We’ve come a long way but it’s still the same road
2011 saw many dramatic surprises: the Palestine Papers revelations; the Arab Spring mass movements for democracy, ending some hated regimes and leading to bloody struggles of others to hold onto power; the Palestinian UN statehood bid; the Occupy movements and Israel’s J14 eruption; the reconciliation manoeuvres between Hamas and Fateh under pressure from their own disenfranchised populations.
We are further along the road. The landscape around looks different, and we can see new vistas and signposts. But there’s a good way to go yet.
* There were no further talks or “negotiations” to divide the land of Palestine. The UN statehood bid and the Palestine Papers forced the PA/Fatah leaders to re-state a bottom line (1967 borders, return of refugees, capital at East Jerusalem) that Israel had long treated as obsolete; and this line will be strengthened by Hamas’s adoption now of the Two State agenda.
* As the Two State solution receded into infinity, so did Israel’s Old Left. Haaretz Op Ed writer Carlo Strenger wrote: “the two state solution is dead. … Those of us who have invested years of hope and energy into promoting the two state solution must now accept defeat … and regroup”, evidently with the galvanising vision of … a backs-to-the-wall defence of Israelis’ own civil rights.
* Washington in 2011 weighed in so heavily on Israel’s side that its role as ringmaster in the Two State circus was destroyed. But then, there’s no circus left in town.
* The threatened third Intifada did not erupt but at grassroots level, new and continuing struggles against the military dictatorship of the West Bank, for freedom of movement and against segregation, were launched. Freedom Riders took to the buses; a mass “flytilla” was turned back at the airport. A prisoners’ hunger strike is supported by tented protest camps throughout West Bank towns.
* A new wave of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians was set in train, with physical expulsions, planned “re-location” of up to 30,000 Bedouins, an ethno-bureaucratic revocation of rights of tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents, walling up of more communities and theft of large swathes of land. Israel approved construction of another 26,837 settlement units. 4,000 acres of Palestinian land have been confiscated, 495 houses were demolished (plus water cisterns, agricultural buildings, workshops etc), and nearly 19,000 olive trees were uprooted.
* A raft of new legal measures against Israel’s Palestinians is being enacted, under the banner of enforcing “loyalty” to the state that denies them equal rights; and there’s cultural harassment too, renaming of Arab streets, demanding shop signs be in Hebrew, banning the Muezzin call to prayer.
* The Brownshirt-style “price tag” settler terror brutalities escalated sharply: mosque-burning, destruction of crops, desecration of Muslim cemeteries, attacks on children, armed marches through Arab towns, and assertion of their strength and influence as against the mainstream state by attacking army bases, evidently with help and impunity. It has now paid off as settlements outposts outlawed by Israel’s Hig Court have now been reprieved, giving a green light for further free-lance “pioneering” moves.
* Israel’s religious extremists have made headlines also on the “domestic” front, trying to enforce gender segregation on buses and in public events. It’s trivial compared to what’s happening to Palestinians, but speaks volumes about the values of a “Jewish state”, and could become a key factor in creating mass support for the J14 platform of an Israel based on human rights and equality.
* Freedom of speech and the press even for Israel’s Hebrew dissidents, and the functioning of the crucial human rights organisations, are all under deep threat. TV’s Channel 10, struggling to survive financially since it accused Netanyahu of corruption in his last tenure as PM, could close in the New Year.
* Israel is facing growing isolation internationally, and BDS is powering ahead, though still nowhere near the level of the national or international sanctions that would start to bite into its economy. In the USA, Jewish support for Israel is peeling away at the edges and showing doubts and divisions throughout, but the heavyweight battalions of the Christian Zionist right will no doubt remain staunch to the end.
* The Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that Israel was operating an apartheid regime throughout the lands between the river and the sea; this followed a similar conclusion the previous year by the Human Sciences Research Centre of South Africa. The three main pillars of the system are to privilege one racial group over another; to segregate according to ethnicity; and to suppress opposition.
* Israel’s forces have killed 180 Palestinians including 21 children; Jawaher Abu Rahman died from tear gas inhalation in January, Mustapha Tamimi died in December, shot in the face by a tear gas canister. 3,300 people in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including many children, were detained.
* The siege of Gaza continued and few weeks have passed without a military attack, political assassination or picking-off of fishermen or farmers trying to make a living near the boundaries imposed illegally by Israel. As IDF chief Benny Ganz touted a new “swift and painful” attack, medical supplies in Gaza hospitals are at their worst crisis levels: hospitals and health centers have totally run out of 145 basic medicines and 150 types of equipment, and have to cope with 8-hour power cuts on most days.
See other three posts about LAST YEAR, THIS YEAR:
« Last year, this year: 4. J14’s Palestinian contingent
Last year, this year: 1. Now Join Up the Struggles »