It’s about 1948, not 1967
1. The settlers have taken power in Israel and they have single-mindedly claimed the portfolios that most advance their programme:
* Head of Civil Administration of the West Bank, to consolidate and expand their grip;
* Ministry of Justice, to remove or weaken judicial brakes on ethnic cleansing throughout historic Palestine, to give judicial protection to their militias and mobs, to repress Israel’s left wing dissidents and to bring Israel closer to being a police state;
* Ministry of Education to harden the brainwashing of Israel’s children, who even in primary school attend military style events to prepare them for army service; this ministry is headed by Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who stated that he stands against equal treatment for Palestinian citizens of Israel because they are not equal to Jews. Imagine the outcry if an education minister of any other country made such a statement about, say, Black people, or immigrants, or … Jews!
* Deputy Foreign Secretary to defy and belittle international pressure and fight any moves to hold Israel accountable under international law.
They aim to close off all doors to any Palestinian state or mini-state with the encirclement and reduction of the remaining West Bank Palestinian city enclaves. In line with their election pitch that Israel has “nothing to apologise for”, Diplomats have now been instructed to drop “security” as the excuse for military occupation up to the Jordan River, and instead to insist that “we are there because it’s ours by right”.
2. With the impending inquest into the Gaza slaughter at the International Criminal Court,
they have whipped up hysteria against the “criminal treachery” of witness accounts of war crimes by Israel’s armed forces against Gaza last summer. This may be a preparation for a crackdown on dissidents.
3. The elevation of the far right has released the hounds:
the violent fanatics have gone on the rampage, spectacularly burning down a high profile Christian Church in the north of Israel even at the risk of alerting America’s Christian Zionists who are the backbone of the pro-Israel forces there.
4. Netanyahu is now himself the fig-leaf of the ultra-Right,
trying to cover their backs with declarations of his willingness to continue with the “peace process” while repeating that no force on earth will dictate to Israel.
5. Israel’s Zionist establishment knows that the price of all this will be a massive further escalation of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which they now defined a Israel’s No.1 threat.
The London Financial Times reported that “an Israeli financial newspaper covered a leaked government report estimating that BDS could cost Israel’s economy $1.4bn a year. … The Rand Corporation, the US think-tank, says the costs could be more than three times higher: $47bn over 10 years.” This could devalue the currency, bring on inflation and unemployment and devastate the entire economy.
BDS is even deadlier for Zionism than that. At grassroots level the movement has informed, involved and mobilised possibly millions of people globally, while any corporate, national or international action increasingly designates Israel as a pariah state, an occupier, a human rights violator, a racist nation, and a denier of Palestinian Rights.
6. Israel is responding
We’ll see more crude soundbites, lobbying and lawsuits, bullying and threats of retaliation, financed from a bottomless war-chest amassed by the deeply disgusting American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Tactics include
* sackings and black-listing of boycott advocates from their corporate or academic positions
* threats of counter-boycotts which have already forced abject capitulation by Orange in France
* legislation to make boycott of Israel an “anti-semitic” crime
* changing the law to forbid trading with any country that so much as rescinds tariff privileges that Israel has enjoyed.
This could take BDS into entirely new and uncharted territory, and as such it’s a high-risk strategy that could well backfire. Already one loyalist voice, quoted in the Times of Israel, has warned that “Legislation penalising all forms of boycott against Israel is morally shaky and will ultimately boomerang.” This is also a stunning validation of the power of BDS.
Much of this strategy involves a disturbing re-definition of anti-semitism reduced to the so-called “three Ds” soundbite:
a) the supposed “Demonisation” of Israel, implying that this is about what Israel is rather than what it does;
b) a supposed “de-legitimisation” of Israel, as if its actions since 1948 have not been a deligitimising breach of the human rights conditions required of it at its founding (within months of UN resolution 194 stating the 1948 refugees’ right of return, Israel passed laws condemning them to permanent exile);
c) the supposed “Double Standards” whereby Israel is said to be “singled out” and held to a higher standard than others, whereas the facts indicate that over and over again it gets away with laws and actions that anywhere else would incur penalties.
7. The Two State mythology of the past quarter-century de-railed Palestine’s struggle.
Palestine’s acts of resistance were always depicted and referred to as a conflict between two equal national entities, that could be ended by both parties equally “making compromises”♦ Now it is time to recognise that this is in fact a liberation struggle of an indigenous people whose country has been brutally and violently stolen and who have nothing left to negotiate away.♦♦
8. Israel in its original pre-1967 borders already has some 50 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian Arab minority there.
But it still manages to deny that it operates an apartheid system. Now, the Greater Israel raepidly taking its final shape as far as the Jordan river, is to be a naked and full frontal Apartheid state. Despite a notional division between “Israel proper” and provinces it calls Judea and Samaria, the international community has already understood and recognised such a formalised Greater Israel to be an apartheid system. It will only take some last event to trigger that shift, and who better to provide that event than the new government itself?
In fact, the more Israel insists on its god-given right to the whole of historic Palestine, the more the 1948 expulsions, and the state that followed, come into focus. As former negotiator John Whitbeck notes “as Israeli leaders have become more honest and explicit … about their deeply held belief that there is no difference between the portion of Palestine conquered in 1948 and the portion of Palestine conquered in 1967 … the world’s attention has begun to broaden, both regarding the possibilities of the future and regarding the realities of the past.”
It now makes even less sense to campaign for separation or secession or independence. The only realistic fight is for equal rights, human rights, civil rights. These rights are already at the centre of most of the struggles taking place, such as the right to life, the right to return to one’s country, security of housing, the right to family unification, the rights to health and education, the right to freedom of movement, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, the right to a fair trial, the right to equal judicial protection and redress for crimes and assaults suffered; land rights, children’s rights, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights. Most of these are UN policy and many are the subject of specific resolutions addressing the Palestine situation over almost seven decades.
A fully rounded strategy, however, requires the addition of one more right: THE RIGHT TO VOTE. Without that, those planning a final, Zionist, apartheid Greater Israel will have a free hand.
But this last demand entails a u-turn in thinking and feeling: if the idea of Two States had not been such a powerful force, the turn to a demand for equal rights in one democratic country would have happened spontaneously quite some years ago. There is no shortage of closet supporters of one democratic state both within historic Palestine and among those connected personally to it spread around the globe. But it would greatly help if it had a credible leadership to steer and organise it and speak for it.
Meanwhile, the fight for Rights will gather pace. It now has an impressive leadership in Israel’s Joint List of Palestinian Arab, Jewish Israeli and socialist Knesset members and thousands of grassroots campaigners in both communities.
This fight connects and meshes in with the BDS demands and with many of the Palestinians’ most immediate needs, vividly illustrating, day by day, why Israel needs to be brought to account.
A Charter of Rights would also help to focus and spearhead a diffuse and complex campaign. Getting such a Charter together could be an ideal initiative for the Joint List.
♦ Ilan Pappe writes “the old approach looks at the conflict as one raging between two national movements with an equal claim for the country and equal blame for the lack of progress. The new one frames the conflict as one raging between a settler and a native community. The old one regards 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as both the beginning of the conflict and its major concern. The new one focuses on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 as both a departure point and an issue that has to be addressed for the sake of peace and reconciliation. In a similar way, the old approach shrinks the Palestinians into the community that lives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Palestine into those areas. The new approach is more comprehensive and deals with the whole of Palestine and all the Palestinians. Finally, the old approach seeks a two-state solution as the lesser of all evils given the balance of power. The new seeks a one-state solution and prefers to focus on decolonization, change of regime and the return of the refugees as a means for reconciliation. The former approach seeks to achieve peace through negotiations; the new approach prefers at this moment in time to pressure Israel into respecting Palestinian rights, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa pressured at the time.”
♦♦ A recent TV critique of Winston Churchill’s deeply right-wing politics cited his words to the 1937 Peel Commission on Palestine, where he commended the Zionist colonisation as a case of the superiority of white European civillisation overcoming the inferior native peoples.
After Israel’s elections, reasons to cheer »