Tag Archives: Apartheid

One Country – A Bold Proposal To End The Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

By Ali Abunimah (2006)

One Country

“Crazy!” my Jewish friends and family might say, but this small book (a quick read in two nights) spells out a very strong argument for ending the status quo in Israel-Palestine which few think is good for anyone.

This might have been “bold” in 2006 but the one-state idea has received much more attention in recent years.

The status quo isn’t working for anyone.

Israeli Jews live in constant fear of the “other” and discomfort that the realities of the occupation don’t match up with their religious ideals of justice, fairness and טוֹב.

Palestinians live under the daily grind and humiliation of the occupation, the unrelenting violence and death, the brutal treatment at the hands of the “other”.

The exalted two-state plan has been the ostensible goal of the international community and U.S. Administrations for decades. Presumably, Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” envisions two states. But that idea is dead and it’s time for a formal burial.

For most observers familiar with the “facts on the ground” and the rapid settlement expansion on Palestinian territory in recent years, the notion of two states existing side-by-side evaporated 10-15 years ago.  But then what?

Ali Abunimah (a Palestinian-American) proposes urgent action on two fronts: dialogue and resistance. “One is in the realm of dialogue, imagination, and construction of an inclusive vision,” Abunimah says.  “At the same time, there is a pressing need for resistance to the outcome Israel is trying to impose on the Palestinians, one that can only lead to greater bloodshed and suffering on all sides. These appear to be contradictory mandates, but they mist go hand in hand.”

Ali-Abunimah

Ali Abunimah – author

Chapter One, An Impossible Partition, is a good history lesson for anyone who needs a refresher.  I would add, ten years after the book was written, that Special Rapporteur S. Michael Lynk has recently called for the international community to recognize the prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories as unlawful under international law, a fairly new development which adds more fuel to Abunimah’s call for dialogue about alternatives.

Chapter Two, “The State of Israel is Coming to an End” focuses on the demographic realities which pose an insurmountable hurdle for Israel to remain as a democratic Jewish state.

In 2004, Professor Arnon Soffer, chair of geostrategic studies at the University of Haifa, predicted that by 2020 there would be 6.3 million Jews and 8.8 million Palestinians due to the high Palestinian birth rate. Sergio Della Pergola, a demographer at the Hebrew University, noted that even using the lowest possible credible estimates for the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, the trends are “incontestable” : Within a few years Palestinians will form a clear majority.

Israeli planners and government officials have been engaged in all sorts of contortions to redraw the lines of Jerusalem proper to grab as much land with as few Arabs as possible to address this demographic challenge.    EastJerusalemMap

Chapter Three, It Could Happen Here is a chilling warning. Many might turn away and prefer not to look, just as many Germans did in the 1930s. Israeli Professor Zeev Sternhell, a world specialist on fascism, who headed the Dept. of Political Science at Hebrew University, puts it best in his op-ed in Haaretz on January 19, 2018. “In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism“.  In the very same issue, Jeff Halper, an Israeli-American Jew, shares his opinion.  “The ‘Two-state Solution’ Only Ever Meant a Big Israel Ruling Over a Palestinian Bantustan. Let It Go.”

Chapter Four, A United, Democratic State in Palestine-Israel sketches out with broad strokes what a One State might look like, reminding the reader that this isn’t the first time in world history where different ethnic and religious communities came together as one. In fact, the idea isn’t even a new one for the Zionists and Palestinians. And Belgium offers some lessons.

Chapter Five, Learning from South Africa provides some comparisons between Israel-Palestine and apartheid South Africa. Israelis today will bristle at the mention of the two in the same breadth, but there’s no denying the similarities.  Although South Africa still has a long way to go, they have already come far in dismantling the apartheid regime that priviledged the white Afrikaners and treated the black Africans as subhuman.  What did it take for the Afrikaners to give up power? What will it take to get the Zionists to give up their power? Abunimah says the whites were able to dismount without being devoured because the ANC was ready with a vision that allowed them to do so. The Palestinians must begin providing a vision of one country with equal rights for all — Jews and Palestinians.

Living in what amounts to a self-contained moral universe in which the victors are the permanent victims and the “others” are invisible except as a threat allows Israel — as with apartheid South Africa — to justify to itself almost any measure.

Chapter Six, Israelis and Palestinians Thinking the Unthinkable 

Meron Benvenisti, an Israeli geographer and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, predicted more than twenty years ago that eventually Israel would be faced with the choice between extremist solutions to maintain its exclusivist “Jewish character” or binationalism.

Palestinians do not have the political or material strength to stop the settlements and walls that have rendered a two-state solution unworkable. But Israel’s might is useless in a struggle that is not about winning territory but securing democratic rights for all.

The PLO and its older leadership never appreciated the need to build international support; they were/are more concerned about statecraft and setting up embassies in foreign countries, and gaining recognition in the halls of power. But the younger Palestinians, both in Palestine and the diaspora, aren’t waiting. They are eagerly building the international connections and solidarity with people around the globe. That might explain why the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is spreading so rapidly, and why Israel is responding so harshly to BDS supporters.

Ali Abunimah’s book might have been ahead of its time, but it’s very important reading right now, today. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

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Gideon Levy: Americans “Are Supporting the First Signs of Fascism in Israel”

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“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

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So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

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The Choir Cheers

Josh Ruebner ended his talk Wednesday with a standing ovation from the 50-75 members of the choir who showed up at the Mennonite Church in Albuquerque.

Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner

He was in town to promote his new book — Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books 2013). He certainly has the cred to speak and write about this topic. He’s the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and before that was an Analyst in the Middle East Affairs at the Congressional Research Service. And former President Jimmy Carter attended Josh’s High School graduation! (Carter’s grandson was a classmate.)

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By the nods throughout the room, Ruebner clearly had a friendly audience. They were probably well-informed about the atrocities that Israel perpetrated in Gaza this summer. No need to recite the facts, although Ruebner shared many.

Did you know that Israel killed 500 children in just 51 days in Gaza — more than the # of all Israelis killed by Palestinians in the past 10 years?

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Israel demolished more than 18,000 houses in Gaza this summer, leaving about 6% of the population homeless. By way of comparison, if the City of Albuquerque was occupied and the occupier made 6% of us homeless, approximately 33,000 of my neighbors would be on the streets.

The Israel Defense Forces (more appropriately the Israel Offense Forces or Israel Occupation Forces) knocked out the sole power plant in the Gaza Strip; with no power there is no sewage treatment plant and more than 15,000 tons of raw sewage was flowing onto the streets in Gaza. Some estimate it will take $7.8 Billion to rebuild Gaza, less than 3 years of U.S. military aid to Israel. Ruebner believes Americans owe Palestinians compensation because our active support of Israel enables these atrocities to occur. I agree.

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What was the U.S. response to Israel’s acts of aggression (aka massacres) in Gaza this summer? President Obama called it “self-defense” but what about Palestinians’ right to self-defense? When a reporter posed that same question to a State Department spokeswoman, she said the “idea was offensive.” Secretary Kerry labeled Israel’s actions “appropriate” and “legitimate” . . . this from the man who was trying to be an honest broker between the parties in the peace negotiations last year! And members of Congress passed resolutions cheering Israel’s attacks and condemning Hamas and its use of human shields. Obviously, Congress was a bit misinformed. There’s no evidence that Hamas or anyone else on that side used human shields, but there’s clear evidence that the IDF used a Palestinian teenager as a human shield for 5 days to search for tunnels.

Obama can’t say he’s concerned about civilian casualties and then turn around and re-arm the aggressor (Israel) when its stockpile of weapons runs low.

Ruebner has been criticized for picking on Obama, but he says Obama has perpetuated the failed policies of past Presidents and is fair game.

The type of brutality the world saw in Gaza this past summer is not new. We’ve seen it before — in 1948, 1982 and 2008-2009. Israeli politicians are demanding Netanyahu finish what was begun in 1948 with the ethnic cleansing and destruction  of 531 Palestinian towns and villages.

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Why did Kerry’s “so-called” peace negotiations fail? We must buy Ruebner’s book to get that scoop, but he pointed to this article in the New Republic, an expose about why the negotiations fell apart. Palestinians understand the big picture, Ruebner said, and they know they’ll never get a fair shake. What Israel and the U.S. are trying to do is impose “bantustans” South Africa-style on the Palestinians. Why are Israel and the U.S. surprised when the Palestinians reject this idea?

Ruebner says we’re seeing the end of this paradigm of imposing bantustans in Palestine. Israel can go down 1 of 2 paths in the next few years. The first, with a Knesset member calling this summer for the genocide of the Palestinians, what we witnessed in July/August could be the prelude to something much worse.

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However, there’s a more hopeful path — ending Apartheid and recognizing Palestinian human rights. Ruebner says the time has come for getting into the faces of our politicians. We must make them understand these two paths. At this point, Ruebner circulated a petition around the room calling on Obama to hold Israel accountable. The BDS movement (economic, cultural and academic) must be our rallying cry because Palestinians say they want our help to “lift the boot of oppression from their necks.”  The occupation and system of oppression could “topple in a blink of an eye.”

He finished to a rousing standing ovation and then took questions. The audience was engaged and wanted to know more. Questions about the Palestinians going to the ICC and how the military industrial complex in the U.S. and Israel are intermeshed (check this out). Ruebner said that the only demographic in the United States that supported Israel’s assault on Gaza this summer were the older, white, male, Republicans.

Watching the Presbyterians debate BDS this summer was amazing. While the vote passed by only a slim margin, no one stood up to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. Instead, they argued the efficacy of the BDS movement.

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Another bit of good news. The Jewish Voices for Peace email list jumped to more than 200,000 this summer. Every time Israel attacks Gaza and the Palestinians, Israel loses American support.

Ruebner concluded with an observation. Both Israel and the U.S. are immature states that haven’t been able to own up to their enslavement and killing of the indigenous people. When are we going to own up to our responsibility to do restorative justice, here and in Israel?

As the crowd moved to the back of the room to buy copies of Ruebner’s book, my “non-political, Jewish” friend and I left. She had come to this event at my invitation even though she worried it was going to be outside of her comfort zone. And it was.

Not the content — she seemed to agree with most everything Ruebner said, and didn’t doubt that Israel was responsible for many injustices against the Palestinians, including the atrocities this past summer. However, she felt like an outsider, not part of the choir, and decided she won’t engage further in this issue.

I’ve been mulling over her comments, thankful that she came and also thankful that she felt she could honestly share her reactions.

We need people, like my friend, to engage if we’re going to turn this ship-of-state (Congress) around and correct the injustices that our government has enabled and encouraged Israel to commit against the Palestinians. The choir, alone, can’t do it.

How could we bring people like my friend into the choir? I’m not sure. The venue for this event was safe and welcoming. The organizers were friendly. The speaker was knowledgeable and well-versed.

Speaking to a supportive choir, however, takes on a different tone than talking to a room full of neutrals or skeptics. The art of persuasion is different. The assumptions are different. Even the body language, I think, might be different.

The very first thing I might try, if I have the opportunity to speak to an audience about Gaza, is to acknowledge that some in the room might be on the fence or unsure about how they feel about this issue. Then I might tell them that I value their opinion and thank them for taking the chance to push through the zone of discomfort to attend. Of course, I wouldn’t single anyone out.

Finally, I would invite members of the audience to write questions or comments on 3 x 5 cards in order to maintain some of that anonymity that newcomers usually seek. And I would tell the audience — “If you are on the fence or inclined to walk away after I’ve finished my presentation, then I’ve failed. Please help me understand how I could be more persuasive next time because there are lives in Gaza depending on it.”

Shujaya family

Shujaya 9

 

 

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