coast, which is a permissible area according to the Oslo accords.
He said that the fishermen are three brothers and two of their cousins, charging the Israeli occupation authority with fighting the Palestinian fishermen in their sustenance.
Ayash noted that the Israeli navy more often than not detains the fishermen for a while then returns them without their fishing kit with the sole goal of humiliating those fishermen and breaking their will.
The chairman said that his syndicate addressed messages to various world powers and institutions to check the Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen but to no avail.
He said that the Oslo accords allow fishing at a distance of 20 nautical miles but the Israeli navy does not implement that article.
- Israeli gunboats fire at Palestinian fishing boats, destroy one – Video by @rosa_schiano (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Weekly: Israel’s Army Carries Out 81 Invasions In W. Bank, 1 in Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)