The clock is ticking towards September, when the PA leaders will mark 20 years of fruitless “two state peace process” by going to the UN and demanding that a Palestine state is recognised NOW, with the borders as they stood before Israel’s June 1967 invasion. That so many countries have promised their support is a sign that they, too, think that enough is enough.
Our initial reaction, along with many others prominent in the One State movement, was that this is a gimmick, a last-ditch attempt to keep the two-state game going, regain the standing that PA leaders lost from the Palestine Papers, and a futile playing with symbols instead of engaging in the substantive struggles led by the Wall protests, the Gaza flotillas and the BDS campaign.
But the shocking gulf between the symbolism and the reality, played out on the world stage, and the contrast between the diplomatic arm-twisting and the clear legal rightness of the Palestinian demand, holds powerful mould-breaking possibilities.
In an impassioned plea to “pull out all the stops”, veteran campaigner and One State theorist Jeff Halper calls on the whole Palestine grass-roots, civil society and solidarity movement to get behind the diplomats and make sure that this doesn’t fizzle out but forms the springboard for a new stage of struggle. “Regardless of our view on September – and we have to ask ourselves if we can afford to miss political opportunities like this – if the PA is going to pursue admission to the UN, we must do everything we can to ensure that it succeeds. And even if it doesn’t succeed (we all know an American veto is inevitable), it has advanced the Palestinian cause in two ways. First, it has got fruitless “negotiations” out of the way. And second, rejecting Palestinian admission to the UN puts an end to the “two-state solution.”
Among other things, a massive mobilisation would hold the PA leaders on course (Abbas is still offering negotiations as an alternative); and it could push for every country that voted for Palestine and got vetoed to pressure and isolate Israel with sanctions and diplomatic, trade and legal isolation measures. Halper envisages a massive “sideshow” at the UN in New York, delivering signatures from all over the world, creating a momentum that would make a veto very costly for Israel. “September”, he says “appears to be a political moment that cannot be avoided and which, if pursued seriously, offers positive gains for the Palestinian struggle whichever way it turns out.”
This is as big an unknown as the past year has been. The bigger the mobilisation, the less likelihood of it ending in the tawdry deal of a “two state solution” with so-called “land swaps”, more ethnic cleansing, a deal that will close off the road ahead for right of return, for the rights of Palestinians in Israel, and for an end to Zionist aggression and expansion. And within that mobilisation, there is a chance the grass-roots and civil society organisations, that are engaged in the real struggle, to take the lead, create the means to involve every Palestinian in decision-making and together to define goals, to build up alliances including those with Israel’s activist opposition, and take BDS onto new levels that will demonstrate to everyone that Israel is historically unsustainable.
Much the same message has now come from the BDS National Committee*, in a statement issued 1st June. This applauds the marches and actions that “have put the refugees’ right of return back at the core of the question of Palestine” and “welcomes the recognition of states around the world that the Palestinian right to statehood and freedom from Israeli occupation are long overdue” but notes that this alone will not end apartheid within Israel nor implement right of return, and calls for “a democratized and inclusive PLO that represents not just Palestinians under occupation, but also the the exiled refugees, the majority of the Palestinian people, as well as the discriminated citizens of Israel.. For it to go beyond symbolism, this recognition must be a prelude to effective and sustained sanctions against Israel aimed at bringing about its full compliance with its obligations under international law.”
* The BNC, a vast coalition of Palestinian civil society and community organisations, trade unions and local NGOs
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