As EU adopts financial sanctions, it’s time to press on with the struggle
All evidence points to the fact that the new round of “final status” talks is a serious threat to Palestinians, and not another empty PR game. Ironically, the initiative was probably brought to a head by a huge breakthrough for the Palestinians’ international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
A recent Directive on European Union financial, loans and banking relations with Israel effectively takes sanctions against deals beyond the Green Line, or with those in Israel with any financial connections in the West Bank. There is talk that it could be extended from financial services to trade.
This historic success for the BDS campaign is generally agreed to have given Israel the impetus to dust down a back-up plan to get it out of trouble: to end the “occupation” era and to move towards an end-game that stitches up the Palestinians and undercuts the growing international boycott movement.
There is much speculation about the parameters and preconditions that will be the starting line for the talks. Israel has been frog-marched to “the table” by its friends, who will balance the sticks with plenty of carrots and special leverage. It’s a whole different story for the Palestinians, who have seen erstwhile friends lining up to push them into talks with no bottom line and everything up for grabs.
A revealing report by Nicola Nasser shows how Kerry has enlisted Arab League officials to “bully the Palestinians into accepting new ground rules for the talks to which they had objected in the past.”
These officials have agreed concessions with Kerry “before the Palestinians even have time to discuss them at length. Until now the Arab League took its cue from the PLO”. Now they are bouncing it into a corner.
This follows an offer not long ago from an Arab League member state to accept “land swaps” which was “overwhelmingly rejected by the Palestinians, [but is] now getting the Arab League’s stamp of approval.”
“The PLO, its back to the wall, is now forming a working committee to decide what to do about the talks.” But the writer thinks they will have little option, against the tidal wave of pressure, but to be seen as cooperative and go along with the talks.
Counter-pressure can only come from the grass-roots. The PFLP and other groups called for major demonstrations in Ramallah and Gaza . Such demonstrations will send a message to the PLO, isolated in the plush conference rooms, that “we are many, they are few”.
The international solidarity movement remains fully in support of justice for Palestine, and is far from willing to call off the BDS campaign just when it is starting to bite, and when another huge issue, the displacement of tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel, will shine a world-wide floodlight on the apartheid nature of “the Jewish state”. The PLO, representing all Palestinians, will greatly strengthen its hand by including a demand for Israel to end this monstrous act of ethnic cleansing within Israel’s heartland, before any talks begin.
These issues must be brought to centre stage, both relating to the process and the proposed outcome:
* Demand full disclosure about what’s being discussed and agreed, and a referendum vote of the global Palestinian electorate. Israel’s settlers have demanded this for themselves; on what ground would the PLO refuse as much to its people?
* Palestine supporters in Arab countries should tell their governments to stop doing Washington’s work of pressuring the PLO and insist that any proposed settlement be judged by UN resolutions and human rights (and include full, not “symbolic”, right of return), not by the given balance of forces which is stacked to the roofbeams against the Palestinians.
* In Israel and internationally, tell the well-meaning “peace camp” liberals that this is not what they envisaged as a decent two-state outcome. Gush Shalom are already calling for a YES vote. They should be shamed into back-tracking.
* To those who will believe the hype that this is the best offer they’ll ever see, it’s important to illustrate that the one democratic state alternative is not only beneficial in every way but a practical and immediate alternative.
If a deal is struck at “the table”, the nascent one-state Popular Movement will have its hands full. But if it can establish itself in time to join or lead a broad movement for a “NO” vote, that will be a huge chance to present one state politics not as an abstract ideal but as a living struggle for justice and rights, and a clear route out of the trap .
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