Big Power Politics, Grassroots Movement and the Third Way

Tony Judt:  Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one “understands” it and everyone is “against” it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Like many adolescents Israel is convinced— and makes a point of aggressively and repeatedly asserting — that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences and that it is immortal.

Ali Abunimah: The divide between diplomatic rhetoric about the urgent need for a Palestinian state and diplomatic actions has never been more pronounced. It often seems that the endless rounds of meetings, seminars and conferences by the Quartet, which always reaffirm support for the two-state solution, are designed to conceal the lack of political courage to confront the ways Israel has made this very solution impossible. …  Over time, international law has been increasingly marginalised as a basis for resolving the conflict. … International law is simply powerless unless the political will exists to enforce it…

Mustafa Barghouti, Jan 2010: We expected that the American administration would say to Israel: Enough is enough. What’s happening is amazing. Instead of pressuring Israel, the pressure keeps coming onto the Palestinian side — even when it does what the American administration asks it to do.

From Washington on Down

All the international agencies and powers that are supposed to be brokering peace have turned a blind eye to Israel’s many violations of  UN and International Court of Justice resolutions, Conventions, and standards, which should have set off a chain of high level boycotts and sanctions to force their two-state solution, but instead sees the continuation of massive handouts and tax breaks to Israel.

The mind finds it hard to take in the gulf between what happens to Israel when it tears up UN resolutions, and what happened to Iraq; between Dimona (Israel’s illegal military nuclear site) and Isfahan (Iran’s maybe military nuclear site). So Israel continues with impunity  -  no regime change there!

As the Jerusalem Post reported 19 May 2010, Defence Minister Ehud Barak stated after a meeting in Washington with President Obama that there was no cause for any change in Israel’s usual “stance of ambiguity” regarding nuclear weapons. “There is no threat to our position” he said. “.. the main focus of all disarmament talks is Iran and North Korea, in particular Iran; there is no threat to the traditional understandings between Israel and the US.” Had they feared a UN resolution, or being cast as a rogue state, or, God forbid, being admitted to the Axis of Evil club? No. The worst would have been an IAEA inspection. But Israel was let off again.

America always knew the settlements were illegal, but went from saying they were just “obstacles to peace” (1980s), to saying they were “unhelpful” (1990s). George W Bush regarded them (along with some 30 million US Christian Zionists) as instruments of The Rapture, while religious leaders such as Pat Robertson insisted that any pressure on Israel to abandon settlements would interfere with “God’s plan”.

Meanwhile the EU, Israel’s largest trading partner, is giving Israel preferential access to its markets in flagrant disregard of its own regulations that require trading partners to respect “human rights and democratic principles which constitute an essential element of this agreement”.

While these organisations quite ignore their own standards where Israel is concerned, the existence of international laws and standards that openly or implicitly condemn Israel does provide an essential benchmark and tool for grassroots BDS campaigns and international advocacy

Grassroots Network “takes responsibility”

If the political will is absent or misdirected at the high levels, then the people themselves must steer the future, by all the means at our disposal.  Two State negotiations occur in secluded hotels or Presidential country estates and are handed down from on high by people who have no natural or legal rights. (What rights did the UN have in 1947 to decide to partition someone else’s country?)  One State progress is created by building real connections between the two civil societies.

The great thing is that this is really happening. This “third Intifada”, centred on resisting the Separation wall, the Sheik Jarrah evictions, and breaking the Gaza blockade, is widespread, creative, sophisticated, inspirational  and joined-up. Conferences and websites, videos and well drafted statements resonate around the world, fuelling the Boycott and solidarity movements.

The International Network for the Palestinian Popular Nonviolent Resistance connects two main strands.

1. At ground level is the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), “formed by prominent activists in the popular committees from all over the Occupied Territories and across the Palestinian political spectrum. It aims to provide a base for strategic thinking on a wider scale, while retaining the independence and uniqueness of each popular committee” )

2. Abroad there’s the International Solidarity Movement (ISM, a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.

While it hasn’t raised the One State flag, some of its leading members support this goal. And the aims and methods are all consistent with building towards it:

” We feel strongly that now, more than ever, it is time to take responsibility to end the Israeli occupation. For many years, the activists from the grassroots movements have put their bodies on the line to fight against land confiscation, the uprooting of trees, the annexation wall and the settlements. Israeli activists cross the wall to participate in these actions with courage and determination, building real connections between the two civil societies.

In these peaceful actions many have been killed, thousands injured and hundreds arrested by Israeli forces. Families in the villages are terrorized, children are traumatized by seeing their houses invaded and their relatives beaten and arrested during night raids. The Israeli authorities are consciously working to break the unity created among Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals, to crush the nonviolent struggle in order to provoke a violent reaction from the Palestinians and to present themselves as victims. Israel is not, and should not be, above the law. All states have a responsibility to both respect and apply international law.

* We call upon all those who care about justice and peace to join this effort to support the Palestinian Popular Nonviolent Resistance against the occupation and settlement expansion in the Middle East.

* We want to unite people, to tear down physical and mental walls and to uphold our humanity, as Palestinians and Israelis are doing together against violence, oppression and colonisation.

* Peace is needed by all, Palestinians and Israelis; peace will come with justice and implementation of international law.

Find them at:

See report of their 5th Bil’lin Conference


The Palestinian National Initiative

Ali Abunimah:  ”Palestinian nationalism, like the Zionism to which it is a response, is too narrow to accommodate the present reality of two deeply intertwined populations” … “The proliferation of peace plans and promises for a Palestinian state … form a stage on which opportunists may strut around as peacemakers, knowing that their efforts will come to naught.”

The PNI  sees as its own role to democratise and unite the Palestinian movement, with focus on the PNA (Palestine National Authority). It has campaigned extensively for democratic reform within the PNA, and advocates a national emergency government encompassing all factions (including Hamas) as a means of stopping autocracy and lawlessness in Palestinian politics. This is in part motivated by the desire for democracy, and in part by the inefficiency and self-destructive tendencies of the Palestinian factional system.

The PNI demands the proclamation of a single political direction, to be determined democratically, and a single policy for achieving these goals. The PNI itself believes that the methods used should be based on a reversal of what it refers to as the “militarization” of the intifada, and a continued struggle by peaceful means. It has no armed wing and does not use or advocate violence, although it states that it supports in principle a right of resistance to occupation.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti founded the Palestinian National Initiative in 2002 together with Dr Haidar Abdel-Shafi and Ibrahim Dakkak. The PNI views itself as a “democratic third force” in Palestinian politics, and opposes the dichotomy between Fatah (which it views as corrupt and undemocratic) and Hamas (which it views as extremist and fundamentalist).

The PNI is dominated by secular intellectuals, some of them former members of the left-wing Palestinian People’s Party based in civil society organizations and NGOs operating in the Palestinian Territories, and has extensive connections with foreign aid and support groups. It enjoys limited if fast-growing support. Also, its lack of a role within the PLO or in the PNA has greatly reduced its visibility to ordinary Palestinians.The PNI has gained some support among Palestinian exiles, most notably the late Edward Said, but is extremely weak or non-existent in the main refugee communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria..The Initiative is led by a General Secretary, with Mustafa Barghouti occupying that post since its founding.

Mustafa Barghouti campaigned on a platform of democratization as the PNI’s candidate in the January 9, 2005 Palestinian presidential elections, and in the absence of a Hamas candidate (due to the Hamas policy of boycotting all PNA institutions) quickly became the leading opponent to PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti was also endorsed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, after that group failed in its attempts to organize a single candidacy for all secular Palestinian factions outside Fatah.

During the campaign, Barghouti’s fame snowballed after the international press picked up his name as the main opposition candidate. He was twice arrested by the Israeli Army, suffering a broken knee in custody, and complained of discrimination by both the Abbas-run PNA and Israel, which he accused of covertly backing Abbas’s candidacy. In the final results, he polled 19.48 %, with Abbas gaining 62.52 %.

Source forhistory of  PNI: Wikipedia 2005. See the PNI’s site


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