As PA ditches “1967 borders” to win UN vote,
It’s time to switch to Civil Rights
Mark Twain once asked, on hearing news of the death of a less than dynamic US politician, “how did they know he was dead?”. What we are now asking about the death of the Two State Solution is: how will we know?
It’s been so dead for so long it’s been dubbed the Undead. Despite the fact the West Bank and Gaza are meant to be connected together purely by a word (“contiguous”), and that Israel set out 44 years ago to chop up and take over as much of the West Bank as they could and to control its economy, roads, water, land and air space, borders and population register, we have to face the fact that the powers-that-be will NEVER declare the death of the Two State Solution.
Israel’s establishment will not do it because it has been a brilliant cover for the acquisition of the West Bank and the throttling of Gaza. The Palestine Authority will not do it because their status and salaries depend on it. Washington will not do it because they think their votes depend on it. Israel’s “peace” camp won’t do it because their illusions depend on it. And most Palestinians won’t do it because they feel that a state, however limited and nominal, is their only hope of getting some control over their destiny.
UN tactic to resurrect the Undead
As for the UN recognition tactic intended to resurrect the Two States, it might gain Palestine a better bargaining point for a separate state. But legal advice has warned that this comes at the possible cost of jeopardising UNGA Resolution 194, which gave the Palestinian refugees of 1948 the right to return to their homes.
This state would be headed up not by the PLO which represents all Palestinians wherever they are but by the Ramallah-based PA which is in the pay of Israel’s allies.
And how many of the countries that will vote for recognition have committed themselves to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to isolate Israel until it ends its military rule over the new “state” they’ve just voted to recognise, and fulfills the provisions of UNGA194 and other international law? Has the PA even asked them to apply such Sanctions?
Now the kick-start has lost its kick
The UN bid did seem to promise a bit of a departure from the tired old business-as-usual negotiations meat-grinder. It was still a two-state compromise, but its highlight was to insist, and get it voted on at the UN, that Palestine’s territory consisted of no less than the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem (as it stood pre-1967) as its capital.
It’s simple and effective: no swaps, no excepted settlement blocks or military zones, no subdivisions within East Jerusalem with bits re-named “City of David” and suchlike. Israel was of course dead-set against this, and also hated the short-circuit of negotiations and the bad behaviour of its prisoner appealing over its head to a higher authority.
Now all of this has apparently been junked*, and the whole concept drastically watered down in a new draft “crafted” by the Fateh leadership. Now, instead of recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders, it will say that the permanent borders will be determined by, yes, you guessed, negotiations with Israel “based on” the borders of June 4, 1967. This is where the negotiations were at five years ago.
The idea is to make the resolution so feeble that even the US and Israel could vote for it. So after all the excitement, what is the point of it at all?
Another revealing comment from the Haaretz report noted that “This approach made it possible to enlist the support of leading moderates in Hamas, who claim that recognition of the 1967 borders before the signing of a final-status deal means waiving the claim to the right of return.” So only Hamas were worried about losing the right of return? And the only worry was that it would be given away cheaply at the start of the process rather than sold for a price at the “final status” point.
A resolution for enforcement would be better
The PA could of course have gone to the UN with a much more effective resolution, one that a) demanded that the UN confirm and enforce UNGA 194 and all its ignored resolutions condemning Israel’s behaviour, and that it confirm the UN and international law that member states cannot acquire territory by force and must not allow their citizens to colonise such territory (let alone subsidise them to do so), b) demanded sanctions to stop Israel making a mockery of the UN and c) demanded action against member states that undermine these policies.
Those of us who think there IS an alternative, and a much better alternative, feel that the separate-states option is not wrong just because it’s not going to happen, but because even at its best it would not deliver any sort of justice for Palestinians: no sovereignty, no rights within Israel, and no return of exiles from abroad. Nor would a division of territory change by one iota the character and behaviour of Israel which would have won permanency and legality for its aggressive expansionism, and would wipe the UN slate clean of all those hostile resolutions.
Blocking the route to Peace and Justice
This dead, useless and hazardous project to re-patition Palestine has one more drawback: it stands four-square in the way of a perfectly feasible political solution that re-unites the country based on universal human rights, an equal democracy, multicultural tolerance, and reconciliation. All of which could add up to real and lasting peace.
This whole, complete and single state would have no internal borders. It would need no high-profile evictions of dangerous, armed and militant settlers, no security arrangements and no population “transfers” or land swaps. Palestinian refugees and Israeli expats could all be welcome back to help build a new society together. Jerusalem would be a united city, liberated from shameful ethnic cleansing and the racist re-writing of its history right down to its street-signs.
The big problem has been making the switch. Anyone can see that the Two State train has been sitting up against the buffers for decades now, with the One State train stuck behind it. How do we switch the points and let it come through?
The common scenario outlined by historians, politicians (including Israel’s ex-PM Ehud Olmert) and Israel’s own leading think-tank Reut is that once the two-states plan is dead, the Palestinians will start to demand civil rights in one country.
Ethnocracy or Democracy?
If it’s one country, it could be either Jewish or democratic, but it cannot be both. Ethnocracy and democracy are not compatible.
If it wasn’t for that, Israel would have annexed the West Bank years ago. Instead, it built up a complicated and flexible apartheid system which allowed it to keep the land but disenfranchise the people. All the zones and divisions (which Oslo’s “international consensus” and the Ramallah proconsuls of the Palestine Authority helped them to set up and maintain) are simply a mechanism for concealing and controlling this apartheid system.
If all that is taken away, Israel will be left with the choice of Jewishness or democracy, and will have to face up to its real nature as an ethnocracy, whose establishment and maintenance called forth massive and continuing ethnic cleansing. Already the issue is up for debate, as a new quasi-constitutional Basic Law has been tabled which makes it clear that given a choice, democracy must lose out.
A wedge to break up the Zionist monolith
A grassroots Palestinian movement demanding an end to zones and borders, and waving the banner of equality under one law and universal franchise, could drive a wedge into Israeli thinking, separating those who choose democracy from those who prioritise Zionism.
The universalism of this demand makes it far more powerful than national demands which are, after all, stuck behind their national boundaries. Civil rights slogans can penetrate into the liberal hearts of the majority of Israel’s Democrat-voting American Jewish outriders; they can get under the skin of the fervent old Zionist peace campaigners who just loved the Two State solution because that would return Israel to its supposed days of innocence before it invaded the West Bank and Gaza; they can show up the hypocrisy of Washington’s supposed support for democracy — as long as “no taxation without representation” doesn’t have to apply in Israel; and they can make big inroads into Israel’s mass movement that thinks it’s campaigning for social justice — as long as it stays on its side of the Green Line.
Switching the points: from statehood to rights
In any other context a demand for the right to vote would be obvious. But here it is a demand to vote in national elections for the Knesset in what amounts to de facto (if, hopefully, temporary and transitional) acceptance of Israel.
So switching the points and turning the struggle around from demanding statehood (however nominal and symbolic) to demanding votes in the occupiers’ state will not be easy. However doubtful most Palestinians have been about the value of the UN statehood bid, it has won mass support because it has felt right, because the opposition of Israel and the USA was so outrageous, because recognition seems the very least they deserve, and because it fits with the desperate desire to get the bullies and tormentors off their backs.
Israel’s adamant and threatening opposition to the UN vote has made the compromise of 22% of historic Palestine feel like an act of total defiance. Whereas the truly radical demand, for an equal share in and equal right to all of Palestine, looks uncomfortably like the ultra-Zionist demand for annexation.
Zionism’s greatest fear: loss of political control
Yet the thing Zionist Israel wants least (calling it the doomsday result, or armageddon, or existential annihilation and other bone-chilling epithets) is to give up its political control. A powerful, brave, non-violent, creative struggle for the right to vote would seriously put it on the spot, and would show up the fact that millions of people taxed and controlled by Israel have no democratic voice, leaving Israel’s military dictatorship of the West Bank free to run a dual system of law (generally known as apartheid) with total impunity.
Such a movement could also help to create a new, elected and accountable, Palestinian leadership that stands its ground and speaks with one voice, and which might appeal across the national divide not by compromising and cringing but by expressing the inclusive and anti-racist values that are already gaining ground in the grassroots struggles.
Those who claimed to support two states (“side by side”, as if one of them was not riding on top of the other) have been at the forefront of trying to block the UN statehood bid, showing up just how little they really care about the vision they have been pushing for decades as being the only hope for peace.
Statehood vote already destroyed
Many have seen the UN vote as the cross-roads which will either make or break the two states solution. But will still be those who declare that rigor mortis is a mark of excellent health. Maybe it’s not for us to stand at the roadside along with the pundits and analysts, weighing up the effects, but rather to pitch in and fight for the result we feel will best deliver the freedom and justice that Palestine craves.
With the removal of “1967 borders” from the UN resolution, it’s now irrelevant whether it’s blocked in the voting or not: effectively the blocking has already happened.
There may not be a better time than the September UN vote to declare that with the blocking of Statehood comes the final death of the Two State solution, and to start the turn from a national territorial struggle to a fight for the right to vote, for equal rights for all under one law, and for an end to the borders and barriers — which sounds a whole lot better than a demand for annexation.
At a time when a brave minority of Israel’s J14 protests, such as Tent No.1948, are trying to connect the “Social Justice” demands and concerns with the Palestinian struggle and with conditions across the Green Line, what better way to start a one-country civil rights movement or party than to raise the same demands from the other side? Might we see tent cities on either side of Qalandiya?
Ideally, the organisations that have queried the value of the UN bid will now get together with others (political parties, NGOs, individual PLO leaders, exile groups and solidarity campaigns) and put out a joint call immediately after the vote, titled (in the words of Palestinian lawyer Noura Erakat) “Statehood blocked: equality struggle ahead”.
* As reported 30 August by Akiva Eldar in Haaretz. It’s not known if this is a final draft or may still be amended, but he clearly says “The wording of the draft, crafted in recent days by the Fatah leadership, is designed to enable even “problematic” countries such as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to climb on board, or at least abstain.”
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